Ostinato 1-38 is a series of unique woodcuts inspired by musical improvisation or the jam session - a process both structured and intuitive. An ostinato (Italian, meaning obstinate) is a melodic phrase or rhythm continually repeated throughout a composition. This series of woodcuts reuses the same woodblocks in repeated but varied ways creating a series of rhythmic patterns, all different but sharing the same roots.
First, a freehand line drawing that captures a sense of tail-chasing movement is made then transcribed to make a set of wooden blocks. This linear starting point can be compared to a musical riff - something to be expanded, elaborated.
Once cut, the wooden matrix is used to improvise on paper. The composition is layered intuitively with rhythms syncopated by colour, like a visual form of call and response. Printing wet-on-wet allows an element of serendipity in a colour blending process charged by the myriad of outcomes. A sense of urgency comes from the method bringing an intense focus that drives the work forward. There is a level of risk, a path between experimental chaos and control, as once animated the space cannot be reclaimed and layering is finite before things become muddied.
The paintings also generate visualised rhythmic movement, but are made without preliminary drawings so the improvisation is slower and more tentative. Cautiously choreographed lines seek to lead the eye around the canvas. Forms arc and ricochet producing a description of trapped energy. The practice of revision involves continually wiping away and reworking, sometimes over a period of months. Staining and scarring is incorporated, bringing dimensionality and a sense of autonomy. In contrast to the relatively fast process of printmaking, time spent painting is laden with hesitancy and the opportunity for contemplation. On a good day, when the residue from previous incarnations becomes active, the paintings seem to make themselves - a reward for persistence.
‘Lend your ears to the music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?’
W. Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. 1912