Option 1: Print

Exercise 2 : Transfer Method

 

A whole lot more satisfying than the ‘Found Objects’ exercise,  though it really felt like drawing blind. I used the end of a paintbrush for the lines, a stiff brush and roller for shadow.

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I like the simplicity of this. From repeated errors I realised that rolling was the best way to get the depth of shadow – though it’s a shame the line is so clear here. Despite that I like it – the face has expression.

IMG_0683This is one of the last prints I did. I wondered what would happen if I didn’t work blind  – so I traced around the drawing using tracing paper, laid this onto my sheet and traced the line in to the ink. The result seems devoid of everything that I’ve gained in the above. It reminds me very much of the tracing drawings by Warhol that I saw in Oxford – they also didn’t impress me much – bland and sterile, though I’m guessing that is quite possibly what Warhol was after. Despite the tracing I’ve managed to forget part of the scalp! As I write this I wonder if there is an in-between – using a pencil to draw so at least I can see where I have already been – though perhaps the temptation would be to try to correct and overdraw? What I’m happier with is getting the deeper pattern of shade behind the face – cleaner areas of light and dark.

 

IMG_0681This was my first print – I got such a shock when I turned the paper over. Not sure what I expected but it wasn’t this. Nevertheless it gave me a way in into how I wanted to take the image on. I took from this what I liked, using less ink, slimmer lines and being really careful to leave some areas blank of ink.

 

 

 

 

Exercise 3 : Drawing directly onto the plate

Ashamed that I’ve given up on this, in sulky teenage mode. I’ve looked through the OCA video tutorials on mono prints,  the technique is briefly discussed for an abstract print, but I’ve had real difficulty removing the paint cleanly. I couldn’t find oil-based paint as specified, I have something called ‘Encre Linogravure a L’eau’ (linogravure water-based ink), maybe this is part of the problem? I tried scraping, rubbing with cloth, brushes, using water, using white spirit – with a messy result every time. I think this is one of those techniques where in the absence of endless clear days stretching out in front of me in which to experiment, I could really do with some hands-on practical advice. Here they are, in all their glory.

Option 3: Collage and Text

Project 5.4 Found Text

I knew fairly early on that this was turning into something of a primary school project. Regrettably I was out of time for this assignment and out of love for it too. I’ve looked at collages online and found none to inspire me. I’m closed to the idea of collage and I know that’s not a good thing. As (bad) luck would have it the L’Atelier Indigo where I take a weekly art class has got us all doing a collage and I can’t wait for it to be over!

Collage feels like drawing with mittens on. I imagine that I should be using my cut out pieces of paper just as I would a pencil, letting them find the way, but instead I seem to be trying to create a picture with them, like a puzzle for which I’ve lost the picture.

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My ‘stupid collage’ as it’s become known at home is born out of a long-held fascination for cargo ships – a recent boat trip around Hamburg port only intensifying that.

As I started to cut out my shapes the project began to get a little political. It wasn’t my intention, but container ships are a pretty potent symbol – used to ship luxury goods from poor to rich, trashing the sea, becoming fashionable designer sheds and forced homes for refugees.

So my container squares have been cut from magazines that sell crocodile-skin bags and marble inlay swimming pools, prime Paris real estate and hand-dyed silk bedlinen. For the eagle-eyed there are two windows among the containers, washing hanging out to dry. The container ship I got up close to in Hamburg port was called Ever Lucky – I can’t really imagine a more appropriate (or inappropriate) name. Ever lucky we are to be receiving these goods, and not in the sweatshop that produced them. Ever lucky we are not to be working these ships. Ever lucky we are to have a designer container as our funky office space. Ever lucky we are not to be living in a space 8ft wide and 8ft tall.

The above left was my first ‘final’ collage, but so unhappy was I with it that I cut it up to produce the final final above. Cutting it up seemed like the right thing to do. I ended up with strips like straws -the idea of drawing the short straw linking in with Ever Lucky.

There are websites that let me trace Ever Lucky as it sails is triangular trade route from Yangshang, China to Manzanillo, Mexico and on to Europe. A shipping container is 20 x 8 ft and the Ever Lucky can carry 8,508 of them. I thought of printing its name on the collage, cargo-style, but I wanted something more careless, a scrawl – it hasn’t really come off. In the final version I did use elements of a more cargo-style font, cut out in glitter gold paper.

I’m not sure what triggered me to draw in plankton on the newsprint, I think partly the need to just draw something, and something delicate. They fill the seas that float these ships. And again, it’s another contrast – this simple but vital life form and the complex world we’ve become.

Overall I’m embarrassed by my output for this project, by its primary school project feel and by its clumsy messages. The good thing that came out of it was an opportunity to engage my kids’ minds a little!

 

L’Atelier Indigo – finished pastel

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I wrote about the process of this in an earlier post and it feels good to finally have it finished. I look at this and the pear charcoal and frankly I’m chuffed that I’ve actually created these myself. I’m so surprised with pastel, I had no idea it could be used dramatically like this. However I’m still not crazy about the subject.  I was working from a photograph in the art class and find the pose is just too posed. And though I think it’s possible to get lost in any subject, it helps if the love is there!

What I’ve learnt most from working in charcoal and pastel is how it takes confidence. Go in bold, then ‘sculpt’ the material to bring out the subject. It’s actually fairly easy to correct mistakes – at one point that foot shifted by several inches!

It’s a little shiny in parts – a mistake with the fixative…

Part Five: Option 1: Print

Found Objects and Materials

Exercise 1: Balance

I approached this with huge enthusiasm, collecting seed pods and grasses on walks, rummaging through toy boxes for meccano. I even cut the lace from a bra. Bits of broken circuit board and flat rubber washers added to the excitement. My haul of Found Objects and Materials was growing.

However, when I came to make prints these intriguing shapes became unidentifiable, indistinguishable blobs. No matter how hard I pressed around their edges, with a roller, with fingers – every time I peeled back the paper there was a general splodge. I resorted to YouTube instruction videos, but in every video on printing with objects, a huge rolling machine was in use. No one was doing this by hand.

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My notes of frustration: splodges left by lace, meccano, gauze, computer board, elastic bands, washers.

 

 

 

 

What I did notice was that my ‘found objects’ left an impression in the ink, and if I re-inked the plate before applying the paper and rolling, I got my shapes and a certain amount of texture. I then experimented with cut paper for more solid shapes, sometime peeling it off, sometimes leaving it on. I inked over the gauze, I peeled it back. Once I had decided that this was the way forward, I began to think about theme of ‘Balance’

Just back from my first trip to New York in 20 years and my head was full of the city – and especially of the extraordinary geometric shapes made by building and sky. It’s such a beautiful city, somehow managing to strike a balance between space and occupation, sky and concrete. Down near Battery Park where space is at a premium, buildings bounce the sunlight into dark corners, creating an eerie eclipse-like gloom. The city is a precarious balance of teetering buildings on a tiny island, but somehow it works. Everyone gets their piece of sky, their ray of sunlight.

This project was so much harder than I expected – it seems impossible to produce something that doesn’t look like it’s been done by a child in kindergarten. I’m not very happy with the outcome of these, though I really enjoyed the process. More than ever this demonstrates to me how it is the messing about and the letting go that gets results. And of course, making time to do that!

The OCA handbook suggests oil-based printing ink, Japanese and Indian papers – I couldn’t get hold of any of these, so used water-based ink and a roll of IKEA kids’ drawing paper.

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Above – I like the inserted postcard with its own mini-landscape. Also the thread – ‘hanging by a thread’ that has unravelled from the gauze.

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This does seem like a clumsy interpretation of balance – it wasn’t meant! I was just moving pieces about and thinking of sculptures balanced on plinths outside those fancy New York office blocks. I like the way the cubes seem backlit. I wish the shard of light on the right was a cleaner, sharper shape.

Version 2

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Above: a bit flat, but it feels more deliberate than the others – like I knew what I was doing!

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Even though the balance of sky and concrete was very much in my mind while doing these, I don’t feel they really convey that. The final prints feel more about the crowded precariousness of buildings with occasional shards of sunlight breaking through – that fine balance between light and dark.

 

Bohemia Lies By The Sea, 1996, Anselm Kiefer

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This is what I wrote while standing in front of this:

Something so beautiful and yet melancholic. Is it the association with post war guilt or is it in the piece itself. Similar reaction in London. Could consider ugly up close – beige, cream and flesh-coloured pinks. The grey-white stripe across the top – sky? sea? And then, standing 100ft back the beauty is extraordinary. It suddenly becomes a real place, and flowers glow in strange light.

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I must have spent 30 minutes with this painting, walking back and forth, turning my back on it and then spinning around to face it from different parts of the room. A kind of grandmother’s footsteps. Up close it’s quite brutal, the colours are pasty, fleshy, not beautiful. That’s not to say it doesn’t get an emotional reaction close – it does – this soil feels churned up by suffering, charred, this is a place in limbo, but not a place you’d choose to be. And yet as you move away it starts to sing, becomes magical. He’s created a light I’ve never known – not dusk or dawn, sunlight or moonlight. The flowers that up close are disturbing patches of fleshy pink unfurl and are poppies, they dance and glow. From feeling like a kind of hell, it feels like a dream to wander that path and reach what is surely the prize. It is extraordinary.

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Detail from Bohemia Lies By The Sea, 1996, Anselm Kiefer

 

Böhmen liegt am Meer (Bohemia Lies by the Sea) is inscribed on the painting – it’s a poem by an Austrian poet about the longing for a homeland that can never be, for Bohemia is landlocked, it cannot lie by the sea. Maybe this is a longing to change the past, a longing for a different history. Perhaps this painting can’t be given precise meaning. It is something of many layers. Of horror, of war and destruction, of longing, of a land that can be viewed two ways, of looking back and looking forward.

It is vast at 191.1 × 561.3 cm. The sheer scale of it seems to give it more of everything; more passion, depth, horror, joy. Impossible to get ones arms around it, it seeps out of the corner of your eye and into your peripheral vision.

Discovering Anselm Kiefer came at a particular moment for me. My mother, in the last months of her life had suddenly broken free of the guilt of being German. Born in 1938 with the burning streets of Hamburg as the horrific backdrop to her childhood, she left when she was 18, never to return, rarely speaking of her German roots. The British Museum’s exhibition Germany: Memories of a Nation changed all that and I am eternally grateful, for the last months of her life were spent discovering what it was to be German, something she hadn’t dared do all her life.

Michael Prodger in The Guardian, says of Kiefer: He is a child of the rubble and of the national silence about Hitler’s atrocities that settled on Germany after 1945. It was here that he formulated his idea that “creation and destruction are one and the same”.  Kiefer is an artist who hasn’t been afraid confront Germany’s past while also daring to reference the trauma that Germany suffered. And with my mother a child of the rubble too, I find it impossible to untangle the emotion I feel standing in front of this work.

 

 

Mountain 1, 1966, Agnes Martin

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Mountain 1, 1966, Agnes Martin

Unfortunately this doesn’t look like anything online. It’s the second time I’ve seen her work for real and again it has huge impact that simply can’t be felt unless standing right in front of it. This is way way more than a beige square.

It’s large – 183 x 183 – painted with one colour and covered in white horizontal lines outlined in pencil.

This is what I wrote when standing in front of it:

Draws/beckons gently from across the room – does it reach out to certain people? Does it fill a need? Is it medicine for some? It lives. Gently breathes. Feels like a living thing. Just completely at ease, solid, self composed, in a slight crazy room. It just is.

I am delighted and fascinated that I got a similar reaction on seeing this as I did when I saw my first Agnes Martin. A sense that the canvas was a living being. I do wonder if it touches people in a similar way. Does it calm those that need calming, or does it resonate with those that are hitting the same note, already on the same zen bandwidth?

 

 

Goldfish and Palette, 1914, Matisse

http://art-matisse.com

Goldfish and Palette, 1914, Matisse

I saw this for the first time recently. I was in MOMA and had just left the Edward Degas: A Strange New Beauty exhibition which I hadn’t enjoyed; it was overcrowded, I was disappointed with what I saw, my feet were sore, I hadn’t stayed long.

And here was something to lift my spirits. It was only when coming to write this down that I remembered the postcard of Matisse’s Goldfish of 1912 blue-tacked to my bedroom wall for years. So now I’m wondering how much a sort of subliminal nostalgia is at play here.

This is what I wrote while standing in front of the painting – I’m pleased I kept a record of this immediate reaction – it’s a reminder of my sense of excitement on this rather flat grey Sunday as I write.

It’s so intriguing! Feel I am in that space, standing at that window. Void that falls below (blue). The glass is cold and smooth. I could touch it….Careless with shapes in between leaves. Not sure what is on table – glass? Then to the right abstract shapes – so integral to the whole, yet a new dimension. Curiosity – another window, a refraction/reflection – is it the painter? Movement. There is a Still Life. And then there is something occurring right in our field of vision. Is that what makes us feel we are in the room? Is it us looking? I really like it!

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Self Portrait with Palette, 1885, Cézanne

In a 2010 article for Vanity Fair John Richardson describes a letter from Matisse to a friend. It contains a sketch of a goldfish bowl against the railings of his studio balcony but the sketch includes a self-portrait in which he holds a rectangular palette – apparently a reference to Cézanne’s self-portrait of 1885. In the final painting his self-portrait has become so abstracted that all that is left is the white rectangle of palette with thumb. This does make sense of the painting – the very real sensation that there is someone there, moving, looking.

The surrealist poet André Breton said of the painting, “I believe Matisse’s genius is here…nowhere has Matisse put so much of himself as in this picture.” (from the MOMA website)

 

I’ve added this close up simply to remind me of how Matisse dealt with the spaces in between the leaves. It quite blew my mind.

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