IN LEAF (PRIMARY TIME)
For the performance of “In Leaf (Primary Time)” I covered three trees successively in vivid red, yellow, and blue paint over the course of the opening day of my solo exhibition. The paint-covered trees remained in the space as remnants of this action, as a contemplative still life. They were watered regularly, soon grew fresh green leaves, and shed some of the painted leaves during the course of the exhibition.
Inspired by the natural light in Hayward Gallery Project Space, I felt I was participating in the tradition of making a landscape painting in the manner of an enthusiast. As well as engaging with the traditions of landscape painting and still life, “In Leaf (Primary Time)” is in dialogue with the work of a number of twentieth-century artists. The installation, which features video documentation of the original performance, takes part of its title from Primary Time, a 1974 film work by conceptual performance artist Bas Jan Ader, in which he takes colored flowers and rearranges them in a vase. This work, a reference point for me, was in turn Ader’s response to the restricted palette of primary colors used by the abstract painter Piet Mondrian. “In Leaf (Primary Time)” also echoes a key previous work, in which I applied layers of glossy paint in exact verisimilitude to a ficus tree to enhance its natural colors while affecting its ability to photosynthesize.