Jacob Mason-Macklin, Fish Oil, 2021, Oil and charcoal on linen, 48 x 36 inches


Notes on Painting

Text by Jacob Mason-Macklin

March 7, 2021

I feel guilty about needing to take refuge in the shade after walking in the sun. It’s such a powerful gift to experience light—infinite and consuming.

—From San Juan

March 18, 2021

This body of work feels like a confession(al) or rumination on [redacted]. Pulled directly from my sketchbook, I’m attempting to elevate the methods of drawing: the journal quality, free associative forms, and improvisational techniques used to complete a composition while using pen or charcoal, which can be rather unforgiving. One has to own the drawn line—and that feels like a nice mirroring to what I’m trying to do in my practice now with these works: ownership. Ownership of my forms and my hand. Obsessive, maximalized compositions of [redacted] within a landscape the references a very small, lasting memory of home on the EASTSIDE, which is a continual source for me.

With the paintings, I attempt to harness/capture the freedom of the sketch and emphasize the subject through the power of the painted surface. CORPOREAL, VISCERAL, and packed with pace and energy, color and pigment realize the black line drawings and force the sketch into a state of becoming. From a drawing that can maintain its journalistic dreaminess to a painting thrusted into the world. In a sense, airing out the dirty laundry or maybe cleaning out the closet for bones.

A reluctant imagist—a MIDWESTERN Imagist—with an unabashed admiration of Action Painting and Expressionism. Too angsty to align too heavily in either category. My goal is to form my voice through the cohabitation of the imaged and the gestural, expressive, mark. Semi-legible, orchestral, grimy, and intimate scenes. Vicious, sopping, clumsy paint–sensitive, patchwork compositions. [Redacted].

[“Yes, the future is here; but the past too is everywhere.” — A.B.]

April 21, 2021

Saw [redacted] at [redacted]—color was disengaging at first—too poppy—but the traces of prior paintings were amazing and educational. Beautiful work—subject very bare bones: 3 figures in space—it was about the paint. Not even surface, but traces of action and what became the final image. Narrative unnecessary, however, the traces, in itself, told a story.

Painting is about the traces of ideas/things we left behind in its making. The subject doesn’t need to be so essentialized, it can simply be a motivating force to create (i.e. figures in space).

Conversely, saw [redacted] at [redacted]—far too narrative, paint handling was so-so. I wasn’t captivated by the PAINT MEDIATION—much too narrative focused + story being told didn’t resonate. I enjoy gritty—but paint must communicate that. How do I get there?

—How do the traces of a painted form’s past reveal itself in the present, final image?

—Consider painting as record of—house—to a series of forms/images partaking in the histories of the other marks/forms + the subsequent transformations in order to complete painting.

—Think mass of forms/images, brought to a final state of symbolism, with traces of prior iterations present and in conversation on the surface, hidden—still speaking.

May 12, 2021

I’m having a bit of an existential struggle with this painting. It’s essentially painting itself, however, I’m so torn about the subject. I’m uncertain if it’s because the idea may be too quick or if it’s because it’s making me feel so vulnerable. This assessment/judgement while working is kicking my ass. Likely, the painting is moving too gently for the amount of angst I feel about making it—it feels like I’m making a picture—a STATEMENT.

The subject feels honest but the honesty must be communicated through the paint or I fear that the subject will carry too much weight and the experience of making the painting will be replaced with a picture that asks the subject to hold all meaning. That isn’t what I’m after. I’m almost certain the work is telling me to visualize the angst/turmoil I feel regarding the subject in order for the piece to ring true. This will take patience.

The image of [redacted] as a vision in the streetlights sounds evocative, however, I cringe at the thought of placing [redacted] onto a painting at this moment. With that, I feel I gotta destroy the portrait and play around in the ruins—it’s too loaded a symbol to not be the primary subject within the piece. The piece, in essence, or it’s “narrative” is a confrontation between [the first and second figure]. In this piece they meet. [The figure] on the ground with one dirty foot raised toward [redacted]. The collision or impending action of the hand reaching out for the soiled foot—[redacted]. This feels like the main action—the vision in the streetlight has to accentuate, not dominate, both narratively and through paint mediation.

I feel as though a way for me to dually communicate this hierarchy, with respect to the poetics of the subject within the larger painting narrative, is to OBFUSCATE, or lessen, the direct read of who exactly is inside the light. Could be [redacted]—who knows? How to communicate that through the PAINT is key.

May 27, 2021

Structure has been nipping at my heels over the last year. How do I create structure within the paintings—what are my structures—what are these landmarks that can navigate both geographically and temporally? In order for the paint to hold fierceness—to convey the wildness/spirited quality of the subject–there needs to be a structure (wall) to run up against.

Walls stand still, streets move forward, and street poles grow upward. What’s inside these axes is liminal and in flux; occupying itself in-between or at the ends of these structures—subject to change. It’s the density of these landmarks and the velocity of what’s inside that must feel true, heavy, and frenetic—where does the subject live?

“Visions in the light” keeps replaying in my mind. [My work] up to this point wanted to escape—but where am I now? It feels as though I’ve returned to some place familiar in search of something I might’ve missed, a new marker—a different stake in the ground I could use to tether myself as I travel back to this source point.

In these passages of travel, I remember a buzzing, orange-cast light that consumed the streets and foliage at night. From the creases of mortar that snake between concrete blocks and sidewalks to the obelisks of industry—all colored like rust, all eroded by this heavy, inescapable, tangerine light.

June 5, 2021

I got up around the same time as the sun this morning. Cleaned my bedroom and fixed myself some oatmeal + honey, blueberries, and bananas—with iced coffee. The heat is nice in the morning. Today I believe I’m going to finish this final composition for the exhibition with Ryan. I find myself up earlier on the final leg of shows. The composition is figureless and square and from afar—geometric and a bit abstract, I liken it to a maze. I was surprised at what the painting wanted to be.

[Redacted]. Off to studio.

June 8, 2021

Show is painted—funny that I used the final pages to write this. What to do now?