Reflections on Paintings: Gary Hume and

Gary Hume (left) in conversation at Leeds Art Gallery

I have an ongoing professional fascination with the surface of paintings.

For some time I have been employing a highly reflective acrylic resin finish to my own work as a practical aesthetic solution to the challenge of incorporating digital collage on real paint, but also as a conceptual and paradoxical part of the work.

My paintings cannot satisfactorily be viewed from a single vantage point and so the viewer has to move around to see the entirety, in much the same way that in real life we have to take a different perspective to get a full picture of anything. And the work is almost impossible to accurately reproduce in this world of mass reproduction. I like that.

So I’m always fascinated to hear about other artists’ preoccupations with surface reflections, and it’s no surprise to find I’m certainly not alone in my thoughts on this subject.

The other week I attended an interesting evening at Leeds Art Gallery listening to Gary Hume in conversation with Andrew Renton in conjunction with the recent Flashback exhibition. Hume was talking about how he came to use gloss paint (being true to materials in the context of painting his doors) and how he liked the way he didn’t need to ‘paint in’ the light in his paintings because the gloss paint found the light itself. But it was particularly interesting for me to hear that the works couldn’t be properly photographed. Hume talked of the necessity to find a point from which to take a photograph and attempt to make the work ‘stable’ and then he would find collectors wanting that reflection in the work…

Like me, he delights in this “unphotographibility” and the pleasant opportunities afforded to paintings in this post-photographic age.

Then last weekend I encountered the work of Jorma Puranen, a Finnish photographer, at York Art Gallery. He again embraces and plays to his advantage this issue of surface reflection in paintings. In the Shadows, reflections and all that sort of thing series, Puranen photographs works of art in a way which maximizes and emphasizes the glazes and varnished surfaces. My encounter with #47 (2009) of the series was a true trompe d’oeil experience, as I entered the gallery space and moved uselessly around to try and view without glare this contemporary reproduction/intervention before realising what was going on.

Beautifully and amusingly caught out.

Photographed in full glare


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