Inspired by this land

A trip to Norfolk and a few days exploring the Kent countryside and I am painting every day.

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Norfolk Pregnant Sky   11 x 7 inches  Mixed media on paper

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St Catherine’s Fort, Castle Beach, Tenby.  11 x 7 inches  Mixed media on paper

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Cherries   11 x 7 inches  Mixed media on paper

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7 x 7 inches  Mixed media on paper

These memories of places (real and imagined) feel comfortably intuitive and I am relaxing into the sense of developing designs on smaller scale prior to working on canvas. They evolve through multiple layers and this allows them to have a genuine sense of depth, as well as the colour bringing different areas forward. There is such pleasure in working with these bright colours and dynamic tones. It reminds me of the work of Michael Forster who I have been a huge fan of for many years.

“It requires effort to see how simple is the painters’ art. He has no dependence upon language. He is not a story teller, his picture needs no crutch of words. His is an expression that includes all feelings, all experiencing. He works neither from memory nor from passion that has cooled but simultaneously with the actual experience.” Michael Forster

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The Autumn Sky

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There is something quite breathtaking about Autumn, with a chill in the air which the light seems to bounce off, shimmering in a variety of ways which are exclusive to this time of year. I am always mesmerized by the clouds, and must be rather a dangerous driver whenever the skyline is dramatic. I recently stopped the car on a journey between Ipswich and Kent to take this photograph. The clouds weren’t nearly as dramatic as they had been about ten miles before I managed to find a suitable place to pull in, however the purity of the light was what drew me to them. I am hoping to use this image as a large poster-sized base layer for a painting, on which I will work. I like the idea of building artificial light onto this naturally beautiful scene. There is a contradiction in this which appeals to my rebellious side.

I am equally aware of how my admiration of the changes happening around me in nature are affecting the way I work, and have been developing works on paper as studies building towards a design for a larger painting. The following images have been completed in the last few days:

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Parts of Me    11 x 7 inches

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In The Afternoon    5 x 5 inches

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Tears of the Autumn Sun    11 x 7 inches

I am particularly fond of the last image, ‘Tears of the Autumn Sun’. This was developed in successive layers and with consideration of playing with imagery in a way which I do not normally work. I was conscious whilst developing it that I was perhaps moving slightly away from the more obviously figure based or literal landscapes and was giving myself permission to be playful with the image, exploring mark-making and colour combinations. I was pleased with the result. I am planning to continue working on small paintings for the time-being and look towards starting a series of larger paintings by late November.

Archive to Interview

Dr Angela Rogers’ recent lecture explored the range or diverse responses expressed over the work of a number of artists. The description of the work, artistic intentions, symbolism and style of exhibit would inevitably all play a role in this. However the emphasis was on looking at a range of sources in order to establish a better understanding of how the work evolved, placing it within a context and securing it in some framework. Simultaneously we would consider viewing it from beyond that back drop, as work which stands singularly as an exhibit which one must respond to in terms of the physical experience of interacting with the work within an environment.

Dr Rogers gave the example of the Artist Thomas Schutte. Initially we were reminded that work often has little information attached to it when searching online. A google search can often reveal work by related artists or those who have exhibited alongside the artist and so on. There is not always a great deal to put the work in context such as a sense of scale or an understanding of the materials used. This is most relevant in some work by Schutte with sculptural forms and specifically his Model for a Hotel (2007) which was installed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The subject of much debate, with suggestions that the sculpture being a ‘design’ for a building, whilst still also representing it on enormous scale, plays with the notion of whether is it Architecture or Art. That it ‘mocks the very idea of monumental art’.

Model for a Hotel 2007 Schutte Model for a Hotel fourth plinth

“The artist calls it `Model for a Hotel’ and to my eye what makes the statue unique among the works already commissioned for the fourth plinth is that it is essentially an abstract assemblage of panes of yellow, blue and red, glass – a miracle of engineering that weigh four tons and looks like it would blow away in the first strong breeze.

Whereas everything else in the square is heavy and inert, the new piece is as light as air and suggestive of movement. As the light hits the flat panels of glass the colours change from hour to hour giving us a whole different visual experience at dusk than we had in the early morning light.

And, like one of Giambologna’s Mannerist sculpture groups in Florence, it is almost impossible to stand still when you are looking at it. You feel you have to move around it because your eye never comes to rest.

That’s when you discover that there is no completely satisfactory angle from which to view it. At the same time, every view is complete in itself.”

Richard Dorment for The Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3669081/Trafalgar-Square-plinth-beauty-weighs-four-tonnes.html

Responding to Schutte’s work is one of the elements which always strikes me as being a very ‘academic’ element of Art. Understanding context, purpose, symbolism, and concepts within the work of an individual whilst reflecting also on the relationship of this work within the arena of contemporary art is, at the very least requiring some extensive experience of and exposure to art education at a high level. In basic terms, work must be responded to by those who walk by; in terms of preferences and aesthetic qualities; do I like it, does it make me stop to look at it, is it intriguing, does it resonate with me on some level. Beyond that, understanding the work itself may be much more challenging.

Steel Woman Schutte Old Friends Thomas Schutte

Above work by Thomas Schutte

As an Artist I am always interested in whether I truly understand my own work or whether subconscious influences have manifested themselves. An example of this was when I created a sculpture of a weary face. I intended it to be a character sleeping so deeply the dream has manifested itself onto the face of the sculpture. However, my close family observed that it was a ‘painful sleep’ and that this accurately reflected the experience I was having as a new mother with frequent ‘nocturnal interruptions’. Indeed, I felt differently about the sculpture once this had been revealed to me. In a similar way I feel it is akin to analysing poetry or literature; do we truly understand the artistic intentions or do we project our own experiences and reflections onto the work?

In this respect it is important that we look at a range of sources when exploring a piece of art work. Is it enough to have seen the work first-hand and to have formed an opinion on the work from this visual experience, having been alongside and involved with the piece of work. What then do we need or want to know from the artist? There are many occasions when I have been so intrigued by a piece of work that I felt it necessary to find out more about the work. This has often changed my opinion, sometimes quite profoundly. I have twice found myself drawing a sculpture prior to reading about it. Once, I discovered that it was not an embrace and was in fact an assault, naturally my relationship with the work shifted.  My initial reaction to the work was wrong. The reality of it is barbaric and haunting. When work is described by the artist themselves, the magic can be enhanced but the story may also be completed, leaving little for the viewer to use their imagination for. However, the advantages of hearing an artist contextualise their work certainly outweigh the potential disadvantages.

Another example Dr Rogers gave was that of Kiki Smith, a contemporary of Schutte who grew up in New Jersey. In 1994 the curator Elizabeth Brown described her work referring to the visceral qualities of the materials used “evoking solid bodies in fragile silk tissue or creating transitory visual effects in solid bronze”. Interestingly she went on to comment on the work revealing Smith’s “expressive scope” rather than Smith “argue a specific political interpretation or conform to a single way of suggesting meaning.” Post 2001 however, on a gallery website, Mary Ryan classifies Smith as a ‘feminist artist’ and writes ‘her body art is imbued with political significance which undermines the traditional erotic representations of women by male artists and often exposes the inner biological systems of females as a metaphor for hidden social issues’.

kiki smith untitled 1990 Kiki smith Getting the bird out 1992

kiki smith installation 2009 Kiki smith born bronze

(L-R clockwise: Untitled, Getting The Bird Out, Born,Installation – Kiki Smith)

The question of the above comments is whether the work had dramatically shifted over the seven years between the two descriptions, or whether the references and experience of the two writers gave conflicting views of Smith’s work. Is the interpretation of the work accurate and how can this be established. In a book written by Elizabeth Brown, Smith speaks emphatically about getting the inspiration for her work from her own body; how this ‘drives her work’. The possible interpretations of this may necessarily fall into feminism and politically charged motivations, as is often the sentiment of those analysing work by female artists; that it must all essentially conform to some rejection of stereotype or political motives. During a crit in which we all shared our current work with each other on the MA course, a fellow student spoke briefly about her photography work. She had taken long exposure self-portrait images allowing her face to become obliterated through movement. The resulting image was being used as a form of identification on a formal document. I responded that the work could be politically charged and the absence of identity reflect a real sense of what Germaine Greer might have referred to as ‘the disappearing woman’. However, she assured me that she had not been motivated by this at the time and was more conscious of other issues involved in the work. It made me conscious of how my experience affects my interpretation.

Dr Rogers also reflected on the work of Louise Bourgeois. In Richard Dormant’s words, Bourgeois’ symbolism was easy to interpret and her ‘psychoanalytical case-history was seething with Oedipal angst’. Dormant implies that without knowledge of Bourgeois and her ‘indexical symbolism’ her work means very little, and that ‘confessional art’ was invented by Bourgeois and later adopted by contemporaries. He described her as the ‘spiritual godmother of Tracey Emin’. If the work has become so entwined with the experiences of the artist, does it therefore lesson the power of the work on a purely aesthetic and visual basis.

bourgeois spider 1997 bourgeois arch of hysteria 1993

Spider – Louise Bourgeois, Arch of Hysteria – Louise Bourgeois

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Louise Bourgeois

In a similar way to the work of Emin, Bourgeois and Smith, Bobby Baker was also the subject of much interest in relation to the nature of and narrative of her work. As a performance artist and illustrator, Baker brought much of her own experiences into her performance. Routine tasks and domestic experiences took on a significance:

bobby baker performance

“How we treat each other in supermarkets, how we care for our children, they’re symbolic of something much larger; international relations, war and peace.” B Baker

In 2009, Baker’s Diary Drawings were exhibited following ten years as a day-care patient in a psychiatric unit.

b baker diary drawings bobby baker diary drawings

Baker suffered mental health problems and over these years she produced daily drawings which some might feel ‘tracked the progression of her illness’. These are, by their very nature a narrative which cannot be appreciated fully without some context. The question is whether we naturally search for the context with work; and where best we will find answers. The internet has become a vast resource of opinions and facts however it is not always easy to ascertain which ‘facts’ are accurate and indeed, which opinions are most relevant and poignant. In exploring online resources we can gain a greater knowledge of works of Art but Dr Rogers finished her lecture by reminding all of us to ‘maintain healthy scepticism’ and I think that sums it up very well.

Lecture – Stewart Geddes

Cascade of Dissolution Stewart Geddes stewart geddes

Having done a little online research about our visiting lecturer prior to his talk, I had a few preconceptions and a number of questions to ask – all of which he answered during his presentation. His abstract expressive work appealed to me on many levels, but largely because it is so dissimilar to my own. The purity and meticulous application of layers, despite their subsequent sanding back and eroding, felt like this was something I could admire in another artist whilst having no leaning towards it in my own work. Irrespective of my initial impressions from looking at Geddes’ work, I was thoroughly inspired by his lecture. The reflection on how his work developed over decades of development was presented clearly and with reference to styles of other artists work, illustrating further the journey Geddes followed to get to where he is as an Artist now.

Geddes began by describing his work space in a studio approximately 5m squared, a classic white cube. He described liking the ‘objectness’ of the curving corners of his current work on board, referring to the ‘duality of inferred space and the actuality of the object’. He works with paint, masks, stencils; ‘making paintings, taking photography and finding paintings’.

 One Thing Leads to Another Stewart Geddes   Home Stewart Geddes

 (L,R) One Thing Leads To Another, Home     – both Geddes

Early in Geddes’ talk I found that there was a resonance in my own experiences. Geddes described that during the first ten years after graduating he was working as an artist with a sense of perspectival subject matter and became bored of this style, describing his relationship between teaching and his own practice “I began to realise that I was losing a sense of adventure in my own practice.”

He studied the work of Alfred Wallis’ intuitively Cubist ideas and devices; viewing the work from different angles and perspectives within the same image. Peter Lanyon’s work also inspired Geddes. Lanyon looked at the visual and non-visual ideas with visual equivalence (such as noises) allowing him to explore special relationships in his paintings, rather than being trapped by perspectival conventions.

Images below (L-R top to bottom: Thermal by Peter Lanyon, Offshore by Peter Lanyon, Houses at St Ives, Cornwall by Alfred Wallis, Alfred Wallis)

Wreck 1963 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964 Offshore Peter Lanyon

Houses at St Ives, Cornwall Alfred Wallis Alfred Wallis

Geddes also referenced Picasso’s work looking at multiple perspectives on a scene.

Seated Nude 1909-10 by Pablo Picasso 1881-1973

Seated Nude – Pablo Picasso

Geddes started an MPhil with the Royal College of Art in 2004, with the focus of his research being an interrogation of the significance of Decollage.

Geddes painted in London surrounded by the density of architecture and geometry, acknowledging this as an important part of his environment. He also worked often in Dorset, giving him the contrasting imagery of open rural landscapes and seascapes. Geddes described the importance of drawing; of ‘capturing time’ by moving into or around within the scene to allow for different viewpoints and a different experience of the object or place. That the image can be recorded in one perspective by taking a photograph, but it can be experienced  by ‘inhabiting time’ as a study which starts in one place at one time and then moves through it. Geddes described this as a ‘correctness of the object’; recording experience, memory, sensation. This can then be followed up in his work by a series of studies which play with the imagery captured, ‘discarding the irrelevant and amplifying the relevant’. He described an ‘awakening to the awareness of time being held in images’.

Geddes described the process by which he creates work, building up in layers, creating masks, sanding back the surface to create a distressed appearance, paper can be stuck to it, sanded again, paint stripper applied, further layers added. He is interested in modern ruins and the poignancy of this condition and of the ‘new meaning’; recording this in photographs, everything from graffiti on walls to internal walls being exposed with their wallpaper on show, or billboards with ripped paper; ‘discordant spaces’ or ‘the promiscuous coalition of imagery’. He also mentioned that one image in this layering process can appear to ‘puncture’ another.

Geddes finished by talking about how his vocabulary had ‘occurred over time’ with there being ‘spacial clarity and ambiguity’. He described that his paintings ‘play with the vocabulary’ and that there can be ‘radical simplification by covering up’ whilst blocking out large sections of the work.

Still Stewart Geddes

I was not only impressed by the dynamism of the work itself, and of the genuinely interesting depth and balance within the work. I was also inspired by Geddes’ lecture in terms of recognising the need for a change of direction in his own practice, and how he went about exploring this, developing his ideas. The change in his work was huge from his earlier perspectival paintings, to his abstractions, absorbing much from the study of Decollage.

Enormous food for thought. I was most inspired by the focus on the ‘language’ of the work and by the fact that Geddes has become bored of his former style and had not gone back to it. This struck a real chord with me in terms of where I am, and having this opportunity to explore the language I want to use in my own work; what I can discard and what I want to amplify. An extremely beneficial lecture at a time when I am considering moving away from or reinventing the style in which I have been working, allowing myself to be inspired by the work of my contemporaries and to spend time contemplating which direction I want my work to go in.

Stewart Geddes website – click here.

The Pig Head

I have been thinking about this pig head. I can’t seem to get the idea out of my head, therefore I thought if I did it, and used it, I could move on from it.

Work in progress:

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my pig head

The pig has multiple representations. My son was recently reading ‘Animal Farm’ to me on car journeys. This is clearly where the seed was planted. The pig head representing so many elements of social structure, and politics. In many ways, discussing the relevance of Animal Farm to modern society and hierarchy I was moved to think about my own position and values; and how these have inevitably been shaped by the society I have been raised in; my gender; my education; the letters after my name; geography and my time of birth. As society is ever-changing and my role within it is limited to a pin-prick on the timeline of life – as we know it – it makes me feel even more that the Pig represents so many of us who live with money in a democracy. I’m there with my fist held high over issues of feminism, equality, celebrating diversity, religious freedom, and encouraging people to embrace the power they have to make positive change in the world. I’m running alongside others dressed in pink, wearing a yellow daffodil, a red ribbon, buying the Big Issue, direct debits to ‘good’ causes, buying Good Gifts as presents, supporting Greenpeace, supporting Amnesty International, raising awareness, sponsoring others, giving away artwork in exchange for a few pounds more in sponsorship whilst I run 5K or 10K or wear a silly costume.

I’m still the pig.

I’m still the over privileged. I’m still the child of people who own their own home. I’m still working in a private school, funded by wealthy individuals. I live in a house with heating which I can afford to use. I have a garden to relax in. I can buy my shopping in Tescos. I have rights – hard won by generations before. I have never had to fight in a war or wave a loved one off to the front line. I can vote. I can choose. I can change my life, and that of others. For every time I roll my eyes as the alarm goes off, am I grateful for the opportunity to work? Every time I am delayed in traffic am I conscious that my car, my transport, my ability to move from one place to another is a luxury? When I get lost in political debate about what is and isn’t right, am I suggesting an alternative, or merely summarising my frustrations at the status quo? Do I contribute? Do I really?

I’m still the pig.

I’m the pig who is an over consumer. I’m the pig who has taken the privileges of generations of suffering and uses this to throw more straw on the floor in my pen. I better my surroundings. I drink the whiskey and raise my glass to the good. I turn from the plight of many. I question the wickedness of others and ignore my own flaws. I surround myself with people who tell me I am a good person; kind; sympathetic. I don’t want to know the truth. I don’t want to be reminded that I’m the pig. That billions of people around the world have less, and yet I still find myself moaning. I’m the pig. That billions go hungry whilst I eat, and still eat some more. That billions have nothing whilst I worry about whether I can buy extra luxuries this month. I’m not rich. But that’s on a British scale. Globally I am rich. I’m a pig. I am vain; my teeth are not white enough, my body is not slim enough, my skin is not soft enough, I’m a pig.

‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ – George Orwell

So what can I do but expose myself. Wearing my new pig mask, I will move into society exposing this creature for what she is. And in doing so, I will accept it, I will understand it better.

That the pig is me and I am the pig.

Animal Farm Tim Rollins

Animal Farm by Tim Rollins

pigs   imagesUEF7O6B0

In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the boys who are stranded on the island come in contact with many unique elements that symbolize ideas or concepts. Through the use of symbols such as the beast, the pig’s head, and even Piggy’s specs, Golding demonstrates that humans, when liberated from society’s rules and taboos, allow their natural capacity for evil to dominate their existence.   One of the most important and most obvious symbols in Lord of the Flies is the object that gives the novel its name, the pig’s head. Golding’s description of the slaughtered animal’s head on a spear is very graphic and even frightening. The pig’s head is depicted as “dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood blackening between the teeth,” and the “obscene thing” is covered with a “black blob of flies” that “tickled under his nostrils” (William Golding, Lord of the Flies, New York, Putnam Publishing Group, 1954, p. 137, 138). As a result of this detailed, striking image, the reader becomes aware of the great evil and darkness represented by the Lord of the Flies, and when Simon begins to converse with the seemingly inanimate, devil-like object, the source of that wickedness is revealed. Even though the conversation may be entirely a hallucination, Simon learns that the beast, which has long since frightened the other boys on the island, is not an external force. In fact, the head of the slain pig tells him, “Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt and kill! Ö You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?” (p. 143). That is to say, the evil, epitomized by the pig’s head, that is causing the boys’ island society to decline is that which is inherently present within man.

Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=9704

Mutating – work in progress

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Working on a simple clay bust at the moment which I intend to glaze and then add iron oxide to the surface to that it has the effect of looking rusty. The destruction or shattering resembles bark and a number of people have commented that this looks like a character called ‘groot’.

groot

This resemblance is purely coincidental. However, I am conscious that I have also been reading about David Nash and his work with natural installations.