PART TWO / PROJECTS 1, 2: HONING IN

ASSIGNMENT 2

EXPERIMENTAL PIECES FROM POSTMODERNIST
ART STUDY: REFLECTIONS FROM PROJECTS 1 & 2

NOTES ON IMAGES ABOVE

1. Sample of the initial charcoal sketches based on photos collected for research.

2. An image created in photoshop from some of the initial sketches. Interesting possibilities for this to be worked on in variety of media but, as yet, I haven’t taken this any further.

3. Charcoal drawing on 45 x60 cms. paper. A loose, pretty abstract image of ambiguous forms suggestive of a battle scarred environment.

4. Simplification of an earlier colour sketch in pastel and chalk on tinted paper.

5. One of the final images and slight development/variation from previous versions.
oils on canvas board.

6. The final image I worked on with oils and pastels. An attempt to make the work more lively with more spontaneous mark making which some of the earlier work achieved.

I chose these 6 images because I felt, they were not only developmental, but more experimental than some of the other pieces.

CONTEXTURAL RESEARCH

For full contextural research for Assignment 2 click on the following links

Project 1 Project 2

SAMPLE PAGES FROM SKETCH BOOK

Various explorations based on the theme for practical research.

REFLECTION

I found working through the context of a theme helpful and gave me a good focus for experimentation. From the material I have collected and the work done, there is the potential to explore further after this assignment is complete. I think some of the work would be interesting to explore further through printmaking techniques.

While experimenting I wasn’t so concerned about working in the style of any particular artist, though Kiefer and Kentridge, whose work I looked at through the textural research, was in my mind. I didn’t want to think too much but wanted to work more intuitively and be open for a few surprises.

I still have the tendancy to want to think more about the end result, the composition, at the expense of exploring the media further. In some of the sketchbook pages there is more interest than in some of the more completed efforts. I was working small because I knew I could get the work done more quickly. I think it would be helpful to work on a larger scale with some of the texture and material interest I find in artists like Rauschenburg and Kiefer.

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PART TWO / PROJECT 2: HONING IN

Practical Research
into Postmodernism

AIMS – INITIAL THOUGHTS

Working through the themes of war imagery and landscape as a focus/starting point for media exploration. Based on found images which I manipulate – drawing also on memory through music and lyrics on the theme and war poetry and informed by certain works of artists who could loosely be called Postmodern.

  • Starting with photo manipulations and sketchbook explorations
  • Try exploring with different media/grounds
  • Interest in relationship of figures in/to landscape
  • How to express in visual terms – not only human loss, futility – also damage and destruction of the landscape but also always the possibility of hope and restoration.
  • Find motifs – connect back to images of war in art history – narratives.
  • The unnatural relationship of trenches, war weapons and technology with nature.
  • How the unnatural and natural merge – disguarded mangled weaponry takes on appearance of charred twisted trees, also the human figure, the same.
  • Use of found objects/ materials, text, text as image.

I like the statement of artist Denis Crefield – his approach to his subject. “I am not interested in creating an illusion of reality, but in trying to find a substantial form for it’s substantiality – an image of actual experience”.1

INITIAL PHOTO RESEARCH & MANIPULATION

I found a number of war related images and played around, collaging various images together, playing with the colour, looking for something evocative and a few motifs to work from.

INITIAL SKETCH STUDIES

I continued with a few loose quick landscape sketches in charcoal and graphite with
very little detail. Not thinking so much about composition as interesting mark making.

MANIPULATIONS FROM SKETCHES

14 I took some of these images into photoshop, playing with the colour and thinking a little more about composition. I like these and think there is potential for further development but I wanted to continue exploring more with drawing.

CHARCOAL DRAWINGS

I experimented next with a few larger drawings, 45 x 60 cms. – still fairly loose sketches of some what distressed landscapes. I like working with this medium, you can create interesting tonal atmosphere and mark making until you overwork the paper. I again worked fairly quickly and tried to work differently with each image.

The photo (image 24) shows a few different textured surfaces I thought I could work with. Some of the drawings started from rubbings I initially made from an old, flaking piece of ply board. I find William Kentridge’s work very interesting and the way he works and reworks his charcoal drawings for his animations.2 I made a not to successful attempt at metamorphosing images 26 and 27.

MONO PRINTS

The two images below are crops taken from mono prints I did a while back. While being completely abstract they are very evocative of something bad happening.

COLOUR STUDIES


These three images were basically mark and colour exercises on found surfaces with a vaguely embattled landscape theme in mind. No. 30 was a sheet of glass I found with some markings already on it. I added marks with oils and turps. Images 31 and 32 I worked with oils and pastels on a ground of canvas pasted on boards.

Image 33, one from a few sketches from my sketch book, (see image 22). Pastels on coloured paper. The lines indicative of burnt trees or figures. Image 34, red ground or colour field, graffiti lines indicating foreground.

With Images 35 and 36 I tried incorporating text. No. 35, was derived again from a photo – oils on canvas board. No. 36, was worked with pastels and charcoal on an old giglee print – the text is part of a poem by Lawrence Binyon. No. 35, if worked on large, could work, but needs a lot of textural and material interest.

Images 37 – 42 were the last of the bunch, in some way, a progression from
earlier work. The elements in the foreground I wanted to keep fairly ambiguous. I was working with oils, black gesso and pastels. Reflecting on images 38,39,40, they are more complete as compostions but lack some of the spontaneity and looseness of some of the earlier sketches. I worked on the last image fairly quickly, trying to bring some of this interest back.

Thinking about abstraction and figuration and the relative ease of drawing against the difficulty of painting, I find an echo in this quote by William Kentridge, he was talking about aspects of modernism. “I was looking at those branches of modernism that didn’t leave figuration. For me,abstraction was like colour: when I tried to work in complete abstraction, I had no idea what I was doing, why I should make one mark and not another. Now, in fact, a number of my drawings end up as non-recognisable smudges on paper – but they had a route to get there that started with a connection to a representation of the external world”.3

1 Quote from Denis Crefield, Yigal Zalmona, (1992), British Figurative Painting of the 20th Century, P. 86, Jerusalem, The Israel Museum Publication.

2 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, William Kentridge -On His Process.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_UphwAfjhk

3 Article from the Guardian Newspaper, Interview by Dale Berning,19 September 2009.
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/sep/19/charcoal-drawing-william-kentridge

PART TWO / PROJECT 1: HONING IN

brainstorm-dTextural Research into Postmodernism

If Modernism conveyed a more utopian vision of human life, a belief in progress, embracing science and technology in explaining reality then Postmodern thinking challenged, to a greater extent, the notion of universal objective truths and reliance on reason. Individual interpretations of our experiences and embracing complex and contradictory layers of meaning are more common.

There is no clear definition of what art should be and there is a blurring of the distinctions between high culture and mass – pop culture and every day life.

I looked at a few artists and specific works that define some of the ideas within Postmodern thinking.

WORKING IN THE GAP BETWEEN ART & LIFE – ROBERT RAUCHENBURG

One definition of the change in thinking between Modernism and Postmodernism is the shift between observing things, forms and objects, to being more conscious about the cultural systems that inform about the objects. This is a shift from nature to culture.

According to musician John Cage, a friend of Robert Rauchenburg, “The task of art is waking us up to the very life we are living” . What qualifies as art is not the conventional, – that it’s composed or skilful or that it’s beautiful, what counts as art, for Cage, is anything that makes us more alert to life – art defined by what it does to us. The cultural systems were the main pre-occupation of people like Cage and Rauchenberg.

This is an earlier mixed media work, Rebus,1955, what Rauchenberg called a combine painting. It’s a self contained art object, not a ‘window’ to nature or the world in a conventional sense. He used a range of media, paper, fabric, pencil, crayon, newspaper, paint pot colour swatches, printed reproductions of famous art works and oil paint. While collage and using found objects was not new, Rauchenberg seemed to be re-negotiating established rules about style and language. So this image is a collage of knowledge and experiences of art history and also modern day life.

Rauchenberg used to watch a lot of TV in his youth, so elements of interest from media and pop culture are in the work, elements of text, aspects of field painting, abstract expressionist splashes and drippings, the colour swatches seems to allude to the language of colour.

So, while Modernist work became more exclusionary, Rauchenburg became more radically inclusive. He was a media landscape artist and while working predominantly before the internet, where there is no center, more a series of relationships, he seems more a product of the information rather than the mechanical age.

LAST OF THE GREAT EPIC HISTORY PAINTERS? – ANSELM KIEFER

I came across this painting by Kiefer watching Yale University’s lecture, History Painting after Two world Wars. I was drawn to to this title as I have some interest, currently, in war imagery and the emotional and physical reality of war has often been the source from which a number of twentieth century artists have drawn.

It was interesting that this work ‘The unborn’ (in English) was in the context of more traditional historical works. History painting take forms, aspects of texts, myths, scriptures, real events etc. conveying a message, moral, political or religious. So while, in this work, there is no obvious realistic narrative, through the physical materials, the tiny pasted on fabric clothes, painted numbers and other sources seems to reference to Germany’s recent past and wider issues of souls looking for a home or who have prematurely departed. The plant in the center looks like a tree of life, it’s coated with plaster, but it’s been uprooted from it’s source.

Kiefer is Postmodern in the sense he draws on a variety of sources and contexts and use of materials like Rauchenberg while avoiding attention to the more banal materialistic aspects of contemporary life.

BIBLIOGRAPY

Notes and Research

Hunter S. (1981), Robert Rauschenburg, Barcelona, Ediciones Poligrafa

VIDEO

http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/p/postmodernism#introduction

Postmodern Strategies: Mixed Messages and Undecidability – Jon Anderson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uSIjMaqyPA&t=52s

Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns – Jon Anderson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2ZIiT-FdKg

Lecture 12, History Painting after Two World Wars: Anselm Kiefer’s Die Ungeborenen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OJNMyQhF4A

Anselm Kiefer | “Die Ungeborenen” | Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac | Paris Pantin | 2012
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_BPPAXMPnE

OTHER ARTISTS OF INTEREST

William Kentridge
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G11wOmxoJ6U&t=868s

Leon Golub
http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/leon-golub-bite-your-tongue

Mary Barton-Nees
http://marynees.com

Sangram Majumdar
http://www.sangrammajumdar.com