Part 2 and Assignment 2: Self-evaluation

17 August 2017. Here is my appreciation of my development during Part 2 of Understanding Painting Media, including coursework and Assignment 2, with reference to p. 5, 42 and 60 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015):

Based on the tutor feedback I received for Assignment 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a) and an extremely fruitful mail exchange with fellow students on the subject of sketchbooks and the value of using mind maps in planning, I finally found a working solution to keep my racing mind at bay, which provides me with a constant overload of vibrant, ready-to-use virtual paintings. I had mentioned the phenomenon to my tutors on various occasions, but as I understand it now, it may be impossible to explain to anybody who does not share the experience. Another student, however, who knows the problem from her own life, was able to help. I use mind mapping now every time I start feeling overwhelmed and it has worked miracles. However, the past two and a half years with the OCA have taught me to be extremely wary about my own judgment regarding the progress I make. Whether what I do is getting closer to what may be the expected I cannot say. I will have to wait for tutor feedback for this part of the course.

  • Demonstration of visual skills

With reference to my introductory paragraph I can report that with the help of mind-mapping I am now in a better position to use my sketchbooks extensively and effectively to explore materials, techniques and composition. I used a number of extraordinary painting materials and media in this part of the course, including caramel colour, beetroot juice, aluminium foil and cans as well as Nori alga. I managed to explore further my course subject of shadows, both in a literal and figurative sense and built upon the experience gained during Part 1, especially regarding the use of a combination on acrylic paint, gloss medium and a selection of inks. Regarding compositional skills I no longer jump to my ready-made conclusions, but am better able to allow development to occur without a fixed outcome in mind. This was, in my opinion, the most important step made in Part 2 and relatively successful in a journey leading via exercises 2.2/2.4 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b) and 2.3 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017c) to my finished piece for Assignment 2 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017d). Since most of my time was devoted to developing working course sketchbooks, my everyday sketchbook has only had a few new additions, which I will post when there is more to report.

  • Quality of outcome

Again, with reference to the first paragraph I do not intend to make a judgment regarding a possible increase in quality, since in the past I appear to have seen my work in a completely wrong light. What I think has been relatively successful in the work just done was the development of a deeper understanding of the meaning of my shadow subject on a more personal level and the presence of a budding visual vocabulary for transporting associated messages. As I learned in exercise 2.3, however, the difference in personal experience may be large enough to make the meaning of a work of art inaccessible to viewers, resulting in a loss of interest not only in the meaning but also in the work itself. What I will need to be careful of is to avoid an emphasis on meaning at the expense of a visual experience. I think however that I did manage an acceptable balance of the two in my Assignment 2 umbrella project. I chose the umbrella as a support to emphasize my intended painted message, which provides both a relatively unusual visual experience and an easily interpreted message. Regarding a consistency in project development I am not yet sure which qualities I would need to be looking for. In my umbrella project I came up with and discarded a – by my present standards – large number of options, explained the reasons I had and tied a connection to the ideas which followed from a discarded one. Here I think the quality of documentation increased, but again I will need to get this checked by my tutor. I noticed also that to an increasing extent I am able to draw on experience gained in the past and allow it to enter the present work, not quite in as an erratic manner as in the past, but thanks to mind mapping in a somewhat more coherent manner. There is still a long way to go to allow a quality presentation, since I am not yet sure what basis of coherence the OCA may be looking for.

  • Demonstration of creativity

I think that my approach shows creativity, both regarding the use of materials and media new to me or the tackling of challenging subjects. Whether this is the sort of creativity the university expects to see or whether the subjects that appear challenging to me may appear so to the OCA I am unable to tell at this point. Regarding the use of imagination I think that I have learned now that my understanding of imagination is not what the OCA expect. While for me imagination is to allow the mind to run free to come up with a solution to put into practice, I believe now that the understanding as expected by the OCA is an ability to allow the coincidental to occur und to use imagination to select from that to feed inspiration. This aspect of having to look for inspiration is totally alien to me. Inspiration is constantly all around and inside me. What I need to do is to find a method of catching some of the best ideas before the tide rolls in again and deletes the precarious memory of them.
I do think, however, that mind-mapping is successful in supporting me in reducing this kind of lightning speed self-editing. The latter, which I know now, in my case does its job unnoticed while my brain offers me a flood of solutions, so that without an artificial brake I can never at all become aware of the selection going on, and so cannot provide an account of the stages of development. During the second part of Part 2 I noticed a considerable mind-map induced change in my working methods and I can only hope that my tutor will now be in a better position to follow my train of thought.

  • Context

Slowly but surely I am learning to cross-reference with artists I researched either for the part/assignment, or in the past, in a more focused manner. This does not come naturally to me, because I have to keep fighting my mind superimposing a huge jumble of wildly altered information and fleeting images distorted by my own imagination. I know that for the above reason I cannot rely on my knowledge about artists as an “internal reference database” as I would have done in my work as a biologist. If I wanted cross-referencing to work perfectly in this field, I would have to think of starting a real research database. However, since I spend an extraordinary amount of time on my OCA courses already, I do not see a chance to commit myself seriously to this task for the time being. On the other hand, the setup of this course, which requires a certain amount of research to be done ahead of the practical tasks for each part, is ideal for me to get a rough idea of what kind of work may be expected. It helped me very much to finally get into the habit of doing own research before starting a project. I feel more comfortable about this aspect of the work now.
I am well aware that my examination of contemporary art, especially with respect to my own position in this world, is still in its infancy and very likely lacks a certain academic rigour. However I am confident that, given enough time, I will be able to build a reliable working knowledge for my personal context. At the same time I do notice a growing familiarity with and sometimes affinity for the work a number of artists. Among these I feel by far the greatest influence by William Kentridge, whose large exhibition on the occasion of the 2017 Salzburg festival I went to see (Lacher-Bryk, 2017e). I share to a great extent his choice of drawing and painting media as well as a strong urge to use art to promote a political opinion. Less at home I feel at the moment with those artists, whose work consists only of the developmental process. I may be alone and/or wrong with my uncomfortable feeling, but the leaving of the viewer without an idea of where the process may have led an artist reminds me of the Nothing threatening the existence of Fantasia in Michael Ende’s “The Neverending Story”. I would describe it as entering a void, because from where the artist left his story absolutely everything is possible. Coming to think of it, the latter may be a highly personal problem, which ties in again with the functioning of my brain. It will fill any void immediately with innumerable possible and impossible sequels, none of which is satisfactory, because I personally want to know the artist’s intentions. I may not share this problem with many other people, but there it is and I can only act and react on the basis of what I experience.
At the moment the main external factors influencing my development are a long-lasting series of occurrences with far-reaching effects on my family, which both strictly limit my available time for study as well as deeply affecting and constantly altering my view of the world. I am aware that this setting is probably not ideal to initiate a focused and coherent personal development. On the other hand, I can draw on a great wealth of unusual, deeply emotional experiences. If with time I succeed in finding my personal voice I am confident that there is a great deal I may be able to contribute to the contemporary discussion of a number of important societal issues.

References

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017a) Assignment 1: Tutor Feedback and Reflection [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 29 June. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/assignment-1-tutor-feedback-and-reflection/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017b) Part 2, exercise 2.2/2.4: Unusual materials: collections – large-scale line painting/painting on a painted surface [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 4 August. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/part-2-exercise-2-2-unusual-materials-collections-large-scale-line-painting/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017c) Part 2, exercise 2.3: Unusual materials – collections: Painting on a 3D surface [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 15 August. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/part-2-exercise-2-3-unusual-materials-collections-painting-on-a-3d-surface/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017d) 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 17 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017e) Study visit: Museum der Moderne Salzburg – William Kentridge [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 30 July. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/study-visit-museum-der-moderne-salzburg-william-kentridge/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

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

Part 2, exercise 2.2/2.4: Unusual materials: collections – large-scale line painting/painting on a painted surface

18 July – 4 August 2017. I think that I am finally beginning to understand that the study guide instruction “make a painting/drawing” in this course is most likely not to be taken literally, but will include extensive preliminary investigation, theoretical and practical. After having completed my research on Marlene Dumas (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a), I decided that I would choose my collection of photographs (Fig. 1) from the past for my line painting using my selection of different inks as suggested by my tutor (Fig. 2). In order to become more familiar with large-scale painted sketching I started with smaller-scale preliminary work to be able to use a large format convincingly. I also kept in mind my tutor’s advice to pay attention to the quality my lines and work over the paintings until I am satisfied with the result (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b).

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – Collection of photographs from the past
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Figure 2. Sketchbook – Testing a selection of inks and effects of varying lines in painting

I did like the above results for their dynamics. Also I was very happy with being able to think up a variety of believable body postures without reference to anything but my mind. Still I realized that they lack the essential emotional quality I want to find in my finished line painting. I then had a look on the internet to find line paintings that show just this quality (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3. Sketchbook – studying an ink painting by Sylvia Baldova (Saatchi online)

With Baldova’s example in mind I chose some of my photos, which I believed held some real emotional potential and made some preliminary sketches to identify areas of light and dark (Fig. 4) and possible ways of translating those into dynamic line paintings.

Figure 4. Sketchbook – Two photos selected for emotional quality and contrast and investigatory pencil sketches

After some difficult days digesting my not-so-brilliant POP results and some invaluable help provided by my fellow students I think that there might be light on the horizon regarding my sketchbook problem. I will be trying to pace my mind using a mind mapping technique. The first attempts were awkward and they felt hurried, not well contemplated, but after finishing each of them I noticed a certain calming down of my storming brain (Fig. 5). The greatest problem will be to make myself use the information gained, because usually new loads of images and impressions and ideas to work on swamp the efforts made.

Figure 5. Sketchbook – my very first attempts at working with mind maps

Below there are my two attempts at producing two very different ink paintings with a main emphasis on emotional quality, the first to show intense communication between by sister and a black cat (Fig. 6) as well as the lost impression a great-uncle of mine used to leave (Fig. 7).

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Figure 6. Sketchbook – ink painting on A4 smooth sketching paper, background black water-soluble writing ink, line painting white waterproof ink
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Figure 7. Sketchbook – ink painting on A4 smooth sketching paper, background waterproof white ink, line painting water-proof Persian red antique ink

While I think that sister + cat was quite successful and I will definitely come back to painting something similar in the future, I am not so sure about my great-uncle. The particular hue of antique ink makes for a time lapse feel, but I was not successful in telling something with the lines I used. This was the first time during this exercise that I had an uneasy feeling about my choice of photos and choice of technique as being erratic. In order to sort myself out I switched tasks to making a background. I wanted to develop further one of the techniques I had discovered during Part 1, i.e. using several layers of paint including structured gloss medium and rubbing some of it off.
One of the goals I had set for myself for this exercise was a coherent account of both method and story development and I hoped to find a viable solution. Thus, first of all, I looked for other artists depicting weathered surfaces in painting and photography and found, on Saatchi onlione, a most impressive black and white image taken by Gregory Grim of what I guess is a bit of street leading to a shop, coming with a leaning door leaving indelible traces on the concrete over what I felt must have been decades (Fig. 8).

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Figure 8. Sketchbook – Gregory Grim’s black and white image of a well worn shop entrance to be used as a reference guide to my design of a background

First I tested watercolour paper covered in gloss medium using coarse brushes, cling film and thick lines made with gloss medium as well as scratches and grooves made with the wooden end of a paintbrush. When more or less dry I covered this in a grey mix of gouache and partly removed the paint after waiting for it to dry (Fig. 9). While doing this I realized that what I was after was a method of having my photos embedded in a “pavement of memory”.

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Figure 9. Testing backgrounds using scrap heavy duty watercolour paper, gloss medium, gouache and, on the far right, black water soluble writing ink

Since this worked better than expected I repeated the above, this time taking care not to produce a too dark first layer. On this I added a layer of placeholder “photos”, covered it in gloss medium and gouache again, added another photo layer, treating it in the same way, then added black, white and Persian red ink to increase the worn look (photo sequence in Fig. 10 and 11 below).

Figure 10. Sketchbook – a-i: sequence of testing a background of “memory pavement”

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Figure 11. Sketchbook – two of Brassai’s famous Paris graffiti photos, serving as inspiration for own background

Although I was quite happy with some aspects of the resulting structure (which could well be a finished painting on its own), I knew then that I would not want such a heavy background, literally and figuratively. It would have to be lighter, both in colour and structure.

Since I felt stuck again, I resorted to making further mind maps to get the developmental process started again. I had a closer look at the aspects influencing my choice of photos and found out that I would want emotion to be a prime selection criterium (Fig. 12) and have them distributed in their respective layers in a semi-random way to reflect the workings of memory (Fig. 13). Then I looked at the possible painting techniques (Fig. 14) and options of layering (Fig. 15). The latter two showed me that my approach would become far too complicated with five layers, of which, in the end, not a lot would be visible. I felt then already that I would need to reduce the background to one well-designed photo layer.

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Figure 12. Sketchbook – top: mind map identifying photo selection criteria, bottom: a first attempt at stacking them in my memory pavement according to the strength of emotion associated with each photo, the most faded emotions to be buried deepest
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Figure 13. Sketchbook – top: mind map testing layout options, bottom: thoughts on constructing the bottom layer
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Figure 14. Sketchbook: mind map showing the options for painting techniques
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Figure 15. Sketchbook – trying to visualize layering options

Next I started with a series of small pencil and ink sketches in order to see how I might depict the relative emotions found in each of my selected photos. Since at the outset I had identified the strongest emotion in the image of my grandma, I started off with trying to transport a sad feeling at seeing her so feeble and removed from the world (decades of wrong medication had made her a quasi Alzheimer patient, which she would not have been if her doctors had taken the time to have a closer look at her). A line drawing by Djochkun Sami, found on Saatchi online, helped me start the experiment (Fig. 16).

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Figure 16. My grandma and an ink drawing by Djochkun Sami (Saatchi online)

Instantly, I noticed that my smallest paintbrush and ink would not allow me to create such fine detail and I started using gouache and acrylics to see whether I would be able to create a mix of line and tone, with very little success (Fig. 17). I was extremely happy about how the broom looked at an intermediate stage (Fig. 17b), but wanted to forget about the rest. The drawing/painting looked awkward, random and unhappy, not at all like the wonderful painting by Kayo Albert in Figure 18 below, which I had had in mind for the development of my sketch.

Figure 17. Sketchbook – a-c: painted grandma not developing well at all

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Figure 18. Sketchbook – top: “INK-103” painting by Kayo Albert (Saatchi online), bottom: failed sketch of my grandma

I then had another attempt at making a memory sketch, this time using a gouache background, a first sketch with white waterproof ink (Fig. 19) worked over with Persian red, Sepia and black ink (Fig. 20, top), and covered in semi-transparent paper (Fig. 21). This paper I then covered in a layer of gloss medium, leaving only my grandma’s silouette uncovered, then painted over the dry gloss medium with grey gouache. This produced something like a fading effect, but the many different types of paint and techniques made for an awkward result. I started feeling both angry at my grandma for not cooperating :o) and also, interestingly and cruelly, a loss of emotion for her weak state back then.

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Figure 19. Sketchbook: Acrylic, gloss medium, gouache and white ink sketch
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Figure 20. Sketchbook – top: above sketch worked over with ink, bottom: faded line gouache and gloss medium painting
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Figure 21. Sketchbook – sketch from Fig. 20, top, covered in semi-transparent paper, gloss medium and grey gouache

When looking at Fig. 20 (bottom), however, I found that the horizontal lines surrounding my grandma’s non-existent body, were much more successful at depicting her state than all the other attempts. Also, the same day I took a photo of some interesting display dummies in a shop window (Fig. 22), whose bodies were wrapped in what I think will have been strings of LED lights and which gave me the idea to use horizontal lines not only for the surroundings but also for the persons as well.

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Figure 22. Display dummies in a shop window, lines of horizontal light define the body

The same instant I knew that I would have to change my approach. I looked through my photos again and chose the one with the new strongest emotion, which was, not surprisingly, my newborn son nearly 25 years ago. I made a quick line sketch in my sketchbook, found this exercise incredibly easy to do (Fig. 23) and made a new plan for the final painting (Fig. 24). Lesson to learn: never choose a subject with whose emotion I cannot totally identify.

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Figure 23. Sketchbook – watercolour sketch of my newborn son
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Figure 24. Sketchbook – plan for final painting

All of a sudden the individual pieces I had been struggling with started to make sense. First I made another watercolour sketch, this time on A1 paper and a hesitant attempt at adding colour in a way similar to Kayo Albert’s style above. The latter I did to guide the viewer into the painting by emphasizing the area of greatest emotion and warmth (Fig. 25).

Figure 25. left: A1 watercolour sketch, right: emphasis added

Next I prepared my background with the technique described above, taking care not to make it too dark. I added some deep grooves to increase the impression of a heavily used pavement (Fig. 26 and 27 below).

Figure 26. Left: A1 watercolour paper, white acrylic, gloss medium and grey gouache, right: finished background after removing part of the gouache

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Figure 27. Finished background, detail with heavy scratches

Next I selected the final photos I now wanted included in the final paintings, which were those past influences I felt were important to who my newborn son would eventually become. I arranged them all in one layer, taking care to place them where I felt their emotional connection to be strongest. The selected areas I covered in white acrylics, painted them with horzontal lines then added some highlights with white and Paynes’ grey acrylic (sequence of steps in Fig. 28 and detail in Fig. 29 below).

Figure 28. a-d: Final painting – preparing the “memory pavement”

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Figure 29. Final painting, memory pavement, detail

On this background I sketched in, with gouache, the outlines of my son’s body and me holding him. I noticed instantly that the careful preparation had helped me to produce coherence between background and line painting, although as this is a first attempt there is ample scope for improvement (Fig. 30).

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Figure 30. Final painting – gouache line sketch on prepared background

Finally I added colour as intended in my first watercolour sketch above, using a mix of orange and red gouache (Fig. 31 and Fig. 32).

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Figure 31. Finished painting
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Figure 32. Finished painting, detail

Resumé

Looking back at a very intense two and a half weeks of planning and carrying out this exercise I can only marvel at the difference the introduction of mind mapping has made to the previously hopelessly erratic approach I had to most of the projects in my OCA courses to far. From now on, every time I feel stuck, undecided or overwhelmed with options,  I feel that mind mapping can make a real difference to my development. Many thanks again to my OCA fellow students, who drew my attention to this technique.

Regarding the outcome of the exercise above I feel that I discovered some key aspects about project planning and development and some important things I never knew about myself. I am also happy about the subject I chose and, despite the many inputs to consider, the appearance of the final painting.

 

References

Lacher-Bryk, S. (2017a) Artist research: Marlene Dumas [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/artist-research-marlene-dumas/ [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, S. (2017b) Assignment 1: Tutor feedback and reflection [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/assignment-1-tutor-feedback-and-reflection/ [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Research Point: Collections and Unusual Materials

d

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]