Clement Page in conversation with Robert Defcon, Berlin 2018
»As an artist, you have the ability to change reality«
Painting, film and mirrors
Currently, I am making an installation combining double sided paintings with mirrors. I am looking at how painting can form a correlation with the temporality and changing view points of film.
What distinguishes film making from painting, is that making a film condenses years of preparation, into a very short period of actually shooting the film. You virtually spend everything in ten days. Then you spend the next year exhibiting and talking about it. Painting, on the other hand, is very much a daily thing. And you have to make yourself open to the material and chance, in the widest sense. In a way It requires the suspension of ideas and theory. It is a more experiential thing.
With film, the interesting thing is working with actors and developing the images and dialogue with them. Film is a collaborative process and requires a different kind of imagination, whereas painting is very much a singular activity. Of course, you can write and talk about what are going to paint, but when you pick up the brush, or any applicator or material and start working on the image/idea it changes. In a sense you have to adapt your idea to the process of painting, which often yields new and unexpected possibilities.
On the other hand, there are ways in which film and painting are interconnected. Painting also involves time, and a process of condensing time into a material image. It takes the viewer time to disentangle the meaning of painted marks and how the image is created through those marks. So, in a way, painting is a film that unfolds in the mind of the viewer, rather than an exhibition of objects, which implies the misunderstanding of painting as a fixed framework of meaning. The installation/painting I am currently working on involves a spatial/temporal, experience for the viewer, there are no paintings hanging on the wall in a classic sense.
The installation involves a series of large double-sided paintings which stand on the floor in a diagonal formation with the wall. The back paintings can only be viewed in a mirror which leans against the wall behind the paintings. There are small gaps between the diagonal arrangement of the double-sided canvases – you can't walk through it, but you can see the reflection of the back paintings in mirrors on the other side.
Jacques Lacan, discusses how the visual identity given by the mirror provides an imaginary "wholeness" to the experience of a fragmented reality. Mirrors are devices of reflection that are meant to capture some kind of truth, but when polished, curved or broken they become devices of distortion and manipulation. When looking through the gaps onto paintings reflected in mirrors – somewhat like in Plato's cave allegory – the inevitable and inescapable task of interpretation is but a broken reflection of reflections of paintings, whose wholeness is purely imaginary. There's a gap that can't be bridged.