Reflective Constructed Paintings

Shallow space mixed media constructed paintings
Article text
Abstract painting has now become only one of many creative forms in the field of visual art. I am one of a number of artists working with abstraction who describe their work as ‘constructed painting.’ What we have in common is a continuation of the tradition of painting by using three dimensions instead of two. Such paintings are part of the tradition of construction, part of the process of exploring the possibilities of structures in shallow space. My paintings also explore the traditions of optical illusion, and of the combination of paint with other materials.
These reflective constructed paintings are reflective in three senses. As the front surface is a sheet of clear polystyrene the whole object tends to reflect the environment within which it is hung. Secondly there are internal reflections created by mirrors, reflective metal tapes and aluminium foil. The strips of mirrors in some instances reflect the viewer and the environment. In some works the mirrors reflect elements within the painted construction. Finally, these paintings are a theoretical reflection on constructed painting, they are the result of thinking about painting, of thinking by making.
These constructed paintings invite movement by the viewer because there is no one position from which all of the elements in the work can be seen at once. As the viewer moves, so the work changes, in this way the work reflects a mobile point of view.
The constructed paintings consist of a shallow glazed box panel wrapped in canvas. This canvas wrapping is stretched under the glazed front surface and fixed into the construction. The main materials are canvas, other textiles, board, timber, aluminium foil and acrylic paint. In some paintings there are flows of paint. Irridescent and textured paints are also used. Some works include clear acrylic hemispheres and polystyrene or glass spheres. Many elements are formal structures made of wood and board, but others, such as the paint flows and textiles, are informal structures.
The paint is applied by a set of techniques that include brush, roller, staining, flowing, and spraying. In some works the paint accentuates the structures, whilst in others the paint acts as a camouflage for the structure. In places some of the painting on canvas also creates abstract depth illusions.
The act of drawing is integral to these works. There are two forms of drawing involved. The shaped vertical contoured board constructions get their profiles from a drawn pencil line which is then cut out with a jig-saw. The graphic paint strokes on the reverse of the clear front sheet, and on the internal surfaces, are another form of drawing in paint. These graphic paint strokes on the reverse of the clear front sheet throw both shadows and colour casts on the painted surfaces behind. Many of the
shadows are real, depending on the strength of the ambient illumination, others are false painted shadows. Some of these graphic paint strokes give the illusion of hanging in space somewhere between the clear front sheet and the painted structures behind. Sometimes this optical illusions makes it impossible for the viewer to decide exactly where some of these strokes are located in space.
In the limited moves open to painting today, these works reflect on the possibilities of continuing the tradition of making works that are primarily visual experiences.

Alan McPherson, 2006.