What Painting Does, Panel Discussion with Fiona Rae, Dan Perfect and Daniel Sturgis

Introduced by Zoe Mendhelson asking the question of painting:

Materiality and what meaning you get from it.


Daniel Sturgis spoke about his work being time encapsulated in making, seeing and realisation. Working in acrylic medium how the processes are at odds and there was a dichotomy between how fast the paints dry but the process is slow.


He quoted Kenneth Nolan who said that “one complicates the painting through the making” which I felt was an interesting analogy and rings true within my practice because although I value the observational pathos I am still looking to make the paintings look like paintings and not an absolute reproduction of the imagery that I work with.

Sturgis also spoke of the preparation of the surface and how carefully and well made they were but without an complete pristine finish so that it was obvious that there were imperfections. This opposition showed the vulnerability of the manmade. I could totally relate to this way of thinking.

Dan Perfect talked about his working methodologies of PVA mixed with pigment and acrylic paints. Perfect felt that it was a calendar, showing time passing but there was an overarching rational organisation of a sense of self. This organisation means a thinking through a process.


From something abstract Perfect looks for micro expressions and that was the thing that we, as humans, can read with ease – human expressions. This leads me to rationalise why I look at portraiture as I find this both alluring but also I question how I am reading expressions in a moment. Perhaps this is why I choose to paint because I find the time to become acquainted with my subject and so I feel as though I then can find my own narrative and interpretation without ever really knowing what the situation I look to capture is.


Fiona Rae talked about how she started deconstructing her paintings and played with the material, paint and mark making. I admire her approach and feel that there is still so much to learn about paint and its materiality .


Rae’s fascinating process of paint application stems through the wish to impart micro narratives as she starts with a set of rules but improvises to make a series. Each series seems like a journey of self exploration in how best to convey the thinking behind.

An interesting analytical quote from Rae was ‘paint always stays as paint which is the great thing about the physicality’ 

Some of the didactic touched upon was:


  • Pigments materials, binders and their different relationship

  • Discussing how some painters may not have an idea of what they do – but most artists are in-between

  • How as a painter you loose yourself – but questioning who you are and where are you lost

  • Trying to control paint versus yourself is a life struggle

  • Self is a complex aggregate of ideas. Personality and education

Paintings are about conversations with other paintings or artworks but ultimately it is about who sees the work and how they react.