Miscellaneous

A few things to note before going to exhibitions next week (and I hope blogging about them) . Firstly my son has finished the first 2 wooden frames for my 2d work ;

Wood dragon & Blue/green paisley

The idea with (largely) his design was to find something that would be a signature frame for most of my work which tends to be watercolour crayon on A4 or A3 paper  and unsuitable for mounts . This would then advertise his workmanship too . I like these and think they are exactly right . I have found that 2d stuff without frames or at least mounts is practically unsaleable .

He suggested also that I should do a daily watercolour of the garden to catch the changing plants and seasonal colour . This would be fast and make me learn to work with watercolour paint & not just the crayons I am used to . At least if I pay attention mostly to the colour I will produce more fodder for collages ! Maybe I need more sizes of pad ?

I have also read a book he recommended  , “Hammer Head -The Making of a Carpenter” by Nina MacLaughlin . The author was a journalist who did Classics at university but became a carpenter because ‘something more immediate , more physical , more practical and tangible appealed to me , and had for some time .’ She also refers to Gabriel García Márquez’ saying ‘ultimately literature is nothing but carpentry’ before admitting a few sentences later that he had never done any carpentry himself ! She says ‘If he had , he’d know that a piece of wood is not the same as words . A wall is real ……Words are ghosty and mutable .’ Which I think anyone who works with physical material and their hands would understand .

Finally I am going to apply to do a PhD again . Overly stubborn or worse ? I won’t say much more until later on but nice people are helping me so I am hopeful .

 

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Albert Moore : Of Beauty & Aesthetics , York Art Gallery until 1st October

Another rewarding exhibition – things are looking up ! I expected this to be akin to Frederick Leighton’s work or even Alma-Tadema’s – very staid late Victorian academicism with Arcadian settings excusing the semi nudity and lots of repressed eroticism à la Tennyson’s ‘A Dream of Fair Women’ . In fact Albert Moore’s work was a revelation . The labels associated him with Whistler (a close friend) , Leighton and 2 other erstwhile Pre-Raphaelites – Burne-Jones and Millais as part of the Aesthetic movement whose slogan ‘Art for Art’s sake’ is so much  part of the fin de siècle/ Wildean viewpoint . It does seem extraordinary that just as with Whistler the titles of his paintings should have been criticised , as subjectless (!)

A Garden 1869

Subjectless ? Apparently he often chose a title after the painting was completed and they are descriptive of the mood and colour rather than some moral lesson – just as with Whistler’s use of musical terms . I was also puzzled by the contemporary criticism of this female nude as androgynous :

A Venus 1869

Did critics think that normal women had wasp waists even when corsets were taken off ? Actually this reminds me of :

La Souce Ingrès 1856

Ingrès was a successful French painter (and so not popular now !) . His nudes are idealised of course but the 2 are the same body type and hardly androgynous , surely ?

Shells 1874

Moore’s  draughtsmanship is superb . This painting caught my eye because I could feel how her left hand is holding the muslin down . He did considerable preparation for each painting and many of these studies are exhibited alongside the finished works – which should be done more often . He did studies of the planned draperies with white chalk on brown paper and many drawings of the movement . In fact it has been suggested that the many paintings he did of sleeping and lounging figures was to give his exhausted models a rest after jumping off something or running across the studio floor repeatedly ! Certainly the figures never look like marble statues in costumes howevermuch he had studied the Parthenon frieze . In fact the colour palette and accessories are obviously ‘aesthetic’ . Note the overall warm colours in the exhibition with its preponderance of green and yellow and the anachronistic Japanese fans in the sumptuous ‘Midsummer’ , as well as his final work .

Midsummer 1887

I’m not convinced of his argued contribution to Impressionism or Abstraction because he seems to have been classically skilful at rendering surfaces as well as structure rather than inspired by photography or optics and his paint is not thickly applied at all . In some ways he could be seen as an Aubrey Beardsley in glorious colour and not so warped . They both have a wonderful line and appreciation of the possibilities of patterns . Look at this , Moore’s last painting :

A revery 1892

The exhibition also shows some work by his father and the 4 other brothers who became painters in one side room and then in another there are paintings and records of York School of Design (later Art & Design , later yet York Art School) which was opened in 1842 as the second provincial Design school in the UK and originally was within York Art Gallery . His father and the 5 brothers all taught &/or were taught there . So Albert Moore is a local boy .

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An exhibition I actually liked + odds & ends

5 votives and one inkjet printed paper stack

Finally after seeing several exhibitions which annoyed me – but not badly enough to want to write about – I saw “Votives” by Aleksandra Domanović at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds . I was drawn back yesterday & read all the stuff accompanying the exhibition – which does not always help .

There were 6 pieces which were updated votive statues based on specific Ancient Greek originals , 6 paper stacks arranged in 2 groups of 3 and a film of hers ‘Turbo Sculpture’ about postwar public works in the former Yugoslavia where Domanović was born in 1981 (although she is now based in Berlin at the Altes museum) . I would recommend the film , on its own , simply for the information it contains . It is worrying or intriguing that anywhere would invest public money in works depicting international celebrities (Bruce Lee to Madonna) presumably because they are irrelevant to recent & painful history/geography . As to the rest ; I’ve seen stuff like the edge printed paper stacks before – ok but I confess a preference for the random patterns you get from the printer doing hundreds of pages with leaking black ink ! It was the votive pieces that really got to me .

‘Partridge’ 2016

They were beautiful , impressive and endlessly visually interesting whether or not you read the notes . I particularly liked the backs of the sculptures (which you can see in the top image) where you could see the reverse of limbs implied but not see from the  front . The effect was of contour lines hollowed out . I’ve always liked contour lines . The notes stressed the modern techniques & materials ; laser sintering , 3d printing , kevlar . I don’t know why – sculptors have always used new materials and whatever was the latest technology . 3d printing is electronically controlled  injection moulding and so can reproduce designs very accurately with very long runs . But reproducibility is not new . Smaller votive pieces were often sold outside temples and eg I’ve seen Etruscan terracotta figures in 3 sizes (and presumably 3 prices) alongside the moulds that were used to produce them .

Odds & ends

My workshop is not up & running yet but I am trying to draw more – how can I call myself an artist if I don’t do stuff ? I may also try again for a PhD so must draw up a coherent research proposal &/or some sort of timetable for at least textile work as well as other 2d . And I must blog more often than once in 7/8 months !

Posted in Figurative sculpture images, non-figurative scupture, other artists | 5 Comments

Colours

Before trying to get back into some daily work I thought I’d get together the 2d art materials which I have and see what colours I can use to expand what I do with watercolour pencils . My course in painting and drawing last year had reminded me about oil pastels – which I always much preferred to ‘real’ pastels – and I had at least learned how to do colour washes (but not much else) with watercolours . Unfortunately the oil pastels inherited from my mother were overly dry – as were most of the watercolours I had in tubes . Why were we recommended to buy them ? So I found a tiny art supplies shop recommended by Winsor & Newton and bought the smallest sets of oil pastels and block watercolours I could find . I haven’t tried the oil pastels out in a proper drawing yet – I was hoping they might be useful in representing our cats’ fur – but have been trying out watercolour washes :

2016-09-08-08-25-28

Here are 8 small test pieces using colours in my usual groups except for the top left one which already had a sky (grey , blue) background waiting for a foreground which I never got round to . Because I hate throwing expensive stuff away (proper watercolour paper) I tried lines in felt tip on top and then tried them on the others as well . Actually the 2 that look best – bottom row right and 2nd from left – have nothing on top . Watercolour crayons would be more flexible than felt tip anyway . I have an obsession with trying to find a use for things we still have – we got them years ago when our son was little because they were made from vegetable colours and hence washable , non-toxic . So why am I trying to use them now ? I prefer almost everything else except biro for linework !

 

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Local exhibitions week – Part 5

OK it is really 8 days by now but I only found out about this exhibition after I had been to Leeds last week – it was posted about on Facebook by Stephen Roper , a jeweller . The Leeds Armouries had some actual objects from the Staffordshire hoard (until October 2) as opposed to replicas which will go on a major tour , so we visited yesterday . Apparently this is a hoard of gold and a little silver from Anglo-Saxon times found in what had been the kingdom of Mercia . Many objects were damaged because they were parts of sword & knife hilts and had been wrenched off . Nevertheless the quality of the workmanship is visibly quite extraordinary – especially when you consider (as Stephen pointed out) that they were working without magnification .

Sword pyramids (ends of hilt cross pieces?) in gold set with garnets and red glass

Sword pyramids (ends of hilt cross pieces?) in gold set with garnets and red glass

Sword hilt collars worked in gold filigree

Sword hilt collars worked in gold filigree

There was some information/speculation about the garnets – possibly Middle Eastern and the gold – possibly melted down from Byzantine coins but nothing on the red glass . Red is a difficult because highly fugitive colour in glass/glazes so did they make it themselves or was it broken fragments looted ? Where from ? And why melt down coins when the reddish gold of Saxon England was famous ? And there are an awful lot of garnets from far away in the hoard – traded , stolen or looted & by whom ? We don’t seem to know much about the Anglo-Saxon period in England and of course it wasn’t long .

Finally there was a contemporary sculpture , inspired by the objects , designed and made by the blacksmith Stuart Makin –

ldssclptHe made it from sheet steel painted in gold and red perspex ; it is 2 metres wide and 2.5 tall and takes the form of a dragon pierced screen supported by 4 birds . His website is well worth a look –

http://www.ironforgeddesigns.co.uk

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Local exhibitions week – Part 4

Yesterday we went with a Quaker group on an afternoon trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just outside Wakefield . This is always worthwhile because it is so huge . There are usually several special exhibitions in various buildings as well as pieces set in the landscape . Some of these are permanent – so if all else fails one can get refreshed by Henry Moore , Barbara Hepworth , Elizabeth Frink etc ! We only had time for the special exhibition in the chapel , ‘Transparency’ which was a few pieces from the Arts Council Collection , mostly a bit translucent . My favourites were –

Untitled (6 pieces) - Rachel Whiteread

Untitled (6 pieces) – Rachel Whiteread

These were resin casts of the underside of different chairs – not that we guessed correctly ! She is famous for casting the reverses of things – inside a house or cupboard , library shelves and their books facing outwards etc . I usually have no time for YBA’s/Saatchi favourites but her work consistently moves me , as did this .

The other pieces I really liked were by Gary Woodley who teaches painting at the Slade altho’ his own work seems to be more about drawing or sculpture . I can’t find an image of them but they were 3 studies in perspex from 1993 . He draws black lines inside buildings and these seemed to be 3d scale models showing how visible or not the lines would be depending on the viewpoint and opacity of the walls . Here is a 2d plan and an exhibited finished line .

Plan - grey lines indicate walls , black lines are the black lines

Plan – grey lines indicate walls , black lines are the black lines

In this case , white lines !

In this case , white lines !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the chapel was this –

Iron tree - Ai Wei Wei

Iron tree – Ai Wei Wei

I think this was cast in iron (now rusting) in the 3 sections and then covered with iron bolts in square depressions . Overall it looks cruel , perhaps until you realise the tree and bolts are made of the same material . I don’t know what it means if anything and perhaps there is too much temptation to interpret it politically , since he seems to be known more for his opposition to his government than his work . I don’t think I’ve seen anything of his before , certainly not ‘in the flesh’ .

Budha - Niki de St Phalle

Budha – Niki de St Phalle

This was new to me too . I’ve seen loads of photographs of her sculptures over the years but never in real life . Yes I did like it and it did make me smile .

10 Seated Figures - Magdalena Abakanowicz

10 Seated Figures – Magdalena Abakanowicz

Finally these : cast in iron at approximately 1 1/2 times life size they are headless but not identical . Abakanowicz is Polish and lived most of her life under political oppression (repression ?) . The blurb suggested they were figures of authority , I thought they might be a cynical view of a council/committee supposedly set up to help but unable to , hence headless eg something from the UN . I found it interesting that she also chose rusting iron like Ai Wei Wei .

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Local exhibitions week – Part 3

Yesterday I stayed in my new home town and went to York Art Gallery which has just been expensively refurbished yet again ; and , controversially , has introduced entrance fees after promising not to . My York museum pass allowed me in free – but the pass costs , of course .

The current big exhibition –

20595-YMT-IWM-Truth-and-Memory-Web-Panel-1280x373-960x280is displayed in 4 rooms and echoes the 1919 exhibition at the Royal Academy of 925 works (!) commemorating the Great War which had ended the previous year . The first room you come to is hung exactly as the main room at that 1919 exhibition and includes both straightforwardly patriotic & slightly unrealistic works like Clausen’s Woolwich Arsenal as well as a Stanley Spencer painting of a dressing station . Apparently an effort was made to include younger & more modern artists stylistically , partly because many had seen action and thus represented a generation who had suffered severely . That this was recognised surprised me a little since the line from our present government is that no one thought WW1 was terrible until certain recent historians and TV programmes had overexposed a few poems by officers who had no idea how patriotic the ‘ordinary’ soldiers really were . Thus the anniversary of the Great War is to be expressly celebrated . This exhibition because it reflects the complexities of artists’ responses then , just does not do that .

I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do but the quality of the work – often early stuff by later very famous painters eg the Nash brothers , Wyndham Lewis , Stanley Spencer – and the intensity of feeling conveyed won me over . Here are some favourites –

Over the Top - John Nash

Over the Top – John Nash

We are making a New World Paul Nash 1918

We are making a New World Paul Nash 1918

Paul was the older brother and had trained at the Slade , John had no (official) training . Both were in the Artists’ Rifles and saw action .

There were also women artists commissioned to work on the ‘Home Front’ –

The L press : Whitworth Works Openshaw Anna Airy

The L press : Whitworth Works Openshaw Anna Airy

This was a munitions works , she travelled around the country to produce 4 paintings of ‘war work’ but they were rejected at first . Too realistic or too modernistic or both ?

Women's canteen , Phoenix Works , Bradford 1918 Flora Lion

Women’s canteen , Phoenix Works , Bradford 1918 Flora Lion

Returning to the battle front :-

'Archies' CRW Nevinson

‘Archies’ CRW Nevinson

Nevinson was much taken with Futurism before the War and produced some joyful paintings of flight – despite the context . He claimed to be the first artist to paint from an aeroplane . Later however –

Paths of Glory 1917 CRW Nevinson

Paths of Glory 1917 CRW Nevinson

This was censored by the War Office because depictions of British corpses were bad for morale at home or words to that effect . It was shown , officially , after the War was over however . I would have thought that by 1917 the British public would have noticed that men were dying at the Front .

I’m sure I’ve left lots of other things out and will certainly go and visit again . Although I thought I knew quite a bit about this War from the literature produced during and after – there is nothing like a visual image to bring it home to you .

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