In Conversation

Nelson Diplexcito and George Wills in Conversation

March 2019

ND George, we've been speaking a lot about the activation of painting recently.

GW Yes, for me, there is no activation without an act. It's the pivot point in making a painting whereby a revision of sorts is often required, but always of great psychological consequence. It's the moment at which temper meets its maker for the first time, and they agree the road back is long and it's time to talk.

ND I know that in the way that we work there is always a form of optimism initially in setting down the marks. If there is a joyous moment in painting it is perhaps this moment for me of marking the surface. In setting down the mark, the surface very quickly establishes itself as a space. The painting then takes on an appearance and a presence. The channel is wide, the painting and you are travelling in the same direction. In time you believe yourself closer to the end than to the beginning but this is only blind belief because the painting starts to work against you. You show all the signs of knowing too much.

GW I know exactly what you mean, it is a channel. But also sometimes it feels as if the painting knows too much. When this happens, I've gone too far - I meddle with the real - I realise it is foolish and pull back; but the excahnge is vital to 'true' painting. You know, painting which speaks most often says very little, painting balanced in precision and ambiguity. Of course the psychological impact of a painting relies on the logic the image proposes, but it's crucial not to falsify; I'm suspicious of invention.

ND Yes, but the channels that once were wide are now narrower and so also is the margin for error.

GW Definitely.

ND But knowing that the way back is longer you sign a treaty of sorts and the deeper you go down this road, the less you appear to be able to see. The work slows down for me because I no longer recognise what I have painted. The initial transmission of energy has led to a form that is more antagonistic than co-operative and you begin to realise you no longer call the shots or possess the measure of the work. Then, there is a moment when you cannot stand the silence, the inactivity any longer. I know I have to do something radical to regain a connection to the work.

GW Yes, I agree. But I think this is doubly difficult when working with photography. The photographs are at once abundant and hollow. It's often said they mediate the real, but it's not at all the case. They're seductive, yes, but lack exactly what it is the painter desires most. And what the painter desires most can only be trapped at its most alive in paint. To activate a painting is to act quickly, there's one chance, perhaps two, three and you're dealing with a different kind of painting.

ND You're absolutely right. What begins as a series of activations that need to take place, I agree. There is always a risk of losing the painting but you have to take it. It is your instincts that provide the only guide. What you hope is to bring it back into your consciousness and keep it alive.

GW Absolutely!

ND For me, painting is about an arrival, where the space acts simultaneously as the seeing point and revealing/ appearance point. This arrival can act both as a point of coalescence and of division. If division, it is the divide between what can be described and what cannot be measured or known. One without the other is a form of closure that works against arrival.