More So, More Informed

I have 20 works, tiny and small strewn around my studio.  Colour and confusion.067

I have so much going on in my head but no clear focus.

I am taking the opportunity to go back to Stewart Geddes’ suggestions for artists I should explore.

Arena’s ‘John Hoyland, 6 Days in September’ John in his London studio in 1989 (Photo © Ferdinando Carppanieri)

John in his London studio in 1989 (Photo © Ferdinando Carppanieri) followed the artist, his process and his pain.  The physicality of the work on this scale, with ‘marks containing the energy of the stroke’, left the viewer in no doubt that painting is not a relaxing occupation.  Hoyland referred to the influence of Nicolas de Stael, Emil Nolde, Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin, all known for their use of colour.

Matthew Collins Rules of Abstraction traced the history of abstract painting from it’s roots in theosophy founded by Helena Blavatsky, to the spiritually guided work of Hilma Af Klint, and Kandinsky’s manipulation of colour/shape/line and its effect on the soul.

Hilma af Klint, The Ten Biggest, No 7 1907

Af Klindt -The Ten Biggest, No 7 1907, Oil and tempera on paper, 328 x 240 cm


Moscow I - Wassily Kandinsky -

who wrote The Spiritual in Art, studied with Rudolf Steiner who was a follower of Blavatsky.  Kandinsky referenced music in his work, suggesting that colour is like playing the piano.

Fiona Rae working in her studio demonstrates the emotional attachment to painting ‘something that doesn’t exist’.  Fiona Rae

She spoke of the rule of surprise, the rhythmn, the structural integrity.  No focus but different zones of intensity, an overall experience, and the importance of not repeating colour/brush size.

The French artist Sonia Delauney created ‘electric prisms’ using colour and form to celebrate light by optical vibration, a reference to Chevreul’s Colour Theory and Its Consequences for Artists.  Sonia Delaunay website banner

A friend of Kandinsky and wife of the abstract painter Robert Delauney, her subtle adjustments of colour create spiritual harmony.

Scottish artist John McLean suggests that treatment and placement are important for forms to emerge.

Paul Klee, conteporary of Kandinsky at Bauhaus, observed nature with tonally graded transparent colour.  His work completely changed following a visit to the Kairouan Mosque in 1914.

Paul Klee: Saint-Germain near Tunis, 1914–macke–moilliet_the-trip-to-tunisia-that-changed-modern-art/38391666

Klee and kandinsky were considered to be degenerate artists, distorting reality, with proposals for what perception actually is.

Collins and his artist partner Emma Biggs create works of pulsating light and dark.


Piet Mondrian believed that shapes define themselves by their difference. (an interesting article on the history and spirituality of abstraction.)

Vertical male, horizontal female.  Tension and contradiction.

Theosophy suggests that all imbalance will be balanced .  German philosopher Hegel’s  historicist and idealist account of reality revolutionized European philosophy and was influential to Marxism. Historicism places great importance on cautious, rigorous and contextualized interpretation of information.

Tess Jaray creates ambiguity in her work.

Tess Jaray | Artist

What is in front, what behind?  Inviting the viewer to participate.  Intense colour achieved through screen printing, creating a condensed version of reality.  (there’s that word again!  My reading this summer has lingered around that concept, more in a separate blog.)

Russian Kazimir Malevich, famous for his Black Square 1915, introduced Suprematism, simple forms, an abstract world beyond every day reality.  The white edge equals void.  Supremacy over feeling, feeling separate from reality.  Fourth dimension, time warped by space.  Theosophy into painting, new form of reason.

Kandinsky believed form is feeling.

In 1916 Popova joined Malevich’s supremisists group

Lyubov Popova – Violin 1914

Her abstraction striped to form was used as textile design.  Such abstraction was replaced by propaganda.

In America, Jackson Pollack, was creating a ‘visual symphony’ through the use of tightly controlled rhythmic structure, the materials and the range of textures.

English artist Paul Tonkin creates harmony through energetic pouring and under-painting, with a life and rhythm of its own in vibrant colours.  The huge canvas is then cut into rectangles for separate paintings.  Drawing is movement.  The colours work together talking to the artist.

Paul Tonkin preparing a canvas in Mathew Collins documentary

English artist Dan Perfect works to a plan.  He takes a small drawing and scales it up, as if performing a musical score.  Quick, evocative expressive marks, an imagined correlation of an extrovert world.


Dan Perfect – Village 2007

Russian American Mark Rothko created a breathing surface, the whole of existence, a cosmic unity.  The experience of redness and darkness is celebrated in this work.

Mark Rothko ‘Black on Maroon’, 1958 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Back on Maroon 1958

A troubled soul, he was a philosopher/priest in a Rothko centric world.

Albert Irvin, a friend of Stewart, was informed by his movement through the world.  Brushmarks were his verbs, painting his landscape.  His reality was layered through colour.

Albert Irvin, Rosetta, 2012
acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in/ 152.4 x 121.9 cm

El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor,  pursues the themes of memory and loss in his sculpture, especially the damage wrought by the colonial period and traumatic post-colonial aftermath.

Man’s Cloth is made from recycled bottleneck foil.  A metaphor for delusion.

Welsh artist Mali Morris MFA, works with colour, light and rhythm.  In his essay Matthew Collings ‘ spontaneity and chanciness, and having faith in the unprepared gesture but also a sense of knowledge and experience informing the various giddy leaps that the artist takes. ‘

Mali Morris Lost Light 2012 acrylic/canvas 25 x 30 cm at RA Summer Exhibition, 4 June – 12 August 2012

Dennis Creffield studied with David Bomberg at Borough Polytechnic.  This recent work captures his energetic approach to painting that hasn’t diminished with time.

20110912 135033 GoSee:Dennis Creffield Jerusalem at James Hyman Gallery

Jerusalem 2011

Stewart also referenced Monet, a jazz musician inventing round a theme, Emil Nolde with his intense use of colour in a more figurative way, ,

Americans Richard Diebenkorn with his subtle abstracted figurative work,

Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park #79, 1975 Oil on canvas 93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm) Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with funds contributed by private donors, 1977 ©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn Image courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Ocean Park 79

Provincetown - Helen Frankenthaler

and Helen Frankenhaler, and Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown, ‘Carnival and Lent’ (2008).

Reflecting on Stewart’s direction

I have written this journal as a snapshot reminder of where Stewart sees my influences.  I have picked and prodded through his artists, peeling away to reveal what he is seeing.  Scrolling through the journal I am astounded by the colour, the layers, the footprint, the history of the work, encapsulated in single images.

Each artist comes from a different place, has  a different process, uses different references, but they all arrive driven by colour and form.

Stewart suggest looking at brush strokes and energy, start with a photo and respond to the materials, the rest will follow, it cannot be forced.  Watching Shani Rhys James at work reinforces the message of Hoyland’s ‘6 days in September’,  painting is a lot of ‘stand and stare’, patience, challenge, emotional response, sensitivity, seeing with creative eyes.  I like the way that Rhys James is digging within, challenging the viewer, making them feel uncomfortably moved.  She constructs images from memories.  I can’t access those memories but I have photos from which to develop those memories, to spark my emotional response.

Shani Rhys James, The Rivalry of Flowers

The Rivalry of Flowers 2

I can relate to where she is coming from, her use of colour, emotion and form, her seek and find approach to figures.

The Age of Insight

Reflecting on the first year of the MA I needed to consider where my interests lie.  Over the last few years I have become increasingly interested in the unconscious mind and it’s many guises,  memory,  emotions, intuition and creativity.  What started with Neurolinguistic Programming and coping strategies for the challenges of life, including depression and a family history of dementia has expanded to encompass everything I can find to give greater insight into the unconscious.  When Monika mentioned Eric Kandel’s recent publication The Age of Insight, the quest to understand the unconscious in art, mind and brain (thank you Monika), I was fascinated.  Nobel Prize winner for his work on memory, Kandel has produced an immense academic work that successfully brings together the world of mind biology and the arts.  Written in a hugely readable style the work eloquently discusses the subject from the window of 1900 Vienna, offering insight into the emotional expressionistic art of Klimt , Kokoschka and Schiele, supported by detailed psycholological and medical research.  Gripping.

Alison Watt

It is interesting how chains are linked and connections made.  Jack Knox, a Scottish painter and teacher died this week.  He trained and taught at the Glasgow School of Art.  He openly ‘borrowed’ from other artists.  His work is not what attracted me.  What did were the names of his former students, Jenny Saville, whose stunning and challenging work I saw at the Ashmolean in Oxford, and Alison Watt, who I hadn’t heard of.

john knox

Detail from Seafood Stall (1980s) by John Knox. Photograph: Gerber Fine Art & Compass Gallery

Watt’s work is sumptuous, sensual and unforgettable, suggesting the life form by its absence.  Watching her at work as the seventh Associate Artist at the National Gallery is illuminating.  She works painfully slowly on her huge canvases, up to 10 x 14 feet, a brush stroke at a time, up and down her ladder.


Sabine  –

She talks softly and eloquently about her work and her inspiration, referencing the white knotted cravat in the portrait by Jacques-Louis David of Jacobus Blauw, for Pulse and Echo.

Alison Watt, Echo

Pulse –

Watt says that ‘painting is a way of being’ and it is her way of ‘creating order our of chaos’.

I have spent the morning reflecting upon the emotional effect  her work has had on me.  Unexpectedly moved to tears, I watched Watt outline the folds then painstakingly build the gradation. a brush stroke at a time, just like I define petals.

The Primitive Artist

Running alongside my research for my essay I have also been exploring the work and seeking to gain an insight into artists who paint in a primitive style.  They are achieving high public recognition with prizes such as the John Moores, so it is important that I understand why.

What is their motivation, why this particular style when I am sure they can all paint ‘properly’?  What is it that I am just not getting?

Roy Oxlade, an artist painting in just such a style, writing in his collection of essays, Art & Instinct, 1, ‘For the adult student to begin to take part in a primitive language forming programme would require what, for him, would amount to a suspension of common sense, in order that fresh insight might be aroused.’

This is the first time I have come close to understanding.  As someone who has spent their entire life being sensible with an over reliance on common sense, it is no wonder that I am struggling to comprehend the work.

Oxlade continues ‘Art is an extended autobiography featuring man himself in relation to his objects and his space.  For many artists this has taken the form of an expressive search for  poetic or metaphysical equivalents for life as it is experienced . ‘

Quoting Matisse in the same essay, he say ‘Exactitude is not the truth, and students must be helped to understand that ‘getting it right’ in relation to image is entirely different to ‘getting it right’ in relation to model.’

Referring to the philostine society he perceives today, he suggests ‘What has been lost is the capacity to respond intuitively to fresh experience together with the imaginative ability constantly to revitalise that experience with new insights. ‘

In his essay Some Thoughts About Rose Wylie’s Painting and Drawings 3 Oxlade offers this insight, ‘Her paintings are representational insofar as they have clearly defined and recognisable depictions of her subjects.  While her intention is to create a certain likeness it is necessary to understand that likeness here precludes realism, portraiture or exactness in the conventional sense.  She draws a lot.  She draws to achieve a certain likeness to the subject;  she paints to achieve a certain likeness to the drawing.  In the context of Wylie’s work, Gaston Bachelard’s ‘naive consciousness’ 4, is best understood as unaffectedness.’

I feel something needs to unhook within me to allow me to fully comprehend.  Angela, in my tutorial, suggested I step back and explore more, that I suspend my way of working with the sole purpose of exploring the subject rather than focusing on producing an end result.  It is amusing that in trying to work differently I am actually sacrificing the spontaneity and intuition that normally guide me.  Back to basics, but this time with more of an insight into the direction that I may be going.


What is a Painting?

The idea of a painting being anything other than an image on the wall had never really occurred to me until I looked into the work of Stewart Geddes, one of my  tutors.  He describes his paintings as objects.

Coming across the exhibition Painting in Time, currently on in Leeds, added a further dimension to the question What is a Painting?  The artists in this exhibition aim to push the conventional boundary.  Yet more food for thought.

Sarah Kate Wilson has curated the Painting in Time exhibition at the Tetley in Leeds.  She has been shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Painting Fellowships 2016 and nominated for the inaugural MKCF 2014 New City Prize for the Visual Arts’ in partnership with MK Gallery.

‘The artists participating in Painting in Time are simultaneously pushing the boundaries of painting at this particular moment in time, whilst the medium is in its most expansive state. These artists destabilize the idea of painting as a static object. They bring time into their paintings by sidestepping away from making ‘finished’ paintings. Rather, time is inscribed in the work from the beginning through a variety of strategies, which allow the works to evolve once they exit the studio. Presented within the context of The Tetley’s ethos of curatorial and artistic experimentation, these strategies are manifest in the employment of specialist technology,
ephemeral materials, timed performances and audience articipation.’

Sarah Kate Wilson, Zumba, 2015. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The Tetley

Zumba – Sarah Kate Wilson

A Q&A with… Sarah Kate Wilson, artist and curator

Claire Ashley, Limes and Bricks Suck Pink Your Tasteless Hunk, 2012; Another Tasteless<br />
Hunk, 2013. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The Tetley

Clare Ashley – inflatable paintings at The Tetley, Leeds

A Q&A with… Sarah Kate Wilson, artist and curator

Happy Collaborationists

DATE: “Friday, October 12, 2012 :: 5-7PM” LOCATION: “Roaming” PERFORMANCE: “Simultaneous Narrative” “Simultaneous Narrative” is a one day performance art walk curated by the HAPPY COLLABORATIONISTS, with featured artists, CLAIRE ASHLEY, ERIK PETERSON, JESUS MEJIA & RUTH,SHANE WARD, EJ HILL and ANDREW MEYLERperforming concurrently throughout the Wicker Park / Bucktown neighborhood, emphasizing how multiple artists interact with and alter the same space.

Jessica Warboys, Box Painting (3), 2013. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The TetleyJessica Warboys, Box Painting (3), 2013. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The Tetley

Jessica Warboys

Jessica Warboys (1977) was born in Wales and works between London and Paris. She received a Master of Fine Art from Slade School of Art in 2004 and a BA(Hons) from Falmouth College of Arts in 2001.

Recent solo exhibitions include A painting cycle at Nomas Foundation, Rome (2012), Victory Park Tree Painting at Cell Project Space, London (2011) and Land & Sea at Le Crédac, Ivry-sur-Seine, France (2011). Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany (2012), Camera Britannica at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2012) and Los Pasos Perditos at Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna (2012).

<i>Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2013</i> installation view. Photograph by Stuart Whipps


‘In contrast to the structured Ladder Ladder group, the large scale Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2013, part of an ongoing series, was made by throwing mineral pigments directly onto a canvas that was submerged in waves at the seashore and then dragged along the sand. The process is a physical one and is strongly related to performance, a discipline Warboys sees as central to her practice.

Time and landscape, literally embedded in the Sea Paintings, are invoked visually in her films. Ab Ovo (1) (2013) and Ab Ovo (2)(2013) are autonomous films with distinct and intermittent soundtracks, yet operate here as a diptych. Each presents ancient landscapes — standing stones or sandy beaches — as the backdrop for the animation of idiosyncratic yet familiar objects. The use of such emblematic landmasses, or the egg referred to by the Latin title, brings prehistory into dialogue with modernist abstraction.

Weaving has been used as a metaphor for Warboys’ practice: throughout her work, themes and motifs are threaded together, building a structure of visual echoes. This operates very much in the way that words might in a poem, intensifying images to create a rhythmic, temporal experience.’

Hayley Tomkins

English, born 1971.


Artists’ Practice

Marlene Dumas South African Born 1953

‘Rejects’ Tate Shot

i think I am still suffering from a belief that famous artists have a direct line to creative success.  Watching Dumas sift through her rejected portraits was an eye opener.  Images with eyes cut out with a second, completely unrelated portrait peeping through.  Images painted on the reverse.  Several attempts to get likenesses for Hockney and others.  How normal is that!  And yet I felt that somehow, it would be effortless.  Wake up to the real world of the professional artist!

Marlene Dumas retrospective, Tate Modern, London, Britain - 03 Feb 2015

‘A wall of botched and bockled faces’: Rejects, 1994-ongoing by Marlene Dumas on show at Tate Modern. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/REX

Youtube Marlene Dumas in her Studio Dec 17 2010.  Fascinating to watch her labouring on the floor with ink, paper and paper towels.

Youtube podcast ‘An Appetite for Painting ’11 Aug 2014.  She doesn’t like paint very much.  She wants to make marks.  Love for material meant that she did get back to the image.  She refers to the struggle between the figure, material, the physical, gestural.  Liked abstract expressionism, but couldn’t compete with Rauschenberg and De Kooning.

Youtube What the Art Dumas sits on a stool in her studio and suggest the viewer should paint six versions of the same portrait, should challenge them self.

I sense a hesitancy in the interviews (see my previous post on Marlene Dumas) and the videos.  She is one of the most successful living women artists, and yet you feel she almost doesn’t believe it, and yet really does.  It is difficult to tell.  I found her work when looking for successful watercolour artists, a role model.  I enjoy watching her technique, the normality of her struggle and she inspires me to believe I am on the right track with regard to my sensitivity, but I do not really relate to her canvas work.ARTIST DOSSIER: Marlene Dumas's Works Fiercely Prized by Collectors

Marlene Dumas, “The Visitor,” 1995, sold for a record $6.3 million at Sotheby’s London in July 2008.  (Sotheby’s)

Alex Katz

Martin Clarke interviews Katz for Tate Shots.

Born in Brooklyn in 1927.   Had an exhibition at Tate St Ives in 2012, Give Me Tomorrow.  His basis is abstract but he makes the work look realistic. Composition is the moving parts, which he references Watteau and Rembrandt, then creates a contemporary work, moving away from content.  The work of Bonnard and Monet focus on arrangement.

Educated at Cooper Union in modern art and Bauhaus, at time that Jackson Pollock was was becoming recognised.  His focus is on the surface.  His process is to paint an oil sketch of his sitter on Masonite board, taking around an hour and a half.  He then draws a small pencil/charcoal sketch.  The sitter returns to make corrections.  He then blows up the drawing into a ‘cartoon’, sometimes using a projector, and then transfers to a huge  canvas 12×7 feet, via ‘pouncing’, a renaissance technique involving powdered pigment pushed through tiny perforations, to create the composition on the canvas.  He pre-mixes colours, organises his brushes then paints for 6-7 hours.

In the 50s he made cutouts, first from wood then aluminium, usually heads.  He frequently collaborated, was interested in the effemeral fashion world.

He influenced David Salle, Peter Halley, Richard Prince, and younger artists Peter Doig, Julian Opie, Liam Gillick, Elizabeth Peyton, Barb Januszkiewicz, Johan Andersson and Brian Alfred.

(images: Todd Eberle for Architectural Digest)

Known for his figurative work, I am particularly interested in his departure to huge floral images.  They follow his flat painting style, which gives them a decorative feel.  My interest is in the fact that this type of subject is acceptable to the art world, which seems to demand so much more.

Emily Ball MA Born 1968

Emily can be seen painting during a John Skinner masterclass, her style and energy owe much to John’s teaching.


I have attended a couple of Emily’s classes and have enormous respect for teaching ability, what she has achieved at Seawhites in West Sussex and the energy and authenticity of her work.  I have taken her first book, Drawing and Painting People, a Fresh Approach, as my stepping stone into a world of contemporary painting that is accessible to me.  The following painters are all referenced in her book.

Taken from Emily’s web site the following eloquently describes why I consider her work to be so appropriate to what I am trying to achieve.

‘Swim the Body Electric -The final chapter – March 2014

Emily Ball - Swim the Body Electric

Found on

The intensity of my engagement with the subject of the pool and swimmers continued and came to a conclusion in March 2014.

I really admire Emily for what she has achieved both as a painter and a business woman.  Not only has she broken new ground in subject, form and colour, she has introduce a whole new generation to a new approach to painting.

054I‘m Not Sleeping 1 &

Too Hot taken from Emily’s first book.


John Skinner, English,  Born 1953,  Educated at Goldsmiths

John studied with John Epstein.

Enrico’s video of John in action energetically painting and reflecting on one of his large canvases.

oute de blanc vêtue, la belle juge souhaite bonne chance à l’équipe des nageuses synchronisées  huile sur toile  160cm x 300cm 2010

 John shares his philosophy and passion for painting in his masterclasses at Seawhites in Sussex and elsewhere.  He enables artists to fully engage with their materials and their sensibilities to the subject they are working from.  He encourages positive risks, which is clearly evidenced in the work of his pupil. Emily Ball.
Girl and Phone  Oil on Board  68cm x 68cm  2004-5 Features on the cover of Emily’s book.
I am interested in John’s work because of his use of colour, his contemporary images and his ability to inspire others to greatness.

Rose Wylie MA, English , Born 1934

Wylie won the John Moores Prize in 2014, after several years of trying.  She painted dark lines to represent the windows of Moores gallery and added striking figures.

John Moores Painting Prize 2014 winner Rose Wylie with her work PV Windows and Floorboards – photo by Gavin Trafford

She has lived in Sittingbourn, Kent for the last 40 years where she has her studio in the garden.  She only paints when moved to, starting around 11am, painting what she can see.  She will select an image for the look of the clothes and colour, and not for any political or royal connotation.  There is no table or comfortable chair.  She draws extensively at the dining table.

Artist Rose Wylie in her studio, February 2012

Brian Sewell does not share Parker’s delight in Wylie’s work.   Writing in the Evening Standard in 2013 about the BP sponsored Walk Through British Art exhibition at Tate Britain  ‘One whole room, as big as that devoted to Henry Moore (an exception to the strict chronology), is wasted in throwing a BP Spotlight on Rose Wylie, a mad old bat in second infancy, an ancient Maid of Kent whose scribbles, scrawls and daubs are, according to the BP nonsense pamphlet, “energetic and compelling images … inspired by her voracious appetite for visual culture”. What blethering, what twaddle. Deplorable rubbish, fit not even for the Tate’s outstation in Margate..’–exhibition-review-8618294.html

Artist, Rose Wylie pictured in her studio at her home in Kent.

Last updated at 12:01AM, August 23 2011

She takes her inspiration from literature, forming her paintings into book formation, which allows for new combinations.  She is quite unforgiving with her canvases, collaging, adding, subtracting, objectifying her paintings. She references to painters like Matisse.

My interest in her work stems from Emily Ball’s book, Drawing and Painting People, a Fresh Approach.  I have attended a couple of Emily’s classes and have a high regard for her teaching and the direction she is taking her students.  Emily interviews Rose for her book, and it is Emily’s interest, together with the interest of a number of artists that I respect and her recent success winning the John Moores’ Art Prize, that  has led me to investigate her work more rigorously.  I appreciate her modernity in a world that moves so fast, her quirkiness and trail-blazing for the older woman, giving me hope for what I can achieve in my third age, her complete disregard for the convention of the canvas, her intelligence and her ability to articulate her work, her complete and utter belief in the validity of what she is creating.  What I am still to fully understand is where she is coming from and why that is so relevant today.

Roy Oxlade Ph D RCA English 1924 -2014

Married to Rose Wylie.  Educated at Goldsmiths and Borough, where David Bomberg was his tutor, he wrote his thesis on Bomberg, Bomberg at the Borough: An Approach to Drawing.

Green Painting, 2007

‘Painting is like a room of the imagination.  A canvas is a jumble of art history I related to.  Entirely abstract forms place too many restrictions on dialogue, so I have put in some other stuff, characters, actors, tables, pots colours, figures, faces.’  1

‘When cat-walk art has finally imploded, perhaps there can be a fresh and essentially evaluative look at metaphorical modernism.  That could initiate a continuation of representational painting.’

I don’t understand him and I can find little about him, but I am attracted to his work, which whilst similar to Rose’s, is less naive and more thought provoking.

1. wikipaedia, Wall St Journal International 2013


Week 21 – Artist Practice


Their Current Projects ‘How to be an Artist’ series gives an insight into differing aspects of the supporting activities of being an artist.  Laura Fowle looks at ‘the balancing act of self promotion’, focusing on her web site and the use of Instagram.  My web site, designed by my son, Jon Barmby at works really well, but it is her suggestion, illustrated by the artist Tanya Ling,  that Instagram is used as a ‘teaser’ to draw in followers that I need to explore.

My son’s friend the Brighton illustrator Lloyd Stratton, uses the resource in a similar way, releasing works in progress to showcase his beautiful pointillist work.  He now has over 3000 followers who regularly purchase his limited runs.

I currently use Instagram for family photos, but with my dual identity I will make this a task for March.  This is proving harder than first thought.  Instagram doesnt seem to allow multiple accounts, that is one copy per device. Um?

Georgia Gendall considers identity and resilience after art college and the importance of a support group once the reassuring blanket of art college is withdrawn.  She is part of the Lifeboat initiative offered by UAL out of which emerged CaW, which ‘explores the proposition that fine art practice per se is a model for resilience (psychologically, socially and culturally). ‘

The Video Trade Secrets 9 stresses the importance of a web presence, but also the idea of collaboration.  I shall let that idea incubate for a while to see if it leads anywhere or nowhere.


Week 20 – Watercolour Painters

Watercolour Painters

Edward Burra 1905-1976

Born in Rye in a house known as Springfield, in 1920 he travelled to Paris, which would change him forever, an unfolding entertainment.  Also drawn to the seedy ports in the South of France, and their Spanish influence.  Disabled from childhood with arthritic hands, he was a man on the outskirts of life.   His art was meticulous and carefully constructed.  He painted from imagination, methodically from left to right as evidenced by his last work.Edward Burra (English, 1905-1976), Landscape, 1976. Pencil and watercolour, 29½ x 51½ in. (75 x 130.8 cm.)

Edward Burra ‘The Snack Bar’, 1930<br />
© The estate of Edward Burra, courtesy Lefevre Fine Art, London

The Snack Bar 1930

In 1933 he visited Harlem, but it was Spain that captivated him.  He loved its rawness and roughness, and was living there in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.  It was, not unexpectedly to have a profound effect on his work.

Edward Burra, The Watcher,1937

The Watcher 1937

In the 50s he painted flowers that were sinister.

He used symbolic language in his later work, ghostly figures in Sugarbeet.

Sugarbeet, East Anglia 1973. Watercolour on paper by Edward Burra.

His later landscapes feel like an attempt to connect with something bigger than himself. 

Near Whitby, Yorkshire 1972

Andrew Graham Dixon and his review in the Telegraph ht


Jane Stevenson wrote his biography, Twentieth Century Eye.

Eric Ravilious

English, born in Eastbourne in 1903 – 1942 in action as a war artist.

Norway by Eric Ravilious, 1940

Norway 1940

Tutored by Paul Nash at the RCA, a contemporary of Henry Moore and John Piper.

Ravilious, Eric - Chalk Paths

Chalk Paths 1935

Known for his watercolours of the South Downs.

There is to be a major retrospective at the Dulwich Picture Gallery from April to August, curated by James Russell a Ravilious expert.

Paul Nash

English 1889 – 1946, educated at the Slade.

With thanks to Gerry’s amazing art blog Thats How the Light Gets in,

Paul Nash, Wire, 1918

Paul Nash Wire -1918

And James Russell’s blog on his life and death

Woods on the Downs 1930

Another perspective on his life

Patrick Heron

British 1920-1999.

Ultramarine, red & black vertical

Ultramarine, red & black vertical  5 x 3¾ in. (12.7 x 9.5 cm.)

This is clearly a watercolour but most of his work is oil or silk screen.

Marlene Dumas

Born is South Africa in 1953, now resident in Amsterdam.  She works mainly in inks and oils.

I visited the Image as Burden exhibition at the Tate last week.  I wanted to find her work amazing and unforgettable, but sadly, I didn’t.  In fact with fourteen rooms of challenging images, I found myself extremely low the following day.

Dumas goes where other artists fear to tread.  Laura Cummings writing in the Observer ‘There is a painting in this show of the man who murdered the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, shooting him repeatedly before slashing his throat. It is delicate and pale, materialising in beautiful veils. There is another of Osama bin Laden in the glowing stained-glass hues of a Rouault. Should they be quite so gorgeous, these canvases? Should these men get such lavish treatment?’

‘Her way of painting can appear rhetorical: those vague attenuations around the neck that make you wonder what happened to the rest of this poor person; those coloured auras that seem to emanate from certain faces; those seeping blurs that allow for extraordinary ambiguities in a face – seeing or sightless, unconscious or dead? Shapely masks – chalk white, pale blue, tinged with fading pink or magenta – are superimposed on heads for an immediate sense of misfit or detachment. Her people seem to wear their faces.’

Marlene Dumas retrospective, Tate Modern, London, Britain - 03 Feb 2015

Seven years ago Dumas briefly became the world’s most expensive living female artist.  You would imagine with that exhalted claim to fame would come a degree of self assuredness, but it appears not.

Rachel Cooke writing in the Guardian is impressed by her self-deprecation ‘“When I start work on a painting, it’s total kitsch!” she wails at one point. “When I painted myself pregnant, I couldn’t do the legs, and the blond hair made it look like a bad Klimt!” she cries at another. No other artist I have interviewed has ever come close to making statements like these. Their acceptance of their own brilliance was simply part of the deal.’

The Painter, 1994.

The Painter, 1994. The Museum of Modern Art, New York © Marlene Dumas

This disturbing portrait is of her own daughter, Helena, now 25, was considered too explicit for Tate and Moma outdoor publicity material.  “The nakedness made it impossible, but they also didn’t like that she looked so angry.” said Dumas in an interview with Vogue’s Sophie Rushton.  ‘Of painting her own child, she says, “When I’m painting I do have a distance, it’s not that I’m in this emotional state all the time… although I do use my paintings to work with my own fears and anxieties.” Think of Lucian Freud, she says, who asked his daughters to pose in the nude. “He was very good at what he did – but I’m totally opposite in that sense – he painted his daughters, lying there,” Dumas flings her body back into a splayed pose, “I mean, I wouldn’t paint my daughter like that! I’m still surprised that doesn’t upset people!”‘

Rachel Cooke from the Gaurdian comments ‘On a wall are the latest drawings for her Great Men series, a collection of portraits of gay men (the Tate show will include drawings of Alan Turing, Tennessee Williams and Tchaikovsky). She looks at me looking at them – I’m drawn especially to her young Auden and to her Francis Bacon, both of which seem to capture something of their very essence – and when I turn around, I can’t help but notice that she is wearing quite a daffy smile. Dumas doesn’t, unlike some artists, simply accept compliments as her due; it’s clear that they still have the power to thrill, and on receiving a genuine one she radiates graciousness, relief and a kind of simmering excitement.’

Alastair Smart writing in the Standard, whilst recommending the exhibition comments that it is ‘Not a barrel of laughs.  Dumas is proof that, even in a world awash with imagery, painting can still move.’

‘Dumas’s art does, after 14 rooms, start to look slightly samey. Following a few experiments with collage, she hit upon her signature painting style early on and hasn’t really ever deviated from it.

In fact, in recent years she appears to be an artist whose inspiration has run dry: hence her decision to start depicting celebrities, from Amy Winehouse and Phil Spector to Osama bin Laden.’

The artist would disagree.  In an interview with Sophie Rushton for Vogue ‘There is humour, she says, behind her paintings of Bin Laden and the now-incarcerated Spector, and you only have to hear her speak about them – in a throaty half-Dutch, half-South African accent that frequently dissolves into laughter – to believe that is her intention. “I always quote Beckett,” she says, “‘Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.’ I often choose things that are quite tragic, and I know it’s not funny ha-ha, but there is definitely an element of humour.”  I am not sure I see where she is coming from and certainly not my sense of humour.

Dumas claims not to be political. Smart comments ‘Her work has often been seen through the prism of apartheid in her homeland, as if she were always passing comment. Dumas fundamentally rejects such a reductive outlook, but there’s no doubt the Africa of her youth has infused her art.’

Marlene Dumas, Black Drawings, 1991-1992

Black Drawings 1991-92

Smart continues ‘The artist herself, though, stresses her aim wasn’t political but simply to deploy black ink aesthetically – something she certainly achieves through some loose brushwork and lovely poolings.’

Critic Waldemar Januszczak writing in the Sunday Times and as ZCZFilms in Faceook

‘All the heads have an in-built sense of symbolism. All of them seem to have been through a battle to find the best painterly approach with which to suggest their bigger meanings. A portrait of Dumas’s mother, also called Martha, is as washed out as the Turin Shroud. While a portrait of Moshekwa, an artist friend of Dumas’s, and a rare appearance here by a male face, uses a surprising splodge of Rothko purple across the forehead to smuggle powerful abstract expressionist emotions into the image.

As a display of inventive mark-making, all this is impressive. The suggestive possibilities of paint are treated to an exciting exploration. Here, it’s done with splodges. There, with monochromes. Unfortunately, painting large heads is not enough for Dumas and, having shown how potently she can do it, she spends the rest of the show growing more ambitious in her subject matter, less impressive in her art.’

A face that fits

Sheila de Rosa writing for a-n   ‘Unfortunately I am sorry to say that I cannot agree with Januszczak when he says that this exhibition should have been called ‘How to be Old-Fashioned in a Contemporary Way’ and is a clumsy attempt by deep and ancient human emotions to express themselves with fiddly and ill-fitting conceptual methods.  This is where I humbly suggest that you need to be a practitioner yourself to appreciate exactly what she has achieved in her works and just how accomplished she is, and what a joy they impart.  Marlene Dumas is a breath of fresh air and her work combines both conceptual acuity and visual pleasure which, I submit, is what the visual arts are all about.’

My feeling is that here is an artist with the ability to infuse real, often painful emotion, into her portraits.  This is when she is being  her most authentic.  It is when she tries to develop her ideas that she looses that authenticity and appears to be ‘chasing the money’.

Marlene Dumas Great Britain 1995–7

Marlene Dumas Great Britain 1995–7

Private collection, c/o San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Marlene Dumas

Is she worth £3m, soon expected to increase to £5m at her next auction?  That is a seriously heavy burden for any artist to bear.


Contemporary History  – Julian Stallabrass

Stories of Art – James Elkins

Visual Methodologies – Gillian Rose

Your Creative Brain – Shelley Carson

A Philosophical Enquiry – Edmund Burke

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers – Leonard Koren

Art as a Social System – Niklas Luhmann

Art as Therapy – Alain de Botton

Interviews – Artists V2 Recordings 2010

Living, Thinking, Looking – Siri Hustvedt

Drawing and Painting People, A Fresh Approach – Emily Ball

The Occult Power of Numbers – W Wynn Westcott

Art in Modern Cultures, An Anthology of Critical Texts – edited by Francis Franscina and Jonathan Harris

Richard Diebenkorn The Berkley Years 1953-1966

The Enchanted River Two Hundred Years of the Royal Watercolour Society – Simon Fenwick

Art Speak – Robert Atkins

Kandinsky – Ulrike Becks-Malorny

Susan Sontag on Photography

Interpreting Matisse and Picasso – Elizabeth Cowling

Art Today – Heartney

The Natural Way to Draw – Nicolaides

Ways of Looking – Ossian Ward

Man and His Symbols – Carl G Jung

Coaching the Artist Within – Eric Maisel

The Element – Ken Robinson Ph D

Art & Instinct – Roy Oxlade

Personal Practice – Resources


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