H.S: What makes you choose the title 'tracing colour' for the exhibition?
H.S: Do you see these
works as an attempt to understand or organise colour as it relates to your
N.I: In some ways much
of my work starts with an attempt to 'get to grips with' some idea or aspect
of painting as I see it, but if things are going to become interesting, then
any psuedo-science tends to get left to one side. In relation to colour, these
works do have a documentary function in that many of the layers from the earlier
stages of the work can be accessed by the viewer although perhaps not as plainly
as the most recent layer. What initiates the desire to repaint the panels
is a constant reassessment of how the colour is behaving in the studio. These
assessments reflect a desire to see my initial vision of colour made visible
through a set of predetermined tests that are consistent from one work to
another but also a desire to allow space for a more informal visually instinctive
H.S: How about the paper
prints, how do they relate to the panels?
N.I: They came about through
a desire to activate the surfaces of the panels in ways other then just the
manipulation of the brush. I experimented with a number of mono print techniques
using various types of paper and initially through away the resultant prints.
After a while I started to think more about how I might bring the prints in
as an aspect of the presented work. The tracing paper was bought in as a result
of another concern which is revealing (or otherwise) of the structure of the
wooden panel. The dimensions of the stretcher underneath the paper print exactly
mirror those of the wooden panel, setting up an expanded relationship between
panel and print. Returning to colour, they offer an opportunity to examine
the last layer of paint on the panel in isolation and in relation to a support
that is permeable to light. This again contrasts with the density and opacity
of the paint as we see it on the wooden panels.
H.S: The colours that
you have chosen are quite carefully framed within certain tonal boundaries,
that is to say there are two groups of works, light and dark but no variations
between. Why is that?
N.I: I decided to limit
the works to these two tonal groups so that I could analyse the colour of
each panel in a reasonably consistent way. I found that this also allows for
more comparison from panel to panel in that if you are trying to work out
whether you are looking at a blue grey or a green grey a comparison with another
panel can sometimes help. I don't think it is of much use if the two panels
you are trying to compare contrast in tone as well. Having said all this,
the mono prints on tracing paper often produce great shifts in the perceived
tone of colours that are, as we know, identical on the surface of the panel
H.S: Why do you paint
on plywood and not on canvas?
N.I: I want the structure
of the support to be brought further into the work as an element that
requires scrutiny as much as the paint surface itself. My interest in
the joinery directed me towards the wooden panels but I suspect a similar
sense of 'objectness' could be attained through other means. Part of the
motivation for the constructed aspect of the panels requires the viewer
to walk around each piece in order to get an idea of how it is fixed to
the wall. The 'objectness' I referred to earlier is to me a sense of the
physical presence of the work, a reminder that it is made up of wood,
glue, screws which runs counter to the often fugitive and ephemeral qualities
of the paint surfaces.
H.S: You once referred
to that contrast as one of immanence versus transience. Does that still apply?
N.I: In many ways yes,
although the introduction of the paper prints has complicated the neatness
of the definition as I see it relating to my work. In terms of the semantics
of the situation I like taking the modernist immanence versus transcendence
binary and replacing the spiritual element with a more restless sense
of shifting. The tracing paper has been interesting in that it commands
as much attention as a material presence as the wooden panels only without
the same sense of density and weight. When I look at the paper prints
I am as much focused on what the paint is sitting on as I am the paint
itself. In addition to this at times the paint on the prints reads heavier
and more obdurate in relation to the transparency of the tracing paper
and counters thought of it consistently being the transient partner.
H.S: Let's consider the
viewer for a moment. People often respond to work like this by expecting elegant,
economical finality in the work in the sense that nothing needs to be added.
Where do you place yourself in relation to that scenario?
N.I: I don't want to consciously communicate a sense of reduction or purity in the work because I don't see the paintings in those terms. I think that the paintings are first and foremost a private document of my dialogue with the formal vocabulary of painting as well as issues such as tradition, context and communication. I suppose we could say the same about this conversation in that it address our immediate concerns but also may address a wider context. Because of the ongoing painterly dialogue I've mentioned, I can't help but feel that the work is anything but reduced or purified and usually, by contrast, problematic. I know that when I start to think in terms of the viewer, I can only really do so in my own terms and as a result, my hypothetical viewer is created on that basis. What I find most interesting is when a person begins looking at the work with a set of expectations in terms of what they'll find or see. If they become engaged in cross checking what they think with what they see and have seen, then in a way they have entered into the conversation.