Research Point: Collections and Unusual Materials

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17 May 2017. I am looking forward to the wondrous task of being allowed whatever materials come to my mind and painting collections, which is the main subject for Part 2 of this course. After having posted Assignment 1 this area, which is totally new to me, has settled firmly in my mind. Although the study guide advised us not to spend too long to decide on a collection to gather together from my own household, I do not want to take the opportunity too lightly. I feel that it allows me to start thinking in different dimensions. In order to set the scene, I am to research a number of artists again. It appears to me that many of these use their respective approaches to voice criticism on a large variaty of societal matters.
22 May 2017. The study guide (Open College of the Arts, p. 53) points out some crucial aspects the making and presenting collections is based on, which can be of great limiting significance to the actual value of a collection. The latter is intimately connected with the laws of history. As Walter Benjamin points out in his – at first for me hard to read and understand – essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”: “The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.” (v, p. 255). We are thus advised to collect and treasure these images, as otherwise they will be lost and never become available again to assist the development of future generations. Benjamin sets this into a contect of class struggle against Fascism, whose success depends crucially on seizing “…hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.” (vi, p. 255). This, I think, can only be achieved, if people are aware of the possible harm arising of such a loss and take collective action in space and time to counteract it. Benjamin points out the fact that the existence of our socalled “cultural treasures” was made possible not only by their creators but the uncounted anonymous people, who were their contemporaries (vii, p. 256), which I interpret as an instruction to makers of collections to be aware always of the mostly cruel environment giving rise to our cultural possessions and interpret their significance with respect to that knowledge. In this context, Benjamin utters a word of warning to dismiss remembrance of the past for an unfounded belief in a better future, because “This training made the working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice …” (xii, p. 260). Crucially, he values historical subjects as soon as they can be identified as distinct entities, because by singling out these special instances on any hierarchical level, even if they are separated by long periods of time, one has a tool of change in hand. In this process the factor of time has no value. (xvii and xviii, p. 263). This seems to be one of the major tasks for curators of collections. The latter are not merely assemblages of artefacts placed in an artificially linear past, but if seen as ultimately connected in space and time, there can arise a deep understanding of the often repetitive circumstances leading to particular outcomes.
While Walter Benjamin emphasizes the societal value of remembrance, the essay written by Sigmund Freud (1909) places its focus on the personal level. Like many others I am not happy with his merely sexually biased interpretation of cause-effect relationships in the growing child, but overall he observes that however negative one’s childhood memories there remains a lasting deep connection with one’s parents from a time “when his father seemed to him the noblest and strongest of men and his mother the dearest and loveliest of women.”, and the turning away from one’s parents to higher placed new role models is an expression of regret for this loss (Freud, p. 240). For me it is difficult to read from this essay a substantial direct contribution to the subject of collections. Of course, I can interpret whatever meaning I like into Freud’s observations, but the most important will probably be an awareness that attitudes and actions in a grown-up may be heavily influenced by childhood recollections. The latter word points to a relationship with the subject of collections and may play an important role in the subconscious choice of subjects to work on. Unless one becomes aware of such influences, the bias introduced by selective memory may be considerable. In case I want to make a valid contribution to society, I need to take the responsibility for looking back and reappraising the collection I have assembled of my own history.

18 May 2017.

Julian Walker (*?, UK)

I had a close look at the extensive website maintained by Julian Walker (Walker, 2017), which appears to me as much a collection as some of his works are. He has the most complex of all artists’ menus I have seen so far, the menu points are a jumble of personal and professional items, very hard to find my way round. I would be interested to know whether this is deliberate. Also I have not seen any artist before to have as much text coming with his work than Walker. Some of his collection pieces of work are of giant dimensions, one of these is “Acts of Faith”, which is rows upon rows of tablets carved into organs and sorted into a regular rid, whose subject he describes as “The theme then is one of consumption, faith, dependence, subjection of the self, and thankful homage” (Walker, 2003) or as explained by Coe (2013): “So Julian Walker based his ‘Acts of Faith’ piece on this idea of votive body parts by using pills, the contemporary equivalent of an object in which we can place our faith for a cure.” For all his collection pieces Walker provides a comprehensive written guide for how to read the work, e.g. in “Words and Forgetting” (Walker, 2007), where it seems that the whole adventurous life of George Vancouver was plucked apart, sorted and put in order by the lining up of an awesome 4300 items. From what I read from the associated text the work is no longer in existence today. I will have to come back to Walker’s way of approaching a subject again, because for me the following peculiarity is difficult to understand: The items on display are all small, they come together to form an orderly grid. In Walker’s work the grid as a whole has, to my understanding, no other function than to contain the collection, here to provide a framework for the leftovers of a human life. He could thus have used any other means of displaying the items without adding or losing information. Also, a piece of work like this cannot be deciphered without extensive explanation. It seems that what Walker does is to produce a museum show in two dimensions. For these reasons his overall approach does not feel comfortable to me, although of course the collections themselves are full of great ideas.

Fred Wilson (*1954, USA)

When reading the short comment in the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2017, p. 51) about Fred Wilson making “work that comments on the bias of historical and contemporary collections”, this links directly to another feeling I just realise I had about Julian Walker’s work. The former simulates, or at least appears to present, a comprehensive exhibition owed to the sheer size of each collection, but of course the selection process by the original owner of the items, the selection process by events in history, the selction process by chance and that by the artist together can add up to a whole distorted overall image, IF one is naively looking to gain one from such a work of art. Without having had a first look at Wilson’s work, another creepy feeling comes up about a possible double bias arising from such an approach. Wilson can of course only comment on the collection bias he is aware of and so, unless he is in the possession of 100% of the evidence he is commenting on, he will add more bias by his own process of selection.
19 May 2017. Wilson says of his work that that his primary goal in his life as an artist as it is today is to bring “together objects that are in the world, manipulating them, working with spatial arrangements, and having things presented in the way I want to see them.” (art21, 2005). From the tiny snippet of film showing how he uses a collection of extreme kitsch objects he wants to get out of his life to set up a presentation on a table, I cannot guess at his intentions beyond “it flows out of me”. The objects are as fun to see as they are horrible in their kitsch existence, but I need help to be able to see them as what they are: “[…] he alters traditional interpretations, encouraging viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives.” (Pace Gallery, n.d.). Also, as a museum educator he uses his inside influence to “create a series of “mock museums” that address how museums consciously or unwittingly reinforce racist beliefs and behaviors.” (Alchetron, n.d.(a)). As a museum person I can only agree with Wilson’s concern. It is in fact incredibly easy to give and leave a totally wrong impression of a subject and in case of presenting matters of grave concern museums often do not recognize their errors and degree of influence on streams of trusting visitors. It is not for no reason that the Nazi regime tried to recruit natural history and art museums for its own purposes (from own experience as science museum exhibition planner and educator). An example for Wilson’s work, for which unfortunately I could not find any background information is two life-size statues on one platform, one black and rigid, one white and playful, the former presumably of Ancient Egyptian origin, the other probably Ancient Greek (Alchetron, n.d.(b)).
20 May 2017. Both the above statues are wonderful examples of their respective cultural backgrounds, but as soon as they come to be placed side by side they initiate an awkward, unpleasant thought process of unchecked black-white comparison. Having said that I believe that this process would not have been started in my case if I had not known about Wilson’s intentions before I first saw the image. Additional bias!

Lisa Milroy (*1959, Canada)

An initial image search of Milroy’s work gives a splendid overview over her areas of interest. It appears to be a classical woman’s world including painting collections of shoes, fans, buttons, fruit, superficially trivial, but arranged with uncanny sensitivity in fascinating and tasteful ways, which my eyes want to keep returning to. While Milroy calls herself a still-life painter, she is intensely interested in the connection between stillness and movement, which is visible in her painted arrangements, especially e.g. in “Tyres” (1988). Milroy does this by placing with care different objects, objects of the same kind in well-thought-out patterns or using paint in different ways in one painting in order to draw the viewer’s attention to this aspect (Fer, 2015). While the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 51) emphasizes her work from the 1980s and 1990s, she has increasingly moved from grid-like arrangements on monochrome backgrounds to placing collections within an environment among an multitude of other approaches (Milroy, 2017). She has been making series of paintings of places, as e.g. in “Tokyo” (Milroy, 1993), or series of painted 3D objects, as e.g. in the series “Dresses” (Milroy, 2011/12), which may also count as creating collections. If I had to make a choice, I would prefer her earlier work, however, which to me seems to be more distinct and distinguishable from other artists working now.

Paul Westcombe (*1981, UK)

Westcombe’s cartoon-like style of painting and drawing is highly colourful. Other than mentioned by the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 51) he does not restrict himself to coffee cups (as e.g. shown by the Saatchi Gallery, 2017) to create his small images, but uses many different 3D surfaces, e.g. used batteries, eggs or tins, and also he paints large street-art-like murals in different inside settings (Westcombe, 2015). His choice of subject is not exactly what I would prefer myself, but his style combining ink drawings with watercolour is quite attractive in its own way. What makes his work classify as “collection” is not obvious to me, because the mere repetitive usage of a certain type of surface seems too vague, but it is maybe the unusual surfaces which made him appear in the list in the study guide.

Lee Edwards (*1981, UK)

Edward’s work immediately stands out for its incredible amount of detail, whether on standard surfaces, as e.g. in “Tight” (Edwards, 2014), which was drawn using graphite on paper and appears to show rolled up pieces of cloth or knitwear, or in equal detail on tiny pieces of limb wood or conkers as in “Babes in the Wood” (Edwards, 2010). Looking at other work he did in the past, as e.g. cutting out tiny pieces from photographs and placing one each on a comparatively giant piece of MDF board, and together with many – what I believe – telltale titles I guess that Edwards takes the mickey now and then. While I very much like Edward’s new work on paper, both his style of drawing and unusual compositions, I am not so much taken by the mini portraits he makes. In some of the  latter there is a lovely subtlety of interaction of the facial expressions of the portrayed persons and the characteristics of the wood immediately surrounding them (Edwards, 2011). But others remind me of the romanticizing lockets people used to wear around their necks, while the wonderful detail can only be appreciated after artificially enlarging them.

David Dipré (*1974, UK)

It is strange how some well-known artists do not seem to be featured in any of the leading art websites. David Dipré is one of them, at least with my search engine. I got mostly Saatchi online, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook, but hardly any external media. One website presenting a new exhibition format ((detail), n.d.(a)) introduces him in the following way: “David Dipré uses portraiture as a basis for exploring the language of painting. Repeated subjects are refined through an accumulative body of work, that sets out to challenge traditional notions of representation. More recently, the work has moved from the flat surface into painted, sculptural objects that further explore ways of recording the physical world.” ((detail, n.d.(b)), 2014). Which, in my opinion, says exactly nothing. On Saatchi Art (n.d.) Dipré explains himself: “My work is an attempt to push further the language of painting, by adopting processes that disrupt a straightforward depiction of a traditional subject matter.” When looking closely at samples of his work, e.g. “Compressed” (Dipré, n.d.(a)), there is a weird 3D effect, as if the colours had been painted on layered acetate sheets, but as far as I can see it is a 2D painting in oil, in fact a self-portrait. The study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 51) mentions his impasto technique, but as this is nothing I would consider unusual, I went to look further to find self-portraits on various surfaces, e.g. concrete as in “Face Form Painting” (Dipré, n.d.(b). Dipré’s style is nothing I would consider for myself, but will nevertheless try and copy one of his weird self-portraits.

Cathy Lomax (*1963, UK) and Alli Sharma (*?, UK)

21 May 2017. When writing my first research post (Lacher-Bryk, 2017), I found that I was not too much drawn to the work of either Cathy Lomax or Alli Sharma, but since they keep coming back, I am looking forward to discovering what I missed the first time. The study guide mentions that both painted onto handbags (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 51), so I went to have a look at if and how they might be working together now and then.
Transition Gallery (http://www.transitiongallery.co.uk/) was founded by Cathy Lomax and has had Alli Sharma on show. This is where I found the handbags mentioned in the study guide. They were part of a group project called “ORNAMENT. A subversive look at female adornment played out on found handbags and real faces” (Transition Gallery, 2013). While the idea is quite original, I still do not feel comfortable with what they do. This is probably because I have never been attracted by clothes, shoes or handbags and generally have few of the characteristics usually classifying with the “female” stereotype. So I feel that I have no right to utter either a straight or subversive opinion in that respect. Overall, with respect to the subject of this post this is another example of how a support chosen with care may add to or emphasize the message of the work itself.

Tabitha Moses (*?, UK)

Textile artist Tabitha Moses appears to belong to the Cathy Lomax/Alli Sharma type of approach by focusing heavily on female subjects, especially after her own traumatic experience of IVF (Moorhead, 2014). Also before that she made collections of typically female items, as e.g. in “Bride” (Moses, 2007), where she arranged a number of vintage wedding accessories. She now produces embroidered “drawings” of complex phenomena circling around fertility. Like Lomax and Sharma she also uses dedicated surfaces, e.g. hospital gowns.

As we are required to try and find additional artists working with unusual surfaces or collections and I often find myself unable to fulfill the task using a combination of books and the computer, I went through a list of names I came across when doing the above research. Here I chose only those artists whose work had an immediate appeal to me:

Michael Ajerman (1977, USA)

Ajerman’s expressive use of line in combination with tone is something I want to remember. While he mostly uses conventional materials and methods I found some of the attractive results to have been painted in oil on aluminium (e.g. “Window”, 2011-2013) or oil on copper (“Brighton & 10th”, n.d.(a)). I am very impressed by the way Ajerman sometimes produces a luminous layer of bright colour as the background, painting over that with dark colours and leaving parts of the background to either shine through or uncovered, as e.g. in “Sleepwalker” (Ajerman, 2010-2014). Sometimes he uses joined paper as his background as e.g. in “Early September” (Ajerman, n.d.(b)). Both Ajerman’s style of painting and his weird sense of humour I will keep in mind and hopefully come back to in the exercises to follow.

Juliette Losq (*1978, UK)

When I first saw the work of Juliette Losq I hardly believed my eyes. The detail, painted in watercolour and ink, is just breathtaking. Recently she appears to have focused on making collections of similar views of abandoned concrete walls covered in graffti with nature about to reclaim that land (Losq, 2016). Some of these, the last few in the series, are on unusual backgrounds like layered sheets of paper or 3-dimensional objects, which add to the impression of abandonment and decay, which is described as follows: “Her fragmented works inhabit these environments, transforming them into theatrical spaces that the viewer is able to navigate almost like a stage set.” (Coates and Scarry, n.d.). They left a lasting impression on me, so that I may come back to try out the layering technique with one of the collection paintings I am required to do for the exercises in this part of the course.

I am aware that I could write a nearly endless post about the usage of unusual materials in painting, so I decided to stop researching artists at this point. Having a final look at unusual materials I came across Tape Art, artwork created using duct tape (Bock, 2015), which is used to create mostly large-size geometrical patterns but also representative “drawings” and “paintings”. Most of it remains two-dimensional, but some work amounts to room-filling installations. For a good overview over the range of applications see e.g. Pinterest (2017).
Having concentrated on the unusual for a relatively long time, I realized that strangely enough one of the personal outcomes here was the decision to finally get my ancient oil paints out of the cupboard. I had bought them 15 years ago, had a very reluctant unthinking start without getting the right type of information on how to use oils properly, then went back to watercolours for a very long time, before making the jump into the world of acrylics. Now, as I do seem to be making some progress using painting materials, I keep reading how much superior oils are to acrylics. I do not know yet how to use them in my home workshop because of the fumes, but I might try some small scale experiments while preparing for Assignment 2.

General references

Benjamin, W. (1940) ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ [online] in W. Benjamin (1969) Illuminations. Schocken Books, New York, pp 253-264. Available from: http://pages.ucsd.edu/~rfrank/class_web/ES-200A/Week%202/benjamin_ps.pdf [Accessed 17 May 2017]

Bock, S. (2015) Berliner Liste 2015. fair for contemporary art. Portraits und viele Mixed-Media-Arbeiten. KULTURA-EXTRA, das online-magazin, 18 September. Available from: http://www.kultura-extra.de/kunst/spezial/berlinerliste2015.php [Accessed 27 May 2017]

Freud, S. (1909) ‘Family Romances’ The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IX (1906-1908): Jensen’s ‘Gradiva’ and Other Works, 235-242. Available from: http://www.arch.mcgill.ca/prof/bressani/arch653/winter2010/Freud_FamilyRomance.pdf [Accessed 17 May 2017]

Open College of the Arts (2015) Painting 1: Understanding Painting Media. Open College of the Arts, Barnsley.

Pinterest (2017) Tape Art [image collection] [online]. Pinterest. Available from: https://www.pinterest.com/IPGtape/tape-art/ [Accessed 27 May 2017]

Julian Walker

Coe, N. (2013) Object of the Month: Acts of Faith [online]. Wellcome Collection, London. 11 November. Available from: https://next.wellcomecollection.org/articles/object-of-the-month-acts-of-faith [Accessed 18 May 2017]

Walker, J. (2003) Acts of Faith [collection][online]. Wellcome Collection Gallery, London. Available from: http://www.julianwalker.net/page18.htm [Accessed 18 May 2017]

Walker, J. (2007) Words and Forgetting [collection][online]. n.k. Available from: http://www.julianwalker.net/page18.htm [Accessed 18 May 2017]

Walker, J. (2017) Introduction [online]. Julian Walker, …… Available from: http://www.julianwalker.net/page2.htm [Accessed 18 May 2017]

Fred Wilson

Alchetron (n.d.(a)) Fred Wilson (artist) [online]. Alchetron. Available from: https://alchetron.com/Fred-Wilson-(artist)-908831-W [Accessed 19 May 2017]

Alchetron (n.d.(b)) [n.k.]. [installation] [online]. [n.k.]. Available from: https://alchetron.com/Fred-Wilson-(artist)-908831-W#demo [Accessed 19 May 2017]

art 21 (2005) Art in the Twenty-First Century, Season 3 [online]. art21, 1 September. Available from: https://art21.org/watch/art-in-the-twenty-first-century/s3/fred-wilson-in-season-3-of-art-in-the-twenty-first-century-2005-preview/ [Accessed 19 May 2017]

Pace Gallery (n.d.) Fred Wilson [online]. Pace Gallery, New York. Available from: http://www.pacegallery.com/artists/507/fred-wilson [Accessed 19 May 2017]

Lisa Milroy

Fer, B. (2015) Lisa Millroy: Life is not Still [online]. Lisa Milroy, London. Available from: http://www.lisamilroy.net/c/4/texts/p/598/lisa-milroy-life-is-not-still-2015-briony-fer [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Milroy, L. (1988) Tyres [oil on canvas] [online]. Lisa Milroy, London. Available from: http://www.lisamilroy.net/c/23/tyres [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Milroy, L. (1993) Tokyo [oil on polyester paintings] [online]. Lisa Millroy, London, Available from: http://www.lisamilroy.net/c/1000015/places [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Milroy, L. (2011-2012) Dresses [mixed media paintings] [online]. Lisa Milroy, London. Available from: http://www.lisamilroy.net/c/1000004/dresses [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Milroy, L. (2017) Lisa Milroy [online]. Lisa Milry, London. Available from: http://www.lisamilroy.net/ [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Paul Westcombe

Saatchi Gallery (2017) Paul Westcombe. Selected Works by Paul Westcombe [online]. Saatchi Gallery, London. Available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/paul_westcombe.htm [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Westcombe, P. (2015) [n.t.] [blog] [online]. Paul Westcombe, London, 15 August. Available from: http://paulwestcombe.blogspot.co.at/ [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Lee Edwards

Edwards, L. (2010) Babes in the Wood [oil on wood] [online]. [n.k.]. Available from: http://leeedwardsart.co.uk/works/2009-2011/babes-in-the-wood [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Edwards, L. (2011) Looking for Something that Wasn’t There [oil on wood] [online]. [n.k.]. Available from: http://leeedwardsart.co.uk/works/2009-2011/looking-for-something-that-wasnt-there [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Edwards, L. (2014) Tight [graphite on paper] [online]. [n.k.]. Available from: http://leeedwardsart.co.uk/works/2012-2016/tight [Accessed 20 May 2017]

David Dipré

(detail) (n.d.) David Dipré [online]. (detail), [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.paintingdetail.com/david-dipre/ [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Dipré, D. (n.d.(a)) Compressed [oil painting] [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Compressed/8152/1783567/view [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Diprè, D. (n.d.(b)) Face Form Painting [oil on concrete] [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Face-Form/8152/1783645/view [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Saatchi Art (n.d.(a)) David Dipré. About David Dipré [online]. Saatchi Art, London. Available from: https://www.saatchiart.com/daviddipre [Accessed 20 May 2017]

Cathy Lomax and Alli Sharma

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Research Point: Painting Style – historical and contemporary painting [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 25 April. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/research-point-painting-style-historical-and-contemporary-painting/ [Accessed 21 May 2017]

Lomax, C. (2014-15) Black Venus [oil on linen] [online]. Priseman Seabrook Collection. Available from: http://www.cathylomax.co.uk/pages/year/2015/Vanity/blackvenus.html [Accessed 21 May 2017]

Transition Gallery (2013) ORNAMENT A subversive look at female adornment
played out on found handbags and real faces
[exhibition] [online]. Trasition Gallery, London. Available from: http://www.transitiongallery.co.uk/htmlpages/Ornament.html [Accessed 21 May 2017]

Tabitha Moses

Moorhead, J. (2014) I didn’t know how much I wanted a baby till it was almost too late [online]. The Guardian, London, 13 December. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/13/i-didnt-know-how-much-i-wanted-a-baby-till-it-was-almost-too-late [Accessed 21 May 2017]

Moses, T. (2007) Bride [vintage fabrics, thread, plastic, wire, bits and bobs] [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.tabithakyokomoses.com/page23.htm [Accessed 21 May 2017]

Michael Ajerman

Ajerman, M. (n.d.(a)) Brighton & 10th [oil on copper] [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: http://michaelajerman.com/page2.htm [Accessed 25 May 2017]

Ajerman, M. (n.d.(b)) Early September [watercolour on joined paper] [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: http://michaelajerman.com/page4.htm [Accessed 25 May 2017]

Ajerman, M. (2010-14) Sleepwalker [oil on linen] [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: http://michaelajerman.com/page2.htm [Accessed 25 May 2017]

Ajerman, M. (2011-13) Window [oil on aluminium] [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: http://michaelajerman.com/page2.htm [Accessed 25 May 2017]

Juliette Losq

Coates and Scarry (n.d.) Juliette Losq. About [online]. Coates and Scarry, Bristol. Available from: http://www.coatesandscarry.com/originals/juliette-losq [Accessed 26 May 2017]

Losq, J. (2016) Recent Work [series of paintings] [online]. Available from: http://www.losq.co.uk/page9.htm [Accessed 26 May 2017]

 

 

 

Research Point: Painting Style – historical and contemporary painting

20 March 2017. It took me a while to grasp the concept underlying the very first parts of my new course, since the research points here are much more directly connected to the actual work required in the exercises to follow than in the previous courses. In order to achieve a maximum gain from my research activity I will try and follow consistently the points listed on pp. 31-32 in the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015), when combining theoretical and practical research:

  • How does it make you feel?
  • Do you like the work?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What about the composition?
  • What style is the work in?
  • What colour palette has the artist used?
  • What is the subject?
  • What’s the significance of the title?
  • What’s the date?
  • What medium has the artist used?
  • What about the support?
  • Where is the work exhibited?

While most of the information (the last 8 points) will, most of the time, come with the painting anyway in print or online, composition and style may require some additional research and the first three points are highly personal. It is interesting that the OCA put the questions in this order. I will try and follow just this: let the work of art do its magic, then deal with the statistics, and not vice versa.

We are advised to research in detail at least one artist listed in one of six style categories on p. 36 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015). After having had a quick look at all of the artists I chose my subjects on impulse (and not just by liking!). Here is the result of my research. I am not quite sure if and how all of these relate to the tasks set for exercises 1.1 – 1.4 in Part 1 (“Using Found Images”) of the course, but the connection may evolve while experimenting. The works chosen I will print out and put in my new research sketchbook, which I started alongside the exercise sketchbook, where I hope the influence of the artist to become part of my own work:

Slick, flat paint

  • Gary Hume: bold, simple, colourful, flat, reduced palette (reminds me of Alex Katz)
  • Sarah Morris: geometrical, large size, sober (reminds me of Joseph Albers)
  • Ian Davenport: seen him before (Practice of painting, lines (reminds me of ….. woman painter line castle, think)
  • Inka Essenhigh: like Arik Brauer, mystic, elaborate, luminous (like the subject)
  • Jane Callister: abstract, colourful, landscapes, looks like poured paint (like the technique)
  • Brian Alfred: townscapes, geometrical, sober, political, looks like photos painted over

For me the cool, geometrical and sober approach is not what I am after, because it is not what I would naturally do, but maybe this is exactly what I will need to contemplate, so here come, as a contrast, Inka Essenhigh and Brian Alfred.

23 March 2017. On the Victoria Miro Gallery’s website (Victoria Miro Gallery, n.d.(a)) Inka Essenhigh‘s (*1969, USA) approach is described as follows: “With its pristine, high-gloss surfaces and accentuated colours Essenhigh’s work moves towards an almost sculptural three-dimensionality in its delineation of forms.” While I am not so much drawn to her earlier cartoonlike style, many of her more recent paintings radiate enormous energy and it was difficult to choose two favourite pieces.
In the end I went for “Snow” (2007) (Victoria Miro Gallery, n.d.(b)) and “Stubborn Tree Spirit” (2012) (Victoria Miro Gallery, n.d.(c)), both large size oil paintings on canvas. Their immediate appeal comes from the connection I feel between Essenhigh and Arik Brauer, as mentioned above. I love how in her hand seemingly mundane subjects show the eerie side of their existence, as if parallel worlds existed in one space. This allows the natural world to be not just populated by, but merged with, an all-encompassing spirit. Her attention to detail, meticulous composition (appearing to be derived from a diverse array of styles from the renaissance via Japanese woodblock printing to contemporary cartoons) and execution and use of high-gloss finishes all help to enhance the effect. Essenhigh’s style has been described as “pop surrealist” or “lowbrow”, which comes along with a humorous view on the chosen subjects (Schultz, 2014). This is maybe also why I feel an affinity, since my own approach is similar.

Brian Alfred (*1973, USA) appears to me to have a very technically minded approach to choosing his subjects, thus his combination of traditional and new media appears to reflect that well. On Sedition (n.d.) he is described to create “flattened and usually depopulated worlds of color reproduced in two dimensional bold patterns, often derived from found images.” When browsing his work on the Internet (see e.g. Artsy, n.d.,) this is exactly how his world feels. At the risk of sounding unfair and preoccupied, I have to admit that to me it appears as if Inka Essenhigh had drawn all the spirit from his world to use in her own. I feel a tremendous energy imbalance between the two here, but have not yet been able to pinpoint the source. There is one image I quite like, however, titled “Animation and DAF and MARFA/May 5 2015” (Alfred, n.d.). It appears that it is a screenshot taken from an animation created by Alfred, but I was unable to find that. To me this image is attractive for its wonderful composition, consisting from a low angle shot of an urban high-rise bridge with a full moon rising at eye level. I love the choice of colour and, as it is near dusk, the flattened appearance of the view is completely believable. As a contrast I chose a second work, which I thoroughly dislike, in order to make this the basis of a compare and contrast exercise. This was to be “Obama”, an acrylics portrait made in 2008. For me the feeling of energy depletion is at a maximum in this painting, Obama’s expression seems debilitatingly empty. Maybe I find out more when making a sketch of it.

19 April 2017.

Loose, thin paint

  • Mimei Thompson: playng with half-diluted oil paint to create eerily beautiful brushstrokes serving to create volume (reminds me of several of my own attempts)
  • Annie Kevans: loose, faint portraits of famous, ambiguous characters (ideas similar to my own, but for me too soft and straightforward in approach)
  • Cathy Lomax: portraiture in style similar to Annie Kevans, but choice romantic and in my opinion less well executed than the former
  • Eleanor Moreton: corresponds in my opinion to the category, reminds me in jumbled style and weird choice of clashing colours of many different painters, e.g. of Oskar Kokoschka’s paintings (but without his amazing energy)

Since I have come across Mimei Thompson‘s (*?, UK) work before and her technique and subtle approach at twisting colour and along with it reality remind me of my own intentions, I chose her from the list of loose-thin painters. I do not think, however, that her style is any of the two in the sense I thought was meant after having been pointed to the work of Luc Tuymans by my POP tutor. E.g. in her oil on canvas painting “Brambles” (Thompson, 2016a) I can guess at a relatively loosely painted background, but both middle and foreground are strongly pigmented and especially the brambles are worked out in great detail. Her cave paintings, though, e.g. “Cave Painting: Pearl” (Thompson, 2016b), appear to exhibit, at least in part, these qualities. I like how she used a mix of pastel colours, all very likely on the same flat and wide brush to create the beautiful pattern of rock colours, which reminds me of certain national parks in the west of the USA. What I think makes her go in the thin paint list is the beautiful brushstrokes one can create by carefully diluting, to a certain degree, a set of colours put next to each other on the palette.

I had a look at all four of the above artists, but apart from the wonderful paintings by Mimei Thompson I am not drawn to their work. They all seem to remain strangely vague, which can be a very good thing in a painting, but in my opinion the solution of leaving everything half-finished can backfire, if the technique is applied indiscriminately (which is what it feels to me). For my own work I want more volume and depth, both literally and figuratively. There are very likely many other artists painting thin and loosely, whose style and technique have a greater appeal to me and I will try and find some if time allows.

20 April 2017.

Photo-realism

I have always admired the incredible patience and stamina in the adherence to the smallest detail, but want to feel something on top of the faithful reproduction, which serves to me as an indication that the painter’s intention was to investigate beyond the superficially obvious.

  • Chuck Close: using a variety of materials and media to investigate techniques and story-telling power of photo-realism, appeals to me because he confronts his dramatic personal history
  • Mark Fairnington: nature painter, highly realistic, beautiful, interesting for me to see from the biologist and museum person point of view, but too distant, my emotions were exactly the same when working in our museum depot, I can even smell the depot again
  • Robert Priseman: not sure whether this is the correct artist, but in my opinion his work is not photo-realistic. He moves among different styles, but his work seems to lack the photographic part of realism, so did not consider him
  • Tim Gardner: it appears that Gardner is mostly a watercolour painter, which allows him to combine a photorealistic effect with the loose watercolour quality, something with a great appeal to me. His paintings are complex, so I will try and select part of a piece that combines both.

In an impressively honest interview (Arts Et Culture, 2015) Chuck Close (*1940, USA) explains the intentions behind his first far larger than life-size self portrait. He says that he wants the viewer to be unable to scan the whole portrait in order for it to attract him/her to move very close and inspect the fine detail. Close used a grid for enlarging the image, a technique I thoroughly dislike, and filled the individual squares with dots taken from the greyscale, derived from the “halftone” printing technique (Christensson, 2014).
21 April 2017. His later work, however, employing an enhanced technique painting something like multicoloured “lenses” to replace the dots above, seems to be working a magical trick. The lenses seem highly unconnected when looking closely, but make perfect sense when viewed from a distance, and they radiate a weird emotional quality hard to describe (see e.g. Walker Art Center, 2017). I will try and reproduce part of one of those paintings and apply the technique to one of my found images.

Tim Gardner‘s (*1973, USA) style appears to be photorealistic only at first sight. If inspected more closely his paintings exhibit all the features typical of watercolour, very unlike the photorealism produced by some, whose work is practically indistinguishable from the original photo. Compositionwise Gardner’s paintings mostly look like snapshots, though carefully devised.
22 April 2017. Like others, however, he seems to have committed his work to a long-term trend of depicting persons isolated within their modern, detached environment. In contrast his subjects – mostly young males – do not seem to be depressed, but at ease and satisfied with their respective activities (303 Gallery, n.d.). I would have liked to investigate his technique more closely through my sketchbook, but the available resolutions together with my printer prevent this. Having said this I found “Untitled (Bhoadie running on dunes: Africa)” (Gardner, 1999) and selected that to try and copy the beautifully simple depiction of the sand dunes in the background.

Black and white

  • Raymond Pettibon: there was an exhibition on Pettibon in Salzburg recently, which I wrote a post on in POP (Lacher-Bryk, 2017). To me he is more of a drawing than painting artist, therefore omitted here
  • José Toirac: I like the energy in his black and white portraits, also the political statements, which I feel close to
  • Alli Sharma: again a portraitist like Kevans and Lomax above without, in my opinion, an extraordinary technique or style which would make her an attractive option to research
  • Gia Edzgveradze: regarding the black and white requirement like Pettibon he is more a drawing artist, so left out from this research despite his enormous versatility

José Toirac, born 1966 in Guantanamo, Cuba, does what may be expected from a Cuban artist. He takes photographic evidence from the political history of his country and reworks it in black and white paint, sometimes combined with techniques derviced from the advertising industry to add some exquisitely observed emotional quality. I was drawn to the less clearly worked-out “Untitled (con Fidel) (from Serie Gris)” (Toirac, 2004), which I will be trying to sketch for the interesting line of energetic while silent communication appearing to exist between the depicted persons despite their not exactly looking at each other.

Colour and pattern

  • Peter Doig: one of my favourite artists, see e.g. Lacher-Bryk (2016)
  • Édouard Vuillard: symbolist one hundred years before Doig, but connected in style, very bold and daring, but subjects very much those of the 19th century, to which I do not feel connected
  • Tal R: same age as Doig, born in Isreal, lives in Denmark, the appeal of his work to me changes from disbelief at the ugly rough carelessness of some work (especially that found on Pinterest) to fascination with several of the intricate patterns he creates, but overall I can feel no connection
  • Daniel Richter: same age as Doig and Tal R, for me he is right between Doig and Tal R in both the choice of subjects and use of colour, with great subtlety and and sure feeling for composition and pattern

There was no question which artist to choose first from this list. Peter Doig (*1959, UK) speaks to me in terms of genuine colour magic. His work is described as idiosyncratic, which does not say more than that Doig does things his own way and this is probably where his great appeal to me comes from. Contrary to so many of his contemporaries he seems oblivious to trends, walking between representation and abstraction (Sooke, 2008), very likely without the goal of meeting any expectations. I am going to try and find out more about his famous “White Canoe” (Doig, 1990/91), which is a surprisingly large 200 x 243 cm in size and whose composition appears to me ideal for an investigation of colour and pattern, because it is the one on top of the other.

Daniel Richter (*1962, Germany) belongs with the neo-expressionist/symbolist movement. On artnet (n.d.) he describes his approach in this way: “I don’t believe in technique. For me, painting is a form of thinking, and I keep control over the things required for this form of thinking.” This is something I am keenly interested in learning for myself. So in order to find out more about Richter, Doig and myself, I have chosen to examine Trevelfast (Richter, 2004), also a very large size painting (232 x 283 cm). To me his approach resembles Peter Doig’s in White Canoe, but with an additional ghostly emotional quality achieved by combining pure colour and patterns derived from these colours to create a vibrant, moving three-dimensional experience.

Messy

I don’t like messy and this is why I should probably have a go at just this. It will help me loosen up, relocate some of my planning from head to heart and most likely discover something completely new.

  • Denis Castellas: I have come across his work before, he includes many drawing elements into his paintings, which do not look messy to me. His compositions using line and tone are very cleverly and attractively arranged, great intuition
  • Cecily Brown: only superficially messy, enigmatic constructions weaving messages into complex environments, technique looks very attractive to me
  • Carole Benzaken: cannot find anything messy, but something on shadows, very attractive black and white work also, will come back to her for Assignment 1,
  • Elizabeth Peyton: I could not find any truly messy work on the internet. Again I find that she is one of an immensely large group of contemporary painters whose deliberately careless style and choice of subjects is very similar
  • Chantal Joffe: her subjects are mostly women and children and as with Peyton above I could not find any truly messy work on the internet. Choice of style and subjects resemble Peyton’s work
  • Jasper Joffe: appears to be, among other things, a satirical portraitist and this makes him interesting for me
  • Harry Pye: not my direction at all, deliberately childlike but not in the magical way. Like the way children learn to paint when made alike at school (except for a few co-productions with other painters). Why would he do it?

25 April 2017. It was difficult to select from this list, because with most of these artists I was unable to see the messy in their style. They seem to have mastered with great skill what to me seems incredibly difficult: to evoke an impression of random application of paint while maintaining control of a great composition. I am at a loss of how to fulfill the task of copying such complexity and will need to restrict the practical research to part of a painting.

Although the subjects at the centre of Cecily Bown‘s (*1969, UK) work (extremes and excesses in human life) are not akin to my own, I was intrigued at her ability to literally capture them between the edges of a canvas. For the above discrepancy it took me ages to settle on a painting. At first I went straight for “Teenage Wildlife” (Brown, 2003), because of its beautiful light and delicately woven patterns, but after a while of examining it the connection between subject and pattern seemed too obvious, so that I went to look for something else. Although incredibly complex to copy even in part I chose “High Society” (Brown, 1998) for its strange mix of seemingly representative elements, which it a second glance would dissolve into an abstract collection of colour, depending on which segment of the painting I chose to view – an effect, which Brown describes beautifully in an interview (Planet Magazine, 2013). In the end I selected a smallish square from the painting.

Jasper Joffe (*1975, UK) is someone, whose intentions appear so be very like mine at least at some points and therefore I think that I may have a somewhat easier access to interpreting some of his work as compared with e.g. Harry Pye. Since in the study guide he is listed in the “messy” category, however, I chose the messiest piece I could find. The work presented on his website does not come with any information, so I can only guess that it is a square gouache and/or watercolour painting on paper, a mix of colour, lines and writing (Joffe, n.d.), but I will try and reproduce at least some of it in my sketchbook. This work probably reflects his dual nature as a painter and writer, is very awkward to view at first sight and I am very curious to see what I will come up with once finished with the copying exercise.

References:

Inka Essenhigh

Open College of the Arts (2015) Painting 1: Understanding Painting Media. Open College of the Arts, Barnsley, pp. 31-32.

Schultz, K. (2014) ‘Big Eyes’ and the Bigger Picture [blog] [online]. The Huffington Post, 29 December (updated 28 February 2015). Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimann-schultz/big-eyes-the-bigger-pictu_b_6387470.html [Accessed 23 March 2017]

Victoria Miro Gallery (n.d.(a)) Inka Essenhigh. About the Artist [online]. Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Available at: https://www.victoria-miro.com/artists/23-inka-essenhigh/ [Accessed 23 March 2017]

Victoria Miro Gallery (n.d.(b)) Inka Essenhigh. Survey: Selected Works. Snow [image collection] [online]. Available at: https://www.victoria-miro.com/artists/23-inka-essenhigh/works/artworks9784/ [Accessed 23 March 2017]

Victoria Miro Gallery (n.d.(c)) Inka Essenhigh. Survey: Selected Works. Stubborn Tree Spirit [image collection] [online]. Available at: https://www.victoria-miro.com/artists/23-inka-essenhigh/works/artworks15620/ [Accessed 23 March 2017]

Brian Alfred

Alfred, B. (n.d.) Animation and DAF and MARFA/May 5 2015 [online]. Brian Alfred, New York. Available from: http://paintchanger.com/news/2015/5/5/animation-at-daf-and-marfa %5BAccessed 23 March 2017]

Artsy (n.d.) Brian Alfred. Works [image collection] [online]. Artsy, New York. Available from: https://www.artsy.net/artist/brian-alfred [Accessed 23 March 2017]

MutualArt (n.d.) Auctions. Brian Alfred. Obama, 2008 [online]. Available from: https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Obama/38217195A74EA80A [Accessed 23 March 2017]

S[edition] (n.d.) Brian Alfred. Profile [online]. S[edition], London. Available from: https://www.seditionart.com/brian_alfred [Accessed 23 March 2017]

Mimei Thompson

Thompson, M. (2016a) Brambles [oil on canvas] [online]. Thompson, London. Available from: http://www.mimeithompson.com/work/view/brambles/ [Accessed 18 April 2017]

Thompson, M. (2016b) Cave Painting: Pearl [oil on canvas] [online]. Thompson, London. Available from: http://www.mimeithompson.com/work/view/cave-painting-pearl/ [Accessed 18 April 2017]

Chuck Close

Arts Et Culture (2015) Chuck Close A Portrait in Progress (2015) [online]. Arts Et Culture. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-UpVzwCau4 [Accessed 20 April 2017]

Christensson, P. (2014) Halftone [online]. TechTerms, 2 September. Available from: https://techterms.com/definition/halftone [Accessed 20 April 2017]

Walker Art Center (2017) Chuck Close: Self-Portraits 1967-2005 [online]. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Available from: http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2005/chuck-close-self-portraits-1967-2005 [Accessed 21 April 2017]

Tim Gardner

303 Gallery (n.d.) Tim Gardner. Selected Works [online]. 303 Gallery, New York. Available from: http://www.303gallery.com/artists/tim-gardner [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Gardner, T. (1999) Untitled (Bhoadie running on dunes: Africa) [watercolour on paper] [online]. 303 Gallery, New Yoek. Available from: http://www.303gallery.com/gallery-exhibitions/tim-gardner5/selected-works#5 [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Raymond Pettibon

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Own Artist Research: Raymond Pettibon [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 21 February. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/own-artist-research-raymond-pettibon/ [Accessed 22 April 2017]

José Toirac

Toirac, J. (2004) Untitled (con Fidel) (from Serie Gris) [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available from: https://www.phillips.com/detail/JOS%C3%89-TOIRAC/NY000212/43 [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Peter Doig

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist Research: Peter Doig [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 2 November. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/artist-research-peter-doig/ [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Doig, P. (1990/91) White Canoe [oil on canvas] [online]. Saatchi Gallery Collection, London. Available from: http://www.artnet.com/artists/peter-doig/white-canoe-a-4LtT0G6jpVpukr5JurrsTA2 [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Sooke, A. (2008) Peter Doig: Journey to Edge of Abstraction [online]. The Telegraph, London, 5 February. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturereviews/3670972/Peter-Doig-Journey-to-edge-of-abstraction.html [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Daniel Richter

artnet (n.d.) Daniel Richter [online]. Artnet, Berlin. Available from: http://www.artnet.com/artists/daniel-richter/ [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Richter, D. (2004) Trevelfast [oil on canvas] [online]. Available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/richter_trevelfast.htm [Accessed 22 April 2017]

Cecily Brown

Brown, C. (1998) High Society [oil on linen] [online]. Saatchi Gallery Collection, London. Available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/brown_high_society.htm [Accessed 25 April 2017]

Brown, C. (2003) Teenage Wildlife [oil on linen] [online]. Saatchi Gallery Collection, London. Available from: http://www.artnet.com/artists/cecily-brown/teenage-wildlife-a-whoUYOuUmHV6PUiTVeraug2 [Accessed 25 April 2017]

Planet Magazine (2013) Cecily Brown [online]. Planet Magazine. Available from: https://vimeo.com/49612137 [Accessed 25 April 2017]

Jasper Joffe

Joffe, J. (n.d.) [no title] [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.joffeart.com/h5z2vc7f6qfsk5sn02gxbl8yldybtk [Accessed 24 April 2017]