As we approach the June Mostra, our third exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our next interview is with Damien Meade (Abbey Fellow in Painting).
Your work involves processes that evolve over a period of time. Tell us more about your method of working…
It is a long drawn-out process – from researching imagery to a finished painting, it can be an extended period of time, sometimes even a year or more.
I usually start with clay, with which I make objects and surfaces that I use as props for my paintings. Sometimes what I do with the clay is informed by a sketch, other times it is a notion, idea or feeling. I use clay as a way of sketching in 3D, a method of processing ideas or images.
I try to embrace the formlessness of the clay, in that I often stop short of any refinement or any full realisation of any intention. This part of the process constantly throws unexpected results back at you. Sometimes when you turn to what you have made, often what you were expecting to see is transformed just by the shifting of an angle.
The objects and surfaces that I make are not necessarily interesting in-and-of themselves, it is only when they are lit or viewed from a certain angle that they can give me an image that provokes a painting. I’ll spend a month or so working with clay and building a bank of images, editing as I go. When I have a series of images that hold my attention, that’s when I begin to pursue them in painting.
I set to painting for a number of months at a time. Each actual painting can take anything from just a few days to a few weeks, and I generally work on multiple things simultaneously. Things that aren’t working will be turned to the wall and forgotten about, until one day I see them anew, with greater objectivity, and I’ll work into them again, making changes until they make me want to look at them again.
Untitled, 2018, Oil on panel, 65 x 49.5 cm
You mention that you start working with a clay model that over time becomes the painting. How do you recognise the completion of the model?
I don’t really. The sculptures are made quick and fast. Like I say, some hold my attention and others don’t. All I look for is that. Sometimes it is only when I am midway through the process of painting, or I have even spent weeks on it, that I lose interest in it and it is gone.
It is about settling on an image that sustains persistent looking, that keeps me there and holds my attention in that way. There is always an element of doubt throughout the entire process, will the image survive this degree of interrogation. But as finished paintings, when they work, they still have this effect on me.
While you have been in Rome have you encountered anything specific that you can imagine coming into your work?
I thought I came here to look at paintings, but it is the sculptures and objects that have really affected me – ancient Greek and Roman in particular.
It’s hard to talk about it beyond cliché, but of course with these relics its all about an extreme sensuality, and something uncanny – one thing invested with the qualities of another. In a kind of substitution of matter, you almost begin to see these relics as the ancients did – as alchemical in nature. And how this all permeates through time, through flesh as ruin. And the city itself – all that mediated matter and stratified layers of human activity. Like that sense of vertigo you get when you stagger between what was then and what is now, you start to see the city as one colossal archaic object, succumbing to entropy.
In terms of how this will affect my work, I don’t know. As I say, evidence of the mediation of matter is everywhere here, and that’s precisely what I do as a painter and sculptor. Clay, like paint, is matter (or mineral) bound by fluid, and so in making paintings of clay, mineral mimics mineral. It interests me the role that minerals played in the genesis of life; that micro-instant when in a vent at the bottom of the ocean, geochemistry first became biochemistry. This perceived shifting of properties, between the animate and inanimate, the profane and the divine, is everywhere in this city. But maybe the influence of Rome is already in the paintings I have been working on for this coming Mostra. It’s all been getting under my skin a bit. It is a much broader and more immersive experience than just the influence of a singular work.
Damien’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.
Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Damien Meade.