North­land pain­ter Jack Trolove cap­tures ‘shift­ing states’ in his work

North­land pain­ter Jack Trolove talks to dish about his lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion Man­grove, which ex­plores ten­sions be­tween em­bod­i­ment and shift­ing states

dish: Do you work from pho­tos and/or sketches? Some­times I start with a photo or a draw­ing, some­times the face is con­jured from mem­ory or imag­i­na­tion. For a jump­ing off point, I work with a photo; mostly friends and rel­a­tives. When I work from an im­age, I use it for as short a pe­riod as I can. I only want bit of in­for­ma­tion from it: some struc­ture, scaf­fold­ing, clues as to tem­per­a­ture or colour. Then I just fol­low the paint­ing, the feel­ing or sen­sa­tion that be­comes in­ter­est­ing in the work. The paint­ings aren’t made to cap­ture the like­ness of a real per­son. I’m not in­ter­ested in that. I’m in­ter­ested in paint­ing a feel­ing in the wild.

dish: Can you talk a bit about the process?

It hap­pens (or fails) over three days. I’m work­ing with pure oil paint, some­times slathered on 5cm thick with a trowel-sized pal­ette knife. Af­ter three days the paint be­comes tacky and I can no longer pull colours into each other, so this cre­ates the pa­ram­e­ter. I do some prep but most of it hap­pens live on the sur­face. The process is very in­tu­itive and feels like a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the paint­ing rather than some­thing I’m do­ing on my own. Work­ing at such a large scale in­volves a lot of walk­ing back and for­ward to read the marks (and check per­spec­tive). I of­ten have the stu­dio door up and walk a long way back down the drive­way to see what’s work­ing, then run back to the paint­ing to change a mark.

dish: Some parts of the canvas aren’t cov­ered by paint. How do you know when to stop?

I don’t al­ways read this right, then I lose a paint­ing [he scrapes the paint off]. Usu­ally it’s a feel­ing; their en­ergy changes and they be­come them­selves. I can feel them sep­a­rate. The paint­ings are not whole sto­ries; they’re the holes in the sto­ries. The paint is think­ing out loud, show­ing it­self be­ing made and be­ing un­done. Open­ing the in-be­tween­ness.

dish: You used to use thicker lay­ers of paint; Why the change for the cur­rent se­ries? Spend­ing so much time around man­groves [near Jack’s home], look­ing at the breath­ing space they cre­ate, their wan­der­ing branches and pods and roots, it made me think more about the im­por­tance of breath­ing space in paint­ing. Th­ese paint­ings are made of marks look­ing for oxy­gen. dish: What’s it like to be work­ing in times of such great un­cer­tainty and up­heaval? Paint­ing about em­bod­i­ment and lim­i­nal­ity – shift­ing states – in a time when the world has slipped into a lim­i­nal space has been strange and in­cred­i­ble. It seems the po­tency of ‘inbetween’ space (and time) is re­ally alive right now. En­vi­ron­men­tally sure, but also with op­por­tu­ni­ties to an­swer his­tor­i­cal trauma. I hope we lean into the chal­lenge rather than go­ing back to the in­equities of how things have been. Dur­ing lock­down I had this pe­cu­liar feel­ing we’d found our­selves alive in a hole in the story; we have so much cre­ative pos­si­bil­ity right now!

The paint­ing shown is Moss.

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