Intersectional Abstractionisticisms: Hommage to the Surrealists

Initially entitled “Last Thoughts of a Dying Dog,” this painting was part of an attempt to
work according to the precepts of Surrealism, as elucidated by Sarane Alexandrian, author
of Surrealist Art (World of Art) who was part of the movement:


Instead of teaching a system, the surrealists … set out to liberate the workings of the subconscious, disrupting conscious thought processes by the use of irrationality and enigma, and exploiting the artistic possibilities of terror and eroticism.


I therefore invented my own method of doing this, which I termed “Habit and Erasure”. I
began painting on top of an oil painting I’d done long ago and discarded, adding numerous
neat rows of coloured blobs or smudges. Onto each of these I sketched rows of corny
cartoon faces that arose purely out of habit, like the phone doodles that cover my
notebooks. Then, after a short drying time, with a cloth dipped in mineral turpentine, I
scrubbed them off.

What remained were remnants of colour and, like archaeological relics, traces of the faces
that had survived the scrubbing. I started working with these, elaborating what was left
behind with a doodler’s hand. Three times I practiced random erasure across the surface of
the painting until all that was left was this greeny bluey yellowy purply palette and the
damaged linework of the half-erased faces. And then I put down the emotional brush, and
with a fine-tipped analytical brush began to pick out and elaborate the marks and smudges
and speckles and squiggles that were left behind. I thought of them as Creatures of Habit.
In my search for language to describe this process, I came across the word “aleatory” – to
do with the action of chance upon an end result – and from this word derived the idea of an
“aleatoric process”. According to Alexandrian:

To understand the Surrealists one must be aware that they all believed that art was not an end in itself, but a method of creating an awareness of all that is most precious, most secret and most surprising in life.


I guess that more or less describes what I was trying to do.

As I came towards what I figured must be the end of the painting, a piece of verse dropped
into my mind, all in one piece – a ‘uni-verse’, in a sense, I suppose you could call it. It goes
like this:

Somewhere out there, within the Am-ness of the Distant Dog,
A one-eyed being explodes with a-rhythmic certainty,
As it has done since before the Beginning of Forever.
And the effulgence extruded from these emissions

Comes to constitute the core of Everything that exists and has existed and shall exist,
Because the One-Eyed One did not begin, but already was, and is, and ever shall be.
And from the effluvium erupted from that Celestial Cranium,
All the Parts and Particles, all the Stuff that can, in any such sense,
Be said to exist, is made.