Reading Gordon Dalton’s interview for Contemporary British Painting

The motifs are a kind of shorthand or wonky grammar, trying to hold together a lot of improvisation, coincidence, chance and mistakes.

^ Painting as language. I love that. I was thinking about that as well back in January. That visual motifs are like your vocabulary, that’s what I was thinking.
I love the use of the word ‘shorthand’. I have never used that word before, it’s a great word for talking about painting. The motifs have meaning, shapes used as symbols, a known vocabulary to be used quickly and at will. But this is a phenomenological process that the artist goes through, does the viewer understand these motifs? Is Dalton tapping into phenomenological associations that most eyes will know what it refers to, e.g. clouds. Relying on our brains to create landscapes, space out of abstract forms (- which Gerhard Richter said).

I like the idea of them [the paintings] being tapestries, it’s something I’ve played about with a bit, where you have lots of various view points, or panoramas. They are mostly painted unstretched so I can shift them about easily, but I’ve also shown them this way to give the idea of a tapestry. I’m a big fan of Japanese woodblock prints which have a similar effect, lots of distance but flattened out

I spend a lot of time fishing, where you have multiple horizons right in front of you, from the edge of the lake in front of you, the near margins, the ripples in the water, various water features such as islands or reed beds, then the far margins, the edge of the lake, fences, bridges, tree lines, then the distant hills, clouds etc.

I had not thought of horizons as something more than just the distant horizon – the edge of the earth.

Horizon definitions:

1 the line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet… 
• the circular boundary of the part of the earth’s surface visible from a particular point, ignoring irregularities and obstructions. 
• (also true horizon) Astronomy a great circle of the celestial sphere, the plane of which passes through the centre of the earth and is parallel to that of the apparent horizon of a place…
2 the limit of a person’s knowledge, experience, or interest
Geology a layer of soil or rock, or a set of strata, with particular characteristics. 
• Archaeology a level of an excavated site representing a particular period: the upper horizon of the site showed an arrangement of two rows of features.

From apple dictionary

The last definition- the archaeology definition is pretty mad!! So layers of sediment that’s mad. So as you walk forward (in any direction) you walk towards the horizon, which consistently changes and recedes so that you never meet the edge where the land and sky meet. And there is also horizons if you dig down, timely horizons, embedded past horizons. Earthly. OOOooooo.

There’s various vantage points within the paintings, sometimes its like you are looking down into something, looking up to the sky or you’ve just popped your head into a room. Some of the horizons begin at one side the suddenly stop, sometimes finishing in another part of the painting. With the addition of lots of verticals from things like trees or paint drips, there’s a sense of a grid, but its all rather jumbled

‘Popped your head into a room’ – love this. It reminds me of my A-Level final project.
Idea: Morecambe maps paintings, to paint the studio as a room in part of the painting. : This painting called ‘I thought I’d take a final walk’ is lovely. The play with perspective, the vertical trees muddling with shrubbery in a birds eye view, flat perspective.

Dalton’s dry brush finish to the painting is interesting. It makes the paint feel like it’s embedded in the canvas, more permanent, more timeless. Looking at my most recent paintings across the studio:

The thickness, the generosity, the slickness of paint gives the painting more of an immediate, heavy, intense sense. This works for my painting ‘Encroaching darkness’ more than it does for ‘Long thin map’:

CBP: Your titles are personal, poetic and feel like they describe the drift of thought in tune with your painting process, or a sense release (and relief) assigning a title in the moment after you feel its done. Can you talk about your strategy of titling?

…They can give some narrative thread but you never find out the rest of the story, so you are a little bit lost. There’s a sense of melancholy in them, wandering around lost in a painting.

‘Encroaching darkness’ is the first time I have really felt the painting title was worthy of the painting fully. Not that I have not liked older titles, but that they have been purely practical. Describing the time of day, location, time of year etc. With ‘Encroaching darkness’ I do feel the title emerged as I realised the painting, not having finished it yet, but very much nearing the end. Melancholy in a painting title is an interesting term. I have had that said about my painting ‘Grey Winter Day’ before. The immediacy of painting, melancholy as well, interesting.

I used to have lists of titles in notebooks waiting for a painting to come along. 

^ Huh.

`Dalton’s paintings are intricate. I love that. His paintings are all pretty large. In fact very similar sizes to what I work on stretched canvas wise. That size allows for detail, for ‘paintings within the paintings’, which was said earlier in this interview.

A great interview.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s