Reflection – Part 4 – Assignment

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Materials

  • I have tried to extend my use of materials as I have worked through this part of the course but unfortunately found myself drifting back to those I find most comfortable.   I don’t think I have been very successful in using free flowing materials and struggle to find the composition and form rather than the more emotive possibilities of different kinds of drawing materials.
  • It would be useful to be pointed towards different kinds of drawing and I remain confused about where drawing stops and painting begins.  Is there are dividing line – I don’t think so but fail to apply this to my own work.
  • In terms of trying materials I enjoyed going out on a limb and using edible stuff and spices. However felt constrained by time limits and the push to get through the different exercises.
  • Pleased with working on heavier paper and the wet on wet technique – could use this more and with a greater variety of media

Techniques

  • My technique has developed in some areas but it remains patchy.   It is still hard for me to pause and consider rather than dashing in to get marks on paper.   This is somewhat driven by the format of life class itself.
  • I did surprise myself with getting the essence of the figures in some of the quite short poses – I find that the longer I work on a pose the more it tends to deteriorate  learning to work in stages on a drawing – particularly ones of up to 2 hrs or longer is a challenge for me.  It is a bit like the experience of doing the Assignment 4 seated pose.    The studies are far more vibrant alive and energetic than the final piece.

Observational Skills & Visual Awareness

  • Again the issue is consistency – sometimes I can manage to hold my concentration. I think the skills are developing even if it is to notice more accurately what is not working. I don’t always know how to rectify this.
  • I believe I am still easily distracted by what I think is there rather than really effective looking.   It is easy to get carried away with an exercise or study and loose the essence of piece.

Design & Compositional Skills

  • Interestingly I think this has been less successful in this part because the body gets to dominate my thoughts rather than how the body or head is in the landscape/frame of a piece.
  • I have tended to draw whole bodies because that is what I think is expected although we have been encouraged to look at other artists where obvious dynamic compositional choices have been made.  I don’t think I have done this I have just centred on drawing the form of the body.

Overall although I have loved completing this part of the module I don’t think in terms of these components it has been as successful and I would have liked.   Maybe it is about identifying all the issues and hurdles initially before I can move things forward.   A body/head is so much more subtle a subject to capture and therefore needs more than I have to offer at this stage.

Quality of Outcome

I think key words for this whole part  4 are patchy/unpredictable/inconsistent.    This refers also to the quality of the outcomes.   I think my work is coherent but as commented in the previous section sometimes hits the spot and sometimes does not.

Again this is due to the way I consciously or unconsciously approach the exercises.   Sometimes I start out with conscious intentions and can sustain through the piece but this is not always true.   There is still not enough stepping back and reviewing.  It is not that I over judge my own work as being successful when it is not but have not found a way to take the lessons forward and incorporate them into the future work.

I believe that the necessary review before I make choices for Part 5 will be critical in becoming more discerning.  I will need to build in some key learning and development targets into this.

Demonstration of Creativity

Not surprisingly some of the comments related to the previous sections are also relevant to these area. There are ideas bubbling away through this section particularly those that link my interest in the dolls with Hans Bellmer and my own image (self-portraits) designing myself as a package.

Experimentation has taken place not only within the course exercises as with the food stuffs and packaging but when taking the short course about textures and surface.  These have all fed into my moving forward thoughts about areas of interest to explore further.

Context

I have aimed to look more widely at sources and images to give greater depth to my understanding of the context surrounding the body in art. There are books etc that I wish to tackle but have found some of the writing rather opaque and don’t believe I have enough understanding of the way art historians think about artworks.

My reading has though made me more aware of the cultural, historic, economic, social, gender and identity aspects of art – particularly in relation on women’s’ artwork. Though as yet I am confused about what is being talked about with feminism and post-feminism.  My last foray into being analytical about the arts was in the 80s not at the height of the feminist era but when many of the first wave of feminist art history was emerging as well as development of philosophical thinking i.e. Griselda Pollock, Rozsika Parker etc. Some of these books are now coming out again as “classic” editions. Presently I would like to tackle this as part of the Part 5 study but need time to think about how to approach this without being sucked into too much theoretical analysis.

Seeing work like the Cathie Pilkington exhibition has encouraged me to believe that there is some good/successful/strong women’s work out there that does not pander to excessive response to male stereotypes.   I don’t precisely know what I mean by this but that is how it came out.

Conclusions

I have hugely enjoyed working through the part of the module and would like to have stayed longer with some aspects of my work.

I am clear that I need to:-

  • Think more before I act
  • Make more conscious decisions at different stages as I am working through a piece
  • Stand back more
  • Review more
  • Experiment more
  • Mix up the media – extend my vocabulary
  • Become more analytical about artists work – ask myself questions

 

 

 

Exhibitions – Part 4

Phoenix Brighton – MEMORIA – Alex Peckham

memoria

This is a multi-dimensional piece created in an almost dark space surrounded by a sound recording of birds and external noises.   It is therefore both internal and external but when you are in the space itself holds you between the two.   Dominating the environment is a huge moth which appears to be breathing – not because it is moving but because of the sound-track and the assumption that this is the only living thing in the environment.

Scattered around are different pieces including tables and chairs – set with specific objects, dried trees, flowers – in retrospect I don’t know if what I “remember” are part of the exhibition or part of my own projection into the space and the experience.

Whilst the piece represents “dynamic sound and light to reflect upon life and death” my own response was of a tranquil, restful, allowing experience.   I found the piece thoughtfully expressive of acceptance – or maybe that is just me!

University of Brighton – Cathie Pilkington

CP 4

The Life Rooms

Anatomy of a Doll & Harmonium

Provocative and ambiguous, Cathie Pilkington’s sculptures make use of dolls in unexpected and challenging ways.

Exhibited for the first time since its debut at the Royal Academy, Anatomy of a Doll responds to Degas’ famous figures of ballerinas, playing with ideas of form and representation: is it sophisticated high art or the mechanics of a handcrafted work in progress? Showing alongside is Harmonium, which transforms a humble wooden shelving unit into the framework for fascinating individual tableaux.

Figurines, textiles, lightboxes and domestic items each tell their own story, questioning expectations of ornament, storage and display. A Royal Academician since 2014, Pilkington is acclaimed for her often unsettling sculptures that question how the female figure is represented. (brightonfestival.org/event/11032)

 

CP 5

I had not come across the work of Cathie Pilkington before and was thrilled by the diversity of her work.   The ready-made pieces collaged together and over glazed as well as the more macabre created items like the one below I found very resonant with my interests with different ways to examine the female experience.

CP 6

“Storytelling, myths, norms subverted, using “female” materials objects of the home and girl-hood.  Sexualised, desexualised, curiosity, dressing table, femininity? who am I, couples/ceramic maids and partners, obliterated, covered, brown – colours of the 30s-50s”.

CP 7

I loved particularly this dressing-table tableau with the child in 70s browns examining herself in the mirror but surrounded by over gazed idealised shepherds and shepherdesses.  Personally I remember the fascination with my mother’s whole dressing-table “alter-like” specialness – the place the ordinary face became the extra-ordinary or the private became the public.

CP 8

Is the girl willing herself to become adult or more female or different?

CP 9

I have over the years collected pieces of embroidery with crinolined ladies depicted as the epitome of femininity – usually surrounded by hollyhocks in a country garden.  Such a static depiction retained from previous centuries always struck me as an anachronism…..

crinoline lady

The second part of Pilkington’s exhibition was the creation of an art studio – fitted with lecture theatre like seats, mirrors and individual pieces of “sculpture” in the likeness of Degas’s “Little Dancer” but made from a combination of ceramic, fabric etc fixed on apertures.  These are subversive in their depictions of the female form – not idealised – heads back to front, limbs asymmetrical etc.

CP 11

I really enjoyed this exhibition which opened up a different world and a variety of methods.  However Harmonium though challenging I was not all together clear about what she was referencing on the different shelves – there were elements of Louise Bourgeois but maybe that is just the use of fabric.

Fabrica, Brighton – THEY

An exhibition by respected Turkish artist Ipek Duben comes to Brighton this Spring. THEY/ONLAR, a multi-screen video installation, previously seen at SALT, Istanbul, Turkey, will be presented at Fabrica for its UK premiere.

THEY/ONLAR focuses on how Turkish society views They or the Other. Through the stories of several individuals the artist goes behind the scene in Turkish society, allowing us to glimpse her country’s diversity of ethnic, religious and gender positions, the perceptions of members of the Sunni majority, and the everyday discrimination and resistance that it engenders.

In Turkey They covers many ethnic, and religious groups: Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Jews, Rum (Greek) and Romanis. They also refers to LGBT people, women, covered women, women subjected to domestic violence.

Through their personal testimonies Duben’s subjects discuss their histories, attitudes, prejudices, hear-say and personal experiences concerning each other. But in portraying Turkish society Ipek Duben ultimately invites us to examine ourselves in our context: to listen; to learn; to understand; to be generous to, rather than threatened by the Other.

Co-produced with Brighton Festival and with the generous support of SAHA Foundation

Fabrica  images

The statement above was part of the PR flyer for the exhibition.   Spending quite a lot of time watching the films I became more and more intrigued by the individual stories and what was the same and what was different one to the other and to my own experience.   There was a great deal revealed about the culture and politics of gender which I could identify with as my experience from 50s – 70s .   The difference was the attitudes of the ethnic groups to each other.   There had been times which they clearly lived amiably side by side but more recently a sense of separateness and fracture.

I am not sure how to respond to this as a piece of artwork -clearly there is a documentary format, biographical.  What I enjoyed was the way each person was caught as it were mid sentence and mid discussion – each following the previous and phasing into the next.  It left you wanting to hear more and certainly becoming involved in the narratives.

In conclusion I was reminded of the Jo Cox quote “more similar than different”.

 

 

 

 

Project 4 – Research – Self-portraits

In my sketchbook I have looked at elf-portraits by many artists from the “early masters” to early 20th century painters in order to try to understand the cultural, visual, and historic context of the work.

Contemporary Artists:- Jenny, Saville, Chuck Close, Lucien Freud, David Hockney, MarleneDumas, Elizabeth Peyton,

David Hockney – it seems like over the decades Hockney has investigated a huge variety of mark making and tonal qualities.   From his early line based drawings through more tonally based paintings and onto rather flat surface images – particularly with his use of the ipad.

Lucien Freud – was always essentially a mark maker whether in drawing or using the paint as mark and.  It almost feels like he hollows/chisels out the paint making very stark lines though the use of tone.

Chuck Close – has developed over time to produce his wonderfully colourful pixilated paintings which upon inspection are more and more complex.    The build up of the contours via the method of intricate filling in of each square/rectangle.  An amazing colourist.

Marlene Dumas – as discussed early she tends to us a rather flat tone throughout her drawings/paintings concentrating on the features as if penetrating the surface of the face.  Line is minimal.

Jenny Saville – Her very complex drawings and patintings often allude to multi-view images with surface layered on surface to create the depth and tones.   Drawing seems to be very traditional in her approach the compositions making them very contemporary in their structure and context.

juggling babies

I don’t know or don’t want to know what the title of this painting is but I call it “Juggling Babies” it is very reminiscent for me of the experience of motherhood – which is far from the idealised Madonna and child. I particularly like how she incorporates the painting with drawing adding to the density and energy of the image.

elizabeth peyton

Elizabeth Peyton describes her faces with flat application of line.  Tones in the main are implied rather than shown. There is a directness about the gaze that she produces from her sitters.

 

 

Part 4 – Figure & Head – Research- Personal Observations

pontorno 1  pontorno 2

I have recently been introduced to the stunning drawings by Pontormo a Renaissance artist  (1494 – 1557) whose beautiful expressive images use line in a very particular way – half there – not there with tonal values added that show an extensive understanding of anatomy.

shiele 2  schiele 1  schiele 3

Leaping through the years the anguished lines of Egon Schiele depict his own searching for accuracy and engangement via his numerous self-portraits.   However as shown by the drawing on the right he was capable of exceptional accurate sculptural studies too.

Kathe Kollowitz 1

KK 2  I have also been drawn to the work of Kathe Kollowitz whose many images particularly of mothers and children evoke a caring kind of intimacy which I admire.

Frank_Auerbach_Ruth_96

FA 4  And Frank Auerbach’s expressive excursions of images of particularly the face.   The overworking and layering using eccentric marks and materials.

Piet Peere

PP 2   Finally in the drawings I enjoy the work of contemporary artist Piet Peere.  Here Anatomy is carved in a different way tonally as opposed to lineal marks by Auerbach.

What I want to Say about Bodies

If I look at the different work above and the styles of the artists I am struck by how I am drawn to two opposing energies.   The strong individual lines and marks that are Schiele and Auerbach.  In contrast the careful tonal weight and intimacy of the bodies by Pontormo and Peete among others.

This is the ambiguity I experience when I am working on a drawing.   Working fast and innately or working slower thinking the structures , relationships, and form.  It is also the experience of my own relationship to my body, being female, daughter, mother, grandmother…..there is often, always (conscious or unconsciously) the pull and push of the two sides – energies which are nurturing and those which are wilder, more destructive perhaps, certainly physical.   Energies that even yet require the testing of boundaries and limits.

Self Portrait

Moving through the exercises I am surprised by how much I am drawn to the self portrait.   Capturing the intimacy with oneself at the same time as knowing you are going to be observed – viewed is challenging.   Do I want to appear better than I am – what is better?   Younger, less double chin and drooping jowls.  Actually I realise this is the one place I can be totally honest.   Not driven by acceptable presentation of the self to the work as in social media, advertising, celebrity driven guidelines.

You can only be an acceptable older woman if you are Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, Jane Fonda etc. ….  Talented, slim, tweeked.   I love my long grey hair – the only time I have had long hair in my life.   I am thinking of a 65+ year old version of Munch…

munch_edward_4

Strange when I found this again I was surprised that it was not as I remember it.   The figure less erotic, the hair less evocative of  looseness, sexuality.  It wasn’t until I looked it up that I realised that this is called Madonna.   To my non Christian background this was not obvious……       His work has been described as “psychological talisman”(theartstory.org). which I think is what interests me about the work. Immediately I am thinking about Cindy Sherman’s historic images series…..

Cindy_Sherman_historic_portrait_-222_1990 cindy sherman historic portrait 2

and Henrik Kerstens iconic plastic bags ……

historic portrait with plastic bag henrik kerstens 2 henrik kerstens 3 with all the trimmings – doilies et al.

Conslusions

As I draw to the end of this section, Part 4, I am more interested in drawing on my own body, literally as a source and am thinking of ways in which I can form the Part 5 around this theme.   However I am also still interested in my dolls – and doll parts (see sketchbook) and the influence of Hans Bellmer.

At this stage of my life 65+ I am less inhibited about my own body than ever and rather like John Coplans – would like to find a way to use my own anatomy as a metaphor.

I particularly like the images where the body is not immediately “readable” – enigmatic.

Said Coplans: “I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body. I’m seventy years old, and generally the bodies of seventy-year old men look somewhat like my body. It’s a neglected subject matter…So, I’m using my body and saying, even though it’s a seventy year old body, I can make it interesting. This keeps me alive and gives me vitality. It’s a kind of process of energising myself by my belief that the classical tradition of art that we’ve inherited from the Greeks is a load of bullshit.” (Wikipedia)

 

Part 3 – Reflections 3 – Assignment 3

Thoughts on the context and content of the Assignment 3 pieces.

Matisse table

matisse table

raoul_dufy_littlepalmtree

Raul Duffy – Little Palm Tree

When I had decided to work on the image of the garden I was thinking of the tables and chairs as they appear in many of the impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.   The only difference is that these seem mainly to have been painted in high summer or at least in strong light.

I wanted to feature the table which had erupted over the winter and was trailing its edge, the surface now undulating with damp.   On top of this is the pot with a plant that is just stem and no leaves.  Finally there is the bare earth in parts of the border.

revised view Assignment 3

Since this photograph was taken there was a big storm during which the pot fell and broke and the table has now been taken to the dump!  Transitions.   In a way this is what I think the whole of this Part 3 has been about – getting me out and re-connecting to the outside world.   In some areas this has had a strong response and in others i.e. buildings no response at all.

Also I suppose there was context and personal connection in the assignment piece but it does not come through as strongly as in the last 2 assignments I think.

Learning:-

  • A lot of frustrations which sometimes pushed me on to do things I would not have previously undertaken
  • Re-connecting to outside, trees, nature, landscape etc. personal places
  • Need for greater planning and thought in preparation for going out to draw
  • Still struggling with keeping work fresh and spontaneous
  • Challenging myself to use different materials and combination of materials.
  • Necessary to undertake more time planning at beginning of the modules so that I can fit in reading and research in a more structured way
  • More patience – I can’t achieve everything at once – but keep trying!
  • Stay open to opportunities and my responses to subject matter
  • Keep more notes on what rises to my consciousness – it doesn’t have to fit.

 

Part 3 -Exhibitions 3

Rauschenberg – Tate Modern

I finally got to the Tate Modern to see the Rauschenberg exhibition. What struck me was how to look at the work that has become the iconic 60s images specifically the Combines and silkscreen paintings from the viewpoint of these being “new” and inventive departures from what was going on at the time.  In fact I found all these less impact -full than some of his very early  “scatole personali” (awkwardly physical).  These tiny disintegrating memorabilia reminded me of some of Susan Hiller’s boxes.   Heaped in meaning and significance.

But what I hadn’t known about were his collaborations with actors, composers and dancers and the creation of multi-layered theatre pieces. Some of the stage detail and running order scripts are themselves works of art.   I have collected a number of snippets from these:-

30 Large Desert Turtles with Torches Strapped to Their Backs

Spring Training 1965

Rauschenberg and Paxton took turns carrying each other like planks

People were carried around on brightly coloured boards reading out a newspaper backwards – Urban Round

Rauschenberg carried a sack containing a singer who sang an old Spanish song  – Open Score 1966

There is something about these suggestions of the live action that bring very strong images to mind.

Transfer Drawings

rauchenberg dante 2   rauchenberg dante 3 rauchenberg dante

Rauschenberg’s discovered technique of transferring images onto paper using lighter fluid led to his development of multi-layered series of images of Dante’s Inferno.  These amazingly detailed and delicate creations moved me more than anything else in the exhibition.   Probably coming across something so very different from the expected was part of it.   Also they encapsulate a depth of thought and vision which I didn’t find in the other work.  After these I find the silkscreens rather crude and something of the “factory” similar to Warhol’s output.  The transfer drawings are intensely personal and the introduction of different materials and techniques intriguing.

 

 

 

Part 3 – Project 5 – Townscapes – Research

John Virtue

John Virtue - The Oxo Tower

john-virtue-no8x1182

virtue-working-in-his-studio-c-twothird

Working as an associate at the National Gallery he concentrated in his usual style of black and white on the landscape of London.   His cityscapes are very similar in feel to his landscapes and seascapes.

Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach who is particularly known for his paintings and drawings of heads has also unrelentingly drawn the scene around his studio in Mornington Crescent London for the last 40 years plus.   Unlike his heads and figures these appear to be painted very quickly with broad strokes and striking colours.   Structurally they are strong but also represent the very hig-ildy pig-idly area where it is not always possible to pick out individual buildings or structures.

Auerbach urban painting

Mornington Crescent - Summer Morning - Frank Auerbach

Nisja Nisja

This Polish artist https://www.saatchiart.com/nisja currently living in Amsterdam.   Again it is the structure, textures and her use of colours that she brings to a largely unpopulated canvas that I particularly enjoy.

Nisja Nisja red factory

Snowscape-With-House Nisja Nisja

Angela Wakefield

An English painter working exclusively in urban environments here and abroad.

Angela-Wakefield-lighttrails-manchester-2010

Angela-Wakefield-Low-Petergate-York-2010

Strong colours and dynamic perspective adds drama to her urban scenes.

Overall

I am drawn to both the dynamism of some of the urban painters particularly Virtue and Auerbach.   But equally there is something very engaging in the stark shapes of Nisja’s work.

My thoughts are that you can choose whether to evoke the energy of a cityscape or the alienation.    This is the choice of the artist as always.