Excerpts from Ben Streets Essay ‘Making Room’

Passages from the Freelands Painting Prize Catalogue 2020. I now know there are things to be learnt from reading what someone has written about your own artwork – especially if that person is a very eloquent writer! If you want to pick up a copy of the catalogue all the details are here.

any address to painting’s place in culture ought to account for the shifting nature of its rooms


Is this both physical rooms and metaphorical rooms? Because rooms are filled with social and economic structures.

Painting… [is] constantly letting the rooms and lives it moves through soak it… it’s painting’s ability to speak beyond the confines of its own premises, to soak into and be soaked by the world itself.


This idea links to something I read in a newsletter recently; that humans have the ability to give an inanimate object life and energy. And humans do this just by looking at it. And being open to the painting as well I think. This leads to a podcast I was listening to, where the artist said that is a person gets emotional looking at a painting, it is because they were able to open themselves up to the painting, enough for them to release emotion at it.

painting… feels embedded in a phenomenal experience of the world we live in.


[paintings] central place as a point of contact between bodies and the spaces they inhabit.



This phenomenological tracing of the experience of the landscape on the body is there in Georgina Harris’s works too. Painting out-of-doors, Harris uses paint as (in Constable’s words) ‘another word for feeling’, relying on the fluidity and speed to shorten the gap between the experiencing and making. It’s temporal gap that yawns open in Raynor’s work [another of the exhibiting artists], making Harris’s work by contrast seem to be immediate and responsive, though it’s in the presence of that gap that Harris’s work gathers its force. Grey Winter Afternoon (2019), for instance, has none of the melancholy associated of its title, instead whirls with jabbed, scooped and swirled paint, in which light disintegrates every solid thing.
This is landscape as something felt by the body, and Harris’s works dramatise the experience of transcribing that sensation. Like all of the paintings in this selection, her paintings celebrate the medium’s quality of slipping between positions, of saying many things at once, of equivocating.


I love this writing! He says things that I don’t think I have put into words that eloquently. Especially the phrase ‘light disintegrates every solid thing’. YES! That makes sense for some reason.

That’s what these paintings do, just by being themselves: they illuminate an alternative history of the medium, one in which making a painting is an act in the physical world, where human experience, like paint, is soaked deeply into every surface of every room.


I’ve learnt a lot from this writing. It’s always fascinating to hear how your work is received by someone else. That line about the light really resonates with me. I am going to be quoting that here and there for sure!

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