Artist research: Alberto Giacometti

20 July 2017. Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss artist (1901-1966) prolific as sculptor, painter, draughtsman and printer alike. I have to admit that I greatly admire Giacometti’s sculptures, I find his portrait paintings and drawings harsh, distant and forbidding without being able to find a reason. As my father is a sculptor, I am aware of the drawing hand typical of sculptors, which can add unintended harshness. The connection my tutor intended me to make was not immediately obvious to me. Maybe she wants me to have a closer look at the Giacometti’s use of line in connection with the wonderfully communicating painted backgrounds as e.g. in “Annette” (1951) (Leopoldmuseum, 2014).
Of course Giacometti’s famous emaciated figures addressing the suffering after the war leave an impression never to forget. They themselves are shadows of a being and they leave a shadow imprint of what they are and represent on me. Highly complex, highly intuitive and far beyond my present abilities. One of the sculptures I will not forget either for its originality and wit is “The Cat”, one of his very few bronze sculptures made of animals (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1. Alberto Giacometti (1954) “The Cat”. Source: Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

For my next exercise I am to make a line drawing with paint. When I look at Giacometti’s sculptural work, it may even be described as line drawings in space. Maybe this is what I might be doing: take my collection of photos from the past and put them into space. This reminds me that I already made some 3D drawings in Part 5 of Painting 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017) (Fig. 2):

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Figure 2. Making a painting of shadows using a 3D pen and observing the properties of the shadows cast in turn by these shadows

So this is what I want to do for Exercise 2.2: A large size collection of 3D line drawings of my photos from the past.

References

Giacometti, A. (1954) The Cat [bronze sculpture] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/92/’Cat’_by_Giacometti%2C_1954%2C_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art.jpg [Accessed 20 July 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) [Retrospective post] Part 5, project 3, exercises 1 and 2: Towards abstraction – abstract painting from man-made form and abstraction from study of natural forms [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 25 March. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/retrospective-post-part-5-project-3-exercises-1-and-2-towards-abstraction-abstract-painting-from-man-made-form-and-abstraction-from-study-of-natural-forms/ [Accessed 20 July 2017]

Leopoldmuseum (2014) Alberto Giacometti: Modernist Pioneer [online]. Leopoldmuseum, Vienna. Available from: http://www.leopoldmuseum.org/en/exhibitions/57/alberto-giacometti [Accessed 20 July 2017]

Part 1, exercise 1.1: Using Found Images – painting thin and small

19 April 2017. It seems like an eternity that I signed up for this course and for various reasons it took me a very unusual two months to finish my first exercise.

Instructions required the preparation of A5 sized backgrounds on high-quality watercolour paper and painting on these with highly diluted paint based on found images. Since the study guide was quite vague regarding the nature of the backgrounds and the number of images to use, I asked the OCA. They could not help me either, so I decided to stay with what I felt was a good solution. I made around 20 backgrounds using diluted paint (acrylics, gouache, watercolour, ink, varnish) and based my painting on a single photo of my son coming out of the shower. Overall I think that it was a very rewarding exercise, since staying with the subject allowed me to make direct comparisons between outcomes for different materials and media. It took a lot of stamina, though, and around no. 17 oder 18 I found that I had had enough. Also, halfway through the exercise I started adapting the instructions to my own ideas, so there are some combinations included that are not part of the original set. After having been to Vienna last week to see Egon Schiele’s famous graphical work at the Albertina (Lacher-Bryk, 2017), I decided to try and include one experiment with was I think may have been Schiele’s techniques with watercolour and gouache on a weird, shiny sort of wrapping paper like baking parchment. This was not part of the instructions, but I wanted to do it anyway. The experiment was not sucessful with respect to learning out about Schiele’s technique, but I am determined to find out one day.

With regard to study guide artists to research and base my work on regarding loose and thin paint I was not happy with what I found (post on that research to follow!), so I took the risk and experimented on my own.

So here come the 20 paintings:

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No. 1. Background: gouache splodges, painting: dilute writing ink
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No. 2. Background: thin black ink, painting: very thin acrylic
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No. 3. Background: transparent acrylic varnish, painting: very pale watercolour
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No. 4. Background: black acrylics, painting: coloured watercolour
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No. 5. Background: transparent varnish and shellac, painting: white gouache
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No. 6. Background: grey acrylics, painting: pearl-white matte household varnish
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No. 7. Background: acrylic splodges, painting: black watercolour
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No. 8. Background: watercolour splodges on wet paper, painting: diluted pearl-white matte household varnish and added diluted black watercolour wash
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No. 9. Background: grey gouache, painting: diluted black acrylic
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No. 10. Background: dilute coloured acrylics, painting: coloured watercolour
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No. 11. Background: thin black ink, painting: dilute black acrylics
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No. 12. Background: diluted pearl-white matte household varnish, painting: diluted black acrylics
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No. 13. Background: coloured watercolour, wet, painting: dilute watercolour
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No. 14. Background: diluted pearl-white matte household varnish, painting: diluted shellac
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No. 15. Background: coloured watercolour, dry, painting: red wine, straight and boiled down
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No. 16. Background: boiled down red wine, painting: white ink
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No. 17. Background: very pale watercolour, painting: mix of white and black water-soluble ink
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No. 18. Background: dilute green antique ink, wet, painting: dilute Persian red antique ink and paper towel
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No. 19. Background: white gouache, then green antique ink, dry, painting: dilute white ink and dilute black acrylics
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No. 20. Background: dilute black acrylics on baking parchment, painting: mix of white and black gouache

This exercise certainly helps to gain a good first impression of the endless possibilities available using just a few standard types of paint. I could include any number of words about the experience gained with each of the above. Some of my thoughts I entered into my sketchbook together with the paintings. But the longer I look at them the more confusing my thoughts become. Many of the combinations have overlapping merits and problems and I think that my appreciation of the results changes from hour to hour, depending on mood and external atmosphere. I guess that I am not the type of artist to discover THE method working for me, but every time I start something new it will be totally different.

One particular combination, however, I would like to find out about regarding the chemical reaction that must have occurred. In no. 16 I used boiled down red wine as a background and painted on that – while it was still moist – with my water-soluble white ink. If applied carefully, a layer of ink would float on top of the moist layer of wine for a while, before it would start contracting and forming a craquelee-like pattern. If mixed with the wine, there was instantaneous coagulation. I had to heavily fix the ink to prevent it from flaking off after having dried. If used with a good amount of pratice and a fitting subject this could produce very attractive results. Will hopefully be back with the chemistry behind it!

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Gallery visit: Albertina, Wien [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/gallery-visit-albertina-wien/ [Accessed 14 April 2017]