Practical Research
into Postmodernism


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

3 Article from the Guardian Newspaper, Interview by Dale Berning,19 September 2009.