Diary of a painting - Damien Flood

Dressing Room, 2017
Oil on linen
150 x 125 cm

Dressing Room was started in mid February. It was the first clear gessoed linen painting I’ve done in a few years. The previous raw canvas works I’ve made have been painted on the back of black primed canvas. The painting was started with a central wash of white spirits from my brush cleaning container. I wanted to interrupt the canvas using these dirty dregs on the beautiful linen. I think I was having a bit of starters block, I didn’t know where to begin, where to place the first mark. I possibly was also trying to reference an early work called ‘Smoke Ring’ from 2012, which had a gentle wash of raw umber cutting through the canvas.
It has to be said that Dressing Room was a bit of a struggle. Coming off the back of my last show ‘A Root that Turns as the Sun Turns’ at Green On Red Gallery, I wanted to continue in that vein but the question was how? I was unusually very happy with this show and felt it reached a place that I had been searching for. This caused me to view every brush mark in reference to that show, which was highly detrimental to the new work. I fought with Dressing Room for a while, trying to push it into the mould of the last show. But painting is like a game of chess with an opponent who is vastly more clever than you. I was losing out of ignorance until I finally accepted that I’m not in the same head space as I was last August/September. I had to let the work go in a different direction and see the work in it’s own right.
My paintings are connected to mood and various different strands of research so what ever is going on at the time of an exhibition being made is a huge factor. I think this painting is a little busier than previous works and takes a little longer to reveal itself. I always find it difficult to see a new work. It usually takes a month or so before I can really make a judgement on it. Although in saying that, I can quickly tell if a work is no good at all. It can be tricky when the work is in the interesting place between good and bad. I’ve had the luxury over the last couple of years to be able to destroy works I’m not happy with. But it’s a big decision to permanently retire a work and once or twice I nearly did with Dressing Room. Thankfully I hung in there. This is the magic of painting. When you add that seemingly unimportant mark or gesture and suddenly the painting turns from nothing into something. Early on, for the first few years after my MFA, for financial reasons, I had to keep on painting on a canvas until it worked. Which was a  good learning experience, you really begin to see how layers respond to each other and how far you can push the paint. 
While I was making Dressing Room I was reading Michel Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’. The book is full of very strong visuals of victorian London’s seedy underworld. This notion of undressing, secret rendezvous and the body definitely connects to this work. I was also reading ‘Paranormality, Why we see whats isn’t there’ by Professor Richard Wiseman. This book had fantastic explanations for outer body experiences that are actually more fascinating than the paranormal alternative. The book looks at how the mind operates and throws up some unsettling questions of who is really in control, you or your brain! Other books and areas of reading I always go back to would be the Book of Earths and the many books I have on Athanasius Kircher -a corner stone to my work.
Psychology has always been a big part of my work, playing with form and mood on the canvas. I’m quite open to different elements from my life entering into my work, something that is possibly missing in earlier paintings. I think this has come with age and the realisation that my art and life have become one in the same. I find that the works I’m making now generally combine areas of interest with more personal elements from my own life. Fragments and gestures from everyday combine with over arching themes from my on going research. These tend to be meditations on how we see the world, our relationships with one another and our own mortality.
I always paint to music, generally loud and heavy and from my formative years. I think the music being from a certain time period has to do with creating a comfortable ‘safe’ place to work. When I was a teenager their was a sense that anything was possible, there was no wrong answers. Going through art college and getting older the wrong answers became prevalent and hindering, the fear sets in, which is terrible for art making. The foolish mistake often opens up door to new areas and more.The studio has to be about possibility, creating a space to make mistakes and take chances. Listening to this music puts me back in that earlier, slightly naive frame of mind which tends to work for me. I also find that music helps me access areas of subconscious or maybe just take more chances. In both cases it helps me gain a greater focus. I think my painting tends to be a combination of intuition, chance and long periods of reflection where I take control of the various elements and bring them to their natural or sometimes unnatural conclusion.
Musically I’ve been revisiting Metallica’s first four albums. I always thought ‘Master of Puppets’ was their best album but over the last year I’ve  come to believe it’s ‘Ride the Lightning’ It has the energy and rawness of ‘Kill ‘em All’ with the ambition and forward thinking of ‘Master of Puppets’. If I’m ever stuck for motivation the second ‘Fight fire with Fire’ kicks in their generally is no problem. Other bands I was listening to on heavy rotation while working on ‘Dressing Room’ are XIU XIU’s ‘Forget’ Black Sabbath’s first four albums, early Sepultura, Melt Banana’s ‘Fetch’ and ‘Cell Scape’ Testament’s ‘The Gathering’, Ministry’s ‘Dark Side of the Spoon’ and ’N.W.O’, Obituary’s ‘Xectioner’s Return’ and ‘Inked in Blood’, Sodom’s ‘Tapping the Vein’ to name but a few.
I also love film, almost to an undiscerning level. I would pretty much watch anything, depending on my mood and who’s in the room. Recent films that I loved would be ‘Arrival’ (I’d be a sci-fi nut), I loved how the film played with notions of time but also how it fed us the narrative. I also loved Meadowland, good story with stunning cinematography. When I’m painting I’m always thinking about films and the moving image, how cameras pan in and direct the viewer. I always want my paintings to tell a story, to use narrative to ask questions of the viewer, to combine various elements and guide the viewer. Other recent favourites are The Seven Five, The Guest, The Witch, Lo and Behold, Boy A, Dear Zachary, Trouble Makers, It Follows.
I use mainly Old Holland paints, I only use other brands for large tubes of white. I find Old Holland’s tones are perfect. Their Raw Umber is quite warm and balanced which makes it ideal for delicate tones and mixing greys. I used Windsor and Newtons Raw Umber in a class I was teaching a while back and it was like using black, it seemed to sour any colour it touched.
My main colours I use are: Cad Red, Cad yellow, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue Turquoise Light, Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Blue, Madder Lake, Golden Green, Green Deep Lake Extra, Raw Umber, Zinc White, Flesh Tint. The mediums I use are Linseed oil, Turpentine and White Spirits.