Abstract painting - September 11, 2001
Abstract painting - September 11, 2001
Materials: Acrylic on MDF board
Dimensions: 62 x 91 cm
Painted: 2001

The second totally abstract painting that Bert ever did was in response to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. It was started a few hours after the buildings fell and took about two days of intense work to complete.

At the time Bert was primarily a photorealist painter and had just completed his first totally abstract work of art. Feeling the horror very intensely he realised that it wasn’t ethical to paint the events of this day. But he did want to express that disgust, shock and horror that he felt.

One of the ideas behind this work is that Bert wanted to have a largely beautiful, dynamic and colourful work of art which would come to be a representation of all of the beauty that was destroyed that day. The human lives that up until that point had been perfectly normal, unassuming and peaceful. The layer below the final red layer is just that – quite beautiful.

The final red layer is the idea that the violence was sudden, all pervasive and affected an enormous number of people, from every part of the world. The red runs, it pools it reaches ever part of the painting – it symbolises the loss of life.

Why

My reasons for painting in a totally abstract style initially were due to having a need to do two things. The first reason was to use up excess paint from my photorealist paintings by applying it to the reverse side of the painting to pull the MDF board flat. The second reason was to express ideas, images and feelings that simply couldn’t be done in a realistic manner. As I completed each new abstract painting I developed more skill as an abstract painter, (especially in terms of composition) and began to really enjoy the process of painting as well. After a few paintings I exclusively painted in my new found style on their very own MDF board so that just left the one reason for most of my abstract work. As I evolved with each painting I moved more towards only painting an image as a starting point.

In 2017 my reasons for painting in an abstract style changed. I wanted to continue in the direction I had been but to add another overriding dimension to my work. I wanted to create beautiful art. I wanted people to see the actual painted surface as being incredibly beautiful. It is actually the most important element – the sheer physical beauty of the incredibly dense array of colourful splotches, flicks, dabs and runs that makes for one of my artworks. Secondary to that is the often crazy story or image behind the work.

How

My technique has evolved – only in the sense that is I have got better at it. There have been some additions to my arsenal of techniques to applying paint but mostly it has been a grab bag of just about anything I can use that I would use in a photorealist work of art. It’s just that some of the techniques for abstract painting are a lot more appropriate.

  • Using a paintbrush to paint a stroke, dot or line
  • Flicking paint from a loaded brush
  • Using a finger to manipulate paint already on the surface
  • Dropping a droplet of paint from a brush
  • Pouring an amount of paint into a puddle
  • Tilting the board to make wet paint run across the board
  • Adding oil based paint to acrylic paint
  • Using a syringe to squirt paint in a direction
  • Using a syringe to drop a droplet of paint
  • Using a large brush to apply paint to a large area
  • Removing half dry paint off by washing painting off with a hose
  • Removing and smudging paint with a rag
  • Using a can of spray paint

For many people my abstract paintings look like there is no skill involved. Nothing could be further from the truth. The skills that I use in my abstract paintings are mostly compositional. That is I have to decide what technique and colour I need to use to get that totally abstract and random look for that small (or large) area of the surface I am painting on.

The fact that I don’t have to finesse a particular and highly accurate shape into existence like I would with a photorealistic painting is one of the few differences between my two painting styles. In painting my photorealist work I am absolutely constrained to copying those abstract elements in order to convey the image. What a lot of people don’t realise is that in order to truly make a photorealist painting look truly convincing the artist must paint the totally abstract elements that make up a photographic image absolutely faithfully. In learning that simple idea – photorealism is extremely ordered abstraction – I was able to truly master the art of photorealist abstraction.

Once I understood that idea I was able to take my abstract painting seriously. What I realised early on was my approach was very much like taking a photographic image in my mind, tearing it up into small strips, shapes, confetti like circular pieces and throwing them up into the air. Only to have them fall in a completely random manner on the board. Each piece of the torn photo occupying it’s own space, and all the pieces landing in the original image space. My abstract painting is just a torn imaginary photograph.

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