Process: Rod Hold­away

Artist Profile - - CONTENTS - Rod Hold­away is rep­re­sented by Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney. www.stel­lad­own­erfin­eart.com.au

I like what Philip Gus­ton said about want­ing to see the world through fresh eyes as if he was “a caveman … when noth­ing had ex­isted be­fore. But at the same time (he) knew a great deal about the cul­ture of paint­ing…” Sim­i­larly, we see in Cezanne that the paint­ing is not so much about what he saw but how he saw it.

There is a per­sonal phi­los­o­phy un­der­pin­ning my art prac­tice. I aspire to see clearly the way that el­e­ments of form, colour, space and depth in­ter­act and to rep­re­sent some­thing of the hu­man psy­che in our time and place. An in­ter­est in so­cial be­hav­iour and psy­cho­log­i­cal states can be seen in my draw­ings and paint­ings. I think that re­al­ism nec­es­sar­ily in­cludes the per­cep­tual pro­cesses of the artist – so the art com­bines the en­ergy and mood of place, peo­ple and artist.

I have been mak­ing sketches of what I see on the streets around Sydney as part of my daily rou­tine for about 8 years now. My draw­ings are based most of­ten on fleet­ing ob­ser­va­tions of peo­ple on the street go­ing about their ev­ery­day lives. The draw­ings show fig­ures stand­ing on street cor­ners, in shopfronts, by brick walls, and in the streetscape. By draw­ing quickly and mov­ing on to some­thing else, adding to the same draw­ing again and again, I am at­tempt­ing to ex­press some­thing of what is real at any given point in time and to ex­press some­thing uni­ver­sal, about what life is like on the street in Aus­tralia in the 21st cen­tury.

In re­cent months I have been mak­ing draw­ings us­ing a sty­lus on an iPad. Prior to us­ing the iPad my daily draw­ings were with pen and pen­cil on pa­per. I be­gan draw­ing on printed iPad draw­ings on archival pa­per. I use a high qual­ity bub­ble jet prin­ter and then draw again over each of those prints with coloured pens. The pens I use are In­dian ink. The inks are light, fast and per­ma­nent.

The places cre­ated in the draw­ings and paint­ings are con­structed. They are not places that you can go to – they are im­pro­vised com­po­si­tions, in­spired by a muli­tude of places. I of­ten se­lect the el­e­ments from what I see on the street and play with them. A mu­si­cal ana­logue seems apt: here are the notes, base and tre­ble, the scales and the arpeg­gios, key reg­is­ters, and time sig­na­tures. Here is the hori­zon and here are the van­ish­ing points that pro­vide guide­lines for the pic­ture plane. I at­tempt to place forms in space in a way that is both au­then­tic and in­ven­tive.

Per­ceived in­for­ma­tion comes into the brain via the senses, is in­fused with emo­tion through the amyg­dala and pro­cessed in the brain. In the act of recre­ation and trans­for­ma­tion it be­comes knowl­edge. It is ex­ported via the hand and sty­lus, pen or brush onto the screen, pa­per or can­vas. This process in­volves sym­bolic think­ing and at its essence is non­ver­bal. For me this process is both a dis­ci­pline and lib­er­a­tion. When I am ‘in flow’ paint­ing al­lows lib­er­a­tion from words, from think­ing with words, from hear­ing words and of course from ut­ter­ing words. Cezanne is re­ported to have said, “I paint, I work, I am free of thought.” Acts of cre­ativ­ity mir­ror pro­cesses in the mind and can open up win­dows into the mys­tery of what con­scious­ness is, the bi­o­log­i­cal and neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal pro­cesses of per­ceiv­ing, think­ing and learn­ing.

There is an in­vis­i­ble but po­tent web of in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween peo­ple and other peo­ple and ob­jects. This web is made of at­trac­tion and grav­ity and is dis­cern­able to the ob­ser­vant. The scaf­fold in the pic­tures al­lows me to paint the im­plied web of en­ergy and in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity.

In com­po­si­tion I imag­ine a sculp­tural

There is a mo­ment when the ‘chem­istry’ of paint and can­vas, form and colour is sat­is­fy­ing and ex­cit­ing, when the parts are trans­formed into a uni­fied whole.

ar­ma­ture or scaf­fold that sup­ports fig­ures and de­scribes the space around them. I am ex­cited by par­al­lels that I see in the works of some of my friends who make welded steel sculp­tures. I also love the sur­face qual­i­ties and colours of steel when used sym­pa­thet­i­cally by the sculp­tor. Like­wise in paint­ing, the tex­ture of the can­vas is im­por­tant. I don’t like to have too much paint on the sur­face re­sult­ing in the tex­ture of the can­vas be­ing hid­den. In my work the matt sur­face – the bite of the can­vas and the way light is ab­sorbed and re­flected all come to­gether to cre­ate a fi­nessed sur­face. There is a mo­ment when the ‘chem­istry’ of paint and can­vas, form and colour is sat­is­fy­ing and ex­cit­ing, when the parts are trans­formed into a uni­fied whole. I like the mod­ernist as­ser­tion that a paint­ing may rep­re­sent some­thing of the world and also be a world in it­self; hence the em­pha­sis on ma­te­ri­als.

My paint­ings do not leap out at view­ers and scream for at­ten­tion. They are paint­ings that open up to view­ers over time. They are sub­tle paint­ings that re­ward view­ers who come back for sub­se­quent view­ings. Full mean­ings do not be­come ap­par­ent im­me­di­ately. Af­ter all if view­ers get all there is to get in a paint­ing on the first view­ing – what is there to come back to?

The process of hu­man ob­ser­va­tion is not en­tirely ob­jec­tive be­cause per­cep­tion is shaped by emo­tion. Our state of be­ing af­fects the way we see and un­der­stand what we are look­ing at. I like it when fig­ures and ar­chi­tec­ture merge in the paint­ings be­cause it re­flects the re­al­ity of our bonds with places and ar­chi­tec­ture both emo­tion­ally and func­tion­ally. The ur­ban land­scape is a pre­dom­i­nately hu­man cre­ation.

There is a so­cial mean­ing in my paint­ings. In ad­di­tion to the broader brush ap­proach to the cityscapes re­ferred to above, my paint­ings al­lude to the so­cial con­tract that binds us all in the ac­tion of our lives. The process of draw­ing and paint­ing over-lay­ers cre­ates im­pro­vised jux­ta­po­si­tions and merges bod­ies with other bod­ies adding verisimil­i­tude, com­plex­ity and grit and adding per­son­al­ity to the fig­ures. The peo­ple in the pic­tures are amal­gams rather than par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­u­als. This al­lows for uni­ver­sal­ity rather than speci­ficity. This in it­self is lib­er­a­tion from the con­straints of por­trai­ture be­cause I can play with rep­re­sen­ta­tions of body lan­guage, per­sonal space, dress and colour with­out wor­ry­ing about the re­ac­tion of any par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual to how they are be­ing por­trayed.

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01 The Road 1, 2013, oil on linen, 38 x 51cm 02 Rod Hold­away in his stu­dio, 2014.

03 Fig­ures on a Sydney Street, 2013, 71.5 x 51cm 04 Di­ver­gence, 2014, oil on linen, 50.5 x 38cm

05 Six Fig­ures and Child on a Sydney Street, 2014, iPad print, in­dian ink pen & gold on archival pa­per, 21 x 29cm 06 Rod Hold­away’s stu­dio Courtesy the artist and Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney

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