Part 5 – Research – Reflection – Exhibitions

Reflective Learning

The challenge for me of Part 5 has been to actively integrate reflective learning into my practice.   As I have noted in my sketchbook and in previous posts I was not using the process effectively and found I was still working in a historically random way.    My experience of taking on an active response via this model has I believe made and enormous difference in the way I have been able to move forward with this final part of Drawing 1.

Walker’s (2004) paper in which he identifies 5 key components of the successful artmaking process namely:-

  • delaying closure
  • risk-taking
  • actively searching for contradictions
  • rejecting the conventional and familiar
  • exhibiting tolerance for ambiguity

has enabled me to work my way through this Assignment 5 in a more productive, structured, thoughtful way. Furthermore Doloughan (2002) articulated this even more usefully , “the language of the creative arts is necessarily metaphoric multi-layered and qualitative and that the rendering of multi-modal projects requires access to a range of meaning making resources.”

Through this more thorough understanding of the process and the self-identification of my own way of seeing the world via my dyslexic aperture has  been further sensitised by the essays in “Drawing Now” (2007). Where it “abandons the resort to appearances presenting instead the use of experience of something..rather seek to experience what is NOT visible – the invisible or the unbeseen“. (p xiv)

These thoughts have led me back to a piece that I read a while ago and might even have been responsible for my continuing absorption with the female body and my own body experience.  Young (2005) Throwing Like a Girl: a Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility and Spaciality connected me to a very personal experience of being thought of as a tom-boy, too physical, too strong, too….   Young seeks to “begin to fill a gap that thus exists in both existential phenomenology and feminist theory.   It traces in a provisional way some of the basic modalities of feminine body comportment, manner of moving, and relation in space” (p 30) This is something that I had instinctively understood but never seen articulated and certainly not understood that philosophers such as Merleau-Ponty (M-P)(1962) and Beauvoir (1942) brought together “combining the insights of the theory of the lived body (M-P) and the theory of the situation of women as developed by Beauvoir.

Way way back in my life around 1985 I had been developing a 3D tapestry piece based on the Beauvoir quote – “one is not born a woman but one becomes one”.   The structure of this was based on the childhood paper fortune telling game:-

Each section of the piece was to be a different life choice which a woman could take.   It was to be enormous, more than life size and incorporating actual objects (including dolls) as well as other paraphernalia.   A strong clash of ideas with art department staff saw that this piece or the completion of my degree was not realised.   Looking back, with the insight of time I can now see that even at that stage 1980s in an art college setting my non-conformity (being married with 3 children) and having ideas of my own caused strong responses.

Reconnecting with myself and these thoughts and recognition that the body, my body has its own story to tell.   I was particularly struck by a connection to understanding that “Feminine bodily existence is an inhibited intentionality, which simultaneously reaches towards a projected end with an “I can” and withholds its full bodily commitment to that end in a self-imposed “I Cannot”. (Young p 36) My choice of shapewear the modern equivalent of corsets (see Kardashian Korset) is the most recent fashion manifestation of this phenomenon.

Phenomenon and phenomenology are new concepts for me to consider in relation to my subject matter.  Particularly I am drawn to the discussion “M-P claims that the reason we are apt to forget phenomena…and (he) conceives of “perception as a movement from what is ambiguous and indeterminate to what is determinate, squarely located in the shared world and so available to others” (Romdenh-Romlux p 18)  through his interpretation of Husserl’s Libenswelt or lived world. Furthermore “He claims that complete objectivity is never fully achieved in perception either – I cannot view the world from nowhere.   I always perceive the world from my own particular perspective”. (R-R)  Without going headlong into the various philosophical debates, which as yet I have no depth of understanding.  I think I am at a cross-roads in which I am  finally enabled to engage in connecting to my own phenomenon – not with complete understanding, in fact after a lifetime of trying I believe I can let go of that one.   What interests me is the place/places/spaces/experience between. (see personal statement)

Feminist Visual Culture

Summarising the understanding of 30 years of “feminist struggles around representation” (Betterton (2003) concludes that we are:-

  • aware of how gender shapes looking and the “gaze”
  • understand terms like “gender” and “patriarchy”
  • a certain reflexivity in the representation of self
  • a willingness to explore issues of identify and difference
  • an interest in and engagement with body politics
  • an ability to “read against the grain” of a given text

Interesting historically and personally as it fits entirely with my own timeline. Furthermore re-reading Wolf (1990) I am not sure how much has moved on.

“Gender is not passively scripted on the body, and neither is it determined by nature, language, the symbolic, or the overwhelming history of patriarchy.   Gender is what is put on, invariable, under constraint, daily and incessantly, with anxiety and pleasure, but if this continuous act is mistaken for a natural or linguistic given, power  is relinquished to expand the cultural field bodily through subversive performances of various kinds”. (Butler 2003)

But I remain sceptical about whether the gaze has now sucummed to becoming a more dominant female gaze as in the world of the internet and the incessant “selfies” loaded obsessively on-line. A recent article by Kate Maltby (2016) in the Times describes spending 30 days “winched into a “waist trainer”.

training corset

“It is not my naked body that feels like a false reflection in the mirror, but the new costumes I wear above it.   If I can’t wear my favourite wrap dresses again, I won’t be me.   Or at least I won’t have the right armour to take on the world“.

“I felt elegant too…I felt something far more darkly feminine: fragility…Pair it with that other engine of the beauty myth, high heals, and a gust of wind will blow you away.”

So in a way women have, if they allow themselves, come full circle back to the 1830s when women first saw representations of the “ideal woman” in advertisements and magazines. Difference, irregularity, disability, age, flaws, ……are all banished to another land, another stratosphere: is the parallel world of the lived experience of the majority of women.

Artists –

Portraying a Nation: German 1919 – 1933  August Sander & Otto Dix – Tate Liverpool

The most significant part of pairing these two artists/photographer was the way that the presentation of the exhibition’s contextualised the work.   Sander’s epic People of the 20th Century commanded most of his life and remained unfinished on his death.  He stated:-

” I cannot show (my work) in a single photo, nor in two or three..after all, they could as well be snapshots.   Photography is like a mosaic that becomes synthesis only when presented en masse”.

So of the 144 images presented we see a snapshot of a changing Germany between the wars.   This is augmented by a extensive timeline covering, historical, social, technological, and cultural events.    Not only is this useful for placing the Sander’s work but becomes an essential part of understanding when you move into the Otto Dix galleries.

However before leaving the Sander’s work I wanted to note how this sense of working in series and over time had begun to influence what I have been looking at in my own work.


Otto Dix – The Evil Eye

War Prints and Brothels

There seems to be a direct connection, particularly through theme, war and degenerate life, between the print works of Dix and Goya.   The same gritty realism extended towards the grotesque and absurdity of life. They are more “in your face” than Goya’s prints more explicit and raw.   Perhaps they echo the fact that people had more direct experience particularly of war in Europe and the ability of technology through photography to see more of the reality of the experience.

1924.039-HouseDestroyed-sm House Destroyed by Aerial Bombs 1924

In this print particularly, I see a pre-curser to Picasso’s Gernica some 20 years later. The composition, bodies, buildings and desolation built into a very dense and unremitting image. Body parts, garments what’s the difference? In war none.

DixKarsch101IIaSailorsAntw

Also I couldn’t pass up the chance to notice how much some of the prints resemble Paula Rego’s  figures and compositional relationships.

Moving onto a different material he manages to seize the grotesque and the delicate when working with watercolours and other drawing media – mostly ink.  some of the images are as brutal as the prints – mostly focusing on women, probably prostitutes but not all.

girl in fur Girl in Fur 1923 – watercolour and pencil

Many like the painting above are rendered very simply in technique but retain the edge of pastiche and mocking towards his subjects.

The interesting contrast are the fully rendered portraits on which he worked in oil and a very historical technique of tempera.   In many of these he creates an extremely refined surface quality full of detail and realistic features. However he also extenuates his subjects even when dealing with some of the major industrialists of the time.

th (5) anita berber

th (6)    th (7)

I am drawn to Dix’s work because of the way he seemed to excavate the different layers of society and experience using very particular artistic methods.   It is like the layers of experience of the nation built up and finely finished (although wholesomely extended) by the most particular of materials – tempera.

His work is the very epitome of his time – an evil eye – I don’t think so – an accurate eye.

Kathe Kollwitz – Ikon Gallery – Birmingham

Unemployed

Unemployment – late 1909

Etching, aquatint, sandpaper, soft ground with the imprint of Ziegler’s transfer paper, printed in brown on copperplate paper.

The above print was part of a series taken from drawings she had prepared for the satirical magazine Simplicissimus others of which included, alcoholism, unwanted pregnancy and suicide.   So this was part of the strong socially aware perspective of  which she wrote:-

“above all to be able to speak to a large audience is what always excites me and I can never get enough of it: the many silent and noisy tragedies of life in the big city”. 

She was responding to Berlin, a growing metropolis of some 2+million people.

I have chosen this image particularly because for me it articulates so much about Kollwitz the artist and printmaker.   Firstly the fascinating explanation of the process and materials used to create this one image.   She had little training but seemed to have built up enormous expertise bringing to life this complex scene. Everything from the subtle tones where almost no marks are apparent to the dense figure of the husband in the foreground.   The delicacy of the children’s faces and the spare linear marks elsewhere combine to form a complex story in the lives of poor urban workers.

kk 2 Raped 1907-9

From around a similar time this other dramatic and disturbing subject is both sensitively and brutally rendered – from the foreshortened body to the detail of the garden where the event too place.   And not noticed by me until pointed out a child looking at her mother over the garden fence.

There are of course the amazing meticulous self-portraits as well as the Goyaesque (Satanic series) “Death and the Mother” prints where using herself and her son as models she cast her unflinching eye on these subjects.  Not a very large exhibition there are a few examples of her raw woodcuts but no examples of her sculptural works which I have never seen.

What I have brought away from this experience is the appreciation of her skill of using print techniques in a range of different ways from the most subtle to angry aggressive depictions of the lives of the working poor. Although much of this work predates the Dix war prints her subjects speak in their quiet acceptance of  mostly women who wait and endure and mourn.

Paula Rego – Jerwood Gallery – Hastings

Going to the Jerwood is always a joy because of its location almost on the beach and the interrelationship between the gallery and the view: the beach, fishing boats and sea.   I was looking forward to viewing this Paula Rego exhibition of some of her newer works based on The boy Who Loved The Sea.   Unfortunately I was disappointed in the drawings/paintings related to this particular theme.  The works are large and mostly drawn with pastels, ink, coloured pencils and I think watercolour.    With deference to her age – now well over 80 – I found that they have lost the vigour of her previous work – although the themes and compositions were her usual bold forms the work was flatter and lacks the dimensions of her earlier work.

I am glad to say that there was also a selection of her Jane Eyre prints which are magnificent  and earlier – 2003.

They appeal because of their depiction of strong and physical women which is interpreted with deep tones, exquisite drawing translated into the printed form.   The weight of her figures draw me in with the texture and movement of their garments.

Equally fascinating are a series of drawings done quite recently after she suffered a fall and had a wound on her forehead.

These are strong insightful, honest drawings.   I enjoy their raw, angry, self deprecating quality.

Then finally there is a series called “Depressed” drawn during a period in 2007 when she literally drew herself out of her depression.   Again the honesty, stark quality beautifully and simply rendered in pastel, crayon and pencil.

N.B. Pallant House in Chichester currently have an exhibition of Paula Rego sketchbooks which I will go to see but probably not before this Part 5 is assessed.

Francesca Woodman

Somewhere in the back of my mind as I was working on my images I remembered work by Francesca Woodman. This influential but tragically short lived photographer working in the 70s I believe had a huge impact on more recent photographers.  In Francesca Woodman reconsidered (2003) a discussion which included Laura Larson commenting that “Woodman’s work is useful for feminism precisely because it breaks the male gaze stranglehold by articulating a different set of terms”.  But unlike the narrative aspect that Mulvey (1974) was referring to with film Woodman works engages with “seriality and repetition”. 

Also she notes that “I was reminded of Woodman’s work when I saw the Hans Bellmer show….not only for the use of seriality and repetition but also its performative aspect”.

The connection and their conversation in the article about surrealism brings my thinking full circle back to my doll parts and the perception of women in parts.  Margaret Sundell notes in the article how she tries to understand woodman’s two poles – fetishization and space.“The interest in space is very much about a bodily experience, which engages phenomenology and its limitations, and the interest in fetishization is very much about the disembodiment involved in producing oneself as a two-dimensional image – even if the body remains the subject of the image.”

Their discussion ends with a question which I am left with and my own questions about where I would like to go with my work.

Moving Forward

Whether I get a chance to do/have these photographs taken or not before I submit this part of the course I don’t know.   But throughout the development of my ideas I have been eager to create a series of photographs of myself naked in relation to a particular row of trees in my local park.

This would be a very Woodman/Mendieta performative experience.   I have in mind various poses that literally truncate my body by the low branches and trunks of the trees which my the way are very resonant with the original Redon drawing which we were asked to consider at the beginning of the course.

two-trees-1875

 All these months on my relationship to this drawing has changed and deepened and follows the experience of my journey through the course. I now see very a very physical phenomenological relationship to these trees which I see most days.

Did a very fast reveal today but did not have long but wanted to post something in the genre of what I have been thinking about in relation to my body, space, performance, series, ageing, skin etc.

trees 7

Afterwards we did a few clothed “ideas” for the future.   However in some cases I think that they capture their own relationship of me in the space.

trees 3

Unfortunately the lack of time/opportunity and experience meant that I was not able to capture yet that quality of my ageing skin and self that I want to see in relation to these trees and their natural form.    I think I definitely need to be bolder and raw and not try to pose in the “accepted” way.

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Pause – Review – Evaluate

Using the discipline of the learning model:-

FEELINGS:-

I am feeling confused again so have paused my process to re-evaluate what is going on. There are the 3 elements,

my ageing skin:- so far have investigated this less than the other parts.  I am interested in my skin, like its diversity, discolorations, wrinkles, I wear my experience in my skin and I am content with how it looks.   I have not been able to find older women to draw and this has been a frustration.   Perhaps I need to go back to drawing myself in some detail and at some scale.   I greatly admire Jenny Saville’s epic drawings and paintings but it is not that which I want to achieve.   It is the detail the layering the way the skin itself is a metaphor real and imagined for the lived life, the stresses and strains,  good (stretch marks of the belly) and bad.

  Also aware that these thoughts are in direct contrast to society’s notion of ageing, beauty, and the hierarchy of imagery that places the young, ever younger, perfect, flawless beauty of youth at its pinnacle. The longer-lived population, growing with each decade is the burden of society (at least in the West) celebrated so long as we keep in the background and don’t challenge the acceptable norms…..

Artistically very few depictions of the older woman.  Why do I like Dix and his Pastiches (what does this mean) of the harder, uglier side of ageing, sex, ..it is either this or homely granny by the fireside. Dix exhibition Dix was uncompromising in many of his 

the body shapewear :-   This is still an area that interests because of the way it implies limitations of shape and image acceptable for the female body.   The modern day corset – which I would like to spend much more time on but can’t at the moment – the way to make us conform to the norm….

 As I am thinking about it I think this needs a different kind of treatment than my skin, plastic, or something less pliable except that the empty shapewear is like a ghost of the body it once enclosed.

doll parts:- these are still important because they allow the example of the ways women’s bodies have been objectified.   The doll parts signify a sort of alien existence – an other world but also one created, like the shapewear, as a way of codifying childhood.

Of the 4 ways forward I have worked with each of them variously:-

Imprinting:- I think the concept of literally marking the paper by intending or embossing with “my words” is an important aspect of the experiments I have tried. This way of biting into the surface of having an imperfection – word or letter stand out from the surface of the skin of the drawing resonates strongly with the way some words recall strong emotions or past experiences.

Layering – using the latex:- So far the main image where I have used the latex to obscure and then reveal has only gone through 3 stages and am pausing in thinking about how to extend into the full 7 layers of “skin” without completely obscuring and loosing everything – but the question is does it matter?  What should or should not be kept or lost?

3-D Collage – Layering:- Building the 7 layers via pages in the sketchbook has been interesting in itself although it would be good to be able to move the pages around – these pages move towards thought of memory and glimpses of the past.   One other way of approaching this could be to draw through the layers in different configurations. This would then literally be a “peep show”! 

Shaping Paper:- Tried to distort various papers in sheet form without making a papier mache shape but once they were released from their moulds they just became creased paper without any particular interest or reference to what I was aiming to achieve. Could now  attempt to build some papier mache out of more flexible materials….don’t know what.

EVALUATION

There are interesting elements in all the 4 ways forward so far but rather crude in some cases.

The charcoal drawing of the shapewear is more interesting because of the layers of imprinting, outline, and overdrawing.   I think however it would be even more interesting at larger scale with the mark making becoming more deliberate rather than generalised.    The whole treatment could be more discerning. More aspects of memory could add to the depth both physical and intellectual.

The layering with latex has produced some fascinating combinations but again these are random rather than deliberate in their achievement.   At the stage now with the mono-print I am uncertain of the way forward. Need to think about isolating some “thoughts” that is sections where the configuration of the marks speak to me.

N.B. The “Woman” mono-prints in acrylic paint

Using the 3D-Collage is a more dynamic approach and could almost see a Francis Woodward (?) Joseph Cornell even assemblage  – approach where a box of layered “scenes” could be built using the child with her long strip come into and out of the scene …accompanied by the mother  “tagged ” to different scenes/surfaces – frottage appeals here.

Building a “belly” in papier mache would move this examination on – so far not much to go on. Not sure how strong this is as a way of approach.   It would be interesting to find a way to mark a surface – like a balloon and then deflate it – what would happen.

Overall the approaches seem very separate and without a clear path of how to move them on together.   Realise that I have not really used my skin aspect so far expect to use it as the metaphor to build the layers – could this become just a text-ual device?   Colours, surface, shape etc.  not a drawing in itself?

ANALYSIS

I am going to include in this the influences of reading Drawing Now (2007) as well as my recent visit to the Jasper Johns exhibition at the Royal Academy..

In the introduction to DN (2007) notes that they “abandon the resort to appearances presenting instead the use of experience of something..rather seek to experience what is NOT visible…the invisible or the unbeseen.” (p xiv)  This has been an enormous revelation in terms of a way of thinking about drawing without yet having a way to achieve this in order to convey my own interests.   I believe I am achieving glimpses of my unique perception on the subject but as yet I do not have a vocabulary with which to describe my “experiences”.  What I am now engaged with is a way of looking at developing this vocabulary. It is additionally interesting that I am pulled right back to the beginning of this unit to the expressive mark-making whilst realising how relatively unexplored is this most essential aspect of drawing.

There are the beginnings of my accessing “memory”  through the imagery which I have chosen but as devices for interpreting my investigation they are as yet rudimentary.  This is because I am not at all sure what my question is – what is my investigation about?

“How can I interpret the experiences of life as a women through examining my own skin and the superimposed skin of female body image as controlled by society?” 

Again I am drawn to John Berger quoted in DN and his 3 categories of observation, idea and memory.. 

“conceptual drawing encourages a journey round associative thought that does not have to be logical or resolved, …provokes an aggregation of memories, and impedes access to resolved meanings.”

I am literally hardly scratching the surface of my experiential content.

Jasper Johns – Royal Academy

I am including this exhibition visit here because it has been important to begin to draw together the above recognition with looking at work of an artists who I would have previously not have chosen to view.

“making the familiar unfamiliar”

What he clearly achieved was a way to ask us to view the everyday in a different way using the chosen objects to convey layers of meaning often ambiguous in interpretation. Sometimes he used the same images, flags, maps, targets again and again but each time tilting the inquiry slightly differently by the use of materials, viewpoint,  amalgamations of objects etc.

jj fragments of a letter

“Fragments of a letter”  2010

The two different versions of a letter from Van Gogh to Emile Bernard in words and in american sign language. This is a real challenge to understanding, one we might know (although it is translated) and the other we might not comprehend unless we have been told.   It raises the question do you need to know the references to be able to appreciate a piece of art?

What really interested me given my present inquiry is that in the section Time & Transience it was mentioned that his interests lay in:-

  • moments of transition
  • uncertainties of memory
  • inevitability of change
  • fleeting nature of existence

which had me think that my main interest lie in:- (working examples)

  • the naming of realities (whose?)
  • the uncertainties of memory
  • the lived experience
  • the imposed interpretation

More recently Johns has been working with found photographs and tracings (without identifying from where) where they are “free from the information that images convey”.  However what really spoke to me was the way he has been interrogating the same ideas over decades, moving backwards and forwards across actual time whilst staying with his early questions.

So it seems to me that if I can frame my questions I can then begin to find the framework for thinking about what imagery I wish to use and how to use it.   Simple but immensely difficult to achieve.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. Need to do far more investigation into the thinking about and behind the process of drawing
  2. My “vocabulary” in drawing needs to be extended and more defined
  3. In order to develop my analysis I need to ask myself questions more objectively in order to investigate both written and artistic material more effectively.
  4. Finding it hard to piece together the thinking and doing as well as dealing with the un-answered or un-answerable questions.
  5. Look more closely and critically at other artists work.   Ask myself questions about their questions
  6. Become looser in the way I think about and interpret my areas of interest, work associations, mind maps, image maps,,,

ACTION PLAN

  1. Create a “theatre” of the layers of the collage and draw through them :- movable parts that tell the story in different ways in different order from different angles – the nature of memory
  2. Create much larger scale drawing of part of the shapewear – looking at ways drawing can be interpreting experience.
  3. Flexible – belly :- build layers of latex and paper to create extended belly – drawing or painting between the different layers – allow to deflate…
  4. Try using balloons or other inflatable media to draw/fill with water/sticks – allow to over stretch and deflate.
  5. Continue building layers on original layered drawing.
  6. Try going back to some of the early samples of different fabric and surfaces and use them as mono-printing plates.

Alongside this practical work:-

  1. Look at developing reading and academic analysis.

 

 

 

 

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”.

 

 

 

 

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

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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 – Exhibitions

Paul Nash – Tate Britain

Before I went to see the exhibition at the Tate Modern I was reading Paul Nash – Landscape and the Life of Objects (Andrew Causey).  He worked very much in the same genre as Samuel Palmer and William Blake – also a painter/poet.

1 Dreaming Trees

Working from he 3 trees series and many depictions from the two images below of Wittenham Clumps  (1913) he began to conjour up the feeling of place which he returned to after his WWII experiences.

http://www.world-war-pictures.com

 

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2 We are Making a New World (1918)

Dramatic sunrise/sunset with red clouds overlooking dramatically ruptured earth and trees – uncompromising not heroic.   This he repeated in many of his wartime paintings moving into an almost abstract/realist phase.

“Nash’s war experience transformed his work: he painted in oil for the first time and discovered a new artistic language of powerfully simplified forms which both conveyed the appearance of ravaged landscapes and suggested violent emotional experiences”. (exhibition handout)

3 Places

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“In the 1920s Nash became emotionally attached to significant places which inspired sequences of works.   He responded both to the specific qualities of these landscapes and the feelings and memories that they prompted”.  (exhibition handout)

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“Nash’s paintings rapidly moved in 1928-9 from popular landscape to emblematic representation…suggests an elite visual langue that can work…by means of surrogates. ..Nash appreciated in full for the first time how defunct standards of representation in art had become”. (Causey p63)

4 Room & Book

Reflections, intersecting planes, multiple perspectives

“Yet I still need particularly organic features to make my fixed conceptual image” (1937)

5 Unit One

For Nash Unit One was important in publicly stating his commitment to international modernism…alongside other leading British avant-garde artists

I found this section the least interesting apart from the Stone Tree and Druid Landscape paintings 1934 where he refers to ancient stones he has visited at Avebury and other sites.

6 The Life of the Inanimate Object

” Nash explored the idea of a life force in inanimate objects and created encounters between them, arranging flints, bones driftwood and small geometric objects into his still life compositions”.

Worked with Eileen Agar – one of my favourite unsung heros of collage, avant-garde imagery.   With her he created assemblages using photographs, sketches, paintings and other objects.

7 Unseen Landscapes

Post 1936 he works on intensly surrealist landscapes where reality & dream co-exist.   (Even on the Downs)

International Surrealist Exhibition

Circles of the Monoliths

Land of Dreams

Monster Field

8 Aerial Creatures

9 Equinox

“The mystical association of two objects which inhabit different elements and have no apparent relation to each other”.

More painterly depictions beautifully rendered – some of my favourites.

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Conclusions

I was moved by many of Nash’s paintings in ways that I didn’t expect to be.   However I was mostly drawn to the closing of the circle the meeting as it were of his  very early pre-war drawings of trees and particular places and the later equinox cycle.

 

Part 3 – Exhibitions

William Kentridge – Whitechapel Gallery

The Refusal of Time

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The initial work encompasses many of Kentridge’s themes and working methods:-

“This work explores how the measurement and control of time, space and light have led not only to greater scientific understanding, but also to the exploitation of global resources and peoples.” (exhibition handout )

He utilises the depiction through complex made up machinery as above which reminded me of different mechanised textile machinery, early computers, depicting useless actions repeated again and again.

The room was surrounded by screens upon which an ongoing carnival of silhouettes of actors and dancers act out another repeating procession.   Screens also show early scientists engaged in experimentation.  You are surrounded by action, movement, engagement on what it is not clear.

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It is interesting to have so much happening in one space and it is difficult to “watch” any of the action for any length of time without being diverted by another action elsewhere in the room.   It is both distracting and attracting at the same time.

The Tapestry Library

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“The Streets of the City a horse gallops across two ancient maps, of southern Europe and of Italy’s Abruzzo region, These detached aerial views contrast with the drama of the animal collaged from slogans, emblematic of the street as a site of protest”. (exhibition handout)

Having come from a tapestry training I often find the work of artists translated into tapestry very disappointing because the images do not work well in the medium.   However this very strong image and its 2 other neighbours, are surprisingly strong and engaging.   Kentridge has used his collage technique to advantage in contrast to the details of the maps.   I also like the inclusion of the working lines, overlapping of what looks like photocopying and stray treads etc.

Right Into Her Arms

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Drawing from musical scores by Alban Berg and Kurt Schwitters’ sound poem Kentridge create a theatrical piece projected onto 3 moving theatre flats.   The flats move in and out turn and the images  influenced by the woodcut prints of Otto Dix, George Grosz etc intertwine around the “stage”.

This is an engaging piece using a variety of materials and methods intermingled onto the staged canvas that he has created.   I was inspired by this to buy a copy of Lulu an opera that he directed and designed in 2015. (more notes to follow when I have watched the opera).

O Sentimental Machine

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“A cast of megaphones, typewriters and movie cameras represent the 20th century technologies that drove progress and social change dramatised by Philip Miller’s score….Behind closed doors we see futurism become history as the gestures and props of revolution sink under water” (exhibition handout)

Conclusions

Kentridge’s extremely enjoyable and complex works defy my immediate analysis.   I was drawn to the variety that he uses in terms of method and image and the way he has confined this over time to produce very strong and thoughtful pieces.

Following the exhibition I have spent time watching many interviews and films on his work on YouTube – which I will refer to later.(see Bibliography).

Moving Towards Assignment 2

Background & Context

I am moving towards Assignment 2 but I need to work through a lot of thinking before I can finalise my subject matter and materials.

Recently I have returned from a week in Madrid where I was overwhelmed by the work in the 3 main galleries which we visited;  The Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. There is so much to think about but initially I thought that I would concentrate on those painters and paintings which I feel at this time have most relevance to the next assignment.

To back track slightly I was (see Assignment 1) very affected by the paintings of Cotan and drawings by Redon whom I continue to be mesmerised by.   The format of the drawing which I submitted for Assignment 1 was based on my thinking in relation to these artists as well as the format of early medieval imagery.

Before leaving I started to read Goya by Robert Hughes (2006) which hugely enhanced by understanding when I saw the selections of Goya’s paintings, etching/aquatints and murals (transferred to canvas).

Of course I also spent time with Velasquez: Les Meninas (1656) but not enough to really take in all its genius.

Finally Picasso’s – Guernica (1937) had an enormous impact on my understanding of composition.  More later.

The only way I believe I can rationalise – or maybe not- my interests, understanding, emotional response is to summarise my responses to the particular artists mentioned.

Juan Sanchez Cotan

I had done my research before the visit and was looking forward to seeing the 1 Cotan in The Prado – but it was not on show – great disappointment.

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Still life with lemons – 1602

What fascinates me about the still lives of this period is the way that the everyday objects are given a reverence by putting them in a setting which could be a kind of altar.   In a time when people were still attached to the source of their food as well as their connection with the religious thinking and growing philosophical theories about life and death.

(The theme of life and death or more specifically the story of life and death seems to run through my interest in all the artists mentioned.)

As I have charted previously for Assignment 1 the still life tradition became more and more elaborate and more and more opulent as the decades progressed and then regressed via the Impressionists and Cubists to everyday themes and content.

The super-reality and the dark darkness also pertains to available daylight and the possible use of camera lucida. Containment is an issue within these compositions which was something that I found useful when working towards finding deep tones and shadows.

I  must admit that my notes to myself after seeing all the epic art in Madrid were:-

MARKS- DIRECTION (light) – DEEP DARKS – GESTURE

Francisco de Goya

Robert Hughes’s Goya (2006) was an exceptional accompaniment to my visit to Madrid.   From an artist I knew absolutely nothing about to becoming fascinated by the different phases, materials, content and context of his lifeworks.

For the purposes of the relevance to my choices and interests in putting together my Assignment 2 composition I would like to highlight the following pieces or phases of his work.

The “Black Paintings” –  frescos/murals which he painted onto the walls of his home

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Pilgrimage of San Isidoro

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These murals/paintings which Goya undertook between 1817-1823 on the walls of his house following his first and then subsequent severe illnesses are the artist’s personal depictions painted in what Hughes cites as “very strange times, both for Goya and for Spain” (p376).   That they were painted directly onto the walls of his home without the requisite preparation of the surface (which Goya had the skills to render as he did in other settings).   That they are very emotional, dark, even horrific renderings of different themes places them completely outside of his former works:- playful bright cartoons for royal tapestries, formal court portraits and different series of prints marks them out as a distinct personal series of works not destined for public eyes.   They were eventually taken from the walls and transferred to canvases is the only reason they were preserved.

“He had no audience in mind.  He was talking to himself. He never imagined that the Black Paintings would be seen anywhere except where he was.” (Hughes p 379)

Furthermore Hughes calls them a “freakish, vivid precursors of modernity”, (p 379 and that is how they struck me.   They emanate a very visceral, deep, dark world.  Figures are often grotesque, contorted, screaming and reminded me of some of Francis Bacon’s work. In a working life where nearly all of his work was subject to wealthy patronage these stand out as something very out of the ordinary.

The subject matter includes ordinary people often in dire circumstances battling against themselves, the elements, life and the fates are what Hughes calls “populacho, or pig-ignorant mob”. (p382) Also the physicality of how they were rendered adds to the aggressive, brutal depiction of Goya’s personal state and the state of Spain at this time.

Without going into details I wanted to note that Hughes also makes the connection with Picasso’s Guernica 1937 (on which I will comment further) (p383) as well as Salvador Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) 1936 both artistic responses to the Spanish Civil war.

For me these pieces show an artist working beyond his own era in ways that did not become common practice until some 200 years later.   They convey an honest outpouring of Goya’s personal experience rendered with a bravura that I find truly astonishing.

These paintings for me show an artist laying out his deepest fears and responses to a world in turmoil, his own inner world and that of his country.  I want to use the word “heroic” but in some ways this relates, historically to a different tradition and these paintings are not in anyone’s tradition but his own.  The human condition being grappled with via epic themes and painted in emotionally bold gestures.

The Caprichos

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“What Rembrandt did for line etching, Goya and his colleagues did for aquatint, and they did it with one astonishing burst of creativity: a series of eight prints that Goya entitled Los Caprichos.” (Hughes p 179)

Again these were not created with patronage but at his own cost and in large numbers, 300 sets.   They are fantastically rendered satirical comments on the society in which Goya lived covering the church, society, the inquisition, moral themes, scatological content, witches and witchcraft, marriage, wealth etc. The use of the aquatint and newly discovered addition to the printers art allowed him to create depth and tone in a much more subtle and successful way than in the past.

It is believed he had seen in the collection of his friend when he was recovered from his first illness prints by some of the English and French satirical artists including Rowlandson and  Hogarth.   Spain was due to its historical position in Europe and the work of the Inquisition cut off from the wider artistic developments.   There was hardly any access to works from beyond its borders and Goya was little travelled (only once to Italy at this point).

There are so many of these prints I respond to not only because of the diversity of his subject matter,  his “black” humour and the outpouring of creativity they are a testament to.

Desastres – Later war related etchings/aquatints (1810 –

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The war with Napoleon saw Goya’s response in a large number of aquatints as strong, emotional and acerbic comment on the experience of Spain at the hands of France.

“At the end, the Desastres de la Guerra open outward, beyond mere human stupidity and detestable cruelty into a pessimism so vast and desolating that it can fairly be called Shakespearean”. (Hughes p 302) Goya did not print this series.  They were not published in his lifetime and did not appear until 1863.

Odilon Redon – The Noir

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I am only bringing the work of Odilon Redon (Assignment 1) back into this context in order to point out my growing awareness, having seen the Goya’s, of the tradition out of which Redon’s work is drawn.

Noir, the Romance of Black in 19th Century French Drawings & Prints , Lee Hendrix (2016) is the next book which I am going to read in order to further understand these connections.

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Picasso – Guernica

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As epic as it is seeing the real painting of Guernica what really caught my attention were the photographs taken by Dora Maar as the work progressed.   I don’t know whether it had occurred to me before but this series of images show how the composition of the painting shifted and changed over time as Picasso created the work. Alongside these are other works which reference the figures, crying woman, bulls, fallen hero etc.

When I was struggling with putting my own composition together I am trying to be less anxious about how this happens and the time it takes.

What’s the Story? – Content & Context

Even a week on from finishing the Assignment 2 drawing I am not clear yet how all this is referenced by what I have seen in Madrid and my recent reading and thinking.

There are themes however that I am starting to recognise:-

  • There is a story behind the drawing or painting.   Though I am as yet not clear what mine may be I am now aware the more I understand the stories of other painters the more possible it is for me to articulate one of my own
  • I am drawn to the darker more introspective aspects of pieces of artwork
  • I also go for humour and a did at the status quo
  • I like the idea of metaphors but do not yet feel confident about using them myself
  • I appreciate both the detailed and larger gestural aspects of the artists
  • I still struggle with what a composition might be