Part 2 – Project 3 – Research – Home – Alternative Perspectives

My difficulty starting to look at different artists was I was not clear what “contemporary” really means.

Anthony Green

anthony green anthony green 2 anthony green 3

Anthony Green’s work is described as polygonal forms and over the years these have become more and more complex.  Some of them remind me of the phase of Hockney’s work where he was taking series of digital prints (Polaroid ) when laid together formed an overall image with juxtaposing – lines not matching.



There is a sense of stretching the space with both these kinds of work. Also changing the alignment of the planes so that looking is a greater challenge and you tend to notice more because of it.

Phillip Pearlstein

phillip pearlstein  phillip pearlstein 2

Most of Pearlstein’s paintings are considered from an overhead view and interestingly as above the whole figure is not always included.   Again this means that you have to do more work in order to interpret what you are seeing.

I find them engaging and reminiscent of Jenny Saville’s work where she depicts the body in very stark and often unattractive ways.

download (2)  download (1)

She uses extreme angles looking from below the figure which emphasises the enormity of the flesh.

Edward Hopper



So I went back as far as Edward Hopper because he had such a distinct way of creating time and place in his paintings.   They depict the lonely mostly individuals in urban and rural settings in the USA 30- 50s.  The mood is often sombre and restrained, life, place etc hinted at often through windows. His most well known works are in oils although he painted beautiful watercolours.   I also liked this drawing which reminded me of Vuillard – my favourite 19-20th century interiors painter.

Ivon Hitchens


This was labelled as Hitchens last painting.   Although in oils his works whether interiors or landscapes always had a very spontaneous feel to them.   He was working through to the 70s. His paintings tend to be bright, warm, homely and inclusive.    Hitchens was able to render the simplest still life full of energy and colour.

Patrick Caufield

Braque Curtain 2005 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005

Caufield most often worked on interiors using strong blocks of colours and also line.   Some cite his work as photo realism.    He was able to create very strong compositions often using very few tones or colours as is this painting above. Working from the 50s until his death in early 2000s he seemed to be the fashion and then beyond the fashionable sticking with his style throughout his long career.

Carole Rabe



In an interview Carole Rabe talked about her trying to depict presence in interiors without painting figures.    I picked her because it was quite difficult to find a painter who currently paints in a “traditional” style but contemporary settings. I find her work very evocative of current comfortable middle-class American life.   Light pouring through windows, it always seems to be summer.

David Hockney


Walking Past Two Chairs 1984-6 by David Hockney born 1937


I like the multi-dimensional aspect of this phase of Hockney’s work.   This phase of work dates from his Californian life from the 80s.   Again the light is relevant through the colours and sharp shadows.   Also the indicate multi-level living with high ceilings and big windows.   They are positive, upbeat and very indicative of the lifestyle of time and place.

Jonas Wood



Everything from modernism to pop-art is cited when discussing the work of Jonas Wood.   Also working in the West Coast of America.    They feel very contemporary and often include current architectural styles.    His very precise blocks of colour and shape in some ways recall the work of Caufield .   He is also painting his own environment.






Part 2 – Positive & Negative Space

Garry Hume


Hume uses the drama of the positive and negative shapes to fill and over run the canvas. I like the way that although the figure is one colour by laying over the flowered background it still looks like it is striding towards the viewer.

Fiona Rae

Untitled (grey and brown) 1991 by Fiona Rae born 1963

This is a much more complex arrangement of layers of positive on top of negative where the former positive became part of the negative space as the painting builds towards the foreground.   You can almost see the different objects/shapes as if painted on distinct clear layers and then laid over each other.    Something that would be interesting to try.

Gillian Ayres


Ayres builds bold almost cut out shapes of paint on top of the ground and with the careful choice of colours which help to allow some to recede slightly whilst other “flowers” come to the fore.

Howard Hodgkins


Again by careful but similar colours the artist has created a landscape/scene with relatively few marks and colours.   The greatest achievement is that the painting still draws the eye into the distance.

David Hockney


By creating this huge block of trees disappearing into the distance as well as the outlines of the trees nearer Hockney achieves central status in the picture.   This is further emphasised by the positive and negative shapes achieved with the grass and roads as they diverge from the foreground.   Additionally the stark dark negative shapes of the squat shrubs (vines) to the right emphasis once again the immense height of the trees themselves.

Michael Craig-Martin


This very graphic style with its artistic references achieves complex shapes and spaces built one on top of the other without necessary reference to scale or a horizontal surface. Nevertheless the objects are readable in relation to each other and the painting as a whole.The limited colour palette helps to achieve this harmony.

Patrick Caufield

Still Life Ingredients 1976 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005

Again a rather graphic example this time using positive and negative space  with colours as well as line to create presence.

Part 2 – Project 3 – Exercise 3 – Material Difference


I became a bit confused between Exercise 2 and 3 of this project in deciding how to go about developing a composition.

These first two sketches are from my sitting room where there is much more light and variety of objects of differing values and colours.


As I mentioned I had been reading about Bonnard and was particularly struck by one of the compositions which was longer and looking down on the subject.


Although not in itself containing particularly interesting objects this is one of the most intimate  views.   Therefore worked on cutting down and looking from above so that I could isolate the subject more specifically. I was surprised how difficult I find this process from different points of view.   We are used to taking in a scene and scanning it not concentrating on particular points of view and therefore it is a challenge to cut out all the extraneous “stuff” when looking.


I came down to the view above slicing through the view and taking in my neighbour’s sunflowers outside the window.   This says particular time – early autumn and place to me.


How I Worked the Drawing

I have never attempted such a large interior – this is an A1 sheet and my first challenge was getting used to the scale and thinking about what materials I wanted to use.

Somehow I was daunted by the white sheet of paper and covered the drawing area with an ochre ink wash.  I realise that I have never actively thought about working on different grounds so this was a first for me.

The next challenge was to pin this down to time of the day.   The light comes directly in during the morning so this is when I decided to place/time the drawing.

I had worked during the earlier part of this part of the course with multi-media materials and as  it is up to us to decide what to use I went for this option.

First big mistake – I had thought about doing the drawing with coloured pencils but when I started to work on a piece this size I thought it would take me far too long to complete the exercise. So I went for oil pastels and coloured pencils.   Unfortunately they do not work as the best of friends if you lay down the oil pastels first – the surface became very slimy and unworkable.

Panic! – Should I start again or do something drastic?   I did something drastic – used some white gouache to block in the main “light” tone areas.   Second big mistake.

Day 2 – Spent quite a lot of time trying to get rid – scraping back both the excess oil pastels and the gouache.   This was possible in some areas but not others.


Spent a lot of time trying to get the tonal values across the whole drawing correct but found this was very elusive.

The area I feel that I couldn’t resolve because of the decisions made on the first day are the curtains on the left of the composition.   In real life they are not textural like in the photograph but just messy.

Using the oil pastels works in some areas and not in others as do the coloured pencils.


I did my now usual thing of cropping the final image – taken out the curtains on the left.  In some ways I think this makes a better composition all round but regret loosing the hint of the table and its warm light.

My Neighbour’s Sunflowers – Conclusions

  • Still not disciplined enough with myself to stop and think about making a plan of action when undertaking a piece of work
  • I like work that is less fussy than the work I produce
  • I need to learn more about the materials that I use and definitely for the next assignments do more tryouts before committing myself to a final piece
  • I really hate the sunflowers – they look too false and formulaic- although in a way they are.
  • I need to learn more about aspects of foreground and background.   It was interesting in reading that it is said that Bonnard was democratic in his compositions – everything was equally important.
  • The coloured ground really works and brings a warmth to the whole piece
  • Finding a composition is a complex task which takes practice – it does not come naturally to me
  • I am still finding it hard to follow the instructions in the exercises – I get carried away and then when I go back to them I often find I have misinterpreted what was wanted
  • Working at larger sized pieces needs different skills that I am not used to and needs to be practised

I thought I would do a final Bonnard action – he worked on pieces of canvas without making decisions about the final size of the work and often worked on more than one image on one piece of canvas.   So I have  cropped again:-


The sunflowers look even worse in this but I like the chair, cushion and reflection on the curtain.


A bit messy – especially hate the left over gouache light shadows on the table. The gate is a bit wonky too!

Part 2 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 & 2 – Interior sketches and studies


Started with quick sketches around the rooms in the house.  Concentrated on line, shape, proportions etc rather than tone. Also was considering along the way what I would like to concentrate on drawing in greater depth.


Made notes as I went along considering the compositional possibilities of the particular view.   In some cases like the one above of part of my studio thought it would be too complex and confusing.


Then moved into the dining room and particularly liked the shapes of the chairs and how the different struts intersected.


Tried different viewpoints but thought this was getting back too much to still life rather than interior.   The view below has lost the interest of the chairs.


In some ways liked this one but too much like still life again.


As I took a longer view there was greater interest in the shadows coming through from the doorway of my studio.  Bit of an interior within an interior as the dining room itself has no natural light source which I thought might be a problem.

Further along I think this would be an interesting subject to tackle with all the different tones and shadows.


As I moved into the bedroom started using a charcoal pencil which I feel gives more definition to the objects and more structure all round.   Thought at one stage that I would like to concentrate on this view for the detailed study but again this room only has limited natural light.

If I went ahead with this I thought it would be better being a rather dark scene – it would have been better with a figure on the bed and full of mood.   In the end felt that it would not really work for showing the use of colour but it might be something I come back to in the future. Has a real feel of the “noir” and Sickert type of scene.


During the process of doing these drawings I was reading the Bonnard book (Metropolitan Museum 2009 – The Late Still Lifes and Interiors).  I thought both the scene above and particularly the one below with the dog on the bed were very evocative of the kind of interior he produced.


Learning Points

  • Initially I was hesitant about drawing interiors which I had not attempted in the past but gained more confidence the more I drew
  • Viewpoint is more important than I had realised and only by doing my own drawings did I start to become a bit discerning about how to tackle an interior
  • I am still very nervous about depicting the nuances of tone and light – I would like to have tackled the interior within the interior view from the dining room but felt it was too complex a composition to take on first time round
  • In some ways I am drawn to the simpler compositions but would like to learn how to make the complex more simple – i.e. how to draw out the essentials in a scene


Part 2 – Research Still Life

Still Life  – Research

As I have previously noted in an earlier Reflection I had done all the research and reading at the beginning of this module without taking any notes.   Hence I have had to go through the content again and try and pick up the pieces.

Starting and ending with Morandi via Tacita Dean

I don’t know when I happened upon this article about Tacita Dean (Krcma) but suffice to say that it is about her visit and the making of her film “Day for Night” in Morandi’s studio in Bologna.

A couple of months before starting this drawing course I had visited Bologna, a hidden gem of Italy, and had come across Morandi inevitably.  Unfortunately his studio was undergoing renovation and so the only work which I saw was in the Modern Art Museum. I looked and looked at his paintings and have subsequently spent time reading more (Abramowicz) and am still left with a very blank reaction to his work despite the reverence with which it is held.

So I was captured by another artist’s response to him. Tacita Dean has made a number of films on artists some of whom have subsequently died. (Mario Merz, Joseph Beuys, Cunningham & Cage, Cy Twombly).  Therefore it is with interest that I approach her 3 concerns:-

  • Confrontation with finitude, transience and morality
  • The staging of decelerated and heightened attentiveness to the worn surfaces of the material world
  • The elaboration of formal and conceptual reflexivity which addresses the meaning and value of the artwork as a problem in itself, beyond the technical demands of its making (Krcma)

Evidently what she was captivated by was “the abundant evidence of idiosyncratic procedures and devices” Morandi used. His objects were wrapped, painted or modified in various ways. This reminded me of Cezanne’s still life when he “fixed the objects in their positions by artificial means at the angles he needed for compositional requirements.” (Lloyd)

In naming her film “Day for Night” she also alludes to the Truffaut film (1973) of the same name and the filmic device.

Starting to work on still life drawings I am only just becoming conscious of how many devices are in operation in order to come to the composition of any piece. This includes of course the objects themselves their significance, how they are posed, the light sources, the place etc. etc. That is of course without the political, social, historical, and economic considerations.

I put together a short table to begin to look at the historical development of the genre with significant artists:-

Date Artist/s Place
16th Century Sanchez Coton

1560 -1627

The Pantry


Xenia I – a simple meal – raw

17th Century Cornelis de Heem

1631 – 1695

Jan Davidsz de Heem

1606 – 1684

The Banquet

Xenia II – cooked




18th Century Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin

1699 – 1779

The Kitchen



19th Century Paul Cezanne

1839 – 1906

The Kitchen.

The Dining Room


“Non-Illustrative Discourse”

20th Century Juan Gris

1887 – 1927

Henri Matisse

1869 – 1954

Giorgio Morandi

1890 – 1964

The Café

The Studio

The Home

1920s/30s Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

1895 – 1946

Man Ray




Still life was considered a very minor genre compared to historical painting from the 16th Century onward.   I have related my interest in the early work of Sanchez Coton in relation to the choices of subject and composition for my Assignment 1 composition.

Cotan Still lIfe with Game Fowl

Suffused with meaning Joanna Woodall (Laying the Table 2012) takes up the narrative of Dutch still life into the 17th Century.  Where power, trade, accumulation, wealth and exploitation become the signifiers of the compositions which have moved into the dining room and more significantly depict the banquet. She quotes Roland Bathes (1953) “ Man has washed away religion only to replace it with man and his empire of things….this superficial sheen and shine, this visual intensity as a fetishistic projection on the part of the artist and view.” However it is also made clear that this was an age of emergent scientific thinking and deep philosophical debate on the nature of” knowledge and truth.” (Woodall)

Further reading should include Adorno’s Theories of Aesthetics (1970), Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1934)  and Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida (1980).  There are areas of philosophical and artistic theory which it has not been possible to include at this time.

Stepping briefly into the world of Cezanne Lloyd remarks that “one of the most intriguing aspects of many of Cezanne’s still life’s is the special ambiguities that he introduces into them”.

You could argue that the work of the cubists including Picasso, Baraque and Gris was an extension of this development. Flattening out the planes, tones, colours, and perspectives extends “analytical exercise for the purpose of comprehending the world as he (Cezanne) saw it”. (Lloyd)

Lucy Somers – The Implications of the Still Life in the Context of Contemporary Art” takes on a fairly simplistic interpretation matching her arguments to those of Platonic thinking.

She does however point out that “with modernism, artist began the most dramatic reinvention of the still life has seen, and adapting it as the static clothes horse, on which to hang their post-impressionist and cubist experiments.” Moving on through to the 20th Century where “The attitude now is that art is in the motivation, intention and idea regardless of how it is carried out.”

Bringing us to contemporary work “The value system of a piece have changed wholesale now, by the fact that the very choosing and placement of the objects is now given artistic value.” (Somers)

The “modernist school” for Somers “The statement is not the assemblage of the objects, but the treatment of them…the manipulation and thus the art would be in the viewing of the paining”. However I believe that the artist has constantly been manipulating the “image, field, content, context etc etc.   What has changed is not necessarily how that is being done but in the means by which it is done.

For this I revert to the original article about film being used (and I have not had time to review this in relation to the development of photography from the 19th century and its influences). Note to self – re-read Susan Sontag – On Photography

And Morandi – I still don’t get it – I get Dean’s filmic response to his objects and studio without becoming more appreciative of his paintings. I’ll keep trying!


In terms of looking at contemporary still life I find myself drawn to mainly female photographers whose compositions are funny, mocking and thoughtful.

Krista van der Niet

Krista van der Niet

Laura Letinsky 2

Laura Letinsky


Saara Ekstrom

Emma Bennett

Emma Bennett

Project 2 – Still Life – Intermediary Reflection

Exercise 1 & Exercise 2

Between the 2 exercises it was a case of being able to create some aspects of the drawing easier in one i.e. Exercise 2 was easier to produce tone and depth using the colour and build up of the cross hatching than with just one media, pen and ink.

However the variety of mark making in Exercise 1 was more interesting, diverse and inventive than with the coloured drawing.

Definition of the objects and their relationship to each other is more effective in the coloured drawing.  However some transitional detail in the line drawings particularly the 2nd one of 3 stones has intriguing passages.

The difficulties of choosing just line or tone are usually in those transitions between one object and another or the background/table.   Also in creating individuality of the objects like with the 3 stones in the line drawing.

Colour initially seems easier but allows me to get lazy about looking at what is happening in relation to tone – shadow etc.

(However at this stage I do need to re-do exercise 2 based on the actual instructions).


Exercise 2 – Still life in tone using colour

Actually slightly cheated as I used 4 different colours if you include white!

Found it much easier using colour rather than just line to build tone. Although I am aware I can become lazy by relying on the colour to do the work and my inventiveness with mark making tends to suffer because of it.

Creating tone with just line needs greater precision I think – it is easy to overwork a particular area and then the whole object can become too messy and confusing.

I would like to be more dramatic and dynamic when working with colour – particularly as I tend to choose coloured pencils. Need to think about trying more with pastels but past experiments have not been successful because I tend to loose the precision.



Part 2 – Reflection

I have learnt a very hard lesson whilst working through the Part 2 – Intimacy module.

One of the tendencies I have is to get sucked into research and discovery which I noted during the Part 1 work.   So for this module I thought I would concentrate on the research at the beginning of the module.  I did a lot of reading (see bibliography Part 2) and became very involved in thinking about still life its history and significance.  However at some stage, I can’t remember now how many days I spent on the research, I though I had better get on with some drawing.

However, I now realise on returning to the material some weeks on that I haven’t written up any notes and have completely forgotten where I was going with the thinking and reading.

Consequence 1: – I have now to revisit all the reading and research.

Secondly I was so eager to get on with the drawing, moving from one exercise to the next that I did not write up my blog.

Consequence 2: – I have lost the detailed experience of each piece of work as I created them.

Finally, along the way there were various fleeting thoughts, ideas, associations, flights of fancy that I have also now lost.

Consequence 3:- I have not been able to recreate my conscious and unconscious thought patterns. 

This is a hard lesson…… in my eagerness to move forward I have deprived myself of useful processes and time.