You may have heard of “Salon Style,’ a phrase which has particular meaning for artists. What comes to mind is not so much a good comb-out as a vision of wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling paintings. In centuries past, most art shows would have been hung this way, cheek-to-jowl, every square inch crowded with works jostling one another. The "modern" period saw the pendulum swung sharply back in the other direction; huge public gallery rooms might and still do house only four paintings - one for each wall. I can never decide whether this reflects the luxury of space or an extreme paucity of the imagination.
While I theoretically aim for a midpoint, our wee house has been creeping back in style. This is not so much an aesthetic consideration as a practical one — paintings are meant to reside on the wall rather than under the bed and so today found me once again perching precariously up and down the staircase with hammer in hand. In our stairwell at least, the salon is literally on the rise.
At least I'm no longer wrestling with heavy watercolours. Of the several impulses which directed me towards oil, framing was one. The final straw with watercolour was the moment when, after having spent half an hour cleaning the glass and then carefully screwing the whole combination of backing, painting, double mat and glass into the frame, I turned it over to find that a bug had crawled in to die. Crap. I also had to admit to myself that I probably shouldn't work with glass; for one thing, I can't afford the blood loss. I have always thought Polonius’ injunction to Laertes to “Know thyself/ to thine own self be true” should have earned him more respect from Hamlet, but there you go.
So using oil pigments on stretched canvas offered an escape from complicated framing or, at least I thought so until I finished the first large big painting and realized that I somehow still had to hang it. hmmm. When I decided to shop for an oil frame, I realized that what had been a light and portable object would be transformed by that addition into what amounted to a piece of furniture; just like that, my fancy of easy seasonal change-overs of subject matter and palette vaporized. Then Lyla suggested that the next piece could be painted on a “gallery” canvas, one built with deep stretchers. Eureka! All problems solved simultaneously — extra space around the edges to wrap the image, good strong construction, and minimal weight. Bring it on!
But of course I am drawn like a moth to the flame by these light and large expanses of canvas - which brings us back to that issue of limited wall space. This is the newest goliath asking to be shoe-horned onto a wall; it's now hanging in the stairwell but we both could have done without the wrestling match. It's wishful thinking that babes like this might develop some self-hanging inclinations but I am haunted by the memory of an elderly friend whom I helped move house. Frank ran out of patience and simply hauled a batch of wonderful oil paintings to the curb with a "Free to a good home" sign. Neighbours emerged from their burrows like carpenter ants in spring.
I don't think I'm there yet but I promise to post advance notice if it comes to that. "Coming to a curbside near you...."