Category Archives: Research & Reflection

Essay – The Medium of Monotype

The monotype is a hybrid medium encompassing drawing, painting and print-making.   Materials and process overlap when the plate, paper, paint and press interact with the artist’s hand to produce a uniquely expressive mirror-image of the work.

 

Degas was an innovator who embraced both monotype and photography, and his interests in these media intertwined with and complemented his painting (Childs, 1999-73).  His monotypes like his paintings often have unconventional viewpoints and compositions, like On the Street in the Rain. c. 1876–77 (Hirschi, 2016), where the viewpoint is from above but close in, and the second figure is cut in half by the right border, indicating perhaps a photographic reference source.

The tactile nature of his process produces a sense of immediacy, improvisation and spontaneity; there is evidence of the artist’s hands, loose strokes of brushes and rags, scratching and scraping.  The accidental, atmospheric effects he achieved appeal to me, for example in evocative landscapes like Forest in the Mountains (1890) (Embuscado, 2016). I like the blurred results, and I adopted his tonal approach in some of my monotype portraits, using tactile methods to depict emotion and atmosphere:

 

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Fig 1, Dad Sailing (2017)

 

In his monotypes Degas was deeply engaged in experimentation rather than a wish for completion – see for example Ballet Scene. c. 1879, (Hirschi, 2016); here, interestingly, he uses monotype as a starting point for reworking and revising with pastel.  Influenced by Degas I reworked some of my monotypes with other media, such as the one below which was developed with coloured pencil:

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Fig 2, Paula and her Dad Fishing (2017)

 

 

Thérèse Oulton, a contemporary artist, made a tondo Untitled (1987) (Tate, 1996)  at the renowned experimental collaborative print workshop Garner Tullis, using oil paint, sand and very heavy paper.  It has a ‘scrubbed, harshly worked texture…roughly finished brushstrokes trail into the unworked area of the image’. (Tate, 1996).

The juxtaposition of organic shapes and marks with sharp geometrical edges appealed to me; like Baker, 1988:21, I feel that the artist is  ‘exploring the boundaries between abstraction and representation’.

Plous, 1988:16 likens the artist’s monotypes to ‘images of nature..but nature reinvented or extrapolated into the unknown’. She writes ‘Oulton maintains a balance between internal emotion and external representation in her work’ (Plous, 1988:42). Awagami sent me an example of one of Oulton’s monotypes which fits this description perfectly, where the viewer is drawn irresistibly to search for a representation of nature – leaves, fishes – in an essentially abstract image.

Her prints as well as her paintings express an ambivalence, an ambiguity which appealed to me, influencing me to experiment by building up my images in textured layers of print, such as in this portrait

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Fig 3, Great Grandmother (2017)

 

and to juxtapose textured, organic patterns with sharply delineated passages in some of my monotypes such as this:

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Fig 4, Birdal (2017)

 

I could continue to use the monotype medium in my own work, by integrating it with my drawing and painting practise; developing and refining techniques of layering pattern and texture; creating atmosphere using tone; exploring how abstraction and representation can interact, and how external observation can combine with internal feelings.

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5.2 – contextual research


Two artists who make work involving walks:

Jane Griseman makes drawings while walking between places that have poignant meanings for her – the Line Journey drawings.  She simply records on small pieces of paper the movements of her hand as she walks, and by doing this she not only refers to movement, duration and distance, but also records her thoughts, feelings and memories, rather than making observational drawings of the things she sees.  Mourning Walks were made walking between home and a burial ground, in response to a recent bereavement.  There are also videos and series of photographs recording walks, for instance between homes she has lived in, or along a childhood beach (trailing a piece of driftwood along her walk and photographing the resulting drawing in the sand) etc.   http://www.janegrisewood.com/Drawings/project2.html

http://www.callytrench.co.uk/rcc-jane-grisewood.html

Idea for my own work – take large water bottle filled with dissolved charcoal (from forest fire?)and trickle it along as I walk – then look back and photograph my zigzag path, with Hammie, my aged retriever, plodding slowly along behind.

Richard Long has come to be called a ‘Land Artist’. He makes art based on walks he is doing or has completed, and this can take various forms including text, drawing, sculpture and installation, photography.   He often intervenes in the landscape, making his work in and of the place itself.  For example ‘A Line Made by Walking, 1967, is a photograph of a path made in grass by his feet tramping up and down.  Many other works are displays of materials (eg stones) collected from the landscape and arranged in unnatural ways (eg circles)

I like the way he uses text – sometimes just lists of single, evocative words – to record and describe a walk.  Here the walk or the journey itself is the art. For example his long distance walks themselves (30 miles every day for weeks isn’t unusual!) become the work, recorded as text phrases describing places or his experiences and actions in the landscape.  

Like Griseman, Long makes work that records not only what he sees but also his response to the landscape and his feelings about it.  Inevitably much of his work in the landscape is impermanent.  According to Guggenheim, since his early work Long has been ‘experimenting with the idea of impermanence, a theme that would inform his work throughout his career’ (https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/richard-long) .  This impermanence is a concept i could consider in the context of my work recording my local neighbourhood.  The environment around me is changing very fast, and my place in it will soon also be in the past.  In the process of making my work, I will be exploring my own feelings about the place, and my aim will be also to create, or at least reinforce my own memories of it; the work itself will deteriorate over time, but the memory will have (I hope!) a longer life.

Idea for my own work – some arrangement on the land (circle, path or line) made of hundreds of lemons or walnuts


And an artist who makes lots of quick watercolour studies:

Mario Rossi

There are  some massive watercolour paintings on Rossi’s web site at  http://www.mariorossi.co.uk/Gallery-2/mario-rossi-circulars.html which are almost photo-realistic textural studies of (what looks like to me) the wake created by a motor boat (maybe a ferry) travelling at different speeds.  The supports appear to be made of six strips of paper, each about 40cm wide.  I like the idea of piecing together watercolour paintings to make composites; I saw a similar idea at work in Hockney’s exhibition at Saltaire recently.  Traditionally watercolour is used on a small scale, but by making composite paintings size can be almost limitless.

Going back to the course manual, I couldnt find Rossi’s watercolours of ‘the restaurants and shops near where he lives’ so contacted him.  He very kindly emailed me a pdf of several of these.  They were not in fact paintings of restaurants in his neighbourhood, but mainly painted from images found online, so nothing to do with the artist walking around making paintings near his home (suggest the factual error in the course manual is corrected).

However, they are inspiring paintings because theyre painted in a very fresh and direct way, and I can now envisage being able to go out and paint the houses in my neighbourhood, without feeling i have to make perfect ‘traditional’ watercolours.

Idea for my own work – quick watercolour paintings of my neighbourhood houses


References  (all websites accessed 23/7/17)

http://www.callytrench.co.uk/rcc-jane-grisewood.html

https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/richard-long

http://www.janegrisewood.com/Drawings/project2.html

http://www.mariorossi.co.uk/Gallery-2/mario-rossi-circulars.html

WG Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

A mix of fact and fiction, memory and photographs, written in a precise, dream-like (sometimes nightmarish) prose.  The author hangs his wide-ranging tales on a solitary journey on foot through a lonely corner of England. Tenuous connections are made between unlikely subjects as the author’s thoughts flow back and forth like the tides and shifting sand-banks of the East Anglian coast, forever opening up new channels.

He recounts history, but history is as unreliable and as selective as memory, as we learn from Benjamin. Sometimes Sebald’s stories morph into imaginary events, sometimes the desolate countryside around him is transformed into a threatening and dusty wasteland and he is forced to hide or stumble along, walking but never moving forward, like a ship caught in the tide, straining to make way.  I was reminded of Kim Edwards dark and desolate monotypes and paintings of Sizewell and Dunwich  http://www.kimedwardsartist.com/gallery_686792.html

I thought this was a book unlike any other I’ve read, and it left me wanting to read more of Sebald, to enter again into his world and see where it takes me.

 

 

References

http://www.kimedwardsartist.com/gallery_686792.html, accessed 30/7/2017

Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald, pub Vintage, 2002

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway

It was a great pleasure to read Virginia Woolf’s novel, a literary observation of London and some of its inhabitants just after the end of WW1. All of Woolf’s senses are wide open to the sensations of place nd character, and her observations are sharp, incisive and often very funny.  The novel’s literary style is what I think is called a ‘stream of conciousness’, with no chapters, and seamless transitions, not only between one person’s meandering thoughts and feelings but also from character to character.

 

The whole novel takes place in the course of a single day, and is built around Clarissa Dalloways’s preparations for a party that evening.  She seems an impressionable person, someone who goes through day to day life breathlessly working hard at finding happiness and wonder in everything around her.  At the same time, underneath she feels lonely and ageing, and is seeing a psychologist for her depression, as is Septimus, a war veteran, whose thoughts and feelings echo those of Clarissa. Sadness lies beneath the surface for many of the characters in fact; the novel mainly concerns their thoughts rather than their surface appearances.

 

The writing is a roller coaster, great long rambling sentences punctuated with commas amd semi-colons swept me along, and I felt I needed to hold on tight until i came to the end of the ride.  I finished the book quite quickly, unlike my usual slow pace, and was left with the (unusual for me) feeling that I’d find more to enjoy in a second or even a third reading.

 

Reference

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Kindle Classic Bestseller

R5 – The work of Christian Boltanski

 

Christian Boltanski

All web sites accessed 01/07/2017

Boltanski’s work is about human identity, individuality,  memory and forgetting, dying and commemorating the dead.  Boltanski said What drives me as an artist is that I think everyone is unique, yet everyone disappears so quickly’ Tate Magazine Issue 2, Studio: Christian Boltanski, 2002 at http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/studio-christian-boltanski.  The objects and photos in his work are usually found, not made by the artist.  They serve as reminders of human experience, often evoking suffering and tragedy, but there’s no implicit or explicit reference to the subject or their history.

Eleanor Heartney says Boltanski has explored “how modes of display imbue simple objects with layers of meaning…the way in which objects are displayed thoroughly determines how we will perceive them” (Art and Today, p352)

His art works create an interplay between perception, memory (the viewer’s individual or cultural collective memory) and imagination.  In Archive Dead Swiss for example (Art &Today, p 354), Boltanski thereby leads the viewer to attribute the idea of suffering or death, or the fragility of identity and memory to the work, and as a result to experience a strong emotional response when viewing them.

This is relevant to my part 5 assignment, where I will curate and display my collection; the viewer will be affected not only by each item in it, but also by how the collection looks in my display.

 

According to Boltanski ‘A good work of art can never be read in one way. My work is full of contradictions. An artwork is open—it is the spectators looking at the work who make the piece, using their own background. A lamp in my work might make you think of a police interrogation, but it’s also religious, like a candle. At the same time it alludes to a precious painting, with a single light shining on it. There are many way of looking at the work. It has to be ‘unfocused’ somehow so that everyone can recognize something of their own self when viewing it.’  “Tamar Garb in conversation with Christian Boltanski,” in Christian Boltanski (London: Phaidon Press, 1997), p. 24 at https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/christian-boltanski


Works:-

The following can be seen at http://www.mariangoodman.com/artist/christian-boltanski

  • Several works are large scale photographic portraits printed on fabric; sometimes the veil is glowingly lit from behind (also see Christian Boltanski, Collective Unconcious by Nora Landes, at http://mariangoodman.com/sites/default/files/Musee%20Magazine%20%28Fall%202014%29.pdf They reminds me of my monoprint and painted portraits from old family photos for part 3, especially those painted on silk and linen.  Perhaps portraits of neighbours could form part of my part 5 paper museum.
  • Other collections of small, found photographic portrait works are presented in the form of a shrine or an icon, and lit with lamps, such as Scratch, 2014
  • Sometimes the portraits are fixed to small boxes stacked on shelves, implying each box contains the ephemera of that one individual’s life, like Reserve Detective III, 1987.  More recent work combines this shrine- like arrangement with the small boxes and the lamps.
  • Many of his visual installations include the use of sound – for example the dozens of small, labelled bells on stalks placed in the landscape in Animitas, 2014
  • In some works such as Reserve Canada, 1988,  objects (in this case clothes), stand in for portraits (which stand for the unique individual).

In Personnes (see https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/jan/17/christian-boltanski-personnnes-paris-review?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other) Boltanski lays out clothes in their thousands in camp-like spaces on the ground

In developing a recent work, the artist wanted an audio recording speaking the name of every person in the world.  As he says, there are just too many people to make this practical, and also people are dying and being born too quickly.  I’d love to make an audio recording speaking names of people in my village (there are not too great a number), with background audio of the pervasive sounds on an outdoor summer evening- dogs, muezzin, bells, crickets, drums, music.

 

What I like and dislike about Boltanski’s work:-

 

His work can be thought of as dark, macabre and sad, dealing so heavily in death – Tom Lubbock, The Independent, 07/05/1994 at  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/remembrance-of-things-past-christian-boltanski-is-a-multi-media-artist-theres-the-book-the-triple-1434581.html; But for me it is also hopeful and optimistic, affirming a belief in the unique identity of every person, living and dead.  In Boltanski’s opinion, everyone is unique and important, (but everyone also disappears so quickly).


Viewing my environment through Boltanski’s eyes:-

My work for Part 5 is going to be about my tiny village and surrounding environment.  As a foreigner I observe my neighbours with a degree of detachment that wouldn’t be possible for a local – as though I’m seeing them for the first time – and at the same time I feel an emotional connection from being an outsider who’s been taken in and adopted by a small community.  Boltanski would view these individuals as lives to be commemorated, their portraits to be made and displayed in some way that suggests their uniqueness for example, the pasting of the portraits of individuals to stacked tins or boxes, suggesting contents specific to each person’s life.

I collected photo portraits of some local people and thought about ways of editing and displaying them.  A simple grid format as below (made digitally) suggests little as a group, though the portraits are interesting and highlight individuality.

Another idea, inspired by Boltanski, is to arrange portraits (maybe monoprints, or quick paintings with thin watercolour or ink) alternating neighbours who’ve died and those who’ve been born while I’ve lived here. I’ll think about how I’d display these to suggest to the viewer what I want to say, and how I see them.

Other works by Boltanski are collections of everyday objects – some sourced from Lost Property offices, tonnes of clothes sourced from jumble sales – which are displayed en masse, to seemingly represent the dead, lost or forgotten.  Our village life has its own day to day ubiquitous objects;  broom, pick, plastic carrier bag and bottle, scythe, bowls, cauldrons, baking stones, plastic jar, hosepipe, tractor, blanket, kilim, shalwar, all manner of clothes…..  in my mind these objects represent not the dead but the continuum of life and are temporarily identified with individuals who are born, live and die here.

Sounds, smell and light are part of the environment in which I live.  The sounds of dogs barking and owls hooting at night, voices carrying across the valley; cocks crowing at dawn; chainsaws cutting wood, tractors working away; goats bleating and being directed, bells tinkling;  crickets grating in the heat; the muezzin singing, marking the passing of time.  The smell of cooking fires, pine, eucalyptus.  The unobscured light of sun, moon and stars repeating their passage every day from before any of us were here till after we’re all gone.


References

 

Art and Today, Eleanor Heartney, Phaidon Press 2008

Christian Boltanski, Collective Unconcious by Nora Landes, at http://mariangoodman.com/sites/default/files/Musee%20Magazine%20%28Fall%202014%29.pdf accessed 01/07/2017

Christian Boltanski, “Tamar Garb in conversation with Christian Boltanski,” in Christian Boltanski (London: Phaidon Press, 1997), p. 24 at https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/christian-boltanski, accessed 01/07/2017

Tate Magazine Issue 2, Studio: Christian Boltanski, 2002 at http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/studio-christian-boltanski (accessed 01/07/2017)

Tom Lubbock, The Independent, 07/05/1994 at  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/remembrance-of-things-past-christian-boltanski-is-a-multi-media-artist-theres-the-book-the-triple-1434581.html

R5 – The work of Charles Avery

 

Charles Avery

All web sites accessed 01/07/2017

‘Through an extended series of meticulous drawings and bold sculptures, London-based artist Charles Avery has created a fictional land simply called “the Island.” Avery’s entire body of work since 2004 has been devoted to the exploration and expansion of the customs, people, and cosmologies of this imagined place.’ https://www.artsy.net/artist/charles-avery   

His evocation of the Island is mainly through intricate and detailed watercolour drawings, but also encompasses painting, sculpture, text and print.  To say the Island culture is a complete fiction isn’t quite true, as it is clearly based on our own modern, western world in some respects (clothes, people’s appearance for example).  But he is imagining another world with fascinating differences from our own.  
 
Rebecca Partridge states ‘There are few contemporary artists whose practices travel the same imaginative distance as Charles Avery‘s. Initially a ten-year project, now a lifetime endeavour, ‘The Islanders’ is an entirely visual and textual depiction, part-excavation, of an imaginary island and its people.’  Berlin Art Link, 2017, at http://www.berlinartlink.com/2017/03/28/charles-avery/. The artist, however, comes from an island himself, also part of a larger archipelago, and its quite likely in my view that his own environment exerts a significant influence on the portrayal of the imaginary Island.

Brian Dillon, in an article for Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, speculating on the provenance for the Island, mentions the floating island from Gullivers Travels, and H.G.Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau ( http://www.pilarcorrias.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Avery_modern-painters_jan-2009.pdf).  Avery’s Island culture reminds me of Herodotus and his stories of other cultures in The Histories, 5c.BC,  (trans. Herodotus The Histories, Penguin Books 1996) with their weird and wonderful customs, fantastic monsters and so on – a mix of imagination, exagerration and reality, tall tales and conjecture. Herodotus though, insisted the marvels he described were faithfully reported by him from his own real travel experiences and other reliable sources. In both Avery’s and Herodotus work we can say fact and fiction exist side by side.
 
Herodotus came from the Greek city of Halicarnassus, present day Bodrum, on the western coast of Anatolia, which would have had close contact with the non-Greek Carian people of the region, from whom some among my neighbours are surely descended. I imagine myself standing in Herodotus’ shoes.  With The Histories stowed in my boat, I sailed years ago through other mediterranean worlds to Caria and found a new and previously unimagined world here in which I’ve settled.  I can still observe my rural village world as though I’m seeing it for the first time, its people and culture are so ‘other’, and always surprising me. 

My thoughts for part 5 are developing along the lines of somehow portraying this ‘foreign’ world (in which I am admittedly the foreigner) and my experiences of it, from the mundane to the surprising, so that the viewer can enter my world, and I can record my experiences and memories of it, against the day when inevitably I will leave for the last time.

My concern is that I don’t romanticise or exoticise.  In making my collection I need to avoid anything twee, sentimental, romantic, picturesque.  i would like to make work based on the observation of an anthropologist. Many of Avery’s drawings depict with cool detachment groups of Islanders in their environment, going about their ordinary everyday lives. In Avery’s work there are drawings of everyday objects, and there are physical objects too, ostensibly brought back to the ‘real’ world by visitors to the Island and installed in Avery’s exhibitions.  I’ve thought about what ordinary everyday objects I would include or depict in my collection – I listed some of them in my previous post here.  Other areas for investigation and possible inclusion are flora and fauna, geography, social practices, transport, industry, headgear, religious practices, ….My collection might include, as well as paintings, drawings, found objects, found images, posters, text, sounds, video.  There is potentially a rich seam of ideas here which may carry me through into Level 2, as I can only hope to cover a small proportion of what I have in mind.
 
Like Avery’s Island, and Herodotus’ Histories though, my depiction of the present-day culture I live in can never be complete, and my Paper Musum will inevitably offer only glimpses and fragments, leaving the viewer to unpack meaning from my chosen artifacts.  Avery homed in on separate themes for different phases of his Island work.  Perhaps for part 5 I need to narrow down my area of investigation; my selection of subjects could be chosen, for example, to highlight the rapid transition from traditional, rural culture to modern-day consumerism.
 
There is a selection of Avery’s work at https://grimmgallery.com/artists/charles-avery/work/
 
 
 
References
 
 
 
Herodotus The Histories, Penguin Books 1996

R5 – the work of Archie Franks

 

Archie Franks

The works shown on Archie Franks own web site (http://archiefranks.com/) are a mixture of oils and watercolours, still life and landscape, which have in common a celebration of colour, close observation and a loose execution, a combination which I think is very appealing. Looking at his work will help me to home in on subjects which fit in the context of my theme, and avoid tight detail and picturesque approaches to my work.

Monster Munch with Moon for example (at http://archiefranks.com/portfolio/monster-munch-with-moon-2016/) is a thought-provoking painting for my own project.  The luscious painting of a garish snack packet is a very well observed still life; the artist has almost painted it as a painters parody of itself, in thick buttery brushfuls of glistening colour, highlighting the consumer’s self-gratification in eating the snack.    Contrast that with the other half of the painting, the moon in the night sky background.  There is a tension in the painting between the natural and the artificial that’s very much there in my environment too, where a traditional rural culture based on self-sufficiency is very rapidly being replaced with the modern culture of consumerism.  Franks’ own thoughts on this painting are discussed in an interview at http://www.jerwoodvisualarts.org/writing-and-media/francesca-blomfield-archie-franks-conversation/

Franks was Artist in Residence at Marlborough College in 2015-6.  The college writes that his work mixes ‘popular contemporary culture and the more mundane aspects of the artist’s own everyday existence” (http://www.marlboroughcollege.org/art/artist-in-residence/?no_cache=1&cid=1043&did=7983&sechash=0430c584)

I like the small (7×10″) watercolours on this website, on Franks own web site and at http://www.welcomescreen.biz/exhibitions/archiefranks.html.  Their small size makes them feel intimate.  They are loosely made using bold tones and his mark-making is done with panache.  The colours are very positive, but subtle, not straight from the tube.  My part 5 ‘paper museum’ will probably include watercolour works on paper, so keeping Franks’ watercolours in mind I will aim for a similar loose depiction of subjects, with confident colours and tones, and strong mark-making.

 

References

http://www.jerwoodvisualarts.org/writing-and-media/francesca-blomfield-archie-franks-conversation/

http://www.marlboroughcollege.org/art/artist-in-residence/?no_cache=1&cid=1043&did=7983&sechash=0430c584

http://www.welcomescreen.biz/exhibitions/archiefranks.html

http://archiefranks.com/