PART FIVE / BECOMING AWARE AND SHARING YOUR WORK
TEXTURAL RESEARCH AND PRACTICAL
PROJECT RE: BECOMING AWARE AND SHARING YOUR WORK
For this assignment I intend to develop paintings based on some previous work and some new. Having visited the Jerusalem Biennale exhibition recently where the theme of watershed – an important turning point or moment of change, and concepts of memory and identity were dominant, I decided to base my explorations, loosely, around these ideas as a starting point for work. I am also drawing on ideas from previous work and using the figure or figures as a central motif.
I have started out, again, with various explorations, some from the previous assignment, some from colour sketches and some drawn from other artists work. I wondered if this was legitimate but many artists do borrow or steal from traditional works and from each other. The aim was not to copy but to use as a point of departure. I intend to work on a few of these as more completed images. I was considering size and how the work would be hung and decided to work small ( mainly 23 cm. square) as I knew I could produce more work within the time frame and have more choice between those which seemed to be progressing OK and those which weren’t.
NEW WORK IN PROGRESS
From the images above and a few other sources I have sought to develop a few of these as more finalized paintings, though some are still unresolved.
Images 20 and 21 below, were originally derived from a photo I took at a busy train station. My thoughts were about people being in transit, they are not from where they came from and haven’t arrived at any destination yet. I like these as they are still open and loose but I haven’t pushed them further as I got sidetracked by other work.
Image 25 below and preceding support images were based on a painting by
Nicolas de Staël ( see image 16 ). I was taken by this image though not knowing much about it’s origins. I wanted to work quickly and not wait for paint to dry so worked in chalk pastels which I like for the bold bright colours. I reworked this a few times and was increasingly becoming frustrated as the image had become too laboured. I thought Image 24 would be the final version but it was disappointing so took back into photoshop and played again with the composition, so this is my final version which I want to work up again in pastel or paint. Working with pastels on this small scale I found difficult, working on a larger scale may have produced more interesting results working with more bold, gestural marks.
This next piece, below, developed from seeing image 26 by Jennifer Pochinski. I referenced her web site in Assignment 4. She is not a favourite artist of mine but an interesting colourist and though painting in a seemingly crude or simplistic way, she seems to catch something of the character of her figures. I have also mentioned Cecily Brown before, her style also was an influence in the final work. With images 27-29 I was looking to simplify from the original but didn’t feel it was going anywhere. With image 30 I took a print of an earlier version covered it with a semi translucent turps based ground and started to redraw and colour. This is more interesting and moving away from the original. I have left this for now as was taking a long time to dry. The final version shows Brown’s influence, moving somewhere between realism and abstraction. Not sure it’s successful or not but this is where I stopped.
Within the space of one week I came across two articles referencing Munch’s The Scream, that iconic image of the scream of nature, symbol of modern anxiety and discontentment with the modern world. It reminded me of a rough colour sketch I did in the last assignment ( image 14 ). I thought I’d try another version. It wasn’t intended to be another copy of Munch’s painting and the finished work doesn’t quite capture the disquiet of the little sketch. Not sure whether to do another version or not.
The final image on the right, above was derived from the photo, image 34, a not uncommon feature of life here, of young people at a funeral for other young people caught up in a terrorist attack. I wanted the figures in the image to be somewhat ambiguous, not specifically Middle Eastern, in a kind of a physical and mental no mans land as a result of a ‘watershed’ experience. This image is a digital print, I’d like to work on this as a painting, but interestingly I heard an artist, recently, speaking about the old masters, that, if they were alive today would no doubt be using new media and social media as part of their range of tools and techniques, so I think this is valid to present this as a final piece of work.
The image 38, above, was based on World War 1 photos I found on youtube while working on Assignment 2. The images, of poor quality, some scratched or faded, were of figures walking through fields, it wasn’t clear if they were soldiers or civilians. After painting a tinted ground and making a few gestural marks suggestive of figures, I stopped, concerned I would overwork the image and lose the atmosphere.
The final figure image above, was derived from some sketch work from the last assignment and an image by artist Ken Kewley, ( images 6 and 18 ). I’d like to produce a few variations of this. It’s not fully resolved but that’s it for now.
I have mounted the final work and hung it in my studio in the way I would like to see it hung in a public space. I tried a few variations but a single line works best. I will post the images on the OCA Facebook pages and hope for some valuable critique.
I am happy with some of the outcomes of the final work and can see areas for future development and exploration. Seeing the work on display I don’t think it works as a cohesive body. Although there is a loose thematic thread, stylistically it looks as if the work could have been produced by several different artists. Each of the images could be explored further and more of the same could result in a more unified display.
Working from photos is OK and I’d like to work more with collage but probably my work has more vitality starting from an observed source and exploiting the drawing first as a good foundation for moving on. I chose to work on a small scale but found it frustrating. I was hoping to work on 2 or 3 larger images for this display but the deadline defeated me. It’s interesting that some of the work I discarded I felt I could develop in a different direction.
This short essay seeks to reflect on the development of my work practice throughout this course in relationship to the textural or contextual research that informs it.
EXPLORING THE FIELD
Starting out with historical research of the Pre-Modern period, this was enlightening and exhausting as I tried to cover too much ground and so impossible to feed all this into practical work. What was helpful was looking at a particular work in some depth, in this case, Giotto’s Lamentation fresco, considering the theme, style, composition, technique etc and applying this knowledge to some paint explorations. My chief method of research has been the web, looking at artist, college, museum and gallery sites, also art books and my local Museum.
The experimental work was fun to do but I didn’t progress in any depth. While still at school I remember drawing or painting copies of Van Gogh’s work and then feeling uneasy about this because it wasn’t my original work. I have since learnt that copying master works or reinterpreting them is a very good way for developing one’s own skill and technique and in learning more about the content and techniques of the original.
With my research into Modernism, rather than sweep through the whole movement I concentrated on a few artists and areas of interest. My own interest at the time was exploring the more expressive and bold use of colour in my work so I spent more time looking at the Fauvist movement and Matisse’s work. I came across a few artists of interest at an exhibition of Modernist art in Tel Aviv. One being David Park, a key figure in the Bay Area Figurative School, San Francisco. His sense of composition, expressive figurative style and handling of colour has been of some influence.
As a response to what I had been looking at I chose a painting, by Degas, ‘A Cotton Office in New Orleans’, the aim being to explore the composition and colour in a more expressive way and see if I could utilise what I could learn from this in future work, (see projects 3/4, Assignment 1 in the blog).
With the study of Postmodernism I honed in more by focusing on just two artists of interest, Robert Rauchenburg and Anselm Kiefer. Rather than discuss in general a whole mind set I chose two images and looked at some of the ideas and way the works were made as being loosely Postmodern in approach. While the practical work was informed by these ideas I decided to work from a particular theme of interest and exploration, war imagery and landscape. Although aware of a few other artists who had worked with this topic, I didn’t want to be influenced, stylistically by anyone, just see where the research and experiments led.
I took photos of images from YouTube videos, some of these videos were backdrops to songs or war poetry. My interest was also fuelled by films such as War Horse adapted from the novel by Michael Morpurgo. I manipulated some of these images, combining, layering etc. looking for ideas of interest for development. This was my main source of research. I continued with more work in my sketch book, quick sketches from the photo images, exploring ideas with different media.
Taking some of these sketches back into photoshop some quite interesting things were emerging from this experiment. I also continued sketching with charcoal on a larger scale trying to create images of atmospheric landscapes, some which reminded me of William Kentridge’s charcoal drawings. I started to work in colour, also experimenting with text and image and in the sketch book with collage. The final work was somewhat unresolved but there is much here that I wish to revisit.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
I started with some historical research looking at the way artists have traditionally, worked in collaboration with others and continued to explore the ways in which artists have been involved in public art projects particularly, in hospitals and offices, also other contexts such as at train stations, factories, in parks, even disposable art painted on trees, the work dissolving in time through weather conditions. I finally made reference to the various artworks I photographed in public spaces in my own town.
Reflecting on my research, I decided to make a public artwork for a local shopping and commercial office mall which desperately needed a visual make over after years of neglect. I continued to make further investigation re: the history of the area and the building and taking visual notes in the sketch book.
My original idea was to produce a mural with an urban theme. I was looking at the work of Jacob Lawrence and Stuart Davis for inspiration. I changed track, thinking about making large colourful banners to be hung, suspended from the ceiling in the open cavernous concourse visible from every floor. I wasn’t convinced this would be the best solution and finally ended up with the idea of a large bird shaped mobile installation, as apposed to the original urban theme. The construction would be of brightly coloured shapes of aluminium suspended by steel rods. This wasn’t a live project so the end result was a mock up of the work made with card, photographed, and via photoshop, placed in situ. I had done some interesting earlier work while researching which I hadn’t pursued but became the seed in exploring urban landscape in the next assignment.
FINDING YOUR PLACE
For this next assignment I began looking at a range of work that interested me and connected, thematically, to urban landscape and the figure, the area I wanted to concentrate on. I spent some time with my sketch book as a result of sketching and taking photos in various locations in London which led to some interesting experimental work considering mood and atmosphere working with figures taken from their original context, also thinking more about narrative ideas. After visiting an exhibition at Ben Uri art gallery – the gallery has a mission statement addressing universal issues of identity and migration through the visual arts – it set my mind thinking more about narrative led work for the last assignment.
BECOMING AWARE AND SHARING YOUR WORK
I have revisited some previous work, have borrowed from other artists work and worked through a theme in mind for this last body of work in Assignment 5. At the Jerusalem Biennale of Contemporary Jewish Art I visited recently there was an exhibit in one room titled Dreamland Never Found, which caught my attention. The artists involved were from the former Soviet Union who had experienced migration at an early age. The exhibition was addressing concepts of memory, identity, torn connections etc. It was something of these thoughts I tried to convey in my final images, working with acrylics, oils, digital image and pastels. As part of the brief I have been sharing my work on-line with some encouraging responses and created a mini exhibition, in my home studio. Only one visitor so far!
Having completed an art foundation course many years ago, when the main influences at the time were Pop and Abstract Expressionism I came to a seeming dead end. Years later in Israel I attended some classes at a school which was based on traditional academic ways of teaching through observation. Narrative based work wasn’t encouraged. I find the middle ground a more satisfying place to work from. I empathise more with the approach of an artist like Mashiul Chowhurry (see Assignment 4 on the blog), who often works from the figure and his observed environment, not being a slave to the subject but using it as a point of departure creating something out of his own vision.
To reference a lecture I heard recently on YouTube by Jordan Wolfson, he spoke about the two main approaches to art making, one, the experimental, the artist who is uncertain of the road, who explores along the way through his chosen media and second, the conceptual approach to making, how the artist arrives at ideas, the creative process mainly going on in the mind. I tend to fit in more happily with the first approach.