There’s something a little wild about Felix Bucklow’s paintings, which strike a careful balance between chance and control. It’s clear that the paint itself, and the variety of ways it can be applied to a canvas, dictates what form the final piece will take. But it might take a lot of versions to get to the right version, and that’s where Bucklow applies a certain level of control–physically stopping the paint with tools or adding formal elements that break up the paint’s natural gravitational moves around the surface. Or he paints over it, sometimes again and again.
All of the images above, from two 2014 series Freeway and How to Keep a Garden, as well as a 2013 series entitled Nonpainting, take a do-and-redo approach to the canvases. Many of the canvases are built up from dozens of underpaintings; How to Keep a Garden i is just the last of “maybe 50 paintings layered over each other. 50 failures,” he explains. The natural progression of Bucklow’s practice of applying, squeegeeing, pouring, wiping, and dripping paint around a canvas over and over again shows through where he chooses to reveal it, and obscures it in others.
In the How to Keep a Garden series, he was interested in the comparison of a painting to the ubiquitous rectangular garden plot in which nature, which is fundamentally wild, is constantly kept in check–the gardener allows only what they like or find aesthetically pleasing to remain, while the weeds and other intruders are removed from sight. For Bucklow, the painting functions in much the same way as he allows the paint, like nature, to take its course, but only to a point. A back-and-forth between who has the upper hand–the medium or the painter–is evident in the careful geometric bands and shapes over more organic mixtures color and texture.
The work also appears abstract, but taking the titles into consideration, one can almost make out landscapes, and floral features of a garden. In Freeway, there might almost be a lake in the distance, through some sort of shadowy rock formation with high cliff faces in the background. In Freeway i there is a visceral movement of the paint which the broad black and light grey brush strokes toward the top seem to be controlling–or balancing in their refusal to slide down the canvas like the rest.
Felix Bucklow graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2012 and is currently based in London. More work and information can be found at cargocollective.com/bucklow.
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