Plan B

Slowly recovering from the over indulgence of this time of year, I am losing myself in the books I have been given, a different perspective.  From my son, Think Like an Artist by Will Gompertz.  Bells are ringing.

He talks of Bridget Riley only coming to prominence when her personal pressure valve burst and she abandoned colour for black and white, her Plan B.

Much of what he is illustrating is what Caroline and Angela have been stressing:

Experiment constantly, be curious, there is no failure, only learnings and Plan B.

Identify past experiences, work, relationships, interests.  It was particularly interesting to following the development of David Ogilvy, the US ad agency boss, and how each aspect of his life contributed to his final direction and success.

Borrow, but preferably steal and build on previous artists’ style,     achievements, discoveries.  Nothing is new.  The development of Picasso the brand in his Blue Period was a distillation of everything he stole and then built on.

Make connections that are unique to me.

Amelia Cox recommended frequent referral to Michael Atavar’s How to be an Artist.  He states ‘Find one simple idea and build on it – fast, slow, inverted, forward, splintered, whole.’

Time to review, reflect, steal, distill, make new unique connections, amplify.   Happy 2016!

Testing Boundaries

Our task is to consider where our practice might sit, where new audiences might be, and to record our voyage of discovery in our journal, alongside the execution of the idea, with a fixed deadline of 14 March 2016.  A reflective piece of 750-1250 words, including bibliography and Harvard Referencing, identifying site, situation, audience, decision making process, public engagement, and a reflection on benefits and disadvantages for my practice, to also be produced by the deadline.

We are to consider our connections, who we know or have access to, the nature of the work and its connections, and where I have seen work like mine.  Alongside location we may consider changing the format, the scale, materials or method of viewing, by projection, in a magazine, an artist’s book or a web site.  Les Bicknell, the tutor for this project, highlighted a number of interesting examples, a mown lawn used as a canvas, the rear window of a vehicle, a postcard blown up to wrap around a scaffolded building.  He asked how uncomfortable/challenged I want  to be.  A thought provoking question indeed.

We were asked for our initial ideas.  I was particularly struck by the political content of Alison’s, Emma’s, Maire’s and Mwamba’s ideas, from projecting forgotten people onto the Spanish parliament building (with possible imprisonment!), to painting people and their clothing for a performance piece in London, perhaps with regard to the homeless, or from prostitutes in Zambia, to a giant dress and the homeless in Ireland.  I have never considered myself political or even a feminist.  I have never found it necessary to fight to be equal, but I am noticing more injustice with this government, perhaps because they feel so empowered, that subtlety is no longer necessary, or perhaps I am just waking up!

I was also struck by the gentleness of Monika’s idea, a natural extension to her current practice, to sit in her local coffee shop and ask people to record memories of their first cake, then to feed the comments back into a future work.  This idea is not dissimilar to an idea I was discussing with Annabel in my tutorial, where we discussed inviting the viewer to record the emotion they feel when looking at a piece of my work.

My starting point was that I have exhibited in galleries, interior designers, solicitors, churches and doctor’s surgeries, so that would not present a real challenge.  I want to be stretched, but I am a realist, and whilst projecting my work onto the white cliffs of Dover from a boat out in the Channel might be amazing, it is unlikely to be achieved in three months, with a two week public shutdown for Christmas.

So what could I achieve and what could I afford to achieve, because there wouldn’t be time for public funding applications?  My work is colourful, and my initial thought is to brighten up the winter months in a public space, say a park or a public hoarding.  I could leave my email/Twitter/FB contact details for feedback regarding the emotional impact, and then consider how I could reuse the comments in a future work.

Politics does not form part of my current practice, so its inclusion in this project would fall  outside the extension brief.  However, I live in the poorest area in the South East, reminiscent of one of the East London boroughs in the 80’s, overflowing with creative, anarchic individuals, where industrial chic and up-cycling rule.  I do need to reflect on this for future subject matter.

Giacometti Pure Presence

I am embarrassed to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about Giacometti, other than I thought he was an Italian Renaissance sculptor.

Man with a pointing finger, recently sold at auction for $141m

So wrong.  Alberto was born in Switzerland in 1901 and died in 1966.  His father, Giovanni, was also a well known post impressionist painter.  He is best known for his skinny sculptures, but he was also an extraordinary painter.

Woman of Venice VIII by Alberto Giacometti, 1956.

Woman of Venice VIII by Alberto Giacometti, 1956. Photograph: The Estate of Alberto Giacometti/NPG

In 1922 he moved to Paris to train with Antoine Bourdelle, an associate of Rodin.  However, this exhibition is more about painting than sculpture, and Alberto’s close relationship with his family.  His mother, his brother Diego, his wife Annette and ‘Caroline’ an acquaintance with questionable connections, each have a room.  His portraits are extraordinary.


Jean Genet

The subdued palette, the placement of the subject, the visible workings and reworkings, the energy, as if the marks have been scratched into the paint.

I am reminded of the recent Turner exhibition at Tate Britain, where after several rooms of beautiful work, I felt overwhelmed by the sameness. This exhibition had much the same quality, several rooms of similar work, but rather than feeling overwhelmed, it was their sameness that was captivating, that created the intensity of emotional connection to the work.

I am afraid all the images I could find do not do justice to his work.  It is one of those exhibitions that you just have to go and see.  The beautifully illustrated book of the exhibition is on my Christmas list.

With time to spare before I collected my granddaughter from nursery, I headed to the Borough Art Gallery on Borough Road, home of David Bomberg.  I somehow had managed to miss the recent Borough Group exhibition, but I knew they kept a small sample of work on permanent display.  The Elemental Force of Charcoal: Drawing at the Borough, on until 16 Feb, is a number of expressive charcoal works from the Sarah Rose Collection, by Bomberg and his students, principally Dennis Creffield, Edna Mann and Miles Richmond.

Beauvais Cathedral East End – Dennis Creffield

Surprisingly I found Bomberg’s charcoal works heavy and lacking sensitivity, whilst this particular work by Creffield was an inspiration. The multilayered, suffused mark making, is powerful, sensitive and emotional, seducing the viewer in.  It is easy to miss the cathedral until alerted by the title.

Paul Klee Painting Music

Following on from Klee’s On Modern Art, I spotted a book about Klee and painting music by German art historian and lecturer, Hajo Duchting.

I must admit to being disappointed that the book was about Klee applying the motifs and rhythms of his musical knowledge, as a professional musician, rather than being inspired by and responding to a particular piece of music.  That said, Duchting ably charts Klee’s exploration of the subject, together with his specific use of colour to support the rhythms in his work.

What I found particularly useful was the charting of the development of his ideas, supported by examples of Klee’s work.  His representation of movement in time in watercolour, in Fugue in Red, 1921;

developing the relationship between tonality and colour during his years at the Bauhaus; his ‘polyphonic painting’, where Duchting notes ‘the layering of various structured areas produces…..a harmony of forms, in which colour takes on a specific meaning.’ p65; through to one of his most accomplished works, Ad Parnassum, 1932, 100 x 126 cms, where the juxtaposition of orange and blue creates an iridescent flicker.

Reflecting on Klee’s work

As I battle to get my work to ‘sing’, I realise I have a lot to learn with regard to the placement, application and layering of colour.