Drawing and the void
Watercolours, drawings and other works on paper are central to my visual art practice. Even my video and interactive works always begin with drawing (and often a series of watercolour studies as well). This is not simply because works on paper are a convenient and straightforward means to produce studies for finished works in other media such as easel paintings; more importantly, the process of drawing (or to be more precise, withdrawing) an image from the paper is central to the way way in which I see images. As in many creation myths, the world of the image is formed from the void itself. The paper void isn’t simply a surface: it is an infinite space and that space is an active participant in the image that is formed within it.
Watercolours, transparency and visual space
The void of the paper is still visible through the image in a watercolour painting. The paint is inherently transparent; regardless of the number of layers (and I usually use only a couple at most) the paint never becomes truly opaque. It’s always apparent that the light travels through the pigment to the reflective white of the paper itself. Aside from giving watercolours their characteristic luminosity, the colour is filtered from the full spectrum of light that the paper reflects. This implies that any given watercolour image is already present in the paper at the outset, if only as unrealised and near-infinite potential. I think this fact might be behind the sensation I often have when painting that the image is a demarcation or delineation of forms that are (in a sense) already there, if only as potential. This is quite different from the constructive potential of painting in opaque media, such as gouache: when the medium is opaque, the image is simply applied to the paper, largely reducing the role of paper to the role of a simple substrate.