Category Archives: Lucy Somers:

When is a figurative painting not a figurative painting?

Post by Lucy Somers!

I’ve decided to base my fast approaching dissertation on the difficult division between abstract painting and figurative painting. Partly with the ambition of working out my relationship with figuration in my own painting.

I’ve always painted with varying levels of figuration, wether I used people, fruit, domestic interiors, or landscapes, because it never seemed to make sense without that essential connection to reality and to observation. Like any statement, it doesn’t mean anything out of context.

But one thing that has frustrated me and confused my tutors is that I’ve never wanted my paintings to be about the objects, and because I resisted any reading of the painting as being a social comment on domesticity, they test my need for the figuration entirely.

Recently, I’ve come to think that my difficulty is in the heirarchy of the image. That our minds are constructed so that any figurative element is picked out from abstraction. So when I paint figuratively, but want the abstract elements of the colour, tone and light to carry the meaning of the picture, the mind will always be diverted to the figurative element- and thus my tutors want to talk about the chair not the light.

I also came to think how clever Baselitz’s method was, to use people, which have got to be the most immediately recognised subject, very pinnacle of the heirarchy. By using images of people, but picturing them upside-down, the potency of the image is diffused, and so the abstract painterlyness becomes dominant over the figurative element.

I need to find some way to keep my link to reality, but with some way of diffusing the image’s power, letting my paint come to the fore.

What do any of the other Paintists think?