Riverfall and other works
Art Line International, Winter 1993
IN The Goncourt Journals,
Chardin is quoted as saying:
"But who told you one paints with
colours? One uses colour, but one paints with feelings".
Study for New Year Paintng #3 1997
oil on canvas
20 x 30.5cm
All painters are aware of the mysterious judgements - one might
say inner demands which determine, quite independently of any consideration
of actual representation, the sense of 'rightness' of the painterly
gesture as the work proceeds from moment to moment.
Alan Rankle's paintings engage in the dialectic between the means
of art and the sensations before the subject in a particularly acute
way. He seeks to suspend the painting at that balanced point just
before the mark, in all its expressiveness, dissolves into the illusion
of the image.
Study for New Year Paintng #12 1997
oil on canvas
20 x 30.5cm
Rankle's work falls, at first sight at least, into that modernist
genre the abstract landscape, which appears after the first wave
of abstract expressionism. Landscape has always demanded abstraction
because its overwhelming complexity and scale necessitate generalisation,
and this is as true of Ruisdael or Poussin as much as De Kooning.
Rankle is fully aware of this, and exploits all the historical possibilities
of the landscape tradition by entering into a complex dialogue with
the representational codes of landscape art from several periods
and cultures. He disrupts the unity of a single code in order to
extend the possibilities of the genre, not in an ironic or mocking
way, but affirmatively, to express continuity and development. Thus,
in Memo from Turner or Landscape
of the Fall II a 'naturalistic' tree is interrupted and surrounded
by strongly gestural swathes of thick paint and dribbling glazes,
not depictive of but 'like' a landscape, which yet give, paradoxically,
the exact sensation of the golden twilight of the 'Picturesque'
manner. In other works, calligraphic marks and areas of gold leaf
refer to the language of Chinese painting. Rankle studied Chinese
monochrome brush painting and the martial art T'ai Chi Ch'uan (the
latter is an integral part of the former) after his 'Western' art
education at Goldsmith's College. The practise of T'ai Chi, the
discipline and contemplation, the harmonisation and balance of the
energies of the body, prepare for the moment of enlightened response
with brush in hand the 'right' mark or gesture, made by the body
without the hesitation which might come from the intervention of
the brain. One might note in this context the interest of the abstract
expressionists in oriental art, particularly calligraphy, where
what was originally pictographic takes on an independent life of
its own as an expressive gesture.
Pierce identifies three kinds of sign: the Iconic, the Symbolic
and the Indexical, Rankle would like to have all three in play.
Any figurative work employs iconicity insofar as the configuration
of marks forms a visual equivalent or likeness to the objects represented.
Symbolic signs are usually iconic as well, and refer to the conventional
or allegorical meaning of images, but could, in Rankle's work, be
equivalent to historical styles or conventions, in that they refer
to the cultural and historical developments of a particular period
in the history of art. The most elusive kind of sign is the indexical,
in that it is metonymic, the trace or imprint of the object. At
the most simple level, this could be a footprint as a sign of the
human presence, but beyond this perhaps lies the possibility of
finding some metaphorical equivalent for the language of 'feelings'
inscribed in the painters' work.
Sometime in the 19th Century
(Dog by Fronth) 2002
oil on canvas
20.5 x 30.5cm
In psychoanalytic terms, the ego is originally a bodily ego,
formed from the id, itself a borderline concept, marking the point
where the experience of the body achieves representation in the
mind in the form of desire. Signs used for thinking about the creative
process, which result in the symbol for feeling which is art, are
derived, variously, from the stages of interest in different aspects
of somatic experience. The inner life can only be made knowable
in terms of the outer life, which is the life of the body expressed
in terms of a sensuous medium and language, with all its complexities
of tensions and releases, balances and spatiality. These signs in
art, show in their formal patterning, similar qualities and themes.
Though no language can encompass the unconscious determinants of
the painter's response whilst working one might use the bodily analogy
to intuit the character of the painterly gesture: its speed, direction,
scale, pressure, tenderness or aggression, the texture of paint,
fluid, dry, crumbly, enamelled or translucent. Nor is this just
a matter of character. Francis Bacon said:
"Real imagination is technical
imagination. It is the search for the technique to trap the object
at a given moment. Then the technique and the object become inseparable.
Art lies in the continuous struggle to come near to the sensory
side of objects".