text/catalogues exhibitions   collections   1990 - 96   1997 - 99 2000 - 17
about contact   1969 - 75 1976 - 80 1980 - 89
Interview from ‘Chance, Choice and Irony’  1994  









Tony Godfrey: How do you make these paintings?

Colin Crumplin: They are made by spreading, with my hands, acrylic paint on cotton duck laid on the floor. I cover half of the canvas in this way and then I fold the other half over it so that a 'blind' monoprint is made.

TG: So it is like a Rorschach blot?

CC: In many you only get one half of the symmetry of the 'blots'. In some of these paintings, for example, that with the pitcher plant (Nepenthe) I have taken a bucket of paint, (red, yellow, blue, white) and tipped, and spread it over the canvas. There is at this stage no attempt to draw anything, anymore than when one wipes the floor with a cloth. It is a way of making something which we may recognise or be able to respond to -not just potentential images but gestures which we might respond to because of their size or because of their 'hand-madeness'. I need not to be in control: whenever I have tried to do these things deliberately they have not worked.

TG: Is there a high failure rate for these paintings?

CC: Avery high failure rate! Especially in these starts. Perhaps I can use one in five.

TG: When you have got one you can work with, how do you proceed?

CC: These starts are stretched out on to one of two stretchers of identical size. Then I keep them around and look at them. Sometimes I take photographs of them. I have a littie book of these photographs that I carry about with me. Quite often I will make a series of starts, photograph them, put them in this book and make a lot of very small drawings from them onto tracing paper. Sometimes it is very obvious what they might be and there is no need for any drawing.

TG: What do you do next?

CC: Then I have an idea of how I might use that first image in relation to the second one. Sometimes I've taken or found photographs. It doesn't matter by which route I discover these images: they are to do with recognition. I do not think in terms of the subconscious: I think in terms of the memory.

TG :   By discounting the subconscious you are also discounting a surrealist reading.

CC:   Yes, I am aware the techniques I use may seem t come out of surrealism, but they can be found in the eighteenth century, with Cozens' blotscapes.

TG :   Or in the nineteenth century with Victor Hugo.

CC: I'm really not interested in revealing my subconscious or anything specifically autobiographical.   The folding can produce a bi-lateral symmetry with obvious anthropomorphic allusions.   I've used the images of orchids a number of times - because of their sensuality.   Everyone who has ever given or received an orchid probably recognizes that.   It's part of a common vocabulary of images, like the shape of the human brain.   When we can name things, they tend to stick.   Picturing its crucial for memory: for example, [he begins to draw a schematic face, two circles for eyes, two lines for nose and mouth] this is coded in the memory for all of us.   My work is also about painting: often I am responding to the colour more than anything else.

TG:   How does this current work relate to your earlier work?   How I know your work best is through the book you published in 1977 Hommage a Queneau in which you drew a cup in one hundred different styles.   The French novelist Raymond Queneau had, in his book Exercises in Style , re-written the same banal anecdote in ninety-nine radically different styles.

CC:   At that time I was doing two things: firstly, what could be called, in the loosest sense, minimal paintings: panels with tiny holes drilled in repeated, chance configurations; secondly this book of drawings which played with modes of representation.   I tried to make paintings in the same way and that led, eventually, into this sort of painting.

TG:   In queneau's other book, Le Chiendant, for example, he adopts a quite arbitary form or structure which he forces the narrative into.   Do you use a form like this as an irritant?

CC:   No.   What I do is a way of constructing a painting: sometimes I think this process is just to give them an underlying sense of structure - certainly not an irritant.

TG:   you make the starts by using your hands rather than brushes.   How loaded is that direct use of the hand?

CC: It is a simple action.   It is sometimes possible to see it is done by hand; occasionally you can see a handprint.   Can I say something about my use of chance here?   Firstly it comes out of that interest in chance which many artists had in the sixties - as a distancing device from aesthetic decisions, but it no longer works in that way for me.   I also originally used chance to break out of my habits, but nowadays, as with any improvising, I set up a structure beforehand.   These are images of models of chance.   Secondly, it relates to my attitude to everything else.   If I had left a quarter of an hour earlier this morning I would have been in a very bad accident on the motorway.   There are curious contingencies.   I do not use chance in the philosophical way Cage did with his reliance on the I Ching .   Chance is both convenient and significant, and, in the most general sense, I can use it to oppose almost all determinist views of things.   Chance is so fundamental to everything.   It is fundamental to evolution to start with it   it is not because of mere quirkiness that I use it.

TG:   Is this a specifically materialist (in the philosophical sense) way of working?   You have already distanced yourself from any religious view of the world.

CC:   Yes.   I am constructing paintings starting with very simple elements.   Paintings which allow many different readings.

from   Chance Choice and Irony

John Hansard Gallery

Isbn 0854 325 115