What's in a Name?

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

William Shakespeare uses this line in his play Romeo and Juliet to convey that the naming of things is irrelevant. I'm not sure I agree.

While a painting probably shouldn't require a title in order to be appreciated, abstract images can take some engagement from the viewer to unlock their secrets. They aren’t always easy.

I think of a title as an extra key, a way into the work and my thoughts about it.

The title of a work can come at any time after I start painting. Making a painting is an ongoing engagement with the physical work. The name may come to me almost at the beginning, as I generate ideas in my sketchbook. It may come during the making of the work, when the colours and marks I’m making unearth a title. Or it may come near the end, when the finished work whispers it’s name to me.

Sometimes a title comes from something I’ve read, or a song I’ve been listening to. Sometimes it comes from a conversation I’ve had or overheard, or something I saw on my daily walk, or maybe just from the shape of a shadow or the play of light. Something suggests a connection to the conversation I’m having with the canvas, and I realize that maybe that’s what we’ve been talking about all along.

When a title occurs to me, I write it on a piece of masking tape and put it on the back of the painting. It may change during the making of the work, and a new piece of tape will join it or replace it, but keeping these strips of tape creates a record of my thoughts about a piece as it is being made. If a phrase or word doesn't end up being the title of the work, I keep a record of it--maybe it will connect with another painting or print in the future.