The concept for the paintings in the “Honesty Bars” show is based on the idea of a fictional “Black Tartan”, a one-colour tartan pattern. Before I got started on the new works I had spent two months working in Glasgow on a group of paintings. All of these had a colourful fictional tartan pattern as a starting point upon which I sketched figurative elements that were either common Scottish topics or images from personal memories.
These paintings were meant to be read as a calculated response to the idea of working as an artist in a foreign country using some of the clichés that people associate with Scotland (the tartan and the “Loch Ness Monster”, for example) and using sentiments close to nostalgia, a way of avoiding the present by glorifying the past. After my return to Germany I regarded them as “Glasgow Paintings”.
To me this was a body of works that was finished when I left Scotland. This also meant that once back home I had to come up with something new. Throughout the last couple of years I had been focussed on finding a way into making my work more abstract. It culminated in a group of 24 large canvases, all of them 220 x 180 cm, intensely colourful images with almost no figurative elements.
I didn’t want to simply go back to making these but I did want to further pursue the path into abstract painting. I decided that I was going to try and make a painting by using a tartan pattern like I had done in Scotland but this time it would be a “Black Tartan” with horizontal and vertical brushstrokes, all of them executed in just one colour. This gave the canvas a unique structure, something that was pretty much a hand-painted grid, all the painted stripes are slightly imperfect but therefore vibrant and animated.
Then I worked on a second layer of paint, executed with brushstrokes of tinted white paint, a lot less gestural than the work on the big canvases had been. Some of those paintings would also had a black border vaguely resembling a film still or a projected slide.
In my opinion the paintings from Glasgow have an arranged misconception of cultural influences on the artistic work. They deal in clichés and escapism.
The “Black Tartans” have a very different direction. They play on the idea of a Zen-like approach towards painting. Evading emotional content they are influenced by the paintings of Agnes Martin but blended with my current idea of creating abstract images.There is no open narrative, no obvious allusion. They are patterns created of slow marks but they are of this world. They may remind you of something like a fictional bar code that creates a surface sometimes resembling old television sets, a window covered with thinly woven curtains, loudspeaker cabinets…you name it. Or you could picture me making lists of several honesty bars, taking down every drink that has been consumed. Someone will have to pay for these. Honestly!
C. Quabeck, Düsseldorf
P.S. And then there are a couple of paintings with a cat in them. One is called “The Lesson”. You try and come up with a fictional character in a painting that vaguely resembles a cat and there you are, being taught a lesson at the same time.
P.P.S. Well… and two paintings I made whilst being an artist in residence in Mallorca in April 2012. One is a Spanish still life composed of dirty laundry and on top of this a Spanish guitar, the other is a Spanish “Black Tartan” plus a blur of the fruit trees outside my studio door.