Reflections - Painting : Paint : Art : Traditional ideas and rules : Hierarchy / by Ally McGinn

My practice has been tied to painting since 2014 and i've been developing a level of fluency in painterly language since then.


Painting has a long history, the oldest in art terms, and has undergone a massive shift in the last 150 years. Paint itself has changed dramatically. The qualities and possibilities of paint have expanded through the development of technologies, such as the seemingly simple paint tubes that changed everything.

There is so much history tied into the story of painting that to contain it here would be foolish and presumptuous. However, the link between my practice and painting is one that is arguably the most recognisable.

The definition and understanding of what paintings are as objects and images has opened, closed and exploded.

It is difficult to articulate the nature of painting in my practice, it is tied so intrinsically to it.

I am inspired by painters (both in their finished works and their processes), i find paint to be a fascinating material, and the contextual links with paint are vast.

Painting is tied to mark making, and yet it is something more. It is a rich material that is often overlooked for the purpose it fulfils. Like the threads in a tapestry, paints are brought together to form something altogether more complex and meaningful. Through manipulation meaning is added. (The same is arguably true for all forms of art and active perception, which I think is where my interest in active perception is formed. Meaning is where we look for it. In art we are primed for that form of seeing, but it is possible anywhere.)

The deep historical values of painting, which have shifted dramatically, provide a wealth of assumptions, connections and traditions ripe for subversion or reconstruction.

Painting is valuable.

The largest economic gaps can be found between the same materials, the difference between good and bad art is not as simple as it first appears.

I enjoy pushing the boundaries of painting, although at this point in art history it is more akin to frolicking in the non-existent boundaries.


Art, with it's all important capital letter.
This is a complicated term to write about, because it is everything and nothing all at once.

I’ve put it here to note that i will never remove it entirely. The activity of art, and what it really is (i personally lean more towards art as a thought process than objects) is something i am infinitely interested in. The reasons we value it, the fact of it's power and the undeniable nature of it.

Art is my subject, in its broadest sense. Art is my inspiration, when i'm stuck i only need to look away from the objects and focus on the process and i find ideas.

However; Art is too broad, it cannot be a focus and this reflective period is looking for the focusses.


Traditional ideas and rules form inspiration for ideas to subvert within my practice, because they form assumptions which can be subverted.

Tradition itself carries many contextual associations, primarily a form of value. We value traditions, but occasionally only because they are traditional.

Traditional ideas are another term that is an inspiration, but one that is becoming less so.


Art is surrounded by hierarchies. There are hierarchies in galleries, in mediums, methods, contexts, marks, the list could go on.

Hierarchies are a form of societal organisation, a way to impose power and difference upon objects and people.

Life is interspersed with hierarchies.

Challenging hierarchies makes us question their existence and push beyond assumptions and biases.



That these words are related to my practice is obvious, and trying to explore the hierarchy of words is proving more difficult the more i write.

However, if i am honest here i would probably say that these words are vital to the description of my work, but potentially not a focus for current research and thinking, as i have a level of fluency with painterly language that seems to work well in the practice and is formed through ongoing studio observations and research.