Galleries, New York and far too many possibilities.

A new academic year holds much potential and excitement. After a year of experimenting with possibilities, or as was described to us prior to starting the Masters ‘breaking you down before we help you build yourself back up’, I am now at the ‘building up’ stage. Marry this with the impending task of exhibiting outside our ‘comfort zone’, and I am now trying to make some executive decisions. I could produce work til the cows come home, but what EXACTLY am I trying to say? I thought I would start by showing some of the images I took in New York, explaining why they stopped me in my tracks.

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Philip Guston Dial 1956 / Roman 1st-2nd century AD marble sculpture

There is something about both of these works which I can’t help but be drawn to. Sculpture of the human form is always fascinating. The cold stone depicting the soft flesh of the human body is something which I am always interested in; both in studying and making. I sat and drew many of these Roman sculptures whilst at The Met. Guston’s Dial in the Whitney also drew me in. I am certainly a fan of bright colours in painting and find this style of work extremely pleasing to look at. The abstraction contrasts nicely with the realism in the stone sculptures, and represents a period of Guston’s work whilst at other times his work was realistic or alternatively exploring cartoon-like qualities.

The sculpture of Aristide Maillol The River was something which appealed a great deal when I assumed that it was funny – that she had tripped and that the angle of her precariously balanced over the water below was entertaining. I clearly have a dark sense of humour. It turned out that she was conceived on the theme of war and that she had been stabbed in the back.

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Aristide Maillol The River 1938-43 (cast 1948)

I wonder whether I am so frequently exposed to work now in contemporary galleries which asks me to have a sense of humour, that I can forgive myself for this error. It naturally changes my experience of the work. The slapstick humour I had attached to it evaporated as I read the information about the work and realised that it was in fact a sad, dark piece.

Another work which held my attention was Kiki Smith’s ‘Lilith’. Her surprisingly spider-like figure, crawling on the wall, suspended impossibly in mid air, staring with glass eyes and appears ready to pounce. The medieval Jewish lore explains that Lilith was Adam’s first wife but wanted to be his equal and was therefore evicted from the garden of Eden to the demon world. She is the original feminist, banished for her fight for equality. I want to join her, climb the wall and spend my time looking disapprovingly at others with my shiny piercing eyes.

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Kiki Smith Lilith (1994)

And then I am drawn in (again) by Robert Rauschenberg’s combine. Probably his most well known mixed media work, Canyon uses oil, pencil, paper, metal, photograph, fabric, wood, canvas, buttons, mirror, taxidermied eagle, cardboard, pillow, paint tube and other materials.

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Robert Rauschenberg  Canyon(1959)

Rauschenberg apparently developed his works based on what he would find during the day, keeping his eye out for interesting objects whilst walking the streets around downtown New York. I am equally drawn in by the untitled installation by Jared Madere (2015) currently installed in the new Whitney Museum of American Art.

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Jared Madere  Untitled (2015)

Interested in materiality and narrative, Madere has developed a piece he described as being “shredded through time and space” and “bearing physical evidence of that journey”. Completely contrasting and seemingly unrelated materials work in collaboration in this colourful work.

When I look back at the works which most caught my attention there is definitely a leaning towards abstract painting, mixed media and the use of sculpture, either independently or within a mixed media work. My plan to develop a sculpture of at least one figure wrapped almost entirely in a painting seems more logical and supported by having seen these particular works. The ‘wearing’ of the painting, links back to the work I completed last year whilst painting on models.

Plans are ever changing and there is much to read so it is time to get back to my books…..

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