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The Art of Deconstruction

September 2, 2009

deconstructed oil paintingSpeaking of taking risks

I just had my meeting today with my prof from art school. He told me exactly what I expected he would: I’m not getting anywhere, my paintings were mediocre at best, I needed to take it to the next level.

Okay, he wasn’t quite so mean as that, but that was the basic gist of it.

He also had some very nice things to say about me and my work in general, he just felt like my recent work wasn’t up to snuff. And I agree.

I’ve known it for awhile now. That’s not to say that what I was doing wasn’t relevant or useful. It’s been a great learning experience for me and I’ve definitely gained a knowledge of paint and colour in the process. However, they weren’t strong works in an intellectual and contemporary view point.

So what did I do? I took the canvas off the stretcher and tore it into pieces!

How good did it feel? GREAT!

You have no idea how liberating and freeing it is to destroy your own art! If you’ve never tried it, you should!

Deconstruction was what started me on the path I’m on now. During my last year at art school, I was farting around painting shapes on doors. I didn’t know what I was doing. One of my teachers said to me, “do something extreme! burn it, or tear it apart!” So I did. I tore that door into pieces, then used the pieces to build a whole new painting. The ideas snowballed and soon I had a process that freed me from my pre-occupation with the final product, but also used my strengths as a logical, systematic thinker.

Back to today… My teacher basically told me I had too much going on in each painting and that all these elements were fighting for attention. He said that I was too wishy washy: I had to either get really clean, or really messy. He hinted at destroying the paintings and going back to a collage/assemblage style of work.

Well, it was the kick in the butt I needed to make me do what I knew I had to do! Before I lost my nerve I got out my pliers, pried the staples out of the back of my painting and tore the canvas up. I must say, it looks better already! I’m not sure where I’ll go next, but that’s the beauty of the process! I think I’ll start with some sketchy lines and then paint out some areas before rearranging the pieces and building it up.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress!

original painting

I will admit, I chose one of my least favorites to try this on, but the rest of them will have their turn, I’m thinking! Here’s the original piece pre-deconstruction. What do you think? Improvement or not?

  1. I think this is a great way to see your art in a new way. Sometimes we need to have that kick, as you say. The thing is these pieces can only sit in the corner of shame for so long until something has to be done about them. It sounds as though for you that day of doing came today. I think deconstructing in order to restructure is a great method for moving work forward. My friend, Fiona Long ( ), does a lot of things like this to get herself going. She, too, is an art student and does a lot of installation work, deconstruction work and painting. All the parts seem to play off of each other. It seems to me art is about not only taking chances, but also needs to have some way to twist the images around to make them your own. Sometimes, it just needs to be a little demo to release that creative energy! I love the result, by the way.

    • Thanks Kim! It’s definitely a good way to make sure you don’t become too attached to your work. When you get attached, you stop taking risks for fear of ruining something. I haven’t had time to work on this today, but I’m brimming with ideas of what to do next! I’ll have to take a look at Fiona’s work, thanks for the link!

  2. Thanks Miranda! yuck face is growing on me more:) but I do think I like the watercolors better than the pastels-here’s the link if you’d like to check them out, they’re inexpensive and I do like to play with them in my art journal:)

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