ARTIST OF THE MONTH
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.