Monday, 11 April 2016

London's calling!

I spent a few days in London recently and was lucky enough to see two fabulous shows; |Painting the Modern Garden, Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy with my friend Sheila, and Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art at the National Gallery with my cousin Adrian. First of all I have to say what a pleasure it is to go to look at art with another person, especially someone who appreciates it. The discussions, give and take of opinions and offering of ideas and references and general arty companionship really completes the experiences for me. What a fantastic resource is London with all of its galleries, museums, history and architecture. I'm very lucky!

Rusinol - image from Royal Academy Website

Monet, Water Lilies - image from Royal Academy Website

The Monet show was really interested, all garden subject matter of course, but it reminded me that the appreciation of beauty does not have to be sentimental. It's a fact of human nature. I sometimes dismiss my flower paintings as having little meaning but the fact is that they represent a pivotal time in my exploration of painting techniques.
Monet in his garden - image from Royal Academy Website

Monet - image from Royal Academy Website

Some of the work in the show was absolutely beautiful while I can honestly say that others left me a little cold. I like to see tension on the surface in the form of composition, colour palette or light. That's what really makes a painting work for me and in some of the pieces the light depicted was very one-dimensional.

Henri Sedaner - image from Royal Academy Website

Munch - image from Royal Academy Website

The National Gallery show was more of a mixed bag in terms of who was included. Starting with the romantic Delacroix's writhing allegories, there were pieces by Matisse and Kandinsky, Van Gogh and Gaugin, as well as a couple of surprisingly beautiful Odilon Redons, which I must admit that I haven't actually seen in person before. They never really show properly in photographs. Oh, and a couple of really beautiful John Singer Sargents.
Delacroix - image from National Gallery Website
Olidon Redon, Ophelia Among the Flowers  - image from National Gallery Website

Odilon Redon, Pegasus and the Hydra  - image from National Gallery Website

John Singer Sargent  - image from National Gallery Website

and early van Gogh  - image from National Gallery Website

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

updates, such a busy week

I was privileged to be able to take part in a portrait class with forensic facial reconstruction at the university. It was really interesting and has reminded me how much I enjoy clay sculpture. I have been asked to do a couple of sculptural portraits and was excited to be able to take part in this class as I see it as preparation to do the work. In addition to that I believe that it informs my sense of the three dimensional so that, while the subject matter is not related to the installation work that I'm doing for my thesis, it will have an impact on what I'm doing in the studio.

I'll post the next stage probably next week sometime.

And speaking of that I've made some decisions about the structure and size of the two three dimensional pieces that I'm doing as companions to my painting. One will be a knitting machine and it's main purpose will be to approximate the sounds of many knitting needles in action. It's the sound of my childhood surrounded by family members, immersed in the drone of conversation and the constant, repetitive clicking of the needles. The other stand will have a series of knitted hearts suspended over dishes of coloured liquid.

The colour will wick up into the pieces over the duration of the show. I'm experimenting with the nature of the liquids, the height that the hearts will be suspended and other visual, collateral material.

Monday, 22 February 2016

more stuff

We had Bruce Williams as a guest speaker this past week. One of the really nice things about having these speakers is that we get to talk to them about our work and sometimes during those discussions really interesting things happen. The project is definitely becoming more about me and what’s happening to me. I have a heart issue that I’ve had, apparently, for some time but went undiagnosed until this past year when it really kind of kicked into high gear. Last year was particularly difficult however it seems to have evened out now into just an occasional inconvenience. It is however, very distracting and anxiety producing when it happens. When I have these episodes I have found that knitting really helps. Either it calms me to the point that the arrhythmia goes away or it helps me to ignore the symptoms until it goes away. I’m not sure which but I know that it has some effect. I was talking to Bruce about this because it’s become the focus of my piece. I feel a distinct connection to the other women in my family, all of whom also do handwork. The sound of clicking knitting needles goes back in my memory to early childhood. It could be that this very familiar sound helps calm me, or it could be the memory of the familial connection. I think that the impulse to create things has a physiological link to our early development as a species. It’s a little of the which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was it the impulse to use our hands that made early man create simple tools, or did we start making sharp things to hunt with strictly out of necessity? I think that handwork and tool-making are linked to ritualized and compulsive behaviours and are ingrained in us as part of our psyche.  Ritualized behaviours are also often linked to fear and occur as a reaction to danger or threat. Some societies build vast traditions around ritual concerning challenging life milestones such as childbirth and death. I feel threatened when my health is compromised and therefore seek to subvert that discomfort by the action of doing handwork, most often knitting.

And, about Bruce Williams.
Bruce does very interesting outdoor and public sculpture. His work seems to live in the real world as a lot of it is functional as well as beautiful. There are structural pieces and are incorporated into building, there are barriers and fences that have the look and feel of living, breathing organisms and there are sculptural pieces that tell a story. And, he’s a big advocate of collaboration, which I personally enjoy.  

Oh, and by the way...

I've been doing more figure drawing.

visit to the Tate Britain

Yesterday I went into London to go to the Tate London to see the Frank Auerbach exhibition. It’s so wonderful to be able to go to museums and exhibitions of this caliber. The show was great. He’s such a vigorous painter that he just owns the canvas. His broad yet sensitive strokes and the use colour are an inspiration. The pieces with very heavy impasto left me a little cold although I could understand his use of that technique. I could really relate with his building site piece, I’m fascinated by building sites myself. I also love certain kinds of structures. I also really loved the graphite pieces and the way that he builds up depth and his use of suggestive line, absolutely beautiful.  The portraits were very sculptural looking and again, very sensitive with a masterful use of light and shadow. Well worth the visit.
This was my first sojourn to this Tate Britain and I also saw the British artists collection. This included a few of my favourite artists, Anish Kapoor, Francis Bacon (who I used to be obsessed with ), Richard Long and Henry Moore.

The Anish Kapoor piece was particularly interesting. 

When you look into the opening all light is absorbed by whatever the material is that he used to line the cavity. It’s completely dark and you end up leaning into the structure trying to see. It’s called Adam. 

The Richard Long piece is also compelling in a funny way. 

You imagine yourself trying to walk on those tips of the pieces of slate. Maybe it’s about a balancing act, or maybe it’s more about the profusion of angles and the weight of the material. It’s very beautiful.

Francis Bacon never fails to disturb. His imagery is alternately tortured and immobilized (for lack of a better word). His model, with whom he had a very long and tumultuous relationship, sits in a chair on the right anchored, and yet flesh is flying out of him. This tryptic was done after the suicide of George Dyer,  Bacon’s model and lover. The figure on the right is a self-portrait of Bacon and the central piece is derived from a Muybridge photo of wrestlers. It’s all about the dynamic of their relationship.

The stylized, monsterous nature of the 2nd tryptic is a nightmarish struggle with reality. You want to understand the figures and yet you can’t.  These pieces and his portraits especially are unforgettable and unmistakably his.

And, just to round out the day, here are a few more images of pieces that I enjoyed.
Wilhelmina-Barns-Graham, Glacier Crystal 1950

Something by  Frank Bowling, Mirror1966

Some Henry Moores!


  ... and then a few scenes from around the Tate

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Factory 2003

Recently I watched a video that my advisor Ken Devine recommended on vimeo, Factory 2003 by artist Chen Chieh-Jen filmed at the Lien Fu Garment Factory in Taiwan

this film has no dialogue and juxtaposes vintage film clips from the heyday of the manufacturing industry in Taiwan from the 60s footage of an aging labour population. There are a group of women showed sewing and completing related tasks which we find, at times, to be excruciatingly labourious. There are references to the age of the women, close-ups of shaking hands and swollen ankles, and then clips of young and vigorous women on bicycles crowding up to the factory doors. One of the things that I found interesting about the film was the personification of items. There was a slow zoom into the interior of a jacket that two of the women were holding that made it appear as if the jacket were a living, breathing thing. The apparent life of the object was brought into focus by virtue of the referential material, it's history, the lives that contributed to it's manufacture, it's background, the concept of ideas and ideals. There is one part in the film where some women are cleaning some chairs set up in front of a desk holding a megaphone. The film alludes to a time when there was unrest in the workforce. They had been denied pensions and severance pay, while globalisation took the industry elsewhere where production costs were cheaper. The women shown are the ones who had actually worked there. They are giving great attention to the chairs almost as if they were trying to maintain something just by virtue of the fact that they still cared for it. It was a very evocative film.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Guest Artist, Mark Anstee

A couple of weeks ago we had an artist come to speak to us as part of our visiting speaker series. Mark Anstee, a British artist, came and talked to us about his work and outlined a few of his projects. What he does is that he sets up a situation where he is part of the performance. He will undertake a meaningful action that involved inception, creation, conclusion and often destruction. He will either deconstruct, bury or destroy the piece after the duration of the project. I thought that was a really interesting take on how to approach a piece of work. One of his pieces struck me as especially poignant. It was done at the Flanders Fields museum. He set up a large 4 meter rectangular structure that had the appearance of a large slab. The surface was just painted white and had a bit of a texture. He then embarked upon the drawing of 19,386 small soldiers, about 3 – 4” in height, with half of the number on each side – opposing armies. It took 72 days to complete the work which stood intact for about 2 months. He then returned to destroy the work. He effectively deleted each figure by drawing a wide black mark through it. I found this action very moving because for me the figures were immediately recognizable, not just in the obvious representational meaning, but emotionally, as human beings caught up in a war machine. The shear number of them and the fact that they were drawn from behind, as going into battle, you could imagine each character with a family and a past. Then when the destruction came and each one, on both sides of the conflict, was obliterated in seconds by an unfeeling stroke the whole piece came together for me. It was so well thought out and redolent with meaning that I was really affected by it. I'd be extremely happy if I were to develop work like this.