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Takeover #198 Luke McCowan

Luke McCowan: Instagram / Website

#198 (21/03 - 25/03, 2022) written by Esther van Zoelen

Textures are fun puzzles to first lay out and later build up in layers on large scale paintings; that is what Luke McCowan’s graduation work consisted of mainly. Now he is figuring out in what way these layers can become more spontaneous, not knowing where things will go on beforehand. He tries to come to this new arrival point – moving away from a tidy, clean and sterile image - by choosing smaller canvases and a more open start. This freshly graduated painter from HKU’s 2021 Fine Art department tells me about flow-like concentration while painting, which he does not find anywhere else.  

“Especially the larger paintings where there is a bit more going on it feels like a construction job. There is a lot of planning that goes into how all the layers are going to be built up on top of each other and waiting for things to dry. It almost resembles a construction site, but on a 2D surface.”  

The start of a new work depends on the scale of experiment Luke wants to take on. In some of his works people can be distinguished, coming from personal photographs that have been put into a new atmosphere as a layer of a painting. These personal aspects can add something interesting, but are not the kind of narrative he is looking for now. His current paintings often have less to do with himself and more to do with themselves; Luke prefers them to be able to stand on their own. While they are less personal, they still convey recognizable human expression. Luke shows me the beginnings of a new painting which depicts aspects of cave paintings. These newer paintings still have figurative aspects, but their process is more spontaneous and still carries principles of earlier used photographic images, playing with for example depth of focus.  

“Usually I have a decent idea of what a painting will be when I start it, but other times I just do something and when the first layer is done, I think ‘okay’ and shift it all up and do something totally different.”

The medium of paint itself, what it can do and how it can be manipulated, greatly inspires Luke. A part of that is the variation of color in different series of paintings; portrayed textures that can almost be felt sometimes depict the true pigment of their texture’s object – such as grey or brown for rocks – while other series of paintings push the boundaries of colors, having a psychedelic effect on its spectators. Another big source of inspiration is nature. While his artworks often look modern, nature is seen in the textures and connections to water, a recurring theme.  

“It’s definitely been interesting that since graduating you don’t have this built in system of getting feedback from professors. In a lot of ways, I have actually been enjoying this more individual approach where you have to give yourself feedback and you have to gain confidence more from that instead of a superior telling you what they think is good and bad.”  

The time old question of what an artwork can bring across is now inspiring Luke in his changing creation process and during the Rizoom takeover he will show that development visually. Dipping between his pre and post graduation work is an aspect we can expect to see in his - digital and artistic - story. He will also share what it is like to be freshly graduated from an art academy, with all the glamorous parts (like having a studio) and the not so glamorous parts. And with that providing us his personal and layered perspective of a painter.

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