Flow is the dominant dynamic of Marcia Scott’s recent paintings. Flow is what creates the shapes; and its cessation, its edges, its boundaries and its dissipations are what determine the interrelations between those shapes and the static colour fields within which they swirl, puddle, convolute and configure. These are not relations of figure and ground: an oil slick has no figure; the sea provides no ground. Household paint that flows down a virgin wall leaves us with nothing but the image of its own dynamic: it creates no image that Leonardo might magic into a fantastic battle scene or a forest or mountain range. Indeed one of the most remarkable things about Scott’s paintings is their resistance to any such figural or narrative reading: we have enough to wonder at in the play of flowing, merging, marbling colour shapes and in the sharp definitions, edge and limit, of arrested flux.
The imagination must find play enough in the actual, as when we contemplate tidal seawater spread and soak, divide into channels and endlessly re-connect over estuarine mudflats, or we consider the static writhing of the intertwining complexities of mango roots, or watch the changing shapes of towering clouds, water vapour so definite, so indefinite, so sharp edged where there exists no edge, against a perfect blue sky. Looking into a Scott painting I do not ask: what does this look like? I am delighted and surprised by the fact that it looks like itself. There is no metaphor in these paintings: they are what they are; they present directly, not represent indirectly.
If a dense flow is dominant, it is not the only dynamic in play in these grand paintings. In them, paint obeys its own impulses, performs according to its natural propensities: it runs in downward linear verticals (often turned on their sides, the vertical trickle turned in 45 degrees to horizontal, or 90 to flow upwards or descend like wires); it meanders, mixes, merges and swirls, it interlaces and loops; it is splotched and spattered. Always its deployment (Scott has become quickly a virtuoso in its handling) is determined by its intrinsic nature: these works belong in the line of process and matter painting. In such work its making is manifest and visible; the medium is self declarative. Its subject is, in part, the nature of the medium itself, its plasticity, its magical analogical properties, its objective beauty and ugliness. It surprises the eye; its correspondences bring delight to the mind. It speaks for itself.
Scale is crucial: the support is the area (or arena) of play, and the paint must have enough space to operate, to create its multifarious and dizzying effects, visual and optical, its organic forms whose curved and indeterminate boundaries are set in contrast to the geometric edges of canvas (or tarpaulin, or whatever). Close up, certain of these larger images, immersive and continuous, flood the field of vision; move away and they offer thrilling liquid topographies to the sight, the paradoxical pleasures of complex colour and fluid forms in the process of becoming, of movement-in-stasis, flow in stillness.
In Scott’s paintings there is no ground, abstract-imaginary or depicted, to stand on. There is no focal point. They induce in the viewer a sensation of vertiginousness as the eye enters a universe whose elements are air, light, colour, in which forms are conjured from insubstantial fluid, and in which the eye is always in motion. (This aspect reminds me at times of the impalpable, melting landscapes of Ernst, Dali and Tanguy, the viscous stuff of surrealist dreams.) And yet: these visions are compounded of a substance that has a robust and rudimentary tactility, that is, by its very nature, opaque. House paint stops the eye at its hard shiny surface. Paradoxically, out of the opacity of this surface gloss is conjured the sensation of the translucency of what has been called film colour, that colour which has no substance, which we look through as in our apprehension of the vivid blue or grey or sunset-purple aerial infinity of the sky, or which gives the sea its mutable greenness or blueness or greyness, or a petrol slick its ever-changing rainbow hues, or ice its impenetrable translucency. The eye’s imagination has excitements here: incitements to reverie.