So, the third garage Tetris move continues. Shifting sorting shifting sorting shifting chucking. I am making progress. The garage gets emptier, the shelves get fuller and more organized, and the rubbish pile gets bigger. But I am not quite there yet.
It is taking longer than I thought.
Partly because I have been distracted by the rest of life (as happens on occasion), but mainly due to the arrival of the ugly duckling. Which is currently stacked in two halves in an ugly-duckling-sized-space in the garage. ie shoved in where it would fit.
This post is a kind of ‘out-take’ of the 3rd Tetris move.
It isn’t the full move, which is why I labeled it 3.1. And it wasn’t originally part of the planned 3rd move at all, however, sometimes things come along and you have to go with the flow. So Garage Tetris 3.1 is about preparing the ugly duckling’s new home.
As you will remember from the 1st and 2nd garage Tetris moves, we inherited numerous chipboard shelves from the previous owner of our house. Some of these we had to euthanize (ie put them out of their furry sagging misery), but some we have re-purposed.
One set, however, proved to provide useful excess kitchen storage. Useful, that is, as long as I don’t actually do any work in my studio. Hence the purchase of the ugly duckling (UD) …
Once the UD arrived and was stowed pending relocation to its permanent home, the delivery guys left and I spent a few moments relishing it’s fabulous ugliness.
Then I went back to getting ready to put together the wonderful new workbench the beloved had given me for my birthday, which was part of the current ongoing Tetris move. No time for dreaming about future projects, I need a finished studio! Get on with it girl!
I quickly realized, however, that if I put the workbench together BEFORE I moved the UD into place, then it was going to be very tricky to relocate it at all. Let alone give it a much needed paint face lift. Because my new workbench would be very much in the way. In the way and h-e-a-v-y.
Once that baby is up, I am not going to want to move it again in a hurry.
It made sense to move the UD into position FIRST. So, I started by emptying the shelves.
And then I moved them out of the way, next to the UD. Behind the shelves I found yet more rubbish. Which, by this time, I was actually expecting.
The previous owners had an almost miraculous talent for shoving vast quantities of rubbish into any space they could find. I would have been more surprised if there had been nothing behind there. So instead of being shocked, I merely sighed and added the rubbish to the growing pile for the junk guys when they come. Behind the rubbish was this:
At this point, I am ashamed to admit, I considered putting the UD there and then painting around it later. Tsk tsk tsk. In my defense I remind you that painting this wall was not part of schedule for the 3rd move. It was supposed to wait until the 4th. And I was still mentally recovering from the hours and hours of cutting in required for the 2nd move.
After some inner debate, and the realization that knowledge of the unpainted wall lurking behind the UD would haunt me forever, I decided to paint just this particular piece of wall.
I told myself it was such a tiny piece of wall, with virtually no cutting in, that it would be a piece of cake to paint. Pfft! Nothing to it! And so it was.
Here it is after washing down with TSP and then priming:
And here it is after the 2nd top coat:
Which brings me to those paint marks down the side of the ladder:
I didn’t do this, it was there already. I take pride in my cutting in. You can see mine where the ladder meets the wall. Crisp, neat, straight edge [polishes halo].
Someone, at some point, sloshed some paint around in the garage. Allegedly to paint the walls, but they did a really really bad job of it. Missed whole chunks of wall, and slooshed the paint into places it should never have gone.
I have been trying really hard not to let this annoy me. Neat and proper cutting in matters to me, and I would hate to think someone might think I did this, because I couldn’t be bothered to do it properly.
What to do about this has been an ongoing argument I have been having with myself. Pragmatic Me: dont be so anal, it is your studio, it is going to be covered in all kinds of stuff soon enough. Anal me: but it looks so slack and messy. If I hadn’t let you persuade me NOT to paint the ladder it wouldn’t have mattered, but see how obvious it is now? Etc, etc, etc …
While cutting in down the side of the ladder, I couldn’t help but notice this slopped paint. It was right there in my face, a stark reminder of how painting can go wrong. I couldn’t help but to look at it closely, intimately. The noise of my inner argument began to recede as I got into the zen of painting. And those marks began to remind me of something …
I began to enjoy the gestural qualities of the marks. How they smeared and slipped and pushed. How they were a record of the movement of the unknown slacko painter’s arm. Because they made me think of Franz Kline’s paintings:
These are the kind of paintings that people say ‘oh a child could do that’ about. And yes, at one stage in their development all of my children have made paintings that look a little bit like this. But they were never as big as these are. And much as I think my children are wonderful and talented, their infant painting was never meant to be considered in the context of art history.
Whereas if you understand how Kline’s work fits into the development of abstract painting, it brings a whole new layer of meaning to the work. Without wishing to get into a massive art history lecture, the simplest way to think about this is to think about what a painting actually is.
Well, I hear you say, a painting is meant to depict something real. Well, yes some painting does that, but you miss my point. At the heart of it a painting is marks made in paint on canvas (or board, or paper, or whatever). Look at the most realistic painting up close and that is what you see.
The invention of the camera freed painting from the need to be representational. Taking a photograph of a scene or person is much quicker and cheaper than painting it. Thus allowing painters the liberty to experiment and play with the whole mark-making aspect of painting. It was exciting, avant garde, and somehow more honest than pretending that something flat (a painting) was actually three dimensional. All that realism suddenly seemed like so much trickery and falsehood.
Kline’s work comes out of the emancipation of painting from having to look like something. There are many iterations of this exploration of the kinds of marks made in paint, and I will spare you the chronology right now. Kline’s version of abstraction is what they call ‘action painting’. That is the marks made on the surface of the canvas trace the gestures and actions of the artist.
Kline’s canvases are – for the most part – enormous. He did do some smaller works, but the most stunning of them are huge. Great big macho arcs, sweeps and flourishes. The energy contained within them is intense. Standing in front of one of them, you experience it bodily, physically. Your eye tracks the movement of his arm, and you feel the echo of the reach of that movement in your own. They are hypnotic, they trap you, they absorb you with the compressed wild energy they contain.
To dismiss these works as ‘something my child could have done’ is to miss the point. I love them for their machismo, their untrammeled energy. And I was happy that the paint marks left behind on my ladder triggered memories of standing in front of a Franz Kline painting, absorbed in its gestures and wild movement.
Because that made me feel ok about their existence. They are a record of the gesture of the previous owners of our house. They might have been lax in their painting practices, but in their 40 plus years of ownership they imbued this house with an atmosphere of warmth, happiness and home. Which is exactly what we love most about it. So I am now happy to leave these marks there, as a record of their previous occupation of this space.
I am sure Franz Kline never thought that his paintings would solve an inner argument about slack painting techniques, but that is the wonderful thing about art. It communicates in ways you could never imagine.
After revisiting Kline’s work in my mind for each of the three coats that went on this wall, I finally finished painting it. Now I was ready to move the UD into position.
To take you right back, here is a before image showing the unpainted walls and shelves.
And here it is now:
Well, shall we say it’s getting there? I still marvel at the glorious ugliness that is the Ugly Duckling. Cant wait to get some paint on it. And fill it with stuff to free up the kitchen and continue getting my studio in order.
Next up: painting the UD and assembling my work bench. Better get back to it …