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Dried figs and sunshine.
Coffee machine coffee in brown plastic cups.
And some scaffolding.
It changed the way I saw the world.
300 x 1650 x 610 cm
Villa Arson, Nice, France
Presented in the monographic exhibition Gerwald Rockenschaub,
Villa Arson, April 4 - May 14 1992
All rights reserved Gerwald Rockenschaub and Jean Brasille, Villa Arson, for the photography
I’ve been listening to Autechre over the last few days. Sitting at the experimental / “intelligent techno” end of the music spectrum it’s not always easy listening. While doing so I came across the following in Gregory Heaney’s review of EPs 1991–2002,
“What really ties the set together, however, is the packaging. Stark, minimal, and austere, the collection has a physical presence that seems to embody the spirit of the band, offering no explanations or assistance in the way of liner notes or even a detailed track list that points out what songs come from which albums. Instead, like Autechre themselves, EPs 1991–2002 simply presents the listener with the music the band has made and lets them come to grips with it on their own terms, allowing them to draw their own conclusions about what they’re hearing without any unnecessary assistance from its creators.”
Such reduced presentation has strong parallels with much contemporary art, with work often presented as is, with little if any explanation. Titles, medium, date listed on a room sheet and that’s your lot.
This got me thinking: how does this approach sit next to being open and transparent about my practice? How open do I want to be? How much do I want to share, how much do I want to hold back? How much is it necessary to hold back?
I realise it’s not necessarily an either/or situation, but is worth some thought.
Image via Creative Review
No five things this week, instead a catch up on what’s been happening in the studio this week – I’ve been working on a couple of small blue monochromes and also taking steps towards creating a larger monochrome work.
Of the pale blue monochromes, I’ve a couple on the go. One sits on the wall as I decide how to deal with the edges of the work, the other on my desk waiting for another layer of paint. Both use older paintings as a starting point.
In going over old works, the quality of the painting surface is quite different from working on a pristine surface. It’s less absorbent for starters. Also, the textures of the previous work are still apparent at certain angles under a couple of layers of paint. With more layers they’ll become hidden.
In making monochromes this way I can either accept and absorb the history of the previous works or paint everything a flat grey, which makes for quite horrible surface to work on. So I’m going for the former option.
Away from the blue works I’ve been mixing different blacks for a larger monochrome work I’m considering. I could use a black straight from the tube but in mixing my own there’s the opportunity to create something richer and more alive. This larger work will again involve going over an older unresolved work dug out from storage. It has areas that are quite different tonally and I’m interested to see how this contrast comes through once I start to build up the new layers of paint. But first, I need to choose which black to use.
From the National Gallery, London
Master of the Borgo Crucifix (Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes)
The Virgin and Child
Egg tempera on poplar
32.2 × 22.9 cm
The Man of Sorrows
Egg tempera on poplar
32.3 × 23 cm
Giovanni da Milano
The Virgin: Left Pinnacle Panel
Egg tempera on wood
89.3 × 37.2 cm
Probably by Jacopo di Cione
Noli me tangere
Egg tempera on wood
56 × 38.2 cm
The Transfiguration Group
Maestà Predella Panels
Egg tempera on wood
48.5 × 51.4 cm
The Virgin and Child with Saint Dominic and Saint Aurea, and Patriarchs and Prophets
about 1312–15 (?)
Egg tempera on wood
61.4 × 39.3 cm
While I’m far from religious, whenever I’m in London I try and get to the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery to look at the Icons and altar pieces. My foundation tutor was really keen on them and I’m sure his enthusiasm was an influence. I particularly appreciate the “objectness” of them, which these images don’t fully carry. Like most painting, it’s best seen in the flesh. And ideally more than once. Different days, different times, under different circumstances and if you’re lucky, different light. What resonates one day may not the next. It’s these revelations and small observations that are part of the pleasure of looking at and living with art.
And talking of moving at a different pace, if you’re following it today, enjoy the cricket and have a great Easter break.
I’ve pretty much always doodled. I can remember at the age of 16 being told off in my Maths class for doodling in pencil on the table (it could easily be wiped clean). Now at meetings if I’ve a pen and notebook in my hand, I’ll not only take notes but I’ll end up doodling too, sometimes quite prodigiously.
I’ve tried to enlarge my doodles before now, to turn them into paintings, but it’s never really worked. I’ve learnt they’re a thing in and of themselves. They don’t need to be anything else. If I do start thinking they’re going to become paintings or something else I become self-conscious of my actions. The doodles suffer, they feel forced – their strength lies in the their semi-conscious, automatic making.
These five were made over the last week or so. Sitting at my table, half watching something on my laptop or while taking a break between one thing and the next. The top one with the forms standing in space is kind of typical. I’ll often draw object type forms. The black ones, made using a lettering pen, are more unusual while for the middle one I may well have been thinking of a light fitting or working out how to construct a painting.
Donald Judd - Julian Dashper, 2014
Acrylic on bamboo
215 × 150 × 5mm
What’s appropriation art?
It’s when you steal but make a point of stealing, because by changing the context you change the connotation.
Graffiti artists use the stuff of everyday life as their canvas – walls, dumpsters, buses. A stylized representation is placed on an everyday object. In visual art, as in other media, artists take unfiltered pieces of their surroundings and use them for their own means.
Quotes from Reality Hunger by David Shields.
From the newsletter archives…
One year ago
Two years ago
Thumb drawing, mobile phone
Sunday 6 March, 2016
Three years ago
Two new works in progress in a rearranged studio.
Sixteen inch square, low profile stretchers with gessoed, fine weave Italian linen – a lovely surface to work on.
Four years ago
Five years ago
Studies – working title, Not Me
Oil stick on A3 Kraftpaper
Five drawings I made this week
Some artworks are planned, drawn up and then executed, others are intuitive and their direction is unknown. These drawings are the latter and feel like a natural extension of the doodles I’ve been making.
Looking at them I’m reminded of:
- John Reynolds drawings (due to the materials),
- the work of George Baselitz,
- and the mid-career drawings and paintings of Philip Guston.
Also in my mind is a story my foundation tutor, Mick Maslen, once told us. When he was at art school, doodling and not really sure of what to do, his tutor told him to “Keep churning them out”. Week after week, “Keep churning them out”. And this is how I feel about these works – while I’m far from lost, I know I need to keep on making them, to let them develop and see where they’re going.
The difference in quality between a 50 cent hard crayon and $16 oil stick is quite something. The crayon is hard (Doh!), waxy, and not loaded with pigment whereas the oil stick is buttery, soft, and a little sticky. These qualities lead to quite different drawings. With the oil stick I’m more relaxed, my body feels looser – I don’t have to force the stick across the surface, it slips and slides with an ease. The difference is fascinating, and after trying the crayon it’s such a relief to go back to using the oil stick. It’s not that the oil stick is necessarily better than the crayon, it’s just that right now, for these drawings, the oil stick is just what is needed.
Detail from oil stick drawing.
Featured image: Crayon drawing (left) Oil stick drawing (right) both on A3 Kraftpaper
After last week’s five works over 20 years, here are five works from the last five years…
Less Use, 2013
acrylic on wooden panels (2 pieces)
400 × 1620 × 80mm
Rejected from a couple of competitions this work sold immediately when shown with PaulNache in Gisbourne (not that sales are the only measure as to whether a work is any good or not). For me, this piece somehow embodied much of what I learnt from my residency at SNO in Sydney. A favourite of mine for sure.
Work #52, 2014
acrylic on canvas
200 × 250mm
The final work from my year long 52 weeks, 52 works, 52 colours project.
The colour of Courtenay Place, 2015
Light boxes, Wellington
My first public art project. Several people commented on how the monochromes changed the nature of the light boxes from places where images are displayed to sculptural objects.
acrylic on linen
500 × 500mm
2016 was a comparatively quiet one for me. I started my daily monochrome project to build up some momentum in my practice again. This work, a variation of the monochrome, was one of a pair, the other work however failed due to a blemish.
Flasche paint on cardboard
100 × 120mm
Chosen here as a contrast to the quality finish of Offset. Where some works benefit from precision, patience and quality materials others succeed by being made quickly on whatever materials are lying around. This cut up piece of cardboard falls in the later category and it’s sitting on my wall at home, horizontally, as you read this.