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Idea to Completion - Afterthought Art

A few people have been asking me about the development of my paintings so I thought I would post a small gallery here of my sketches and completed painting 'Quadripartite'. This particular painting is part of a bigger body of work that is centred around Medieval (Romanesque and Gothic), subject matter as represented by the many decorative sculptures that adorn buildings in those styles of architecture all over Europe. I tend to work ideas through with many sketches and later designs that clarify what I want to do. This way of working means I can dictate the flow of each painting without deviating too much from the original concept. I do not like working blindly in the hope that some artistic idea might pop into view for consideration. All my subject matter is selected and researched along side early loose sketches towards the finished design and resulting artwork.

During early Christian art (more particularly in the way I have used its format in this case), The Quatrefoil was a decorative element that represented the four gospels of the bible. The earliest forms of the Quatrefoil can be seen in French cathedrals carved during the Romanesque period. However, it was used prominently in Gothic architecture throughout Europe. The barbed quatrefoil (from which, my painting was developed), is a variation on the standard form in which angles are added between the four lobes.

The medieval designers and builders had an innate skill in fusing function with decoration so that, the iconography that adorned the walls was at one with its surroundings. Function and decoration were considered to be as important as one another - one art was not higher than the other. It is a skill or aesthetic sensitivity that (to my mind), has been lost in recent times. Art in general has fallen in its ranking as a vital part of our daily experience of the buildings we inhabit: in city or country, our new buildings either have no art at all or, are adorned sparsely by what I call 'Afterthought Art'. The kind of art that was added later to fill a space hitherto not considered too carefully by its architect/designer; hung or placed anonymously to dress up a drab spot. Worse still, added later to match wall colour or worse still again 'the curtains'!

All too often, in so many of the worlds biggest architectural projects, we see huge sculptures placed in position long after the building is completed. Paintings hauled into hallways and board rooms to help 'Dress them up a bit'. How about: 'The square's not working the way I thought it would, it doesn't meet the building in the right way, let's get an artist in to see if they can stick a sculpture in the middle - nothing too fancy!'. Or this: ''The big void there', pointing up, 'above the lift area, can we put something there? It needs something, don't you think?'.

It would be a much better situation if, at the beginning of the architectural design process, a small part of the building's budget (say three percent as a starting point), be put over to include the development of artworks that grow and ultimately function visually as part of the building's overall aesthetic. Alas, all too often, the budget, not to mention an unwillingness to let two contemporary art practices come together to fuse as one has become the norm so that, unlike the designers and artisans of the twelfth century, twenty first century Afterthought Art sits or hangs awkwardly inside and outside buildings right across Australia's major cities - indeed, inside and outside buildings right around the world.

The current trends in architecture seem to be devoid of any decoration considered frivolous or not in keeping with the minimal view that the latest drawing program has to offer: that being sleek lines with acres of glass or shiny steel, sometimes aligned straight, sometimes obtusely in a way that its designer might actually believe shows a modicum of creativity. The Futurists would have loved just about all of this glass and steel, not to mention the fast pace of life it is meant to represent and reflect; if you pardon the pun. That is an absurd contradiction I know, but that's just the problem with so much of this new 'futuristic' architecture and as a consequence of this acceptance of what the latest design software has to offer, many of these - let's call them 'Contemporary Secular Cathedrals' - are soulless buildings that dominate contemporary skylines and cast a collective Fascist shadow over contemporary society.

All quotes above are actual quotes. For obvious reason I will not name the people concerned.

Some of the working sketches, design and finished artwork 'Quadripartite' based on the medieval sculptural form of the quatrefoil.

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