When starting a gouache Vaughan would make a series of automatic, random marks on the paper. These unconscious smudges and splashes were sometimes incorporated into the structural design of the composition, as in Maze of Figures, or obliterated as the paining evolved; either way, they kick-started the painting process for him. It was an intuitive ritual that started ‘…as usual, with no more than a process. The making of a series of wet marks across the white board in a sequence of colours (blue black I fancy at the moment) and see where it leads’, (Keith Vaughan, Journal, July 2, 1972). He then used black Indian ink to augment the arbitrary arrangement of emerging forms, letting the easy flow of his brush and his instinctive pictorial handwriting guide his gestures until more formal configurations began to emerge. Structuring the composition was vital. In studio notebooks he recorded the progress of his paintings from the initial marks to the final touches. One note reads: ‘Necessity for compositional structure to run right through to the edges – disregarding identity of forms… not enough simply to balance shapes within the area. This is a subjectively obvious fact of which I have only just become conscious in words… the continuing lines are never obvious and are constantly interrupted by counter rhythms and thrust back and forth in space’ (Keith Vaughan: unpublished Notes on Painting, October 16, 1958). His pictorial scaffolding gradually transformed itself into contours of interlocking heads, shoulders and limbs of an assembly of figures. Work advanced mark against mark as fresh applications of gouache were spread over the picture surface in increasingly complex sequences; each chromatic decision, brush track or chance gesture was governed by what had previously been laid down. During the process frequent adjustments had to be made since additional applications were needed to complement existing textures, tones and hues until eventually the gouache was completed.
Austin Desmond Fine Art, Keith Vaughan, November-December 1989, no.106; London, Agnews, Keith Vaughan, May-June 2012, no.25
Agnew’s, London, Keith Vaughan, 2012, no.25 (illustrated)