As my work evolves photographing the images nature creates for me during my kayaking journeys, the more I sense the influence on my work of the 20th Century Surrealists and their concept of automatic drawing as a means of exploring our subconscious.
The Belgian born artist André Masson, considered the founder of the practice of automatic drawing, proposed that by allowing the hand of the artist to flow “randomly”: across the paper, applying chance and accident to the construction of an image, this would, to a large extent, free the artist of a rational control over the image-making. More interestingly, he believed this process could be attributed to the work of the subconscious which would otherwise be repressed.
During the 1920s when automatic drawing was at its peak, artists who were influenced by and practiced automatic drawing included Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Jean Arp and André Breton. It has been suggested Pablo Picasso used the automatic drawing techniques in his 1960’ series of lithographs and etchings.
Masson’s method was to throw sand and glue onto a canvas, making oil paintings around the shapes that formed. This method of image making strongly reflects my own.
The difference being my canvas is the still surface of the morning waters of Middle Harbour, Sydney Australia, my tools - my camera and my kayak. The angle of the sun beaming light onto the water surface forms the shapes – reflections created by nature. Just like Masson’s tossing of the sand onto the canvas, these shapes form serendipitously.
Similar to the “automatic” method of the Surrealists, I shape the images by cropping or straightening them seeking to create an abstraction my subconscious can connect with aesthetically. When this connection occurs, I am able to attribute some meaning to the shape enabling me to give the work a name. Importantly though, I do not photoshop the images in any way. My images have existed in reality and I am nothing more than a facilitator of the aesthetics of nature.
As my work developed around with these moments in nature, the more I was reminded of the Surrealists. If the process of automatic drawing had its roots in the subconscious as Masson posited, could it be possible the genesis for the work of the subconscious lies in nature’s reflection?
This thought seems to be the basis of the thinking behind questions I often receive from viewers. Regularly I am asked if these images are paintings. What are they? What am I seeing?
Like the Surrealists, I want the viewers to form their own opinions of the work. Let their subconscious speak!