6 September 2017. I was delighted to find Vik Muniz (*1961, Brazil) on TED talks, a site I love for the creativity of the contributing people. He talks about his development as an artist and the vital differences between creation and creativity, something he, without doubt, will address daily while producing “Art with wire, sugar, chocolate and string” (Muniz, 2003). His talk was everything I had hoped for, seemingly casual, highly intelligent making fun of himself and the tragicomedy of us all. I am convinced that it is greatly unimportant, which media and materials people choose to express themselves in, if they are able to transport messages with such subtlety and love for the world. I do not really want to start repeating here what he says in his talk, because that would be spoiling a treat.
The talk introduced me to the “Stieglitz equivalents”, a world-famous series of photos of cloud formations done by photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946, USA) during the 1920s and 1930s. Equivalence is a theory promoting the idea that abstractions may correspond to inner states, emotions and ideas (american art @ The Phillips Collection, n.d.). This insight I can only agree to, my Assignment 2 umbrella was nothing else (Lacher-Bryk, 2017). So from now on I will go out into the rain protected by a set of Stieglitz equivalents. Don’t know how many people can say that of themselves.
Also, and most importantly, I just realized that, since I am a person who shares Muniz’ view of the world, I am determined to continue my studies with the OCA in exactly that light. No matter what the result at assessment.
6 September 2017. Cornelia Parker (*1956, UK), another Turner Prize nominee, is well known for her concept art and installations, in which she often uses great physical force to transport her interest in transformation and resurrection, as e.g. in “Thirty Pieces of Silver” from 1988/89 (Delaney, 2003) or “Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View” made in 1991 (Tate, n.d.). Parker explains that by suspending the individual objects from the ceiling she takes away the pathos the objects would have, if they were still on the ground (Tate, 2014). It is interesting to note how the position in space of a display of objects will transform its meaning. I think that I would not have understood Parker’s intention, if I had not listened to her audio. To me the suspending of objects can have several meanings, depending on what, and where, is supended. It can add both great drama or lightness, provide a solution or add a complication.
My tutor, however, pointed me to her use of multiples and sequences made of everyday discard materials. In “Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View”, none of these apply really, because what is suspended from the ceiling are the remains of an intentional explosion of a wooden shed. To me the installation looks like a snapshot of one moment during the explosion, frozen in three rather than two dimensions. Matters are different in “Thirty Pieces of Silver”, where discarded silver objects (if silver can be discarded at all) were pressed to make them look similar, then arranged into a grid representing the 30 pieces of silver used by Judas to betray Jesus. To Parker silver feels commemorative (Delaney, 2003), a feeling no doubt shared by most people, so this aspect probably does not need further explanation. The arrangement itself feels solemn, so it supports a subject, which is probably not immediately obvious, in contrast to “Cold Dark Matter”, which leaves little space for misunderstanding.
A general image search of Parker’s work made me realize that some of her suspended work is genuinely beautiful, both on the surface and at heart, e.g. the remains of destroyed churches floating like the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, or the wave-worn bricks of a house, which collapsed due to cliff erosion in Dover (Neither From Nor Towards”). It makes me aware of the all-encompassing truth behind Parker’s resurrections. Everything there is will eventually be transformed, not to be gone forever, but to make something new. A comforting thought and an approach to art I will want to treasure.
6 September 2017. My tutor suggested I have a look at a set within Allen McCollum’s (*1944, USA) famous surrogate paintings, basically empty frames painted in vivid colours and lined up in rows along a wall (McCollum, n.d.). Despite the connection my tutor tied (“where absence and shadow can speak volumes”), I was not attracted. The frames look rough, their colours haphazard. Looking at them again during a quiet minute they reminded me distantly of the multitude of doors leading to the childrens’ bedrooms in the great film “Monster Inc.”. In contrast to McCollum’s frames I find a real purpose to the doors besides serving as symbols for individual lives. Of course I can fill the absences in McCollum’s frames with whatever (shadows) I like, but this I can do with everything that is empty around me, so I do not really need the frames.
McCollum not only works with sets of blank frames, but also with multiples (similar but not the same) of drawings, sculptures or even collections of natural objects such as fulgurite tubes (glass lined hollow tubes formed where lightning strikes sand), which I was not happy to see either. I am having difficulties again with the lining up of multiples of objects into grids and rows, no matter how sophisticated the connection with some important human issue such as a discussion of the mass-produced versus individualized, the issue of a painting being an object representing itself and such like, in the late 20th century (ARTCenterMFA, 2015). At the risk of outing myself, again, as a philistine, the addressed issues feel vastly insubstantial to me in the face of the enormousness of the universe and the mystery of life. The produced objects are sometimes attractive, more often nice to look at, but this is where my interest ends somehow. I believe that most repetitive patterns look attractive to the human mind because they are aesthetically pleasing, but this does not automatically make them qualify as works of art. Is this the same sort of decoration my tutor saw in the first stages of my Assignment 2 umbrella project (Lacher-Bryk, 2017)? I am probably not the best person to judge here, because to me the umbrella is a multidimensional analysis of a highly personal legacy. However, I will be taking my own experience with McCollum’s work as a warning to myself, so that I do not wander, starry-eyed, into the same trap.
ARTCenterMFA (2015) Allan McCollum, Graduate Seminar 2/3/2015 [online]. Department of Graduate Art at Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles. Available from: https://vimeo.com/118767506 [Accessed 6 September 2017]
Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Assignment 2: “An Umbrella Project” [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 17 August. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/assignment-2-an-umbrella-project/ [Accessed 6 September 2017]
McCollum, A. (n.d.) Allan McCollum [online]. Allan McCollum, New York. Available from: http://allanmccollum.net/allanmcnyc/ [Accessed 6 September 2017]
For my tutor: I am very happy to be your student. What follows is nothing personal, but what I guess may be a general communication issue between the OCA and its student(s). I noticed and mentioned some of that in earlier courses also.
When I wrote my feedback reflection for Part 1 of UPM, I did so immediately after the video tutorial to then supplement it by the summary provided by my tutor in written form. I noticed weird discrepancies between study guide instructions, the oral and the written content of my tutor feedback. As this repeated itself for Part 2, I decided to pay particular attention and compare the things said and written. I found it very difficult to make this blog post a “compare and contrast” exercise, because my observations are virtually impossible to separate into isolated entities. Still I hope to have described my issues clearly enough to allow them to be discussed in depth and hopefully solved, because far too much of my limited study time is still going into making sense of what is expected of me.
Video tutorials with my UPM tutor I perceive as very lively and encouraging conversations. After about 4 or 5 video talks so far over the course of my OCA studies I believe, however, that despite the great advantages of immediate feedback and getting to know my tutor personally there are severe limitations to video communication for a number of reasons. A lot of information needs to be passed in what I feel is far too little time via a sometimes poor skype connection. I find myself unable to ask relevant questions during the tutorial, because I can only pinpoint inconsistencies I feel during the talk after having digested the more complex subjects covered. The above issue is made more difficult by receiving follow-up written summaries which I think sometimes are not completely in line with the oral information. This effect does not concern all of the advice given, but mostly affects my tutors’ remarks regarding the intentions behind my work.
I have to admit that trying to make sense of both confuses me. Therefore I will probably not go for a video tutorial next time but for a written-only statement. The latter I experienced, in Drawing 1 and Practice of Painting, as clear analyses of all the submitted pieces as compared to the more general overview provided by combined video/written feedback. For many of the reasons stated above I also decided that I will need to contact my tutor at shorter intervals while working on the exercises.
The main discrepancies I stumbled upon in this case were the following:
study guide instructions and tutor comments on respective work:
I cannot help the impression that often tutor and study guide may be at odds.
Written tutor comment on photographic collections: “tension between your work from working with unpredictable diluted paints and the ordering of your objects” and “you have thought about the arrangement of them in grids and boxes”
This combination was owed both to my tutor’s previous suggestion to keep working with inks and to the prescribed preliminary research on artists working with and presenting collections – they all came in grids and boxes. I even wrote a note in my sketchbook stating that I do not like to work in grids for several reasons.
Written tutor comment on exercise 2.1: “continuing with the ordering of objects, your work is showing your interests of regularity and design- does this emulate your life style?” and “However avoid twee subjects like the teddy bear and necklace, as it does not match the inventiveness of the affects.”
I do not embrace regularity, neither in my life nor in my work (although we as a family are going through a very long-term challenging period and sometimes I would wish for a little more peace and quiet). I experience myself as excessively inquisitive with spontaneous interest in everything and I will order my work only because it is expected from me. If I do so, however, my scientist’s training will probably create an impression of wanting to bring “a field of ideas into fenced areas”. I believe that fences hinder development, both at the personal level and in society as a whole.
Both teddy bear and necklace were parts of collections of household items the study guide instructed us to produce. I mentioned in both sketchbook and blog that I did not like any of the two choices and would never think of working with them on my own. However, I was happy with the quick palette knife caramel study of my teddy bear, which made him look fierce and aggressive (I like playing with contradictory elements, also in my work as political caricaturist). As I recorded in my sketchbook, after further experimenting the caramel painting exists only as a photo now.
Written tutor comment on exercise 2.2: “Your sources are wide ranging to start this project. Sometimes less is more.”
We were required to select several from a long list of sources and use these to experiment. I did exactly what was required in the study guide. On the other hand, in the video tutorial, my tutor asked me to continue doing what I like best and experiment to the full.
Written tutor comment on exercise 2.3: “Do you like to collect? You work with multiples and more than one object.”
No, I don’t like to collect, but this is what we were supposed to do, it is the basis for all of the work required in Part 2.
Written comment on assignment: “your panels started off by being too decorative and literal”.
I don’t understand this, because at the outset I had no plan that I would create fields and many of my finished scenes travel into the next panel on the umbrella. The scenes themselves, evolving from a very quickly produced background of roughly mixed acrylic paint, were purely intuitive (e.g. “I want to address anxiety, can my inner eye see something in the swirls of colour that might transport this emotion?”). I never even thought of a literal translation, let alone decoration. The way I chose for creating the persons acting on the panels I felt to be extremely rough, both in testing them on my printouts (without which I would have been unable to see the patterns in the original) and the nylon support of the umbrella.
I was surprised that my tutor called the use of an umbrella “clichéd” and then added “However, if the umbrella is intentional …”. I explained the background to my – of course intentional – choice of an umbrella as my support widely in my blog. Besides that, at level one I firmly believe that I should not be overly concerned about clichés really, in the same line as my tutor’s suggested not to worry about a personal voice at this level.
My tutor emphasizes the necessity to show continuity, e.g. by returning to the same materials (“Be careful you are not starting again in each assignment”, “It is easy to forget what you have already done without celebrating the successes. I think this is why you can be a little frightened each time- because you feel you are starting again.”).
While I will very happily celebrate what I think was successful, I think that either it is me misinterpreting or the study guide failing to explain clearly. I still do not understand how we are supposed to show continuous development throughout the course, because parts/exercises read very differently regarding the required outcome: e.g. “curating” and painting collections of household items in Part 2 and learning how to make monoprint portraits in Part 3. For me these two have very little in common and I am not sure yet how I am to combine study guide requirements and tutor suggestions.
In her pointers for the next assignment my tutor suggests that I need to make my results more sophisticated by thinking about a coating for my results. This I thought odd, since I had added protection wherever I thought a piece finished. Some of them, as e.g. the aluminium cans, I have left unsealed so far, but only because I want to keep the option of working on them again at a later point (this I mentioned in my blog). The suggestion by my tutor also confuses me, because in her feedback on Part 1 she mentioned that I must not worry about leaving things unfinished.
analysis of development:
In the video tutorial I received the impression of a considerable step forward. The written feedback, which arrived a day later, was far less enthusiastic in that respect. It contains the remarks “There has been a change in direction” and “Previously- you worked with shadows, monochromatic applications, atmospheric work and looking at shadows as traces, footstep and legacies to extend your context.” I certainly did not intend any change in direction and continued to work with shadows as planned. I expanded on my work from Part 1 in e.g. my sketchbook, set of cans, large scale drawing and Assignment 2 and continued to develop my work with shadows, traces and legacies, all of these combined in my umbrella project. My tutor however identified a change insofar as a new subject of mine appears to be “ordering the chaos”. This is not so. My interest in multiples is owed to study guide instructions, at least at the moment. The addition of mind mapping as an invaluable tool has purely organisational reasons and I am positive that I do not want to make it part of my work at this point in time.
My tutor advised me also to shift my attention from focusing on shadows as a main course theme to what has started to show in my recent work, which is the use of a large variety of unusual surfaces and painting materials, working with found objects and working with multiples, but again I only followed instructions here. A comparable experience I had in Part 1, where I believe that my tutor received the wrong impression that I had set myself the goal of painting 20 squares for assignment, as she mentioned a certain lack of inventiveness in repeating same-sized paintings.
analysis of written work:
On p. 2 of her written feedback my tutor mentions that “I say my work is unprofessional because I am repeating”. I cannot remember saying such a thing, I rather wrote that by a lack of organisation “I still find myself working intuitively, which results in “discovering” the same things over and over, which is not just annoying but highly unprofessional.”. Which is something altogether different (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a). What I mean is that by having no structure in my approach to experimenting (at the time before mind mapping!), I do things again and again without realising that I am repeating myself and without making a working connection between the repeated parts. I know that the conscious and comparative repeating of techniques and subjects is absolutely essential in developing a better understanding of the respective outcomes. Mind mapping will however help me organising this part of my studies better.
I am not sure whether sometimes the way I express myself may lead to misunderstandings.
Apart from the above contradictory observations I received a number of invaluable pointers for development:
The working with multiples/grids/fields ties in with some of my earlier work, including the charcoal animations I did as part of Drawing 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2015). My tutor suggested that I try animations again, including simple ones like spinning my umbrella and making a film of that (zoetrope effect).
make anxiety part of my work (which I already do to a large extent)
select working textures from my sketchbooks and use them at a larger scale
continue working with unusual materials such as Coca-Cola and charcoal, caramel, beetroot juice etc. as well as unusual supports
try and work on a number of different pieces simultaneously to allow switching between pieces intuitively according to the communication channels working best at the time
regarding the issue of “putting order in my chaos”:
e.g. use beetroot juice, make a mind map to set the scene, paint with a paintbrush (orderly) and then “let go” by e.g. painting with my hand only, always keep working quickly
do whatever I like best and continue experimenting to the full, putting imagination first, but now with my mind on “ordering the chaos”
Regarding the use of mind maps as means of artistic expression my tutor suggested that I have a look at the work of Mark Lombardi (1951-2000, USA) and the conspiracy theory surrounding his work and premature death. I did a quick search on the internet and instantly felt something familiar. Actually Lombardi’s cleverly devised mind maps, named “Narrative Structures”, remind me of some analysing tools used in evolutionary biology and ecology. Though static in appearance, his mind maps are in motion, both by the way the lines are arranged and by the way they indicate growth, and probably evolution. When doing some research on his intentions, it was not a biological background, but rather analyses of financial and political development (see e.g. Lucarelli, 2012). Although these subjects could not sound more different, they of course share similarities via emerging properties (which leads me back to an observation I made for myself when working on my Assignment 2 umbrella project (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b). It would both take me too far and be at the same time be short-sighted to consider making “evolution” a new focus of my course. The whole course itself is evolution and I must not use something I cannot know, because it lies in the future, to plan continuity with.
Besides, I am extremely happy to read that my sketchbook at last starts to take shape and research as well as blog meet the requirements. These points I was really worried about, because it took me felt ages to learn the basic requirements.
Overall, in order to gain the most from my work so far, I have started to sit down with my results for Parts 1 and 2 to do a synthesis and then decide, using mind maps, in which direction I want to proceed. This aspect is one of the aha-experiences I had during our video talk. So far I saw the parts of all courses as more or less separate entities with the main goal of introducing many different options of artistic expression. Tutor and assessors will however, despite the felt enormous difference between the subjects of each part, look for a continuity in artistic development. So, in Part 3, for example, where I had thought I would need to follow instructions on how to make monotype prints, I will also be expected to include insights gained in other parts, irrespective of their superficial dissimilarity. For example, although many of my subjects are figurative, I am semi-abstract in my use of materials. In keeping doing so I will be showing the required continuity over the parts of the course. This is completely new thinking for me and I will need to approach Part 3 with care to make this aspect a working tool.
Research on artists suggested by my tutor will be posted separately.
20/21/22 August 2017. In order to gain the most from my research, I decided to get a quick overview over the artists listed in the research point on p. 66 of the course guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015), then select those with the best connection to my own work and look at these in depth.
Annie Kevans (*1972, France/UK)
My impression is that Annie Kevans’ technique of portraiture with thinned oil paint (Kevans, n.d.) on canvas always follows the same principle. Human perception is selective and Kevans appears to highlight those parts of a face, which our perception is most attracted to and can gain the most immediate appreciation of gender and mood, that is eyes and mouth. Also, the portrayed persons mostly look directly into the eye of the viewer, which is fascinating in its own right, because it is possible to stare back without breaching a social convention. Apart from the more detailed parts of a face Kevans leaves the head as a loose and rough, though highly sensitive, sketch. The paint is used in various degrees of dilution and the light brown mix used to paint the initial sketch combines the colours used in the highlights. Both result in harmony and allows the viewer to focus on the message the faces send. It should be possible to draw on her technique in my first attempts at creating a monotype self-portrait.
Here the technique of creating a monotype portrait as described in the course guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015, pp. 67-74) comes to mind. When I place a photo under my glass plate, paint that photo and make a monotype print, the result will be a mirror image of the original. This means that the likeness of the printed portrait may suffer. In case I want to use a photo I should take care to print the photo as a mirror image first, then use that as basis.
Alli Sharma (*1967, UK)
When I first saw the work by Alli Sharma at the start of this course, I did not feel too much connection except for some of her black and white oil portraits (Sharma, n.d.). Their style is quite different from that of Annie Kevans. The persons invariably look away from the artist, an approach that has been, in my opinion, used excessively by too many artists in recent years. What makes them interesting are not so much the facial features but the distribution of light and dark and the coarse brushstrokes using dilute oil paint. With some experience the latter are probably a good basis for a beginner’s series of monotype experiments.
As we are required to produce a series of self-portraits using ink, I will have a variety of brush sizes ready, including a wide flat one.
Eleanor Moreton (*1956, UK)
Again I could not find monotype work, but only the skillful application of dilute paint, which can again be used as a basis for planning my own painting work in preparation for printing. Her work reminds me of Annie Kevans. This is especially evident in her “Absent Friends” series (Moreton, 2013-14). One particularly haunting painting is “Bet/h I, 3”, an oil on canvas portrait from 2008. The portrayed person comes in the colours of a clown, but since it is so blurred I am left with an assumption. I have never been able to enjoy what clowns are and do. Their bizarre behaviour and painted grin belying the true mood of the person in the clown’s costume are enough to leave an uneasy feeling. Apart from that the technique of applying paint here may be well worth trying in monoprints.
I might try and develop my own idea of using coloured shadows in my self-portraits in that direction.
Geraldine Swayne (*1965, UK)
As with all artists I researched so far in the list I could not find any work declared monotype. Swayne specializes in miniature paintings on enamel or metal surfaces, although on Saatchi online (n.d.) some of these paintings are listed in the printmaking category (although not monotype). Superficially her portraits may look somewhat traditional, but on second glance they leave an unsettling afterglow. Swayne’s use of paint is far more prolific than in all of the above artists and the intiguing effects created with enamel paint on metal are something to remember.
Although we are advised to use oil paints for making our monotypes, I need and want to stay with my acrylics and water as well as gloss medium to dilute. For Practice of Painting I made a still life (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), where a certain degree of dilution and application to a dry layer of acrylic paint caused the paint to behave in a way similar to that of the enamels used by Swayne.
David Bomberg (1890-1957, UK)
I found some fascinating, coarsely painted portraits and self-portraits, whose weird combination of colours to depict light and shade I want to remember. My favourite among the portraits I saw was “Talmudist” (Blomberg, 1954) (Fig. 1 below).
Tracey Emin (*1963, UK)
As suggested on p. 66 of the study guide I had a look at the drawings available online from Emin’s monotype collection “One Thousand Drawings” (random images coming up in browser). To be honest, I am not too happy with what I see. The drawings look like careless scribbled notes capturing thoughts passing through the mind. It is very obvious that Emin would be far better at drawing than that, and she is not doing justice to herself here in that respect. Of course I am aware that many contemporary artists use deliberate neglect to raise attention, but I am not advanced enough at developing a reliable critical view to be able to see a further purpose behind her particular style.
This is not what I would want to test in my own monoprint series, but I may want to think about including text.
Michael Craig Martin
The most important message to take from Martin’s 1995 essay “Drawing the Line: Reappraising Drawing Past and Present” is probably the one found in an extract shown by Occasional Press on their homepage as part of advertising the book “Drawing Texts”: Martin emphasizes the observation, which is not at all surprising, that drawing as a distinct art form can only be appreciated as such in our time, when finished artworks are supposed to exhibit all that drawings have always contained, i.e. “These characteristics include spontaneity, creative speculation, experimentation, directness, simplicity, abbreviation, expressiveness, immediacy, personal vision, technical diversity, modesty of means, rawness, fragmentation, discontinuity, unfinishedness, and open endedness” (Occasional Press, n.d.).
I will try and get hold of the whole article. It will probably contain an explanation for the praise Tracey Emin receives for her drawings.
Albrecht Rissler (*1944, Germany)
He was a lecturer in one of the courses I attended at the Bad Reichenhall art academy some years ago. Rissler is a fantastic draughtsman (Rissler, n.d.) and introduced our group to a very simple monotype technique. Although it was based on drawing I still remember the great effect of having a more or less uniform dark grey background (printing ink as far as I can remember) into which Rissler drew with some added pressure on the back of the paper, while it was still on the glass plate, a little valley reminding of an ancient hollow-way.
Although I am aware that we are expected to use monotype in a much more painterly way, I might try and include drawn marks into the prints once I have acquired a certain minimum knowledge in preparing a suitable bakground.
Kim Baker (?)
I am not sure whether I found the correct Kim Baker, since there are several of them. The only one I think comes anywhere near the subject of Part 3 creates series of colourful flower “portraits” with bold brushstrokes, owls and other birds (Baker, n.d.). A few other Kim Bakers are painters in the USA, but none of them makes portraits or monotypes either. Will leave her for the moment.
Overall this research helped me to define a first idea of how to approach my monotype experiments. Again I will remain with my reduced colour palette and carry over my subject of shadows. In this respect the approach by Alli Sharma would be quite suitable for me, but I would probably try and carefully include colour in places in a way similar to Annie Kevans, but at the same time testing the unnatural, e.g. coloured shadows, and their effect on the character of the portrait (thinking of the Marilyn Monroe print series by Andy Warhol, but less gaudy and with a psychological message to the colours, if possible). I think that this way a strange series of self-portraits might emerge. On Pinterest I found a number of wonderful monotype portraits and techniques, including some brilliant ones by Edgar Degas. These I will not discuss here, because they will appear as printouts in my sketchbook and I will have a closer look at them while I work on my monotype series. Some of the above connect in a way to my Assignment 2 umbrella project (Lacher-Bryk, 2017) and might help me in planning my approach.