Alastair Gordon's Island

Material Thought: From Hyperrealism to Gesture
February 6, 2021



 In the last year my painting has undergone a significant change. Heightened realism has made way for a more gestural and intuitive process. To me, gestural painting is more difficult because it exposes the vulnerabilities, sensibilities and intuition of the artist.

This sense of attunement to one’s surroundings is translated into forms, colours and movements that – rather than describing what the artist sees – evoke a sense of what the artist feels. An externalising of the internal. An invocation of material thought. 


I look so I can see

I touch so I can feel

I draw so I can understand 

And I want to understand so I can truly see. 


Cézanne encouraged us not to make a copy of nature but to recognise our sensibilities towards it. Yet he never faced a plastic screen or viewed nature through the mediated lens of an iPhone.


 What is the ‘wood-ness’ of  wood? What is the ‘stone-ness’ of stone?

 Where does the object end and the drawing begin? When does the artist recede

and the painting take over?


To me, it is harder to recognise one’s sensibilities than to make a copy. Hyperrealist painting is easier because the copy can be achieved given time and technique, certain procedures applied to give the illusion of shape, form and perspective, shadow and texture. In effect the hyperrealist is copying nature. Yet truly to know an object through drawing and painting is more exhausting. Illusionistic painting feels more static: presenting the world in a controlled or even contrived way. Gestural painting is nimbler, exposing the mind of the artist as constantly in a state of flux. Some people think I am a composed person because I am well-mannered yet my mind is always perpetually fluctuating between security and doubt, extravert and introvert, darkness and light. This is why intuitive painting is more challenging. It exposes the demons as well as the saints. Hope and lament collide in the marks. The joys and the fears. The old self and the new. 


To me, drawing is an act of invocation. A poiesis of matter and thought where instinct and intellect create a place of attunement. A ritual space of imagination and embodiment, where materials have thought and the hand moves instinctively. 

 I come to the studio to be grounded in matter. An oily stretch of pigment across linen. Here is a rhythm of particles, stone, wood, water and plastic. I paint best when the day is done. When the rhythms are so practiced in my body that they have become intuitive. 


Where do I imagine?

I don’t just imagine with my mind. 

I imagine with my body. 

I imagine from the tip on my brush. 

I imagine in the course veins

as the graphite snaps

under the weight

of my over-eager hand. 

All these things are to imagine

in body and mind. 

And to imagine, I believe

is to be an artist.







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