Philip Guston's late paintings, by Enzo Marra

The influence of Philip Guston
February 24, 2020

Philip Guston, 'Painting, Smoking, Eating' 1973, Stedelijk Museum.

© McKee Gallery, 2008


 My first true experience of Philip Guston’s late paintings was at the exhibition of his work held at the Royal Academy in 2004, their monumental nature and their honest directness something that could not be ever captured by a reproduction on a printed page. These later works which he bravely threw himself into despite the reputation that he could so easily lose are an example of someone who truly believed in the process of painting as journey of discovery. Their biographical nature a way of making sense of what was happening around him, his relationship with the world all there in brush strokes, revealing himself further with each subsequent image. This is the directness I aspire to but purposefully do not force, each scrawled sketch, attempted watercolour, successful or unsuccessful oil painting, taking me further in the direction I need to go in. My cast of characters seen cocooned in their studios or set in deluges, were initially intended as a metaphor for the creative struggle. Each head fragment, hand, roof or other symbolic visual presence, either sinking, floating or rising, depending on how you instinctively view them. I find now they are much more open and universal, the process of struggling through life whatever your life is made up of, having also been equally expressed in the subject matter. My use of a smaller scale format drawing viewers closer to the image, accentuating the direct painterly application. The sparse linear and areas of colour sharing qualities with the more resonant alternative comic book creators - their raw energy more immediately present. Guston’s autobiographical urgency relating to the struggles of his past, present and however much future remained, an authentic form of expression which I hope I sometimes touch on. His cast, props and settings never grew tiresome or designed or obvious, he had discovered a road and was happy to traverse it for the remainder of his career. What will become of my career is still painting itself out, too many years of ideas sat on pages and in books, patiently waiting to be made more visible.



Enzo Marra, 'Deluge' (Dark Water), 2019









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