Filling a canvas is not equivalent to finishing a painting.
It would be too easy for a painter to fill a canvas with colour, marks, forms, shapes and lines to the point that all areas have been covered in one way or another and call it finished. To call a painting finished before all areas are full is a challenge due to the physical space that is available, and similarly to a colouring book, we possess an innate need to fill in all the gaps before deeming work complete. When therefore, does a painter concede to their painting and subsequently decide a work as finished?The point at which it is ready to be seen outside of the studio space, or the moment at which they believe they have successfully achieved their purpose,whether they know it or not and solved all the metaphorical problems associated to the process of applying paint to surface. When empty areas of canvas are purposefully and insight fully left without being smothered in paint, it is a moment of challenge for the painter, who has probably struggled with the moment at which they have decided to call the painting finished before physically filling the surface. This could be a result of countless paintings in which they took one or two steps too far and could not in regard to those examples,return to a previous stage.
The challenge therefore comes when the painter must be knowledgeable of the correct moment to stop, and to hold back on their intrinsic desire to keep painting and to project that need to paint onto a new work. The painter should then be grateful of themselves for forcibly intercepting the creative flow. Therefore, in being able to interpret one’s own practice and creative process enough in order to do so would be a moment that the artist has successfully interrupted the very reason they paint in the first place. This is precisely the challenge. Not only does the notion of finishing a painting refer to the how much the painting has been physically filled, and when the correct moment of aesthetic completeness is achieved, but further,that is it is entirely within the artist’s hands to choose the moment deemed complete. If the work displays a blue square on only a small proportion of the whole surface size, and the artist’s entire needs have been met and they hope that the work visually portrays that to the experience to be had by an audience member, then the work is complete. Of course, every individual artist explores their own process through making work, and the decision of completeness is within their own grasp, this level of freedom provides for them …
There comes the inevitable question of whether a work is ever truly finished, as one could argue that there is always the physical chance to return a painting to the wall and continue applying paint to the surface. But what satisfaction would the artist achieve, if this were their attitude to painting. It is understandable regarding an artist whose process dips in and out of multiple paintings at a time for example. The moment the word finished is applied to a painting, however, is the precise moment at which an artist is satisfied with their own relationship to their process, and knowledgeable of their practice enough to appreciate a moment of completeness without taking the work too far. Achieving this balance between a playful freedom and productive decisions that will be successful for the work acts a constant push and pull between need to create and knowledge of when to stop. As well as this, the dull and yet entirely significant factor of monetary value in which the financial value of painting on canvas is higher than that of paper.To feel an importance towards this factor is due to the inevitable and current one-way motion of spending on materials and having no pay back from the work.The need to be careful with expensive materials is a result of this and removes slightly the innate need to create, thus disrupting the flow of creativity and resulting spontaneity. This may result in the artist feeling obliged to fill a canvas, to make productive use of all the surface area they have purchased as opposed to referring to their knowledge of a physical, aesthetic or other reason for leaving black space on a canvas.