Category Archives: Oct ’15

Images into images…



Whilst working with my sketches from the galleries in New York, I was particularly interested in the layering of imagery. These were images and sculptures which I was inspired to draw, so on one level they are all deeply connected. On the other hand, I was sketching imagery from different cultures and times; from Roman statues and works from 5th mil BC, to contemporary works made within the last few years. As I walked around the Met, Guggenheim, MOMA and Whitney, I waited to be physically stopped in my tracks by something I could not help but study further. The human form featured heavily in my drawings; a headless woman often seems to creep into my sketch book, but I have yet to psychoanalyse this! Distorted human figures or semi-abstract or symbolic imagery which related to the figure also stayed with me and I was constantly pulling out my pencil to record in a more personal and, inevitably less accurate way, than by taking photographs. It is the inaccuracy which appeals to me; after all, I could buy a postcard in the shop, and countless other people have recorded each piece with DSLR technology. But to draw it means to make my own interpretation, to accept likely alteration, adjusted focus and unintentional bias; perhaps even intentional. This is not to suggest a photographer would not be considering light and frame and composition and other formal qualities. But I am still a huge fan of pen or pencil and sketch book when in galleries.

I then developed this layering further. Initially I worked on  exploring the actual imagery and building a sense of depth by adding water colour. I then printed the images onto acetate. I produced one image in a relatively pure state as a photo-litho plate, and then I layered the same image with a second acetate to create a duplication of some of the imagery. One drawing had already been split in two and mirrored so that it had become something entirely different. I wonder whether other people will ‘see‘ the same images I see in this much more complicated piece. It has hidden complexities and I am enjoying this, although I recognise that I have always liked to ‘overwork’ the image. Perhaps this is important at this stage. Both the intentional and unintentional (subconscious) symbolism, and exploration of losing the literal, whilst perhaps gaining subjective, appeals. My reading on outsider art and mental health is also making me consider my work on a deeper level; beyond the superficial ‘art is therapy’ and into ‘what exactly is this saying, what exactly am I exposing, what exactly am I leaving hidden?

I think there is room for a great deal more exploration….

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.


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.


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.

DSC_2965 DSC_2967

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.


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.


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…..

Notes on the work of Annabel Dover, Helen Paris and Alexa Cox.


Annabel Dover’s presentation was interesting for a number of reasons. Her interest in the background of the cyanotype, and in the work of Herschel was interesting , particularly in the sense that the perception of work which was deemed appropriate for Herschel’s sister, Anna Atkins, to do at the time they were working was, in fact a skilled job. Dover mentions a number of times in her presentation the difference between work considered appropriate for women and that deemed ‘serious’ and therefore likely to be inhabited only by men. In her study of Atkins’ presentation of faithful reproductions which were in fact carefully crafted hybrids, Dover develops a series of responses in her own work on the premise of the ‘false original’. I like the way she described that every object has a story behind it and that simple objects have a way to get into our conscious, and can explore much more challenging themes. In using weeds from her father’s garden, or a sock, or a stocking, she is able to form a relationship with the viewer within which there is an understanding and a recognition. She ‘explores their power as intercessionary agents that allow socially acceptable emotional expression’.



Helen Paris’ presentation was predominantly about smell. She was presenting largely about a recent performance involving small audiences (4 people at a time) invited into the domestic setting in which the play would evolve, with smells to create a living installation. Paris conveyed a real passion for the ‘shared experience’ of the live moment and the communication between the audience and performer. Being ‘transported back’ by smells informed much of the current work, having traveled to Bangalore, India where she worked alongside scientists, exploring smell molecules and how ‘sticky’ they can be. Paris’ practice is focused on the theme of curiosity and she is the Co-Artistic Director (with Leslie Hill) of the company ‘Curious’, working in performance, installation, publication and film. They are both deeply involved in the theme of curiosity and in exploring avenues and questions which will allow them to be able to think creatively and engage in the process of exploring and finding answers themselves. I think it is relevant that the word INTIMATE is highlighted in my notes during Paris’ short lecture. The notion that one can present a performance to an audience of 4 certainly adds this ‘edge’.



Alexa Cox is clearly fascinated by the notion of narrative, and in producing paintings based on being a story teller. Interested in dialogue, allowing the imagery to be ambiguous with ‘partial traces’ and allowing the story to meander and deviate from the path are all central to Cox’s work. Cox’s influences come from many sources. She is interested in the work of various artists such as Doig, Rego and Woodman and in the notion of mapping and being playful with visual language. She mentioned really liking the writing of Tim Ingold, which I read some of for the MA1 course and found quite frustrating. At the point when Cox started to talk about the relevance of Ingold’s ideas in her work I realised that she tackled the development of her paintings in a way which is much more deliberate than perhaps I am conscious of working in myself. This led me to thinking about whether it would be beneficial for me to be much more schematic and to have a highly developed ‘plan’ as such prior to starting a painting. Cox asked ‘what is an authentic line’ and this is probably the most challenging and philosophical question from the three lectures. One which I will certainly be losing sleep over……