This is my presentation, exploring current ideas in my own work and investigating the direction I want to go in for the development of my Year 1 work.
This project is really about figuring out where I am. In order to do that I need to strip away some of the issues with my work: ideas I have concreted unnecessarily, methods I have included, subject matter which has become iconic….to find out what it is I want to say, and why. For example, I know what will sell in my exhibitions and can be drawn to work in a decorative way or using colours which I know will appeal to others….
I’m drawn to responding intuitively to everything. I know this is typical of creative people; we see beauty in a disintegrating leaf or a bit of dust on a window. This piece was in response to the massacre in Baga, Nigeria and I knew exactly what I felt I was painting. I am conscious that this might not come across to others; that also appeals. The abstraction of imagery adds the possibility of multiple layers of interpretation. People see what they want to see. They make it their own story.
This is another example of layers. The original layer is a painting I completed in 2008. I have since added drawings completed subsequently, and finally my painted face from earlier on this course. It replaces my original face in the painting. I then worked on it with the drawing tablet, experimenting with the drawing tools and eraser – adding and taking away. It is full, too full. I am aware of this. I remember the criticism of my secondary school art teacher saying “Emma, you always do too much!”. But I felt that was just an opinion, not a fact. I see the overworking, and the concentration of marks and part of me feels this is necessary.
My son is literally swallowed up in the marks within this piece. That was intentional. He is supposed to be painted and look like he is part of a painting; they have been intertwined. He is blanketed in the painting; it is part of him, around him, he is the painting. The image is therefore starting to question what the subject matter actually is….and I start to think about how far this can be extended. What do I lose before it has become an abstract painting….at what stage could I reduce it further. There is still so much visual information; so much to draw the eye around.
The same is true of this slide in which my model is almost literally blanketed in the painting. The sweeping lines roll up around him as if they might wrap him; he is looking away from the sweeping movement of the raising greens and blues, balanced by the shadow behind his face. Again I am questioning how far I can push the image; how necessary the model is, yet I am interested in his involvement in being swamped in the painting and I have a dream of literally dressing a model in my actual painting; whilst still partially attached to the canvas.
This is when the doodles have started: the first one being the page I was working on during the presentation about how we plan our essays. There are odd comments from other people within this group; things that jumped out at me, such as when Tanya was describing being filmed and said she giggles like a lunatic all the way through, and that it was horrific. These things struck me as being interesting, worth documenting. Why certain words stood out and became documented – like THOUGHT SHOWER – and others didn’t, there is not necessarily any logic; it was instinctive, as was the drawing, which in retrospect looks remarkably sexual. This was certainly unintentional as if anything during that session I was consciously aware of just feeling swamped and trying to keep my head above water. The main shape is keeping juggling all those balls in the air. The second drawing was done the following morning with my tutor group.
This led me on to thinking about abstraction and expression through drawing. I was interested in communal collaborative drawing, as illustrated in the tutor group doodle; which I found hard to bring together as 16 different drawing styles are not necessarily compatible; however, I felt it needed some unifying marks. My mindmap about abstraction was intended to focus my essay thoughts, but it led me away from studying abstraction and consciousness, and towards thinking about drawing; free drawing and expressive drawing; therapeutic even.
I wanted to choose a method in which I could document the work and also have the work itself become intrinsically part of the work. I decided to create a set of ceramic tiles and cut these hexagonal shapes from porcelain clay. I thought I could make the links between the sides of the tiles, linking different tiles together like some kind of giant bee construction; links to links to links. I was particularly fascinated by the edges; parts of tiles; that these could be small ideas, or artists I am interested in but am not likely to include much about in my writing. People I want to remember for the future but may not be entirely relevant to the journey within this piece of study.
I put the pieces together in something of a jigsaw puzzle; with the partial pieces around the edges. The final shape reminded me of Australia; this goes back to that notion that creative people are inspired by everything. I don’t know why I stood for a while thinking about Australia. I was excited about painting onto the tiles and was conscious that I didn’t want to be too controlling about the design. I wanted to feel that it was instinctive. Of course there were boundaries. I didn’t want to paint with dark glazes as the text or design on each tiles would then be impossible to read.
This design looks much darker than it is. The reds glaze much lighter than they look in their raw form. It was so much fun to paint. I had a great time. The feeling that this was just going to be a background made me feel less precious about the balance of it; but this made me aware of the layers of complexity I have around the way I work; feelings which have become rooted in terms of structure, balance, composition etc. I enjoyed working loosely on these tiles with glazes which I knew were not the actual colours. This was really refreshing for me.
When I put the tiles into the kiln they became muddled (I had numbered the back of each one so that I could remember the order) and this made me reflect further on how each individual tile had become a unique miniature painting of its own. They were individually attractive little pieces, with this potential of changing almost beyond recognition between me closing the kiln door and opening it again. Of course, this is what glazing DOES but I was more aware of it than usual.
This is the tiles after being fired again. The dark reds have become ‘honeycomb’ colour, which was unintentionally appropriate: I had just wanted a colour which would be light enough to work on and little resembling the colour of wood. I like the visible brushmarks where I decided to leave only one layer of glaze. This photograph doesn’t really do the work justice as you cannot see the distinction between layers of glaze.
On closer inspection you can see the raising of areas on the tiles where the glossy white has been applied on top of the honeycomb colour. I was happy with these and will enjoy doodling – sorry – free drawing – on the top of the tiles. Putting this back together again was a nightmare; I ended up having to ask some Year 8 girls to help. To them it was a Mensa challenge, matching the edges; you can see how hard that must have been.
Individual tiles will have information written on them. For example this tile may have an artist’s name written on it, and possibly a few words which describe it, or a title of a work which is worth referencing. I have bought enamel paint to finish each tile so that they will eventually complete the puzzle; a series of tiles referencing artists and styles and words and inspiration for artists who work freely and without needing to reflect the real world.
This small edge piece is where I am at with my work at the moment. The fact that I know it will be something important but, distant. This time of year is always exhausting; my students are completing their GCSE and IB level courses. They are panicking about what is still to be done, and I am trying to reassure them, whilst simultaneously panicking about what I still need to do. I feel like I am an edge piece……. Still hanging in there; but only just. This feeling is sometimes paralysing. However it is pleasing that in an exhibition online this week I have sold 7 paintings. This reminds me to hang in there – that, even when it is frantically busy, keep going; grab onto the pieces either side and keep working back in towards the middle.
These works are happening in my sketch book. On discarded pages from the print-making area at work. Pages which were inked up on, splashed with excess paint and ink, ripped and used and left to be binned. I love them. They are the perfect base for someone on the edge: they say “There is HOPE”. You will make it!!!!!!
And I am inspired by artists who are new to me. In 17 years of teaching I have not come across the work of Frankenthaler. How is this possible? But now that I have I want to explore and investigate further.
The colours are stunning. I am drawn to them like a moth to a lightbulb. I want to learn everything I can about her work. And what she was about and what she was interested in. Her work speaks to me in a way which I don’t feel I can describe, yet. Once I have studied her work further I will no doubt find the language to express what it IS that moves me.
Joan Snyder “I felt like my whole life, I had never spoken … had never been heard … had never said anything that had any meaning. When I started painting, it was like I was speaking for the first time.”
Basquiat is also an inspiration to me but for completely different reasons. Once I have had time to narrow my thoughts, ideas and artists down to the tiles I have made, I will work my way through them, until this has become a porcelain THOUGHT SHOWER. I have never used enamel paint before so am excited about documenting what is in my sketch book onto the tiles. However, I am delayed by the firing process and am delighted to have a hexagonal piece painting if nothing else. You have seen this being born and developing into a toddler. Next time you see it, it will be a teenager: full of angst and insecurity but brazen with opinions and ideas; pulling connections and conclusions from everywhere. Aware of the irony of having a final slide covered in words whilst my ceramic mind-map is currently void of them.