Daniel Mafe

From Series – Sites of Abstraction: diagrams of need. 2009

These paintings are the result of the accumulated tracings of many imagined and pictured songs. All the songs are improvised and drawn, one over the other, in the crowded solitude of my studio. The paintings are visually complex and present densely worked surfaces. They have come into being, slowly. They are slow songs.

To talk about work always leaves me stranded between my memory of what I understand or experience of the painting process, and what the work itself, presents to me, the viewer. Increasingly, within my recent practice, painting has represented itself to me performatively. It now describes what feels like the active participation with the fluxing or happening moment. Within this space, ideas both painterly and conceptual conjoin to manifest materially in paint as hybrid visual contructs. What I consciously think about during this process only occasionally survives as a coherent reflective meaning. How I make, is predicated on but not exclusively determined by, an attempt to let go of what I know or recognise. I feel as though I relinquish any conscious conceptual control and to surrender to a physical sensual engagement with my materials and the making moment. Of course this is not totally accurate but it seems to be so at the time of painting and is my current answer to the question of how one might journey from the known to the unknown.

When viewing the completed work the experience is not any simpler or less complex than the making, it is just different. What is it one is being invited to actually see or experience through one’s seeing? The paintings present an experience of flux, of ambiguity, and do so optically and conceptually. We see things, shapes and forms we think we recognise like heads, circles, eyes but their relationship to one another is not so clearly perceived. It would be true to say the paintings are not quite as they appear; that they unfold slowly over time and act as mirrors to the vagaries of the viewer’s perception. The work shifts attention at first towards a narrative of process only to later focus that attention onto the notion of a “forming ground”, that is a ground that seems to generate form and sensation. In this way the paintings function dynamically and generatively. Layers of poured paint, veil and then reveal detail while continuring to work as both figure and ground. Each painting is an actively self-constructing whole, both disassembling itself into a diaspora of fragments, geometric and gestural, and then reassembling itself into whole that is only so through time. In this way the paintings are never fully present to the eye but instead are only wholly present, virtually, in memory.

Finally, if I were to sum up my painting practice of the last twenty five years or so, I would describe it as directed to the exploring of abstraction as a process that is both generatively and dynamically focused on the picturing, dismantling and reassembling of the painting as a resonant ground. That is abstraction as a process that sees painting as being both the performed and the performer, abstraction as a process that articulates painting as a forming, shaping emergent ground for the “about-to-be”.

These are slow songs, listen well.

Daniel Mafe
Brisbane 2007/8


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