For the last four years, Matthew Killick has been making abstract black and white oil paintings influenced by visual encounters he experienced during numerous diving trips around the UK.
For Postcards from the Deep he used a different technique, painting on large glass panels that are installed on the Great Eastern Street wall. Backlit by LEDs this murky netherworld is brought into the light.
Killick’s work is also about inner exploration – an attempt to find connections between the chaos of nature and organic structure in life. Metaphorically, what is lost in the dark depths or what bubbles up to the surface. Village Underground’s head programmer Glenn Max dives in with some questions.
In the preparation of each piece how much can be left to chance and how much can be controlled?
Due to the way I manipulate paint when it is very wet and fluid, chance always has a part to play. I consciously seek out processes that involve aspects of chance in order to keep an element of excitement and surprise for myself during the creative process. A skill that develops is the ability to recognise when chance has dealt you a good hand, and then acting upon it and utilising it. Over time however, my ability to control the paint has increased, and now I am far better at predicting and controlling the chance aspects of the process.
Do you actively avoid representationalism?
I like to think of the work as subconscious appropriations of real things. All figurative work is an appropriation, but what I mean here is that I try to convey how things feel rather than how they look. Sometimes the gap between how things feel and how they look is narrow, and at other times it is vast. For instance I find that the after effect of diving in dark, murky conditions, on a UK wreck site is one of fleeting images like glimpsed memories from a dream. The reality of how it looks is quite different to how the mind recalls it, because fear, excitement, and the imagination ‘in-fill’ the details that aren’t clear.
Image number 6 is perhaps the most uniform, stark and perhaps inorganic of your new work. How different was the process for this?
This image, actually comes from a very specific moment that I saw when diving in Cornwall. The day was overcast, and I was in the Helford river doing a shallow dive of only about 8 metres. Towards the end of the dive the sun suddenly burst through the clouds, and the entire river exploded into a mass of light rays. It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen. From that point onwards I started making paintings that were influenced by the way light travels through water.
What is your relationship to colour in these works – one is hesitant to call them monochromatic. How conscious are you of trying to expand the tonality?
All of the paintings have been done using the same ivory black. However, now I am emitting light through them, there are other factors that effect the final ‘colour’. For instance the choice of LED light. The ones I have used here are ‘warm white’ which gives a softer and browner final colour to the work than the bluer and more medical looking cool white LEDs. The reason for doing monochromatic work was that I really wanted to concentrate on my ability to draw, and to compose. I find that colour is so seductive that it distracts my attention, and I end up moving away from my original ideas due to the relationship between two colours taking over my attention. I see the works as ‘drawings with paint’.
How is painting on glass different in process than painting on canvas?
The way that paint moves on glass is very different to any other surface I have worked on. To start with, the paint flows and moves much faster. There is barely any resistance to whatever implement is being used, so it is difficult to begin with. Also everything is done in reverse, as I paint on the ‘back’ of the glass, and use the glass itself as the outer surface of the piece. However, the result is very satisfying, and the opportunity to present the work with light emitting through the places where paint is absent opens up to me a whole new world of opportunity. In 2011 I created a 640 sq foot painting that filled an entire gallery, floor and walls, and the visitors could walk into the work. I would love to recreate this with light panels, and am now looking at glass that is able to support people’s weight.
Matthew Killick’s Postcards from the Deep is showing on Village Underground’s Great Eastern Street wall gallery