Reflections on the Painted Surface.
Mathieu Weemaels and Alan Mitchell

The Latin word 'speculum' means 'mIrror' and from it we derive English words like 'speculation' and 'introspection'. 'Reflection' is both an outer phenomenon of mirrors and other smooth, shiny or polished surfaces as well as a mental process, an inward looking, thoughtful interior investigation and a search for meaning. The painter at his most introspective, like Rembrandt, looks into a mirror to reveal both inner and outer aspects of his mind and appearance.

For Buddhists the metaphor of a smooth surface of water undisturbed and unclouded by the passions and therefor capable of clearly reflecting the moon without distortion is used as a symbol of calm meditative contemplation and wise insight into the nature of reality without delusion. Ironically the mirror is also associated with clever illusions and lies, tricks of the eye, deceptions created by 'smoke and mirrors'. The 'trompe d' oeil' of the painter who creates a realistic illusion of solid form and depth on a flat surface that calls into question how we see and judge the world of appearances and makes us think twice before accepting things at face value. The paradox of 'true lies' of the 'realist' painter.

Photographers have always been interested in shadows and reflections. The camera itself is a box with mirrors for trapping shadows and fixing them in back to front negatives to be used to print positives with the enlarger in the darkroom. The photographic process recalls the Greek myth of the invention of painting by a fisherman's wife tracing around her husband's shadow on the wall to fix his image and keep his memory in his absence. The shadowy reflection, or the substitute image becoming a temporary dwelling for the spirit or the soul of the departed one and a focus for projecting and directing emotions of desire and longing.

Both artists in this exhibition are concerned with the material nature of oil paint and other tactile media, the marks of the brush and other tools and processes on the flat surface of the paper, wood or canvas. Both artists are concerned with light and colour, often muted, neutral and understated and the nature of pictorial space, the illusion of depth within the frame of the picture. Both artists reference the mirror either directly as an object in a still life, a further window or frame within the frame or indirectly through the 'mirror' of the photographic fragment, the paper with a printed image as an object in itself forming a trompe d' oeil of 'collage'. Both artists are concerned with painting as both a process and object, of creating a place of stillness and contemplation where the nature of truth and deception, reality and illusion can be distilled and discerned in time and space. Both see painting as both poetry and metaphor for desire and loss, absence and longing and the implied presence, of viewer and artist, reflected outside the frame of the mirror and of the painting.

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