Q + A : August 2017

marc blake painting Clyff Notes 2017

Marc Blake Clyff Notes (2017) Acrylic on board. 75 x 60cm

EG:  With this latest body of work you have been making, it would seem that your paintings have radically shifted from what they were before, almost the total opposite in fact.  Yet I know that the manner in which you reached this point has been a gradual evolution over more than a decade, albeit with quite a recent leap.  Can you explain a little about how you have come to be making these abstract paintings?

MB:  Yeah if you just look at a work from before and work from now, they obviously look very different.  Without all the steps that led from one to the other, it’s a bit misleading.  Never the less, they are certainly in some very new territory at the moment and it’s a great feeling to have no idea where it’s going.

EG:  When you first started painting, you made fairly large and quite minimal abstract paintings isn’t that right?

MB:  Yes, they were oil on canvas.  Most of those got destroyed when water leaked on to them in storage, but there are a few out there still.

EG:  How would you describe those early works?

MB:  Well even then I was using thin washes of paint, rubbing the pigment into the canvas and staining it, then adding another layer on top of that.  Those were kind of colour fields I guess.  I really liked those famous abstract expressionist paintings and without really knowing much about what I was doing, I was trying to make versions of them I guess.  I made a series of these and a guy in Auckland put them in a gallery space in some basement on K Rd, must have been some time around 1998 or 1999.  I remember him trying to tell me at the time that Rothko paintings were actually very thick, almost impasto works, but I just couldn’t imagine that being the case as they had to be thin to get this staining effect.  Anyway, he was kind of schooling me even though neither of us had ever seen a real one.  It wasn’t until years later in Japan I saw my first actual Rothko and sure enough it was painted exactly how I imagined it had to be.  I remember thinking to myself, “I knew it, you asshole!”.  But either way, the paintings I was doing then weren’t great, they were just the first paintings made by someone who had no idea really what he was doing.  Just a lot of rubbing the paint and scraping it away.  Basically doing that again now.

EG:  So when did you shift away from these abstract works into imagery?

MB:  After my first trip to Japan in November 1999.  The explosion of images that hit me on that quick trip blew my mind, especially at this point in history that seemed so different.  The turn of the millennium, the internet was new and digital technology was exploding.   It suddenly felt to me that the most idiotic thing in the world was to make paintings from the 1950s that didn’t somehow include images from real life.  It then took me 17 years to get back to the point I am now.

EG:  Do you think you will ever make representational paintings again?

MB:  Well I’ve learnt to never make any concrete statements about my intentions as I almost inevitably do the immediate opposite with the very next work.  What I do know is that I am in the middle of experimenting and figuring out a whole new process for working, wether or not that continues on its own, or else somehow fuses back into what I was doing before I have no idea.  Perhaps it will be more a case of working in different ways for different ideas.

EG:  Over the past couple of years, I had noticed you sanding your works more and more.  Whereas before this was a way to erase certain areas of working, it started to reach a point where almost the entire work was being sanded away, leaving these ghostly remnants of all the working that had gone on before it.

MB:  Yeah that’s right.  Slowly this act of sanding and removing paint started to become just as important as the painting aspect.  It’s unusual being left with almost bare sheet of wood, yet dozens of tubes of paints have gone into making it.  It’s not the most economically sensible method perhaps.

EG:  Some of the works are sanded right back, while others are maybe the most texturally built up works I’ve ever seen you do.

MB:  It’s funny, but I’ve always been drawn to very flat paintings.  I don’t really like thick, chunky paint at all.  Maybe only Van Gogh is the artist where I really like thicker paint.  I think a lot of people can start fetishising paint and especially oil, which is something I’ve never gotten in to, probably mainly because I don’t have the patience for it.  I think I like acrylic for all the reasons many people don’t like it.

EG:  Why do you think you’ve returned to this abstract way of working?

MB:  Funnily enough I had the same kind of realisation I had all those years ago, but in reverse.  I was in the middle of making a work that was really giving me trouble and at one point during the making, I started to experience this kind of blurring of image and materials into something new.  For the first time I could let go of concentrating on these things separately and was actually aware of it happening at the time.  That work was subsequently finished and to me its the most important one I’ve ever done, not at all for how ended up, but it what it revealed to me.

EG:  What were the main things it revealed?

MB:  I don’t know.  I guess that trying to think of what to paint was the most ridiculous thing in the world.  To sit there in the studio and try to think of an image to paint.  I just couldn’t do it any more.    I had lost all of the reasons why I wanted to paint images because it was the actual painting itself that had started to become the most fun and interesting.  I realised liked the process of working and investigating what a painting was, not the process of image making.  Some people can combine these things very well, but I had lost that personal attachment to the images I had used for so long and didn’t know how to use them any more.  For a long time the images in my work really had nothing to do with the image themselves, I was only using them for shape and form and colour how they fit into a composition.  So I guess I started to really question why I was using them at all, I didn’t want any kind of meaning or association.  There are only a few components of painting that I really like and now I feel free to focus on those.

EG:  What are they?

MB:  Mainly as much freedom as possible.  No idea where I’m going, how it will turn out.  No sense of restraining myself to a certain repetitive mode of working.  The best work is the one constantly surprises me, like when I’m working on the computer for a while in the studio and turn around and the painting on the wall is like a shock, like I can’t remember it or have no idea how it came to be.  If this has happened naturally then it’s a success.  I think I’ve managed to do that with about 4 or 5 of the new works so far.  The key for me is still the same however, fighting the urge to repeat successes, repeat ways of working for the sake of it.  Churn out endless variations on the same thing.  It gets very boring, very fast.

EG:  What about how these paintings look?

MB:  I like looking at paintings where I can see layers of working and underpainting sneaking through, where this kind of balance between control and chaos is at the very tipping point.  Where unexpected results occur and it’s difficult to work out the order in which the colours were applied.  With these new paintings, I am able to make whole works that dive into all this stuff and it’s really fun, like it was at the beginning.  It’s amazing how difficult it is and how the more I try and control it the less successful it becomes.  I guess what happened is that I started to have all these new ideas and so I had to invent a new way of painting to communicate them.

EG:  Even after a hundred years of abstract painting, for a lot of people there is always the, “my six year old could do that” argument.

MB:  Well I don’t think you should let your 6 year old play with electric sanders for a start.  So maybe my work is more in the 13 and up age range.

EG:  True.

MB:  I have a feeling that most artists would agree that kids are the best at drawing.  Every kid is a genius in how purely they approach drawing and their parents feel compelled to share it on Instagram.  The thing is, if the kids have grown up and are still doing this after another twenty years, then it may be time to start paying them some real notice.  I think the key is to try and always approach the work like a child does, without a clear idea of how it’s going to end up.

EG:  You mentioned that it was around the time of the start of internet and digital photography etc. when you decided to switch from abstract painting to images.  How do you feel now that the internet is so deeply intrenched in our lives?

MB:  It feels equal parts amazing and terrifying.

EG:  How has the internet affected painting?

MB:  Well that’s a huge question and there’s so many answers.  There are the technical aspects of course and the almost infinite source imagery, which is a huge one and was the main way in which I used it before.   Then there are the people who feel compelled to try and trick you with inkjet prints of brushstrokes and adding pixels and all this, or just painting out versions of their computer drawings on canvas, but that’s such a flash in the pan for me, it’s almost instantly irrelevant.  Honestly I have said this for a long time, but it is AI and robots who will be doing the best paintings very soon, so why the hell would you spend your time at this point in history trying to paint like the most basic version of one?   Painting is very unique in the way it has this ongoing lineage through thousands of years and at any time you can pick up one of these threads and start to work with it and if you approach it right, it still has so much relevance.  It’s a never-ending conversation with the past in terms of the present.  Really, I think there is one key way in which the internet has influenced painting, possibly more than anything else and that is the fact that for the first time ever in history it’s now more or less possible to know exactly what is happening in every corner of the globe.  Back in the day you had to move to Paris to see what was happening, now on Youtube you can go to more or less every gallery opening, on Instagram and websites you can see the very latest paintings being made everywhere.  It is this massive instant awareness of what is happening everywhere that I see is the main influence the internet has had on painting.  Everything is possible now and if you ignore that it seems a bit stubborn.  You can be as jokey or serious as you want, there’s no dominant school or style, you just have to try and be good at it and the only way to be good at painting is to basically spend your life doing it.  You can’t force it, or skip steps, you have to just spend hours in the studio and work through it all.  It’s a very slow process in an increasingly sped up world.  The way I see it, painters always leapt on any new technical invention that they could use in their work.  But for us now, the technology is slowly becoming a part of us, becoming so deeply connected with our lives that it’s hard to see where one stops and the other starts.







Clearing (2017)



Marc Blake.  Clearing (2016-17) Acrylic on board. 150 x 120cm

This work went though half a dozen or more radically different stages.  It began in 2016 as an all over landscape based upon aspects of my local environment in terms of paintings I did from 2007 – 2012.  It was then almost totally sanded away, left as is, restarted in a different way, sanded, left out in my carport for a few months, started again, abandoned outside again and then about a month ago, finally brought back in to the studio once more.

At that point the work was mainly just a light pinkish colour, with large lupin flowers in the bottom third.  I covered over the entire work freely and without consideration using a variety of colour and paint, before finally deciding to sand it back once again.

The result is a work, which to me at least, is a kind of combination between two American painters who influenced me in different ways at the very beginning of when I started to paint; Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

Faint ghosts of the lupin flowers from the earlier iteration can still be seen in the work and with them, what also appears to be fragments of hundreds of other images.   Yet aside from the remnants of those flowers, there is not a single representational image in this work that was directly painted.  Through controlling the sanding process as much as I am able to, as well as allowing multiple accidents or unexpected results to happen, the resulting surface contains an almost infinite amount of detail.  Within this detail , the viewer is free to imagine images as they “see” them, much as is the case with the rhythmic forms in Pollock’s “Mural” (1943), and in a different way, the representational elements in many of de Kooning’s works from the 1950s.

Like those artists, I applied many, many layers of paint in this work, however, it was in the subsequent varying degrees of removing the majority of this pigment and undoing the brushstroke, that the true nature of what I am trying to do, is able to emerge.

Until now.

I began painting some time around 1998/99 and the first public exhibition of my painting was in 1999, in Kingsland,  Auckland.  The show was divided into two groups of work.

The first group were black and white acrylic paintings on paper and canvas, representing the simplified street maps around the area where I was living at the time.  Khyber Pass, Symonds Street, K Rd, Cross Street, Grafton Bridge.   These were painted in a way that referenced the visual language of Colin McCahon, however the predetermined composition of the street grids, as well as the stencilled street names, came more from thinking about Jasper Johns.

The first painting I ever looked at and felt I truly understood in a way that was completely intuitive and personal, was a triptych on paper by Colin McCahon at the Auckland Art Gallery.  It seemed to not only directly suggest the commercial and industrial landscape of central Auckland at the time, but also the unknown, somewhat paranoid atmosphere surrounding the end of the 20th century.   It was at that point, that painting went from becoming something in a museum I couldn’t understand, to something that had the power to communicate in a very unique way.


Through learning more about McCahon and encountering of his work, I subsequently became interested in the New York Abstract Expressionists who had influenced him.  It was paintings, more or less sampling and borrowing from the ideas of many of these artists, which formed the second group of works in my first exhibition.  I continued to develop this kind of abstract painting for about the next year or so, until through looking increasingly at pop art, figuration began to dominate.

In 2002 I moved to live in Fukuoka, Japan.  I had always been interested in Japanese arts and culture and had previously been there on holiday at the end of 1999.  When I arrived in Japan in 2002, painting didn’t fit in with what I was experiencing.  Everything was moving so fast.  It was the true explosion of the internet, digital video and photography was everywhere.  I saw for the first time, a friend’s cellphone that also had a camera built in.  Everything was changing and the pace and formality of painting felt too slow.  I did however do the first painting in which I traced the outlines of a work directly from an LCD monitor onto paper and then impressed into board.  An evolving method of tracing images would continue throughout the next decade of my work.

In late December 2004, I moved to Yokohama.  This was the city my good friend Kosuke (Ko) Masuda was from and we had been friends since meeting in Auckland a couple of years earlier.  Ko had graduated Elam and then returned to complete a year’s trading as a Shingon Buddhist monk at Koya-san.   Following this training he returned to his family’s temple in Yokohama and as well as his monk duties, also began to paint again.  It was sharing Ko’s small 3 x 3m prefab studio on the temple grounds, where I also returned to painting after what had been about an 18 month break.  Since early 2005 I have continued an almost daily practice of painting.

2005 was an extremely important year for me as well as my painting.  Ko and I were both finalists in an art award at the Kyoto Museum and we received a studio residency and exhibition at the impressive and fairly newly opened BankART Yokohama facilities.

At that time of my life and in that place, everything was extremely visual for me.  The contrast with New Zealand was impossibly overpowering and all of my paintings began to incorporate what I encountered.  Based on figures from ukiyo-e and updated to contemporary hairstyles and fashion as well as compositional ideas from screen paintings, I began to create all over landscape paintings on wood populated with these figures and trees and birds.


Marc Blake.  Yokohama Day + Night (2005) Acrylic, graphite, colour pencil on board. 60 x 75cm


Marc Blake.  Watergarden (2006) Acrylic, acrylic modelling paste, graphite, colour pencil, pigment ink and gel ink on board. 90 x 140cm (Painted, Yokohama, Japan)

Upon returning to New Zealand in late 2006, I staged a one night exhibition with photographer Jos Wheeler at a friend’s warehouse in Grey Lynn.  I sold the 20 works I had brought back from Japan and subsequently began to work with two galleries; a small fledgling one based in downtown Auckland and the other very established one in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.  I was almost immediately able to start taking part in shows throughout the country and continued to sell work.


Resolution_for_Tomorrow_2007_Marc Blake

Where_It_All_Begins_2007_Marc Blake

Marc Blake.  Where it all begins (2007) Acrylic, graphite, colour pencil on board. 100 x 140cm (painted Auckland, NZ)


In 2007, Sir James Wallace bought his first painting from me.  It was a tiny triptych.  He would go on to continue to support me over the following years, with fourteen works now in the collection.  In 2008 I shared a small studio in Kingsland with the painter Kirstin Carlin.  Although our work was almost the total opposite of each other’s, it was an enjoyable and very productive time.  I made the work for my first solo show after Japan and became a finalist in the Wallace art Awards for the first time, having previously tried and failed in the two previous years.  The work, which was a large painting and drawing taken from a  Dolce & Gabbana advertisement.  It was included in the salon des refuses and subsequently became the second work in the Trust collection.


Marc Blake. D&G#2 (2008) Acrylic and colour pencil on board. 120 x 150cm (Painted, Auckland, NZ)

I made a handful of paintings based on this style of drawings from magazines, but the vast majority of my work at this time was based on stained plywood, using the woodgrain as a basis for landscapes.  Now peopled with a hybrid of Japanese memories and New Zealand experience.  An early 2008 painting titled, “Picnic on the Grass”, was the first work I did in this way.


Marc Blake.  Picnic on the Grass (2008) Acrylic, graphite, colour pencil and pigment ink on board. 59 x 90cm (Painted, Auckland, NZ)

At the end of 2008, as the global financial crisis hit and galleries began to fold, I decided to move to Sydney.  During the three years I lived overlooking Rushcutters Bay park, this style of landscape painting developed further.  I subsequently began to work with a dealer in Sydney and then concentrated on a dealer in New Zealand who I would continue to work with for the next 6 or 7 years.  It was not until midway through 2017, that the way I considered images and materials would fundamentally change.

The large work, “Future Fund” was the culmination of my time in Sydney.  It was again selected as a finalist in the Wallace Awards and this time became part of the traveling exhibition.   “Future Fund” is also significant because it is the first major work to include areas of sanding as a means of both disintegrating and partly concealing the image.


Marc Blake. Future Fund (2011) Acrylic, graphite, colour pencil, gel ink and pigment ink on board. Tetraptych; 160 x 280cm (Painted, Sydney, Aus)

Another work done in Sydney around the same time, “The Value of Persistence”, became quite a one-off in this regard, as it contained for the first time, a large area of thick, layered paint which was again partially sanded back.  I became struck by how evocative and suggestive of image this random sanding became, but again it was not until 2017 that I would revisit this idea.

The Value of Persistence 2011

Marc Blake.  The Value of Persistence (2011) Acrylic, graphite, colour pencil, pigment ink on board.  60 x 95cm

After returning to Auckland in late 2011, I began working towards my first New Zealand solo show in a number of years.  I believe that many of the works done in the second half of 2012 were the best examples of landscape painting I ever did.





Sentinel_2012_Marc Blake

Towards the end of 2012, I made the painting “Infinity Pool”, which remains one of my most favourite works.  Besides the image and the shifting manner in which I was starting to use the wood grain, the work contains large areas of bare wood, sanded right back and left for the first time.


Marc Blake.  Infinity Pool (2012) Acrylic, graphite, colour pencil on board. 80 x 96cm (Painted, Auckland, NZ)

In December 2012 I moved to Busan, South Korea and lived there for 6 months.  The resulting works I made there further reduced and refined my painting, increased the use very thin stains of colour and also sanding.  They were the peak of this six year period of landscape work, first started upon my return from Japan.






Magic Hour 2013

Returning to Auckland in 2013, the following works took a different turn.  Gone was almost all of the sanding and instead images were heavily planned in Photoshop and traced and painted almost monochromatically in very thin applications, concentrating on shadow.  This body of work remains quite unique, as it’s glassy, misty almost transparent surfaces played a stark contrast to the sanded works.  These works peaked with “State of origin”, a large and very dreamy painting based on an image of a forest outside Glenorchy.




Marc Blake.   State of Origin (2013) Acrylic and colour pencil on board. diptych; 200 x 240cm  (Painted, Auckland, NZ)  (studio, Auckland, 10 2014)


These glassy, reflective, muted paintings were extremely evocative of memory for me, particularly my time in Asia.  They further refined with thin glazes and almost photographic scenes into 2014.




At the beginning of 2015 I moved to Queenstown, which was the one place in New Zealand I constantly thought about during the decade I was overseas.  I have now lived in Queenstown for two and a half years.  After decades of cramped living in big, polluted cities, I am now constantly grateful to breathe the freshest air in the world and be surrounded by some of the most incredible natural scenery anywhere.  As a landscape painter, moving somewhere like this was somewhat visually overwhelming in an entirely different way to how Japan had been.  The mountains and lakes here are virtually untouched, the light and colours are never the same from one moment to the next.  The seasons are perfectly individual.  10 minutes drive from my house and I can be alone and completely immersed in nature.

I received the opportunity for an exhibition for the TSB Bank Wallace Arts centre in Auckland, which would again be divided into two groups – half all new work and the other half, works from the collection spanning over a decade.  The exhibition culminated an extremely difficult two year period, in which my output had been drastically reduced due to the illness and passing of my brother.  The new works for this show were started not long after my brother’s death in July and were all completed by the end of November.  I worked quickly and with a new approach, allowing the pouring and mixing and chance reactions of numerous bright and vibrant pigments to form on the surface of the board.  From there, I was able to envision landscape forms as I had done previously with the wood grain.

marc blake painting

Marc Blake: The New Landscape (partial Installation view) TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland. 2015-2016

marc blake painting

Marc Blake: The New Landscape (partial Installation view) TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland. 2015-2016


Marc Blake.  DNA (2015) Acrylic, colour pencil, pigment ink on board. 60 x 75cm

Marc Blake painting

Marc Blake.   What We See and What We Don’t See (2015) Acrylic, colour pencil on board. 60 x 75cm

Second Sun

Marc Blake.    Second Sun (2015) Acrylic, colour pencil on board.  75 x 60cm

After the conclusion of that show, I have concentrated solely on the studio and chose to stop working with my previous galleries.   I felt I was heading in a direction that was no longer my own and that the only way to find that again, was to stop exhibiting and concentrate on allowing the work to take its course.

The resulting period was one of intense experimentation where almost each work looked different to the previous.  With no consideration for creating a body of work or any type of exhibition, I was free to once again return to the very essence of what I enjoyed about painting.  Increasingly, most often out of abandoning works and wanting to reuse the board, I was sanding very often and in doing so, started to actually become equally as interested in the act of removing paint.

Amidst all of this natural splendour, I have once again found myself slowly leaving images behind and focusing on the mostly abstract painting where I first started.  Thinking again of those old New York paintings from the 1950s.

The works I made for “The New Landscape” show involved numerous layers of poured, very intense pigments and it was through sanding away some of these abandoned works, that two very significant paintings suddenly took this idea forward.

Park 2016 marc blake painting-a

Marc Blake.  Park (2016) Acrylic, colour pencil, pigment ink on board. 100 x 80cm


Pacific (2016) Acrylic, colour pencil, ink on board. 100 x 80cm


It was now only a few weeks ago, during the final stages of making of the work that would go on to become “Axiom” (2017), that I experienced what I can only describe as a fundamental shift in my understanding about painting.  For the first time, I felt image and material join into something I had never anticipated.  For that reason, I consider “Axiom” to be maybe the most important painting I have ever done.  If only solely for the reason that it was during this work where everything suddenly made sense.  I feel that there is a clear and distinct separation between every painting I made before this work and now every painting I will make after.


Marc Blake.  Axiom (2017) Acrylic, graphite on board.  150 x 120cm

The paintings I am making now may look radically different to what I was doing a few years before, yet it directly connects back to my beginning.  It has reached this point in a constantly evolving way over seventeen years.  Each work contains fragments of every step along the way.   I am still painting intuitively and it is still developing.  I feel like I am back at the very start, thinking again of the works I was making in Auckland at the turn of the 21st century.   However, instead of trying to make something and thinking about how to make it, I am now able to just make it.  Everything is intuitive, nothing is planned.  Paint is applied thicker than ever.  It is left as is, or scraped, or sanded away.  There is no longer a distinction between image and materials, something that needed to be in order to learn about each of these aspects over the past decade.

It is very easy to mock abstract expressionism and the seriousness connected with it, perhaps rightfully so.  Pop Art did this perfectly but the resulting legacy of jokey, bad painting made by adolescents who graduate as artists still continues.

Yet at the core of what these old abstract painters were doing is something that remains perhaps more vital than it has been at any time since the 1950s.  The internet and digital technology has greatly influenced painting in a number of ways and as such, many contemporary artists feel the need to directly reference that in their work.  Some even paint like robots, seemingly without the awareness that it is the robots themselves who will soon be doing the best paintings.
As such, human painting needs to once again return to what defines it.  Handmade scribblings, which wether image or not, go directly back to the caves.  The materials and the image and the technique need to be what only painting can be.


Marc Blake.  Sower (2017) Acrylic, ink on board. 50 x 40cm



Marc Blake.  Boy as T-Rex (2017) Acrylic, plastic on board. 75 x 60cm


Marc Blake.  Maria Dragging Her Canoe (2016-17) Acrylic, colour pencil on board. 75 x 60cm



Marc Blake.  Mitten (2017) Acrylic on board. 50 x 40cm



Marc Blake.  Floored (2017) Acrylic, newspaper on board. 50 x 40cm


Marc Blake.  Clearing (2016-17) Acrylic on board. 150 x 120cm


Marc Blake.  Hudson (2017) Acrylic on board. 50 x 40cm


Acrylic paint.

When I first started painting around 1998 I used oil on canvas, because that was something I thought I had to do.  However, for a multitude of reasons I began to switch to acrylics and wood around 2002.

in July of that year I also went to live in Japan.  Although I made a few paintings after arriving in Japan, I became far more interested in digital video and photography for the next couple of years.  It wasn’t until December 2004, when I relocated to Yokohama and began to share a studio with Kosuke Masuda, that I almost immediately restarted an intensive, daily practice of painting that still continues to this day.

During these past 15 years or so, I have used acrylics, inks, pencils, pens and wood in various ways in almost every single work I have made.  Throughout this time, I have experimented with all of these materials in nearly every conceivable way I can imagine and as such, my handling of paint and understanding of the wooden support has constantly evolved.

Beyond this technical understanding of materials, I have also come to understand the relevance acrylic has for me as a medium in a more cultural sense.  It is plastic, as is most of our daily, urban existence.  It is also quick drying, comparatively cheap and has the bright colours of advertising and computer screens.  The skin of a thick acrylic paint however, is not really as traditionally aesthetically appealing as oil paint.  It is vinyl, artificial, kind of ugly.  And that’s why it makes perfect sense.

I have a feeling that acrylic painters usually also like oil, but that oil painters almost never like acrylic.  Oil paint is a product of the past and of course directly references the history of western painting for hundreds of years.  For me, this weighs too heavily on how I would have to consider my work.  It feels more library, than Google.  I assume that people who like oil paint also like typewriters and cocktails and have houses filled with old leather things.


Wood and sanding.

I think I started using wood instead of canvas for a few reasons.  It was cheaper and more available than canvas, my father was a carpenter so I had grown up around it and I was also very influenced by the multiple trips I’d take to the Auckland Art Gallery.  It seemed to me that many of these local modern painting heroes like McCahon, Hotere and Fomison, more or less used whatever they could find and that there was a fair amount of DIY tradition in their painting.  The fact I go to the hardware store, as well as the art store appeals a lot to me.  High quality, lightweight wood and wooden panels were also easily available from art stores in Japan and I used them the whole time I was there.

Similar to acrylic paint, I have experimented constantly with wooden panels and mainly plywood.  I like it because it can be the support, ground, background, figure, object, foreground – all at once.

I prefer plywood for many reasons.  I like how it looks.  I like to work on the floor and be able to sit on it, or lean, or lie, or stand on it.  I like how it is both solid and soft.   I like how I am able to sand back and press into the actual surface itself.  With canvas you can stain and soak into the fabric, or build up thick layers, but it is too thin to ever really sand completely down and it is almost impossible to press into the actual surface.

Over the past 5 years, sanding has played an increasingly important part in my process.  Initially, I would just sand away part of an image to either conceal it, or rework it and occasionally sand off an entire work in order to reuse the board for a new work.  Then I began to incorporate larger sanded areas, as well as remnants of earlier workings that could never completely be removed.  Within the past 2 years, sanding in multiple ways in a single work has now become an integral part of my painting.

Sanding is an extremely physically engaging activity, which greatly benefits and compliments the act of applying paint.  However, I almost always used electric sanders and it not a terribly pleasant thing to do.  There is a lot of dust and noise and this can be harmful, as well as inconvenient, or impossible in certain settings.  Yet, I have certainly now reached a point where a sander is the same as any brush and consequently removing paint is as essential as adding it.