Terra Incognita Series

A series of paintings made using offset mark making involving rollers.
On old maps Terra incognita denoted unexplored land. Unexplored by the culture that drew the map but well known to those who lived there. Now the wild is everywhere enclosed by the tame, wilderness is now just another bounded part. Today Terra incognita no longer exists for map makers, but for the rest of us, most of out there is unkown, the familiar everyday places we experience have aspects that are strange and unexplained. The desire for explanation, for a rational laying out of the body of knowledge, for dissection, for naming of parts, for the synoptic view is strong. Equally strong is the recognition of mystery, of understanding without knowledge, of just knowing and feeling.
I work in acrylic paint using the possibilities of the material. With acrylic paint every mark stays in the paint film, it lends itself to painting in layers, the process is accumulative. These paintings are all in vertical format, 5 units by 4 units. They have an order to their making.
First the white ground is coloured all over blue using a roller. Next a border is painted by brush around the outer margins, then the first marks or interventions are made on the ground, bold expressive marks in relational tension. Then the covering up sequence follows using rollers worked in a drift from horizontal. The rollers are modified in various ways so they in effect print both direct and offset patterns. After these layers have been applied the paintings are brought to a state of completion using brushes.
In the layers of paint the earlier interventions
can be seen. This is partly dependent on the lighting, as the viewer moves in front of the painting some of these first marks can be seen clearly and as the viewer moves to a different position they can disappear.
To the question what do they mean? Various replies suggest themselves.
One meaning is in the language, in the record of the making of the paintings, a record of a set of decisions, of colour selections, of hand-eye movements. A paintings is after all in a physical sense nothing more than the record of its making, yet you cannot look at it without seeing more. Partly because of the context signalling ‘this is an artwork’, and partly because of the nature of interpretation.
One interpretation that can give these paintings meaning is that they are paintings about land and nature. Perhaps I am concerned with making paintings that have reference without depiction. Another reply is that art is always partly about art and to be painting now involves taking up a position in regard to other paintings being made now and to all the other art that is not painting, and all the art that is not art even if some of it appears to be painting. Another reply is that I had reached a position where I could no longer see the point of making relational painting as I had been making it before. It’s just what there is to do now... for me making one of these paintings involves the experience of time standing still. What the viewer sees and experiences is up to them.

Alan McPherson
July 1999