Sam Marsh has his fingers in paint. In an instant, he whips his arms around and drags paint with him. Across the canvas, arcs are appearing as the paint is moved around. It is tubular, snaking over the surface and lacing up and down. It is taken off, scraped back. Not right. His fingers are back in globs of paint and his arms are whipping around and the paint is following. Better. This is a repeated process; it is quick, and physical and replayed. SM moves back and forth across the canvas, removing and reapplying paint. What hangs on the wall is the result of a single frenetic session – but it is also one of many. Frank Auerbach’s drawings are made in the same way: the charcoal from the previous day’s sitting is wiped off and the image is remade. Below each drawing is the faint outline of old marks. When finished, one image stands out but the others linger behind. While SM adopts this method, the thickness of the paint wipes away any ghost. Tubular was the right word to use; the marks appear three-dimensional. They could have been squeezed out and piling up like ketchup on a plate.
Below the manically made tubular paint marks are calmer paintings. This is a slow process and sets the tone for the finished work. Blocks of colour are painted on and areas are masked off. Space for the paint to be dragged is made. Fingers move through the paint, pulling the globs across the surface. As this is done, the colours below come through, staining the marks being made. Where masks have been laid the dragged paint doesn’t go and pre-planned shapes can be seen. Ideas of collage begin to come through. In places, the paint laces and is met by a sharp line or the corner of a hexagon. There is an expected tension between the rapid swirls of paint and the measured calm of a hexagon grid.
Recurring throughout all of the paintings are references, to collage, but also to the imagery of computing and the Internet – particularly with the use of garish colours. They do not move softly into one another but stop and start sharply. The electric colours of early web pages come to mind. Also the marks made with SM’s fingers are reminiscent of graffiti imitated by early Photoshop or Microsoft Paint. Remember dragging a curser over a computer screen and leaving a trail of harsh colour behind? SM’s paintings have the marks we tried so hard to make.
Sam is currently exhibiting at the new Line Gallery (SVA) until Tuesday 1st December, for further examples of his work visit www.samarsh.com