Lecture – Stewart Geddes

Cascade of Dissolution Stewart Geddes stewart geddes

Having done a little online research about our visiting lecturer prior to his talk, I had a few preconceptions and a number of questions to ask – all of which he answered during his presentation. His abstract expressive work appealed to me on many levels, but largely because it is so dissimilar to my own. The purity and meticulous application of layers, despite their subsequent sanding back and eroding, felt like this was something I could admire in another artist whilst having no leaning towards it in my own work. Irrespective of my initial impressions from looking at Geddes’ work, I was thoroughly inspired by his lecture. The reflection on how his work developed over decades of development was presented clearly and with reference to styles of other artists work, illustrating further the journey Geddes followed to get to where he is as an Artist now.

Geddes began by describing his work space in a studio approximately 5m squared, a classic white cube. He described liking the ‘objectness’ of the curving corners of his current work on board, referring to the ‘duality of inferred space and the actuality of the object’. He works with paint, masks, stencils; ‘making paintings, taking photography and finding paintings’.

 One Thing Leads to Another Stewart Geddes   Home Stewart Geddes

 (L,R) One Thing Leads To Another, Home     – both Geddes

Early in Geddes’ talk I found that there was a resonance in my own experiences. Geddes described that during the first ten years after graduating he was working as an artist with a sense of perspectival subject matter and became bored of this style, describing his relationship between teaching and his own practice “I began to realise that I was losing a sense of adventure in my own practice.”

He studied the work of Alfred Wallis’ intuitively Cubist ideas and devices; viewing the work from different angles and perspectives within the same image. Peter Lanyon’s work also inspired Geddes. Lanyon looked at the visual and non-visual ideas with visual equivalence (such as noises) allowing him to explore special relationships in his paintings, rather than being trapped by perspectival conventions.

Images below (L-R top to bottom: Thermal by Peter Lanyon, Offshore by Peter Lanyon, Houses at St Ives, Cornwall by Alfred Wallis, Alfred Wallis)

Wreck 1963 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964 Offshore Peter Lanyon

Houses at St Ives, Cornwall Alfred Wallis Alfred Wallis

Geddes also referenced Picasso’s work looking at multiple perspectives on a scene.

Seated Nude 1909-10 by Pablo Picasso 1881-1973

Seated Nude – Pablo Picasso

Geddes started an MPhil with the Royal College of Art in 2004, with the focus of his research being an interrogation of the significance of Decollage.

Geddes painted in London surrounded by the density of architecture and geometry, acknowledging this as an important part of his environment. He also worked often in Dorset, giving him the contrasting imagery of open rural landscapes and seascapes. Geddes described the importance of drawing; of ‘capturing time’ by moving into or around within the scene to allow for different viewpoints and a different experience of the object or place. That the image can be recorded in one perspective by taking a photograph, but it can be experienced  by ‘inhabiting time’ as a study which starts in one place at one time and then moves through it. Geddes described this as a ‘correctness of the object’; recording experience, memory, sensation. This can then be followed up in his work by a series of studies which play with the imagery captured, ‘discarding the irrelevant and amplifying the relevant’. He described an ‘awakening to the awareness of time being held in images’.

Geddes described the process by which he creates work, building up in layers, creating masks, sanding back the surface to create a distressed appearance, paper can be stuck to it, sanded again, paint stripper applied, further layers added. He is interested in modern ruins and the poignancy of this condition and of the ‘new meaning’; recording this in photographs, everything from graffiti on walls to internal walls being exposed with their wallpaper on show, or billboards with ripped paper; ‘discordant spaces’ or ‘the promiscuous coalition of imagery’. He also mentioned that one image in this layering process can appear to ‘puncture’ another.

Geddes finished by talking about how his vocabulary had ‘occurred over time’ with there being ‘spacial clarity and ambiguity’. He described that his paintings ‘play with the vocabulary’ and that there can be ‘radical simplification by covering up’ whilst blocking out large sections of the work.

Still Stewart Geddes

I was not only impressed by the dynamism of the work itself, and of the genuinely interesting depth and balance within the work. I was also inspired by Geddes’ lecture in terms of recognising the need for a change of direction in his own practice, and how he went about exploring this, developing his ideas. The change in his work was huge from his earlier perspectival paintings, to his abstractions, absorbing much from the study of Decollage.

Enormous food for thought. I was most inspired by the focus on the ‘language’ of the work and by the fact that Geddes has become bored of his former style and had not gone back to it. This struck a real chord with me in terms of where I am, and having this opportunity to explore the language I want to use in my own work; what I can discard and what I want to amplify. An extremely beneficial lecture at a time when I am considering moving away from or reinventing the style in which I have been working, allowing myself to be inspired by the work of my contemporaries and to spend time contemplating which direction I want my work to go in.

Stewart Geddes website – click here.

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