Week 6

German Art

Radio 4 series Germany: Memories of… today’s episode Purging the Degenerate focused on the Jewish potter Grete Marks, also known as Margarete Heymann-Löbenstein and Margarete Heymann-Marks, 1899-1990, initially trained at the Bauhaus, first founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919.    In 1923, she founded the Haël Workshops for Artistic Ceramics at Marwitz with her husband Gustav Loebenstein and his brother Daniel, where she manufactured her Modern ceramic designs.  In 1928, following the accidental death of her husband, and the rise of the Nazi party, she was forced to sell factory.  Her work was considered degenerate by the Nazi party, and in 1936 she was forced to flee to Stoke on Trent in England, with the help of Ambrose Heal, of Heal’s in London, who stocked her ceramics.

The pot described in the programme as illustrating history.

The Imagine.. The Art That Hitler Hated series on BBC1 gives an insight into how artists that were considered by Hitler to not be representing the German taste, were vilified and their work, supposedly, destroyed.  After 1938, it became illegal for Jews to buy or sell art, which meant that many collections were either confiscated outright or bought at derisory prices from fleeing emigrants.

Matisse's Femme Assise

Matisse’s Femme Assise

In 2010 in a routine spot-check on a German train, Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Hildebrand, Cornelius Gurlittan unemployed 77-year-old pensioner with no visible means of support, was discovered by customs agents to be carrying €9,000 in cash: not an illegal sum, but enough to arouse suspicions of tax evasion. When the police entered his home in Munich two years late, as part of their investigation, they found 1,280 works of art, including pieces by Dürer, Renoir, and Picasso, in the rented flat. Many of the pieces in this collection, whose value approached a billion euros, had been missing since the Second World War.  Cornelius died in May this year, leaving the collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland.

The documentary looks at how Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Nazi-approved art dealer, smuggled degenerate works out of sight of the Fuhrer.   Here Tim Martin of the Telegraph reviews the documentary.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/11190956/The-Art-that-Hitler-Hated.html.

I find it beyond my comprehension how it must have felt to be born of that  time, where logic and beauty were alien.

I spotted this work by Wassily Kandinsky in the documentary.

FB_sam03_kandinsky_g_lg.jpg 1,250×1,063 pixels

Improvisation 10, oil on canvas 1024 x 768 cms 1910

I am not so keen on Kandinsky’s later work (he died in 1944), but the work he produced around 1910, really speaks to me.  I need to work out just why this is and to work out how to use this new found understanding in my own work.   http://www.pinterest.com/susanmilleruk/wassily-kandinsky/

Rob Ryan

In Interview-Artists 2010, Ryan describes his journey from RCA screen printing to exquisite cutouts. 

Work in progress.  http://www.pinterest.com/susanmilleruk/rob-ryan/

We have a book and a mug of his work, but until I read the interview, I, shamefully, hadn’t really been conscious of him as an artist.

Does the overt commercialisation of his work, add to, or diminish his stature as an artist?

Terry Setch

What I am loving about  this course is that every day I am discovering jewels that lead me on a trail of discovery.  I am hoping that this is all feeding into bubbling creativity, because I am becoming so absorbed in the process, I am having little time to produce work myself.

Setch is such a jewel.  Working with encaustic wax (whatever that is-YouTube is such an amazing resource!) he is producing gently coloured powerful works, depicting the damage of pollution and with a sense of irony, using a pollutant to achieve the image.

Severn Estuary.

The BBC library, Your Paintings, 35 of his images and where they can be viewed  http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/search/painted_by/terry-setch

Images from his exhibition in Glamorgan in 2011 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-15255578


London W1X - Terry Setch latest show showing recent works at Cork Street

Time is Running Out 2011 from a recent exhibition in Cork St, London.

Yinka Shonibare MBE

The interview with Nigerian born Yinka Shonibare, in Interview Artists- 2010 focuses on his inspiration for the work in Trafalgar Square, and as such doesnt really give a full insight into his artistic journey.  What you do learn is his driving force, his background, his symbolism, ships and their movement of people, globalisation and its roots in the colonial period.  All of which influences his subject mater and choice of materials.


Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square 2009 250 x 250 x50cms


Yinka Shonibare African Batik Sculpture - Yorkshire Sculpture Park-2 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

I particularly liked this sculpture in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and 

Creative Review, commissioned for the Brighton Festival 2014, which again, shamefully I didn’t see.

Sargy Mann

Sargy Mann has been blind for the last 25 years.


Tim Adams writing in the Guardian in 2010,  ‘Even before he lost his sight, Sargy Mann was obsessed with ways of seeing. As a young painter he was tutored by singular realists – Frank Auerbach, Euan Uglow – who insisted that an individual artist must be exactly true to what he saw. For much of his working life Mann taught students at Camberwell School of Art all he knew about representing light and colour on canvas, with particular reference to Bonnard and Matisse,’

As he says ‘If your subject is your own experience then if you are having an experience, you have a subject.’


This BBC article includes a video of how Mann approaches his work. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29741908

Extraordinary determination to succeed against the odds.  Particularly relevant to me, following an operation to remove a cataract and replace my lenses.   Ongoing issues with my sight,  particularly during periods of stress or exhaustion, make me very aware of how easily I could be in the same situation as Mann.  His resolve has really heartened me.

Online Journal Review

Evaluating the Options

I have been asked to research an online journal that is relevant to my work.

I considered the publications suggested by Angela Rogers.  Art Review, Art Forum and Art Monthly, but all felt too ‘busy’, and their international bias made them less relevant to my need.

Art Review http://www.artreview.com

Art Forum http://www.artforum.com

Contemporary Art Daily is a ‘quieter’ publication, but its focus on international exhibitions, whilst interesting , the fact that I wouldn’t be able to see the exhibits, limits its appeal to me and where I currently am in my work.  Contemporary Art Daily http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com

The Journal of Modern Craft is a possibility, but it feels more like a physical publication than an online journal.  www.bergpublishers.com/bergjournals/thejournalofmoderncraft/tabid/3254/default.aspx

The Journal of Contemporary Painting will be published online from 2015.  http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=239/  The Journal is aimed at academics, critics, writers, artists, curators and the gallery-going public.  Research essays complement reviews and interviews that are responsive to current debates in painting and related art practices.

I also checked to see whether there was anything that focused on painting specifically, but everything I found addressed the amateur market.  http://www.artistsnetwork.com/the-artists-magazine

The After All Journal is a densely worded review, devoid of illustration, which doesn’t invite the reader to linger. http://www.afterall.org/journal/issue.12/why.are.conceptual.artists.painting.again.because.

I then considered the broadsheet reviews and weekly publications.  I receive a daily culture feed from the Guardian, so that is also a possibility.  I finally selected The New Statesman, seduced by Caroline Crampton’s sensitive article about a little known work by John Tavener, Flood of Beauty.  http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/10/sound-and-vision-john-taveners-flood-beauty

The New Statesman

This is a free (as far as I could tell) online  weekly journal.  The format has a familiar feel, the articles easy to read and the site is easy to navigate.  The online articles are taken from a number of editions, and here perhaps is the problem, the Hodgkin exhibition runs until November 15, but the Rego finished on the 25 October.

Michael Prodger interviewed the octogenarian Howard Hodgkin, who claimed he has never liked painting, Howard Hodgkin in his studio, His exhibition Green Matters is on at the Alan Cristea Gallery, London, W1, until 15 November.


and reviewed Paula Rego’s recent exhibition, The Last King of Portugal, at the Marlborough Gallery, London, W1.

Grayson Perry was recently a guest editor, with an article ‘The Rise and Fall of Default Man’ Grayson Perry’s Attack of the Clones

Mark Lawson’s review of Steve McQueen’s Ashes, a looped video, and Broken Column, his latest sculpture at Duke St in St James, London, with the quirky title  ‘Tracey Emin and Steve McQueen: still paid-up members of the awkward art squad’, is an interesting take on what might have been a rather dry description of McQueen’s latest work, with Ms Emin mockingly taking centre stage, and the said work, not in sight.

You are able to create an account and a profile page, where you can leave personalised comments, save articles to your library, and (coming soon) discuss the issues of the day with fellow New Statesmen readers, if you so desire.  Email feeds are also available.


The cultural section of The New Statesman includes some thoughtful, well written articles, and is predominately London centric, which is accessible for me.   Relevance to what is actually happening is probably better served by Time Out http://www.timeout.com/london, but if the reviews are of value, then, even if not current, The New Statesman is a good resource.


I have been exploring the subject of creativity, not least because coming to the role of full time artist so late in life, I have a lot of work to do to position myself, so that what I do is paint.  This is as much a mental adjustment, as a physical one.  Where others have spent a lifetime doing what comes naturally, I am having to teach and permit myself, whilst soaking up everything else that my new life has to offer.

I have the added hurdle that my working life has focused on the logic side of my brain and now I need to move that out of the way, to allow the creative side to take centre stage.

To guide me in this process I am reading Dr Shelley Carson’s Your Creative Brain, which, through a series of exercises, firstly, establishing my skill bias, and then by suggesting exercises designed to enhance my less dominant abilities, I am hoping to fast-track the opening of my creative pathways.

My highest scoring brainset, not surprisingly, was reasoning, closely followed by connecting; my lowest were transforming and streaming, which both barely registered  a point.  Surprisingly I score equally for Deliberate and Spontaneous pathways, although given that I have lived a fully functioning right and left brain life, maybe it is not surprising at all.

The exercises will form an essential daily part of my creative work, and I view them as the key to opening up the untapped energy, that has been marginalised for so long.

I am particularly interested in how other creatives, from all disciplines, access this energy.  By chance I happened to listen to Desert Island Discs, and listening to these two hugely successful women, was a good starting point.

Debbie Wiseman

The composer of TV  music, including Judge John Deed, The Andrew Marr show and a host of award winning films including Tom and Viv, was interviewed by Kirsty Wark on Desert Island Discs.  Wark manages to extract a real insight into the character and motivation behind the creativity of Wiseman.

She felt compelled to write music since a very early age and cannot go a day without writing something.  The pressures of writing to a deadline, finding she does her best work between 6-9am, the passion she bestows on her work, are inspiring.

Sally Wainwright

Writer of some the best TV writing for women, Meet the Braithwaites, Last Tango in Halifax and Scott and Bailey, also interviewed by Kirsty Walk.

Softly spoken with a broad Yorkshire accent, it is her slightly oblique take on real life that is at the core of her creativity.  Again she writes every day because it is her hobby as well as her work.


To be successful, creativity has to be at your very core.  To miss a day is like punishment.  Currently, I don’t feel like that and I am trying to work out why.

The EmptyEasel blog highlighted what I am feeling, with suggestions for how to move myself forward, one small step at a time. http://emptyeasel.com/2014/08/25/missing-out-on-painting-time-these-5-tips-will-help-you-get-back-to-your-easel/

Good advice, but is that what is really at the root of my reluctance to paint, or is it that I am in transition, with a whole new, previously unexplored world, opening up for me.

Worryingly, I am finding it easier to research and write blogs.  I am having to remind myself that I taking a course in Fine Art and not Art History.  That said, everything I am doing is essential to moving forward, nothing will be wasted, all that is needed is a better balance.

From Archive to Interview

This is the second Visual Enquiry lecture by Angela Rogers.

I have volanteered to present a slide show of this lecture.  I never volanteer for anything, what is going on?

This blog is to record my understanding of the information presented, for future reference.  At this stage, I need to document thoroughly, to ensure I have understood exactly what is being conveyed.

In this lecture we are looking at a selection of contemporary artists, and considering commentary from online resources and some of the problems that such research poses.

Thomas Schutte

Schutte was born in 1954 in Germany, and was tutored by Gerhard Richter.   "Betty" by Richter

‘Betty’ a photo realist painting by Richter in 1988.  Michele Leight’s review of Richter’s exhibition at the MOMA in New York February 2002  http://www.thecityreview.com/richter.html

Schutte felt that he had nothing to say in paint, that Richter hadn’t already said, so he turned to sculpture.

Schutte a prolific artist, producing sculpture, installations, photography, and lesser known watercolours, is known for the way he manipulates scale and materials. Online images may not indicate scale or materials used, which can make a difference to how work is perceived.

The first piece of work is from the United Enemies series, 1993-97, made from Fimo and fabric, and are around 30 cms high.

The second image is from the One Man  House  series, number 5 – 2005 chipboard 82.5 x 39.75 x 53.25 inches.


First we listen to Adrian Searle (podcast http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/audio/2010/jul/22/thomas-schutte-private-view) at a private view of the exhibition Big Buildings, Models and Views at the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, in July  2010.

Getty ImagesModel for a Hotel in Trafalgar Square, November 2007.

Erecting Model for a Hotel at the Big Buildings exhibition.

Adrian Searle feels that the Model for a Hotel works better within a building, rather than as a monument.

Domus review of the exhibition   http://www.domusweb.it/en/news/2010/10/02/thomas-schutte-big-buildings–models-and-views.html

Ferienhaus fur Terroristen 2007 chipboard

An article about the background to the work. http://www.theartdossier.com/featured/thomas-schutte-built-home-terrorists/

The original Ferienhaus für Terroristen (Holiday Home for Terrorists) in Mosern, Austria.

Grosse Geister 1996-8,  250cms high.

Image of: Blumen im Glas

  • Blumen im Glas, 2012  watercolour 38 x 28 cm
  • Image of: DistelDistel, 2012 watercolours 38 x 28 cm

Searle describes what takes his interest at the exhibition and concludes that ‘Schutte is free.  He does what he wants with wit, melancholy, gravity, sadness and joyousness all together, and that it doesn’t get much better than that.’


In Ossian Ward’s article in Time Out, 14 November 2007, http://www.timeout.com/london/art/trafalgar-squares-fourth-plinth, reviewing Thomas Schutte’s work for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square,  he feels Schütte’s work, a ‘Model for a Hotel’, mocks the very idea of monumental art, and fails to surprise.  The work’s see through  form and its title, reduce its stature for him.  He concludes that Schutte is just being too clever, ‘So while viewers might look straight through this transparent effigy, many will miss the inherent truth it imparts about the artistic act; that all art is a form of proposition and anything’s possible.’

Richard Dorment, writing in the Telegraph, 7 November 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3669081/Trafalgar-Square-plinth-beauty-weighs-four-tonnes.html, has a different view, calling the work ‘an abstract assemblage of panes of yellow, blue and red, glass – a miracle of engineering that weigh four tons and looks like it would blow away in the first strong breeze.’  He concludes the work is ‘Original, striking, thoughtful and  too beautiful, Schütte’s work is among the best in the series. ‘

Dorment feels that the work is an invitation to view and create an individual experience, where the work is enhanced by its monumentality.  Adams feels that Schutte’s work mocks the very idea of monumental art.  Two very different responses to the same work.

Kiki Smith

A contemporary of Schutte, Kiki Smith, born in 1954 in Germany, is the daughter of minimalist sculptor, Tony Smith.

Smith’s work tackles major world issues of Aids/race/gender/battered women.

The curator

Elizabeth Brown, curator at the university Art Museum, writing in Santa Barbara, California in 1994, says that  Smith one of the most influential artists of her generation, makes sculpture of and about the body using materials as diverse as bronze paper and wax.  The visceral quality using a variety of traditional and unusual mediums, evoking  solid bodies in fragile silk/tissue, or creating transitionary effects in solid bronze, it also reveals her expressive scope. Rather than argue a specific political interpretation or conform to a single suggested meaning.   She notes ‘how her body drives her work.’

Gallery Website

The biography on the website for the Mary Ryan Gallery in 2001, considers Smith to be a feminist artist.  It writes that ‘Smith’s Body Art is imbued with political significance, it undermines the traditional  erotic representations of women by male artists and often exposes the inner biological systems of females, as a metaphor for hidden social issues.’

Mary Magdalene 1994 cast silicon bronze 152 x 52 x 54 cms

Reference Library

Christine Kuan in her interview (believed to be after 2008) with the artist gives a much more balanced view of her work, talking of feminine impact on post modern and contemporary art. http://www.oxfordartonline.com/public/page/smithinter

In a recent book of Kiki Smith’s photographs by Elizabeth Brown , Smith talks emphatically about how her body drives her work.

We cannot get a fixed picture on an artist’s work.  Knowing that Smith trained as a medical technician, helps inform her work.

Louise Bourgeois

Bougeois  was born in France in 1911 and died in 2010 in New York installations reflect childhood

Bourgeois has stated that ‘Sculpture is my body, my body is my sculpture.’

Louise Bourgeois ‘Maman’, 1999<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
© The Easton Foundation

Maman 1999 at the Tate, her best known work.

Richard  Dorment, writing in the Telegraph,9 October 2007, clearly not a fan, does not mince his words.  ‘In 1982 she first revealed in an interview that the imagery in her sculpture was almost wholly autobiographical, letting the world know in lip-smacking detail the story of the family scandal that she relives again and again through her art.

In that moment, the Louise Bourgeois industry was born. An army of Freudians, Kleinians, Lacanians and feminists descended on her work, happy to sink their teeth into art they could treat as a juicy case history seething with Oedipal angst and ripe for interpretation.

Seeing what she had unleashed, Louise hasn’t shut up since. By the ’90s she had become an authentic A-list celebrity.’

He concluded ‘Once you know about Daddy’s betrayal, the symbolism is only too obvious.’

He adds ‘The problem I have with Bourgeois’s work is its literalness, the indexical symbolism that has given her interpreters material for their academic feeding frenzy.’

He is suggesting that that is the only interpretation possible because Bourgeois has fed it herself.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3668414/Louise-Bourgeois-The-shape-of-a-childs-torment.html takes a different view.

Annie Leibovitz’s portrait in 1997 reproduced in ‘Women’ in 1999

An A list celebrity, more famous for what she said about her work than for any intrinsic aesthetic quality of emotional truth.  She is considered to be the or original  confessional artist, the spiritual godmother for Tracey Emin.

Writing in the Guardian October 2007, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/oct/06/art, Siri Hustvedt, whilst accepting of the manufactured hype stoked by and surrounding the artist, states ‘ Bourgeois can take you to strange and hidden places in yourself. This is her gift. What may be deeply personal for her finds its translation in art that is far too mysterious to be confessional. ‘  She continues ‘I have come to think of Bourgeois as an artist who roams the antechambers of a charged past, looting it for material that she reconfigures as external places and beings or being-places.’

‘The difficulty faced by those trying to interpret Bourgeois’s art is illustrated by The Destruction of the Father (1974), below, because the object and the narrative that accompanies it have become inseparable.’


Hustvedt continues ‘The artist’s intellectual sophistication, her mordant commentary, and the weight of the theory brought in to bear on her work can quickly obfuscate rather than reveal what is in front of us.’

Another perspective of this work can be found at  http://www.artslant.com/la/articles/show/2711

Autobiographical Work that Operates Outside the Gallery

Bobby Baker

Bobby Baker, born in 1953, is a performance artist, most recently at John Lewis and Battersea cats and dogs home, known for her work with food.  She believes that our domestic relationships influence world affairs.

For 10 years she suffered from mental issues.  Her daily drawings during this period, originally intended to be private, recorded the progression of her illness through at the Welcome Institute, revealing undiscovered aspects of daily life.

Both Bourgeoise and Baker are dealing with their personal experiences with their domestic lives  very successfully through their work.

The Turner Prize

Is the Prize still cutting edge?

In 2010 Susan Philipsz won the prize for a sound installation that features her singing three versions of a Scottish lament.

The BBC website reported the prize http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-11928557.  Media views were mixed.

Richard Dorment writing the Telegraph when reviewing the shortlist said ‘please, don’t inflict this stuff on the rest of us.’

Jonathan Jones at the Guardian and Adrian Searle are quite complimentary.  The Independent said ‘Philipsz’s voice on the artwork sounded “drearily poker-faced, as if she is trying to haunt us with her voice. She does not succeed”.’

We get a sense that there is a link between political orientation of these broadsheets and the responses of these art critics.

Tomma Abts, an object and an image.  Chose a particular group of work from 2001-2006 to create a mood.  Tomma Abts Ebe, 2005

Ebe 2005 Acrylic & oil on canvas 48cm x 38 cm, one of the works that won Abts the Turner Prize in 2006.

The Stuckists claim that Abts paints ‘silly little pictures.’  Painting pictures is what matters, not being lured by prizes.  Success is about getting up each day to paint.

Crazy over you exhibtiion installation view 2

Charles Thomson Installation view, ‘Crazy Over You’ at Trispace Gallery. London, June 2014.

Thomson is a founder member of the Stuckists,  a radical and controversial art group founded in 1999 with Billy Childish, an ex partner of Tracey Emin, in response to Emin’s view of Childish’s work.

The Stuckists manifesto states they are opposed to the current pretensions of so-called Brit Art, Performance Art, Installation Art, Video Art, Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Body Art, Digital Art and anything claiming to be art which incorporates dead animals or beds – mainly because they are unremarkable and boring.

In an interview with Mark Sheerin on September 10, 2014 in Hypoallergic, http://hyperallergic.com/148254/between-the-mystic-and-the-mundane-charles-thomson-defends-stuckism/ Thomson cites atomic scientist Ernest Rutherford who said: “An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid.”   “The work is the theory. If it doesn’t itself communicate, it doesn’t work.”

Jonathan Jones commented ‘They protest against the broad category of post-Duchamps in art in which idea is prior to craft.’ in his article about Philipsz’ winning the Turner Prize in 2010  http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2010/dec/07/turner-prize-susan-philipsz-sound-artist

The Stuckists, whilst having been acknowledged as a movement, are looking ‘tired’ and their decision not to protest this year against the prize, possibly heralds a diminishing of their presence.  They have, however, successfully revealed a conflict of interest and campaigned against the purchasing of Chris Orfili’s installation  while he was a serving trustee of the Tate,

Andrew Marr in his interview with graphic designer Neville Brody during Start the Week on 31 January 2011 on Radio 4,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00y288b.  Brody is now Head of the Communication Art & Design department at the Royal College of Art.

However, Susan Hiller the American artist who  exhibited at Tate Britain in 2011, stated that ‘the Stuckist manifesto was like ‘an honest scream of pain and anger’.

Marr makes the point in defence of the Stuckists that as Britart is being sponsored by the Saatchis, mainstream conservatism and the labour government, it makes a bit of a mockery in its claim to be subversive or avant guard.  Brody also felt they had a point in their view that everyone should have access to an art or design education regardless of financial background.


Anything can be a resource.

Online resources:

UCA library

LOndon, online catalogues for

British Library http://www.bl.uk

Art Library at V & A http://www.vam.ac.uk/nal/catalogues/index

Henry Moore Institute http://www.henry-moore.org

Tate archive http://www.tate.org/research/researchservices/archive/archiveonline.shtm

Welcome Foundation images.welcome.ac.uk

Arts Journals:

Art Monthly http://www.artmonthly.co.uk

Art Review http://www.artreview.com

Art Forum http://www.artforum.com

Contemporary Art Daily http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com

The Journal of Modern Craft http://www.bergpublishers.com/bergjournals/thejournalofmoderncraft/tabid/3254/default.aspx

Academic Journals:

Taylor Francis Journals include Arts and Health http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/rahe

Intellect Journals include Journal of Visual Arts Practice http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-journal,id=131

International Journal of Art & Design Education published by Blackwell http://www.nsead.org/publications/ijade.aspx


TED Talks http://www.ted.com/talks

MoMA http://www.moma.org/learn/lectures_events/index

Tate channel.tate.org.uk/channel/talks-and-symposia

Something to Think About

In what way do artist’s biographies inform or detract from the viewers’ experience of the work?

What are the implications of Ward’s assertion that ‘That all art is a form of proposition and anything’s possible’?

If you could only read or hear one view on an exhibition would you choose to hear the artist’s view or that of a critic or reviewer and why?

Read widely and maintain a healthy scepticism.







Jim Dine

This blog entry started life like many other summaries of Interviews – Artists 2010, but the sheer volume of information readily available on Jim Dine, and having just watched VL2 from Archive to Interview, I thought Dine would be a suitable artist to consider in detail.

The more I am reading, the more I am realizing that there isn’t just one ‘truth’ when it comes to viewing an artist and their work.

The first introduction to Dine was the interview in Interviews – Artists 2010.  I found this interview stilted.  Yes, I knew more about the man at the end of it, his home in Paris, his family background in hardware and tools, his love of poetry, but I felt the surface hadn’t really been scratched.  The footnote highlighted that the interview had been conducted over the phone, which perhaps explained why I might feel this way.

Putney Winter Heart #8 (Skier)  Putney Winter Heart #8

I note this version of the series sold for $226,000 in 2001.

Lone Wolf, was an interview by New York poet Ilka Skobie.  Skobie interviewed Dine at home in the Blue Mountain foothills, Walla Walla, Washington, saw him at work, and with his friends and support staff.

There is a warmth to the interview, that is lacking in the 2010 one.   He talks more freely and Skobie’s style is narrative and informative. Dine’s love of poetry may have helped the interviewer.

The date of the interview is not clear, but it could have been February this year.

Taking prints from a wood cut.


The third interview, is focused on Dine’s proximity to, and view of, William S Burroughs’ art work, and the book, as an object, in contemporary art.

http://realitystudio.org/bibliographic-bunker/bunker-interviews/interview-with-artist-jim-dine/ an interview by Jim Birmingham for RealityStudio November 2007.

It is a probing interview but very focused on the interviewer’s specific agenda.

This final interview is a short, softer interview for the Tate Shot series, when Dine was 73 in 2008.  It is focused around the exhibition of 52 books that Dine produced.

The style, method, focus of these interviews simply demonstrate that to gain a rounded perspective on any artist, it is necessary to interrogate a number of diverse sources.  No one critic or writer has full access to the ‘truth’ of the subject.

Week 5

Contemporary Art

Having just read Contemporary Art – Stallabrass, I am not surprised artists are supposedly producing invisible art, or that the public and others can be taken in. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/sep/30/invisible-art-hoax-lana-newstrom-cbc


Just watched Simon Schama’s brilliant programme on Rembrandt the Later Years.  A fascinating insight into the artists life, his skill, his symbolism, and yet with all that talent, he still struggled to make ends meet.

Jeremy Paxman’s personal and honest view of The Later Years exhibition. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/384283780678350070/

Rembrandt’s works that appear in Schama’s programme. http://www.pinterest.com/susanmilleruk/rembrandt/

David Nash

The interview in Interviews with Artists 2010.  Extraordinary work.  I wish I could have seen the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. How could anyone plan 30 years ahead with a piece!  Ash Dome at the artist’s estate in Wales.

Nash’s works are no longer at the YSP.  This blog is the closest I can get to what it would have been like to visit the Sculpture Park.



The Extinction Marathon: the art world’s bid to  save the human race.

The ninth festival of ideas held at London’s Serpentine Gallery, a two-day marathon that this year grappled with the topic of extinction and the worryingly prescient spectre of the end of the human race.’

Lily Cole Extinction Marathonhttp://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/20/serpentine-extinction-marathon-yoko-ono-gilbert-george?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Morag Ballard

interviews with Artists 2010.

Atrium - Details

Having studied painting and sculpture her work reflects her awareness of form and space.  This blog by Helen Hoyle is based on the writer’s visit to Ballard’s studio in Penzance and her exhibition at the Lemon St Gallery in Truro earlier this year.


 Egon Schiele

Crouching Woman with Green Kerchief, 1914, Egon Schiele

Jonathan Jones writing in the Guardian about Schiele’s exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London until 18 January 2015, clearly likes Schiele’s work and believes he understands where Schiele was coming from.


 Fiona Rae

Tate Shot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gwbyfERDrA

What a great insight into this gentle, modern artist.  No pretentiousness, just a genuine, heartfelt love of painting.

Fiona Rae 'Gather all the treasure and make friends in the world' 2010

Gather all the Treasure 2011.

So refreshing after reading the first four chapters of Visual Methodologies by Gillian Rose.  Admittedly I am coming to this book from a standing start, but the first two chapters were so full of cross-referencing and unfamiliar ideas, expressed in woven sentences of critic speak, heavily laced with every conceivable art form, that I have no idea what she is trying to say.  Such a shame after James Elkins’  book The Stories of Art, where complex ideas are conveyed with such readability.  I had hoped that chapter four, Looking at Pictures, would clarify what she is trying to say, but by focusing, or that is how it felt, on film and video games, with only a brief aside to painting, I am struggling to get to the meat of what she is saying.  Maybe I just haven’t ‘got it’ yet.  Only another 270 pages to go.  Maybe it is useful for the vast number of directions she points the reader.  Hopefully all will become clear soon.

At least Fiona Rae doesn’t feel that painting is old fashioned.

Who Are You? – Grayson Perry Channel 4

How brilliantly Perry conveyed his process of ideas to manifestation of  portrait.  He first looked at the bigger picture and relevance to today, politics/religion/gender/celebrity culture, then he identified individuals that for him, represented these subjects in the process of discovering their true identity.

Mark Brown at the Guardian focused on Chris Huhne, the ex politician.  http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/21/grayson-perry-chris-huhne-default-man-vase-national-portrait-gallery

Grayson Perry vase

Grayson Perry says his Huhne vase, above, represents ‘the powerful white, bullet-proof, male’. Photograph: Channel 4/Grayson Perry/PA

Ashford Hijab – a portrait of a young mother of four from Ashford, who has recently become a Muslim and turned her life around.

Alistair Smart of the Telegraph, not a fan of Perry’s, has to admit that the work is ‘highly engaging’


I get a feeling from the critics that Perry’s work is pleasing but a bit lightweight.  I wonder, is that due to its TV derivation, the stature of the subjects or Perry’s populist style, or something I may have missed?

I really connected with the way Perry unfolded his ideas, chose his medium and executed the works.  That led me to ask what would I do for a self portrait?  Now that is a good question!

Howard Hodgkin

Michael Prodger writing in the New Statesman earlier this month, says ‘The British artist struggled as his friend David Hockney became a star. But at 82 he’s not bitter – and his art is as luminous as ever.’

I have always loved Hodgkin’s use of colour, but finding out about the man behind the work, is an eye opener for me.  His insecurities, for someone considered to be part of the art establishment, are a surprise.

Rain (2001) by Howard Hodgkin. Courtesy of the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery


Braving the tyranny of the white wall: Hodgkin in his studio, an airy space in a Victorian dairy in Bloomsbury. Photo: David Levene/The Guardian

 Coming to art as late as I have, I found Hodgkin’s comment when asked if (after 60 years) painting has got easier?  He replied “It’s got much easier comparatively recently – about five years ago. Suddenly a lot of barriers disappeared.” The change was due to “a sense of mortality, I think. All sorts of inhibitions just went. There’s a danger in too much self-criticism or self-evaluation and I think that’s gone,’.

Thank you Howard Hodgkin for that insight, while I still have time to act on it.

Michael Landy

Having just watched What Do Artists Do All Day? BBC3, I really don’t understand Michael Landy.  He appears a split personality.  On the one hand he draws intense graphite portraits,  face on to his sitter, some 18 inches away, drawing every hair, and on the other, he smashes up everything he owns.

Tate Shot shows Kirsty Wark, the broadcaster, at such a sitting. https://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=GnTCZFyzkvY

I know art is supposed to elicit an emotion, good or bad.  His work certainly does that, but I find him unbalanced and scary, which whilst ‘bad’, is the wrong sort of bad, because the elicited emotion should be about the work, and not the man.


Process, what process?

When applying for the course my son-in-law, Berwyn, said you will have to say something about your process, you will need to be able to articulate about your work.  But, I don’t have a process.   All I do is look at the blank sheet, start painting and stop when I think the work is finished.  As for articulating, I am not even sure what that means.

Last night we had an insight into how the artist and tutor, Stewart Geddes works.  How he formulates his ideas and most importantly, how he processes that information.  He generously revealed the minutiae,  which for someone like me, who needs to really understand and not assume anything, (Nothing left to chance for me to fill in the gaps?  Now there’s an insight, so in contrast to how I actually work.), was very illuminating.

While Stewart was describing, I kept hearing my inner voice saying , ‘well you do that’ and ‘that’s how you do it’.  After four weeks of study I think it is time to have a first stab at articulating (there’s that other word, what’s happening here!) what I do to create a painting.

I don’t normally paint in series, which I am also appreciating to be an essential part of the process. However, in 2011, I did, so lets start there.

I was working as an IFA (financial adviser), responsible for managing over £6m of client funds.  The compliance company I worked through had decided, inexplicably, to stop paying me, for nearly a year, resulting in a court case, which I won.  ‘Simples’ to quote the Meerkat, maybe not.

In order to continue to w ork, I had to adopt a different personality to hide what was going on from clients.  The deceit overwhelmed me.  The following paintings, displayed in sequence of production were painted during that period.  They were not painted as therapy, but my unconscious mind is clearly at work making sense of my feelings, emotions and creative energy during that time.

Is That All There Is? Is That All There Is?


Light Light


In this painting I am able to separate the two identities.

Searching Searching

In this I seem to have taken back control.

New Beginning New Beginning

Here, I seem to have come full circle but acquired a calmness.

Reaching Out Reaching Out

In this work I am moving on.

I am not sure if this is articulating, particularly as I am looking at my work retrospectively, but it is the closest I can get.  Clearly my unconscious mind was articulating for me at the time!

What also came out of this series was a whole new approach to my work.  Unhappy with one of the darker pieces, which was much in the style of Is That All There Is? and Light, (nothing survives of the original) I erased what I didn’t like.

Shelter Shelter

The result is one of my personal favourites.

Out of this transforming period a process emerged, as I understand the term today.

My first decision is the size of the work.  This is very much gut determined.  The above are all 38 x 38 cms.  I started to use a square format in 2010, and feel it suits my work.  No implied portrait or landscape.

Recently I have  painted on canvas because I wanted to produce larger work, but I predominately work on Bockingford 140lb paper.

My starting point will either be a brand new work, or I will revisit an old work to see if it reflects who I am today.  Some works still stand, others were part of the process of getting me to this point, and their role is to now be reincarnated.  Interestingly, as I am writing this, it occurs to me that the current work I am revisiting is all 58 x 78 cms and I am struggling to find its form.  Time to crop!

I select a limited pallet of maybe two reds/blues/yellows, to which I may add other colours as the work progresses.

I never tape the paper down.  I work very wet and very freely, which creates problems with the un-taped paper and the paint pooling.  The joy is from watching the paint behave unexpectedly, although this creates a bit of a nightmare for my amazing framer, Teresa, who has to flatten the work.

I like to work on a distressed surface.   I currently freely gesso tissue paper, but I am considering other approaches, because texture is so important to me.  In another life I would like to have been a textile designer, so I suspect something touchy feely will develop.

Detail from Venus

Detail from the right character in Venus.

Detail from Venus Detail from Venus

I would love to say the angel wing was there by design, but as so often happens in my work, it appears just when needed.  As Stewart Geddes said, his found images are found because he creates a space for them to appear in.

Breaking Free

Breaking Free, a work in progress.  I have applied netting to the surface, principally because it suits the subject, but I will revisit when it is less appropriate.

Detail from Breaking Free

Detail from Breaking Free.

I continue to work and rework until I am happy with the result. There is a myth surrounding watercolour that it must be right first time, that there is no leeway.

Early Loss Early Loss

I was unhappy with the central section and decided to rework.

Loss Loss after rework

The distracting leaf at the bottom has been ‘lifted’ and the surrounding colours strengthened.  The awkward green shape near the top was covered in tissue and reworked in softer shapes and colour.

I am currently not ‘scraping in’ in the way that Stewart described, because, as Stewart found, canvas/paper doesn’t sustain that level of interference, but I do scrape the paint when applied straight from the tube to create interest.

This year is about Visual Enquiry.  After four weeks I am seeing differently, I am assimilating, I am digesting.  Writing this particular blog is to identify where I am today in that reflexive process.

Reflexive Practitioner

Strategies for Reflexive Practice

What does Reflexive mean?

Australian artist and  art theorist Graeme Sullivan, stated in 2010 that ‘Art practise has long been a critical and creative means of inquiry, that encourages new ways to think about what it is to be human within the uncertain worlds in which we live.’

Reflexivity is the ability to reflect.  Reflection is contemplation, reviewing, meditation, pondering.  Reflexivity is a reflection on how you are thinking, the impact of your thinking on future thinking and the impact of your thinking on the way you do things.  There is a much more forward looking proactive in reflexivity.  Turning back to yourself, acutely aware of how your thinking affects what you do.  A sense of stepping back to have a more distanced position, a third person view of self.

In the 1980’s Donald Schon produced a seminal work called The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action.  Michael Eraut, Emeritas Professor at Brighton University stated that ‘Reflexivity is an essential aspect of independent learning and being a professional practitioner.  Most learning happens informally during normal working processes and that there is a benefit to be had by recognising and enhancing this learning by being reflexive.’

In summary:

Being reflexive is thinking about your thinking.

A reflexive practitioner is a learning practitioner.

As a fine artist you need to be reflecting on the way you make work, what influences you, knowing where to position yourself in relation to other artists, and being conscious of yourself in the broader discipline.

‘Reflexive practise is a sort of research activity that uses different methods to work against existing theories and practices, and offer the possibility of seeing things from a new perspective.’  (Sullivan 2010).

A good example of this is the Pompidou Centre in Paris, designed by Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini inthe 1970s.  The services are on the outside of the building , creating an uninterrupted space for viewing art work.

Artists and  How They Have Come to Understand Their Own Work (Interviews-Artists 2010)

James Aldridge

Significantly when he allowed things that have meaning to him, that he didnt think were worthy of the label ‘art’ into his work, a spark ignited and the door to everything else opened.

Tracey Emin

She treads a very fine line between confessional work and a self referential bubble.

Sean McCleaf (art therapist) believes it is important for an artist to keep a critical distance from their work.

Langlands & Bell

In 2003 they were commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to create a work in Afganistan.  They created the House of Bin Laden. Inspired by real events, they found the work challenging.

They follow their curiosity and feel it is necessary to do something meaningful.  The question hangs over whether it is ethical or moral.

Christiane Baumgartner

Her work reflects the lives we lead, the faster we move, the less we see.  A time consuming process that the artist wishes to appear handmade.

Look at Other People’s Work

Emily Ball

After seeing Rose Wylie’s ‘Cloven Shoes’, Emily Ball questioned her own playfulness.  If colour is stripped away, what is left?  She felt that there was something in Rose Wylie’s work that wasn’t present in her own.  She felt exposed.

Keeping a journal helps release unconstructive habits, a journal allows you to see how they were resolved.

John Skinner

Study historic works.  John Skinner had repeatedly drawn Paul Veronese’s Scorn , the four allegories of love (1575 at the National Gallery) and wanted to make a transcription.  He felt the task too great and settled on a small detail, producing Two Scornful Women.  The original 5′ canvas he planned to use, he painted Homage to HC based on Helen Chadwick’s series the Vanity of Life, a Brighton contemporary he followed with envy.

The emotions you feel towards another artist’s work are an indication of where you want to be.

Your Space

Is your studio fit for purpose?  For what you do now?  For what you want to do?  Is it serving or holding you back?

Observe & Reflect

Stage 1





Plan new ideas

example:  exploring tension between the scale/robustness/aggression/violence of a North Sea oil rig and the fragility of the marine environment.

Repeat stage 1 until satisfied.  Repetition with changes – iterations.

Observe and reflect – contemplate from different perspectives, draw from observation, photograph, draw on photocopy, ask questions, describe in metaphors, touch, smell, taste, question what would it be if it were a… , place in a different environment, place next to other work.

Evaluate – How do you know if it’s finished?  How do you know it works?  What is my criteria for working?  What would it look like if it didnt work?  Intuition.

Outside of Your Studio

Understand what it means to be working in the field of Fine Art.

The American Art historian and critic James Elkins (1955), said that Fine Art is a value judgement.

Fine Art should communicate, critique, evoke contemplation, reveal, explore emotion.  The context can be cultural, philosophical, educational, social, political.

The German philosopher Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) stated nothing can be taken for granted.

Who does it?

Artists, assistants.

Where is it experienced?

Galleries, cinemas, books, advertising, products etc in physical and    virtual forms.

How is it evaluated?

Art world commentarty, critics, specialist and general    publications, auctions, gallery sales, media commentary,   advertisements.

How does it differ from Craft?

Different intentions.  Different art history and art theory.  Fine Art    doesn’t solve real world problems.

Medicine is both an art and a science.  Fine Art and medicine can     offer healing and well being, and have the common intention of    doing good.


Where am I in the Art World?

I need to be clear where I sit in the art world and how this relates to other disciplines.  John Skinner is clear in his mind that his work sits between the old masters and his contemporary.

Graeme Sullivan says that you need to be open to new and multiple interpretations of artworks.  It is necessary to  debate and discuss processes and meanings.

Also consider the context in which the work is produced and what rights the artist ultimately has over their work.

It is necessary to recognise and acknowledge whose work you are building on.  Be transparent in your methods and about your methodology.  Be rigorous in your recoding,  Justify your methods.  Dont confuse effort and quantity with quality.  Be careful of using theory to justify your work.  Be modest in your claims.  Be honest with yourself.  Don’t lose your curiosity or courage.






Learnings from Take Two Influences

The group critique opened my eyes to how others see and interpret.  A big wake up.

For most of my working life logic has ruled.  Now in my third age, I need to draw on the right side of the brain.  The mind is something I want to explore in my work during the next 3 years, so, unable to sleep, now seems like a good time to explore how best to support this new way of seeing.

Accessing Creativity

We are all born creative, but with some it fails to be used to its potential.

Some simple ideas that got lost on the way:


Follow your breath.

Spend an hour in silence listening to your thoughts, record what comes up.

Create a soft focus.  This will temporarily set aside the ego. Dive into the gap and let your heart follow.

Find humour in everything.

Write Morning Pages.

Nurture your creative relationship with yourself.

Look at the task as a 6 year old.

Look from all angles, what shapes, patterns, thoughts emerge?  Roam inside, where do you go?

Close your eyes to work / use left hand / use music / work upside down / empathise materials with subject – (thank you group for your suggestions)

Watch What the Beep DVD.

Think of someone your respect.  How would they do it?

15 Steps to Enhance Creativity

1  Consider what serves/doesnt serve creative objective.

2  Clarity of intention is so important.  Stay focused on this point on the horizon.

3  Intuitively change response patterns.

4  Learn to harness ego.  Seek to create something for another person that the ego considers impossible.  Allow intuition             to guide.

5  Surrender to the flow of energy that is manifesting what you intend to create.

6  Make a searching and fearless inventory and evaluation of choices related to creative effort.  Understand why these                 choices.are made.

7  Explain to another how you failed to follow your intuition, denying the truth available to you.

8  Allow yourself to transform shortcoming and obstacles by looking to see how they have been an asset in accessing and           releasing your unlimited creativity, while doing what is necessary to manifest intuition.

9  List people and organisations you look to for guidance.  Make amends for what you thought about them.  Act on intuition           and follow the direction it suggests to travel.

10  Create a single point focus and monitor progress.  Learn to feel what thought, words, deeds and memories serve or dont         serve.

11  Through meditation, study, experimenting seek to improve and expand understanding and conscious contact with this               creative power, within and without.

12  Find someone to help you hold that focus.

13  Actively live your truth.  Its only by sharing your experiences and these principles that you create that world in wich you             create what you deserve.

14  Love yourself, love another as yourself.  Creat space within to allow self and others to find and embrace creative power.           By doing so you give yourself the same gift.

15  Live true to yourself, allow others to do the same.

Lessons Learned to quote politicians and corporates 

I am on a journey, I am focused, I am supported.  Relate as a child. EXPERIMENT. This is fun!

Take time to write morning pages, do yoga, meditate and walk.  The rest will follow.

Further Reading

Your Creative Brain – Shelley Carson

Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind – Guy Claxton

At The Left Brain, Turn Right – Anthony Meindl

A Whole New Mind – Daniel H Pink

Take Two Influences

Initial Thoughts

Immediate idea Barbara Rae  and Dylan Thomas  .  My thought was based on the fact that I really like Rae’s landscape style, and that we had recently visited Thomas’s writing studio at Laugharne.

I quickly realised I knew very little about Thomas’s work and time didnt permit thorough research.

This then led me to familiarity.  Who painted in a wet, loose style?  Who’s work did I know well, who was not a painter?

I had recently been introduced to the work of Marlene Dumas, and again she featured at the OCA.  I watched the video of her at work in her studio several times.  There was a clue to her process but nothing more.  

 It would be enough.

For my other influence I decided on another poet/singer, Leonard Cohen, whose work I was very familiar with.  The day I met my husband I had just bought his latest album.  Both keen fans we have been to many concerts around the world, the latest and most memorable was last year in Lucca.

80 last month, I wanted to capture the man at his peak.  The intimacy of a performace in the style of Dumas.

My Process

First I selected an iconic image007, then set about familiarising myself.  My first work was a speedy watercolour (45x65cms) using indanthrene and scarlet lake, simply aiming for the essence and complexity that I might encounter.010

I felt I needed to be more certain of the image and I thought that charcoal, a medium I am not familiar with, might be good for darks and lights.

In an attempt to keep the work loose, I worked with the photo at a distance 003(45x65cms).

I felt this was too removed, so I repeated the exercise in charcoal (45x65cms), with the photo close to hand, much as Dumas would work004.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working in this way.  I draw very little in my work.

Dumas works in ink, so I felt I needed to replicate her process.  I have never used ink.

Using cheap shiny paper (45x65cms)006, I played with the medium.  What fun!

Finally, I was ready to work on watercolour paper.  Dumas uses Arches 300lb.  I had to make do with Bockingford 140lb (38x56cms).  011


First of all, I enjoyed working to a specific task.  Just enough freedom to feel I was in control, but clearly following direction.

Loved the charcoal.  The harshness, the boldness, the focus on line and mark.

I needed an element of structure.  I felt uncomfortable without a guide to the image (charcoal for the watercolour and candle wax for the shiny paper).

Ink ‘slides’ more than watercolour.  To paint in the style of Dumas is certainly possible.  She works with the confidence and surety that comes with time.  I am at the stage of still needing to produce a recognisable image.  Perhaps that desire will fade with confidence in my own ability.