Saturday, 28 September 2013

Redefining Reality

As it is on the list of essential reading I set about reading New Art in the 60s and 70s - Redefining Reality by Anne Rorimer. The book is published by Thames and Hudson, 2001

Coming from a traditional background and admirer of Impressionism, the Fauves, Expressionism, Abstraction etc., I was sometimes amused, appalled, inspired, aghast and enthralled by this book and the artists discussed.  Because I want to log in note form details of the artists and their techniques I am going to outline their ideas and to include any notes as to thoughts that came to me when reading it.

Clement Greenberg wanted art to eliminate figuration through Abstract Expressionism allowing the paint and for the sub conscious to express itself through gesture and qualities of paint. Nonetheless figuration was later re-introduced.


Pierro Manzoni wanted to render surfaces white with no message and no self expression "There is nothing to be said, there is only to be, to live" 1

In this way he rejected representation, composition and brushwork.  He wanted his work simply "to be".  Manzoni's compatriots used fabrics, sacking etc. with thick gestural brushwork.

Lucio Fontana slashed or pierced canvases to reveal a spacial reality behind the canvas, introducing a space that can't be perceived.

IDEA: Reverse canvas painted with absorbent inks, i.e. on natural un gesso'd canvas.

Yves Klein also sought to go beyond perceptual reality by painting in blue, what he called International Klein Blue to reveal a mysterious depth, or universe.

Ad Reinhardt also wanted to purfiy painting by using timeless monochrome black to reach it's essence.

Roy Lichtenstein created the somic as an object in itself, painting the ben-day dots so it became like the comic illustrations it mimicked.

IDEA: Between the ben-day Dots - highly textured "paper" between enlarged dots.  recreating fibrous nature as much as possible.

IDEA: Pixels for poor signal as a picture begins to break down, some representational other pixelated.

The Store - beefburgers.  The Street, life itself not objects in a museum.

Allan Kaprow The merits of junk to displace high minded Abstract Expressionism.  Assemblages (not art objects) which he called happenings and environments.  Temporal framework.  Art off the easel to purge of permanence and preciousness.  Art in line with life.

IDEA: Displacement wood object sea as plaster bandage, spray as sand.

Fluxus Manifesto 1963 "Purge world of bourgeois sickness....abstract art, illusionistic art, artificial art...fuse...revolutionaries into united front and action" 2

ex members of John Cage's New School of Social Research in NY.  Fluxus "musical"  performances.  Fluxus similar to Situationist International founded in Europe in 1957 - art might take part in the fight for egalitariana society, Maciunas proposed " must be lowered by making it unlimited, massproduced, obtainable by all and eventually produced by all" 3

IDEA: Pole Dancing move it  - this is art label  - to be disposed of (signed by artist)

IDEA: Signature Dish  - Dish with rim This is Art, to be disposed of signed by artist

IDEA: Killer Mustang - hanging man with mustang below.

IDEA:  BULBS - Light bulbs in a box of earth

Fluxus 1 Boxes now International. Contents:Scores, photos, essays by 24 artists

Fluxus II - objects and 8mm film and printed matter.  Art and life together.  Rubber stamps not hand-drawn items.  Sought to undermine art objects.  Rejection of illusion and composition.  Contemporaries of Art Povera.  Retained self-referential object, i.e. existing for itself.  Isn't all art?

Painting was not at an end as Rodshenko thought, after producing what he considered to be definitive monochromes.  Minimalism despite its term afforded a new approach incorporating line, colour and texture that is infinite.

Blinkey Palermo  Architectural interior paiant used fabric in pictures.  Latitude and Date paintings.  Self referential but relative to date or place itself.  Turned to object painting. Re-evaluation of form

Gerhard Richter - Distance from reality whilst being representational emotionless almost abstract at same time.

Ryman - painterly application

Torini - brushmarks

Paolini - Freeing canvas from image.  The pictuure is what makes it up, free from authorial presence.

All want to ban illusion

Robert Smithson - words

Lawrence Weimer - words on walls, Giveaways at Exhibition - art availability and disposability


Robert Barry - cordons, cotton, wire, waxed thread, transparent filament. Ultrasonic sounds, microwaves, inert gas - neon, krypton xenon, helium, argon, electromagnetic fields, radioactive substances.  Telepathic ommunication, thoughts about a work of art not appplicable to language or image.

IDEA: Police tape

Ian Wilson He produced no physical object.  Concerned with Abstraction so used language.  Circle on floor which could be brought to mind with the word "circle".  Used and liked the word "time".  Signed certificate confirming that a conversation had taken place with date and time was proof.


Joseph Kosuth Like Wilson, discussion re Abstraction.  Clear square glass Leaning, consists of what the title describes.

IDEA: a tanner - sixpence, Five Bob - five shillings, 2/11 - two shillings and eleven pence

Self reflexivity seems important to all these artists.  'Art is the definition of art' and is not 'concerned with empirical fact'4 Language as an 'idea' of an object. One and three hammers.  Erased sign of own hand and authorial originality.  Expression in the idea not the form, the forms were only a device in the service of the idea.  Can equally be argued that the form expresses the idea and that the ideas are only devices in the service of the form.  The form is substantively there before an idea of it is percieved.

'Engagement' with the world: speech, media, TV, films, art, music, visual expression, war, confrontation, sport social drinking and eating, food, drink, maths, breathing, dancing, singing, digging, cleaning, washing, gardening, researching ALL healing ACTIVITIES 5

Ramsden 100% Abstract suppress illusion and meaning

Burn Car lacquer to paint with.  Not a fixed appearance through light intensity angle of view, reflection.  Mirror: aesthetic content.

Burn and Ramsden Six negatives (text struck out) turns obliteration into assertion i.e. mark-making.

IDEA:  Predating [Art and] Language leaves ART  (Image: micheline man type rubbing tummy entitled Predator.


Photography used to suppplement paiting, rather than being an alternative (Richter & Rauschenberg).  Photos: uncomposed, non-authorial, painted illusion or 3D effect.

Long - Land sculpture photos walking tracks.

Dennis Oppenheim - uses body with land as photo

Bernd and Hilla Becher - Photos of cooling towers series and series of framed houses.  Not picturesque same hazy conditions.  Resist personal prioritization.

Jan Dibbets - photos of flat 2-D picture.  Abstraction can be in represented image.  Sawdust elipses, walked on and destroyed. Ephemerality. Perspective corrected (like cricket and football groundwork advertisements). Square painted as rhomboid remains a square in perspective.  Light how it falls and moves - abstract.

Baldesserai  Language and text in paintings.  Acrylic and photoemulsion on canvas - phototext paintings, copies by photoreal artist.  'California' - each letter formed in landscape and photo'd the assemblage to form the word. Turns to photography to exlpore the question of choice. - Rhubarb. Cigar smoke to match clouds; Time above or under aeroplane supposed to change to seagull and  Submarine to murmaid during time lapse of motorboat going from left to right.  TV photos with text, controlling or directing meaning.

Douglas Huebler Duration, location and variable pieces.  Linguistic exploration.  Stated existence of sculptures in an apartment and suggested viewers should call to view.  Used maps, photos and descriptions to "install" sculptures too large to fit physically.  Snow marks as sculpture.  Marked out journeys on maps.  Wedges located then moved. 3 photos at 30 secs, 20 secs, 10 secs of children jumping rope all displayed out of sequence.  Photographing everyone in the world.

Gilbert and George Living sculpture and lyrics like troubadours.  Democratic art, published, posted or performed.  Charcoal squared drawings stuck together to form large work.  They are about communication.  Paintings used in similar way, then photos as photo-montage.

Victor Burgin Unstable meaning in a photo, nevertheless it is the most appropriate medium for today.  Manipulation of photos.  Rope triangles 2 at separate unseen positions.  Memory of one acting on the other.  Phtos of floor boards stapled to actual floor boards. "it may no longer be assumed that art, in some mysterious way, resides in materials"6

Temporal/mental thoughts without spacial dimensions.  Phtos with descriptive text.  Text seems hollow and images empty - contradictions.  Demonstrates how images can lie  Frame of reference altered.


Hanne Darboven et al: By using maps, numbers and/or language eliminate aesthetic illusion, planar or volumetric material.  Sought self evident visual items. Permutations of 4-6 digits needed to give date i.e. day month year multiplied, added, divided etc. vertical and horizontal symmetry.  Room size piece displayed 39 ft. 402 black ring binders 365 of which contain 100 pages 1 page per year of entire century.  Time given form as opposed to time slipping by. Translation of Homer's Odyssy in handwriting.

Sol le Witt Introduced Seriality in a move from minimalism to conceptualism.  Artist selects rules and form but then the fewer decisions made the better thereby eliminating arbitrariness, capaciousness and subjectivity.  The use of a pre-determined plan achieves above.  Nude moving closer to viewer until only naval in view and the camera moving closer to model until only naval in view. Static nature of traditional nude study. Serial compositions eliminate chance, taste and unconciously remembered forms and personal input.  Not linked to Maths nor natural world.

Adrian Piper Initial table sequence with figures but she is interested in self-conscious in terms of space and time she moves through a photo relates to timed or random moments.  Tries to become "object" by closing off sensory mode, in public.

Roman Opalka Self related to individual existence.  Numerical sequencing. White (no. 0 brush) numbers in sequence starting top left with no.1 each canvas has white added by 1% to form grey.  Eventually numbers will fruse with background to form infinity.  2173184-2194426 was last painting. Eternity and time with toll on artist as human subject.  He takes photos of face on completion of canvas.  Counts audibly and records.  Infinite sequencing v. brief lifetime.  Letters, numerical progression, mapps, photos in series, counter illusion and authorial expression.

On Kawara I read, I met, I got up etc. Anchoring notion of time within representational framework.  Newspaper cuttings of articles read on particular day.  These were done in conjunction with date paintings.  Relevant and irrelevant subject to historic context and uncensored by time itself.  I went - red line on map.  I met - list of names.  Latter only relate to personal life.  Postcards printed with I got up at ...(time).  Books contaianing every year 1M years past 1M years future.

Stanley Brounin Keepps sketches of directions in towns.  Performed movement and dress in shop window "art must come down from ivory tower.  It should just be craft.."7

IDEA: life graph

Shadows non-composed non-illusionist. Self referential, decorative?? If screen printed - not self drawn.  Footprints of passers by on paper.  Directions from home to art project inc. Street name, striking points passed by invitation.  Wanted a path in the Park.  Uses his stride as unit and bought sq. meter pieces of land in various countries.  Dispersed "Work".   Asked spectators at exhibition to talk in a certain direction reflecting the millions of walking in infinite directions.  Walk through cosmic rays - empty room.  Walk into infinity defines no. of footsteps in a day and which countries etc.

I had to have a break from the book at this point to look at some real art - give me an ivory tower any day!

Mel Bochner Numerical and linguistic.  Cognitive aspect of aesthetics.  Mental process. to materialize a workd of art relationships between knowledge, experience and reality.  Artist's work from books, sketches, studies, maths, till receipt placed in notebook on a ppedestal.  36 photos and 12 sets building blocks in different perspectives.  Photo 2-D but looks 3-D so is an illusion as well as photo.  Measurement of objects became a feature.
Christine Kozlov Numerical linguistics serial systems and sequences.  Cancel past minimal and representational art and sculptural mass.  Overlapping sound.  Painting of multi layered housepaint.  Portrait photos from booth. List of food consumption.  Neurological notes over years.  1945-61 "This is not art" stamp on various things. (You don't need to tell me!) Telegram: Particulars related to the information not contained herein constitute the form of this action. Recording sound in room.


Lissitzky Proun Room (Project for the affirmation of the new) Interaction between planar and volumetric in illusionistic space.  Person becomes part of work by walking around space to view.  Looking becomes part of it too. Subject of object are incorporated togetheer.

Allan Kaprov People waking through an assembled environment.  Viewer no longer looks 'at' but becomes part of surroundings.  Bringing art and everday life closer together.

Robert Morris
Viewer's awareness of existing in same space as object.  Sbuject creates relationship as he moves nd also when he views in different lights.  4 mirrored cubes forming square object and subject share same space, but physically separated.

IDEA: Flat foil in frame - "Where am I" (Subject and object sharing same space)

Bruce Naumann Eliminated difference between physical space of work and space of viewer.  Performance device to stand in. Lighted centre piece removes itself from centre (41,000 watt bulbs).

IDEA: After imaging using Green, Blue Pink Lt Green after looking at curtain.

Performance corridor space enveloped by work rather than surrounding it. Image of viewer in bottom screen (CCTV) dimionishes as approaching it.  Top screen pre-recorded empty corridor. Their figure recedes as they proceed.  Touch and sound wall. Microphone is engaged when wall is touched and emits sound from second wall. "Get out of my mind, Get out of this room" 10 ft sq. room emitting above words as shouts, growls and snorts (no obvious speakers). "Indoor/Outdoor" camera aimed at picture window from outside, shown with pictures from camera installed inside looking out.  Outdoor noises piped indoors.

IDEA: Reflections and double exposures

Nauman unlike Morris and Kaprow, dispenses with "product" by using technology.  Graham wrote of Nauman: "..(he) is in the present in presence of spectator...he now becomes the "object" and the "subject" simultaneously: he is both perceiver and perceived and both interior and exterior surface" 8 This comment reflects Graham's own later work with picture window.

Dan Graham His work transforms sculptural boundaries between subject (viewing) and object (viewed). Magazine pieces erased this division between work and viewer. Receipt tally roll. Common drug side effects list. Homes for America, irony. Income Piece - spectator as speculator. Then performance art. Interior and exterior views through picture window where viewer is subject and object at the same time. "Yesterday/Today" video and sound of back office shown in gallery 24 hours later. "Public space 2 audiences" room divided by glass on half with rear mirror, one entrance in each half. Glass pavilions (similar to hall of mirrors or glass maze)

Vito Acconci  Featured himself as "object" eliminating the creation of an object, i.e. the act as well as activity. Bridged division between artist, audience and exhibition space. Poems with visible/verbal spactial structure on the page. Wrote poetry performed in rooms to get himself off the page and into the room. Various street works of no real meaning. Photos of his body, i.e. when falling amonst others (Landscape adjusts to him) punches own reflection until mirror breaks. Bit himself then printed teeth marks. Intersection of public/private space and turning gallery into something else with items from apartment. Mail delivery to exhibition space.

James Coleman Using film, video and sound; avoids static images. 'Flash' of light at different intervals but cannot be detected as measured time and real time are usually different. Subjective perception.  'Memory Piece' demonstrates how mind retains memories imperfectly, engenders change and loss as it accumulates, filters, transmits and distorts. Present, past and future imbued within film of empty bucket filling with water. View of empty square with audio of various people's description of view but spoken by same person. Underlines different perceptions articulated  in different ways. The aggreate of differing viewpoints makes the whole. "Two seagulls or one twice' Video loop of bird doing circle or two birds. Clara & Dario idea of re-visiting place where they met.  Dialogue edited in chunks faces sometimes responding. Thought in present, past and future desires, through repetition turns back on itself whilst still moving forward. Jack Dempsey/Gene Tunney fight sequence. Reiterates clash with self and society. "So different ...and yet" illusions through the medium that perpetrates it.

Maria Nordman Seeking alternatives to 2D and 3D representtions looked to public spaces with Found Rooms.  Light illuminating black moveable walls. 2-way mirror seeing through it at night and vice versa in the day becoming both screen and image.  Sunlight primary force. Minimize the interval between viewer and object viewed, thus involving viewing in the artwork.


Site specific installations.  Schwitters Merzbeau his own home with installations, like a walk-in collage.  Mondrian's Salon de Mme B was realized for PPace Gallery from his drawings, producing reduced harmonies relationships.  Today could almost be seen as modular building.  Kaprow, Fontana and Yves Klein, looked at space in this way.  Flavin used fluorescent light.  Sol le Witt's mural takes the wall as the support.  Blinky Palermo's installations varied with the architecture of the space.  Anselme - The word 'particalare' projected on to various objects and walls.  Rober Smithson (eathwork) Spiral Jetty at Gt Salt Lake, Utah.  Broodthaers Museum of the Eagle bringing many objects together unified only by the eagle, paintings culptures, comics, museum exhibits,s cigar boxes etc.  By labelling them 'not art' refers to Magritte cecin'est ppas une pipe and M. Duchamp's urinal exhibiting as art ' because he said so'. Broodthauers effectively gave credence to the eagle by legitimizing it's entry as an exhibit in his fictional museum.  Thus the comparison is made between art and its origin and its apparent financial value.  Daniel Buren Green and White striped pieces stuck up in various locations throughout Paris. Asher sculpture revealing reality. Baumgarten reappraised 2-D and 3D, using language. Pyramids 1 ft high in various colours, left to fall apart, thus pyramids are non-lasting. New objects from diverse things as Picasso's bull's head with saddle and handlebars, i.e. manipulated reality. Tropical plants with full listing of social, geographical, historical, and cultural background rather than just the Latin name of the plants. John Knight, closed circuit video. Language, light and architecture. Hans Haacke - sculptures requiring external stimuli to make them perform, i.e. steam, air, gravity, water. Listing life of painting from studio to eventual resting place. Exposes lnks between business and art.In short these artists challenge the status quo through overt political and social questioning.

In my view the art movement hiccoughed and lost its way in the 60s and 70s probably up until the beginning of the 21st century when fortunately it has become clear that visual art has restored itself. Liberation from consumerism, and effectively individualism by the rejection of the authorial, that these artists sought was never going to be achieved. However their observations on reality have opened up dynamic ways of considering who and where we are. I would like to think that considerations of our environment and what we are doing to it could be, in part, due to their questioning ideas. 

Nonetheless I have no doubt that as the century progresses we will see more and more e-art.  People might think that art can't or shouldn't be bought and owned and hung on the wall.  Yes it can.  Not only is it possible to affix frames for electronic "pictures" but it is also possible to effectively have electronic wallpaper, which I saw displayed in an office in London recently.  An object, i.e. a sculpture might also be used in this way to display art.  Whether or not it becomes something that is owned ubiquitously is a matter for speculation.  The internet is showing, through social networks, how that might be achieved, but does the person/artist, spending hours producing it and money purchasing equipment with which to work, want no recompense? That would be altruism.  The future is tremendously exciting and artists such as Julian Opie is already showing the way.

IDEA: The planet picture (collage) being eaten by veracious ad hoardings and products, like a tsunami.

I think it likely that we won't be redefining reality but re-structuring it, and maybe with some positive outcomes. Horror fatigue means we need art as a cajoling stick. Sadly, it will not change anything, but may act as a refuge for reflection, before consumerism consumes, and if that happens I don't want to be looking at a till receipt.

1 p.12 Rorimer, Anne - New art in the 60s and 70s - Redefining Reality, Thames and Hudson 2001
2 p.32  Ditto
3 p 32  Ditto
4 p.94 Kosuth  - Ditto
5 p.98  Ditto
6 p.148 Ditto
7 p.177 Ditto
8 p. 200 Ditto

Using Collage

I found that collage has become rather addictive.  It is something I have always regarded as a craft rather than an art form, but the variations and possibilities are endless both in terms of the material used the inclusion of other media, and the style one adopts.  The latter might include representational work, abstract, geometric, textural, colour compositions and so on.  I feel I want to try something else, then another idea, colour or theme pops into my head, hence the addiction.

In the examples that follow, despite collecting and saving massess of newspapers, junk mail, catalogues, and looking in the drawers for paperclips etc., I have used other materials, as well us cut up paintings that I no longer like.

The first example uses the shape of feet.  I have always been interested in how two feet can almost interlock sideways on and echo the shape of the other foot so that was my starting point.  I had also taken photographs of paving slabs in Cambridge with a view to doing abstracts using the cracks and colour in a Tàpies way with perhaps artex or plaster.  However, I decided to print a couple out and used that as the background for my feet.  I then thought of pavements paved with gold so that became the third element in my composition.  Having recently invested in Acrylic spray I am now on a run, using it.

The other joy of collage is that you get the chance to layout your composition and adjust the balance physically without recourse to sketches, so it is my sort of medium!


Having recently seen the work of an artist named Peter Schoolwerth, I was interested in the idea of dissecting a picture I had done in pastel together with another painting I had cut up.  I need to look in more detail at Schoolwerth's work to bring the idea to fruition, but this was a first attempt. His work is not collage, he uses paint and oil pastel (I think), using a plain background - more use for my spray paint!  I don't think this collage worked but maybe has the seeds of an idea.

I adopted a more abstract/geometric style with this collage.  Using various items from my desk draw and spray painted on to the background then affixing more cut up paintings in an arrangement that I felt balanced quite well.  The question of balance with collage is, as I mentioned earlier, something that can be explored physically before sticking elements to the work.  This is almost like a kaleidoscope as things can be moved this way and that until a solution is found.

I liked the idea in this collage of using metal floating on a sea of bubbles, whereas the less solid items, the foam lagging appears to coalesce or group together as if they are solid.  Sticking metal to card is quite difficult and I can't see that it will be a permanent solution. The picture might work better in 'portrait' which would give the 'floating' paper clips more credulity as floating objects, and the foam weighted to a floor. I suppose this last collage might be the only one construed as using ordinary everyday things, but I really wanted to tackle the exercise without constraint.


Friday, 20 September 2013

Collage Effects (Ben Nicholson, Victor Pasmore, Marius Popa, Ksusha Miloslavskii, Albert Oehlen)

Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), along with others from the Slade School, was interested in exploring the semi sculptural qualities of collage, using Constructivist ideas. Having moved to St Ives during the war with his wife Barbara Hepworth and his 3 children, it took a while for him to adjust from city life.  He met Alfred Wallis who had been a fisherman but subsequently turned to art at the age of 70 after losing his wife. Nicholson was influenced by Wallis' primitive style, depicting boats and ships as he had remembered them when he ws at sea.

Nicholson formed a group in 1937 called the Circle along with artists and architects, including Victor Pasmore, Naum Gabo and the architect Leslie Martin.  In the early '30s he visited the studios of  Picasso, Braque, Arp, Brancusi and Mondrian, and would have seen the developments in Cubism. So it was a natural progression for him and the Circle members to consider Constructivism in more depth. Nicholson was a friend of Mondrian and his open, clean modern style undoubtedly had an affect on Nicholson's style.

In his collage work his torn paper or card gave a texture across the torn part and his abstract squares and rectangles began to almost look like a modern building.

Using low relief he was able to allow shadows to fall across the work inversely.  His sculpture also explored the ideas of faces of walls capturing light and throwing shadows across other cubic and rectangular masses, so that the play of light on monotone work became the point of interest.  These architectual qualities also followed on from  the uncluttered lines exemplified in the Art Deco style of the 1920s, except that all decoration was completely eliminated.

Relief paintings were therefore subject to lighting conditions and could produce different effects according to where the light source is placed.

Nicholson was particularly interested in the spacial depth of the work and his abstract work was an exploratory process which sought to indicate these. In this particular collage Picasso's influence can also be perceived, using newspaper doylies and other elements.

Along with Patrick Heron he was also interested in organic shapes which he explored in his "window" scenes.,550&cvt=jpeg

Victor Pasmore (1908-1998) who was an artist and architect, similarly engaged in these ideas and was also a member of the Circle. He later developed the architecture for the Apollo pavilion at Peterlee built in 1970.
So the unique partnership of art and architecture effectively evolved into the modern architecture that surrounds us today. Pasmore was in a position to offer support to Richard Hamilton by offering him a teaching post at Kings Colleg Durham, based in Newcastle.

It mustn't be forgotten that the Bauerhaus founded by Walter Gropus in Germany was operating between 1919-33, and was a major influence upon art, design and architecture in the Modernist style.  The period between the wars was a time of optimism and a time for developing new ideas.

Whilst Pasmore was also looking at geometric/cubist design in his collage, he was also drawn to relatively flat surface texture and used foil, and corrugated cardboard to eliminate any illusionist qualities. Whereas Nicholson was using monochrome for some of his work, Pasmore used the sombre colours from the local landscape that was familiar to him.

I have found it difficult to discover contemporary collage artists  who work in similar ways so decided to go on to the Saachi website to view new up and coming artists and have included Marius Popa, Albert Oehlen and  Ksusha Miloslavskii, who use collage in similar ways to Nicholson and Pasmore.  It is difficult to see people using collage in that way because things have moved on so much with digital or e-collage featuring in today's work and the subject matter is frequently figurative, political or environmental, but these are examples of their work:

From Vitamin P the only collage  artist I was able to find was Michel Majerus, but strictly speaking he using mixed media, not simply collage.

Of all the styles, I think I am interested in an eclectic view on collage.  Sometimes I might be drawn to simple shapes and colours and mainly using cut paper etc. but then there will be times when I might wish to use discarded old things in a piece of work.  I feel the field is open also to using computer generated photos and Photoshop, or art work from drawing programmes which could be incorporated into collage.  This is the direction in future, even David Hockney has discovered the drawing tablet and e-collage is becoming more and more popular 

Reference Material: Saachi Online Artists,,, Tate online:,,artworks-artists.blogspot,,,

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Collage (Picasso,Victor Pasmore, David Mach, Stephen Buckley, Sandra Blow, Romare Bearden)

The word collage derives from the original Greek word "koll" to stick, it is subsequently adopted/adapted into the French verb "coller" to stick. Interestingly, there is another meaning and that is the colloquial usage referring to an illicit liaison. As a consequence Francis Frascina [1] points out that "words and images cohabit, producing novel combinations and contexts". 

Pablo Picasso was the first to introduce us to collage with his "Chair" which used plastic weaving for the seat and rope for the frame.  Collage has moved on quite a lot since then and mainly adopts an abstract form. People like Malevich also produced collage in an abstract way with this Woman at the Poster Column, 1914.  

Picasso subsequently produced collages using newsprint particularly from La Journal, the daily French newspaper. He would often cut the word to read La Jou which could imply a number of words/meanings, to aim at, to play, to enjoy and so on, and is indicative of Picasso's sense of humour. Picasso would also incorporate drawing skills in his collages, a practice which has been continually adopted by some artists to the present day. Picasso frequently used the image of a guitar in his work, which is the symbolic instrument of Spain.  Whilst his method in using cardboard, paper, painted strips, sand etc., to achieve a cubist perception of the subject, his overall composition often forms a central position.

Victor Pasmore developed geometric shapes using card and gilding with positive and negative shapes, that were different from Picasso's collages. He also constructed neat abstracts, which are nearer to constructions than collage using wood perspect and card in a minimalist refined way. In his Gardens of Hammersmith, he used dried plant matter with a combination of paint to produce an attractive simple collage. His compositions generally do not occupy a central space but are often off-centre but well balanced, from collage he moved to constructions and he was involved in the design of the Peterlee Pavilion over water. He uses biomorphic forms in his abstract paintings, and are similar to Ben Nicholson's white low relief geometric work.

David Mach uses collage to product a semi-realistic painting with a surreal type of image, using pieces of paper almost like a mosaic. His work is on a huge scale and is frequently marine in subject matter though usually linked to a familiar London scene of either the Embankment, Canary Wharf, Harrods, the Dome.  I remember seeing one of his works at a Summer Exhibition and being mesmerized by it, as there is so much detail to observe. The surreal element is not disturbing as, for example, de Chirico, but more like Dali in that the scenes are out of context with their surroundings, but are nonethless plausible artistically speaking.

Stephen Buckley has moved collage on so that it no longer sits on a rectangular or square support.  In his latest work he has introduced a variety of shapes on which to produce his art and I feel this represents a significant change in the way that art is presented.  He has an interest in heraldry and some of his work reflects that.  He has a recurring motiff which appears to be a floral pattern stamp which he uses in different colours and various ways incorporating it to form a repeating pattern or randomly. He uses wood, card, canvas and rope. His work, Gloucester, refers to Shakespeare's character in Richard III and draws on Italian Rennaissance art, particularly Uccello. I can't see the connection myself, apart from the use of poles, which possibly echoes Uccello uses of lances in many of his epic battle paintings, which are also very decorative as well as being figurative.

Sandra Blow (1925-2006), produced some interesting collages, she used sawdust, sackcloth and plaster.  She had connections with Cornwall in her earlier years and painted on a grand scale using pieces of coloured card and paint in her work, which is abstract and uses geometric shapes with strong flat colour, similar to the work of Matisse. During the 50s she was connected with artists such as Patrick Heron and Gilian Ayres.  Her studio gives an indication of the scale of her work and has many boxes filled with various coloured card and paper.

Romare Bearden (1911 - 1988) uses many different materials including matte colored construction papers, pressure sensitive glossy laminates, brightly printed commercial sheets called Color-Aid, and wall paper and wrapping paper, as well as bright foils and patterned fabrics. His Afro-American roots are explored in the subject matter of his work.   Bearden's collages are mainly colourful and are reminiscent of Matisse and also of Gauguin, particularly his Reclining Nude, which reminds me of Nevermore. His work is basically figurative and any attempts at a more abstract style generally do not quite work in my opinion, except for Now the Dove and the Leopard Wrestle, which is influenced by Picasso's Guernica.

[1] Frascina, Francis "Collage:Conceptual and Historical Overview"
Other References: Individual Websites of artists, National Gallery of Art, Tate (,,

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Creating Physical and Visual Texture using paint

I found it difficult to come up with subjects for this exercise as I wanted to think in terms of either physical texture or visual texture.  A combination of the two seemed difficult to achieve, it is as though one's mind set thinks in terms of painting in a representational way i.e. visual or in a more abstract way, physical texture.  There is no reason why this should be so.

I re-visited to a certain extent the work of Malevich from Exploring Concepts with my first composition.  Except that this time I am representing a theme around 52.  This represents the number of playing cards in a pack and also the number of weeks in a year.  The white crosses outline a minimal pattern on the cards but also represent gravestones.  Strife, indicated by the red arrow, is not a game but which takes place, throughout each week of the year.  The cards are painted with visual texture complete with shadows, but enhanced with physical texture in the form of white crosses (tile spacers). The background is textured blue/black.  I wanted to use pure alcohol to achieve effects on the blade but I had already painted in the red paint.  I could probably have achieved the effect with another colour but I didn't want to change the red arrow as its colour is symbolic.

For my second picture I decided to use one of the photos I had taken in Spain this year.  I had concentrated on old derelict buildings.  Having enhanced the picture I printed it off and used it as collage and then built up a foreground of rubbish from various things such as foam pipe lagging, wood chip, old rust, lolly stick, dried leaves and sacking.  I used spray acrylic and ordinary acrylic paint as well as artex texturing.  I hope I have interpreted the exercise correctly, and am pleased with the outcome, it gives the bleakness and desolation that I was after.  I also used a slightly different palette from what I am used to, which I felt was good.  I think this was as a result of looking at Tapies' work in more detail.

My third picture was again from a photo taken through the car window in Spain, whilst driving down to Murcia. There are lots of these fortresses, churches etc. on mountain or hill tops.  I enlarged this one and used artex to cover the buildings and introduced sacking into the grass, otherwise it was acrylic paint used impasto. It is mainly therefore an example of visual texture with minimal use of enhanced texture.

The final example of mixed physical and visual texture is taken from a sketch and photo I did some time ago at Cove Hythe, where the church is about to fall over the cliff.  I decided to introduce a bright colour scheme similar to the work of John Piper. Again it incorporates artex for the building but otherwise just acrylic paint, oil pastel and indian ink. which I worked with oil to try to gain a different type of texture. There is also some metalic paint. I was also thinking of Peter Doig, for the distant trees, but I couldn't quite get the effect I was after. 


Friday, 6 September 2013

Research Kiefer and Tàpies

PAINTING 2: Mixed Media Part 1

Research – Anselm Kiefer (1945 - ) and Antoni Tàpies (1923 -  )

Both artist used multi media as exemplified in ‘Art Povera’ i.e. old disused items of no worth.  Kiefer used straw, ash, glass, clay, lead and Shellac as well as dried flowers and plants.  His work is sombre and his palette more or less limited to black white and occasionally another colour.  He works on a monumental scale having set up a huge 35 acre studio site in the South of France in Barjac where he spent huge amounts of money and time converting an old silk factory.  He later moved to Paris.  The subject matter of his work covers the history of Germany in particular the Third Reich and themes from the Nazi era.  He believes that art can purge the nation of its guilt with regard to the atrocities of the 1940s.

He had photographs of himself in different countries making the Nazi salute, which offended some people.  His work is by no means limited to this subject.  He has travelled fairly extensively both to the US, Middle East, as well as India and Japan to follow his interests in philosophy, literature, music, myth and history.  His interest in these subjects influence his work by way of paintings.  Through the poetry of Velimer Chlebnikov’s idea that history-changing sea battles occur every 317 years and Kiefer dedicated a series of paintings depicting crushed submarines impacted in paint with other media such as wire, string, plaster and so on.  It has to be remembered that the scuttling of the warship Bismarck was a critical event during the last world war and would have become embedded in the German zeitgeist of the period.

Kiefer was influenced by Joseph Beuys, Casper David Friedrich as well as Baselitz.  Kiefer’s work shows his interest in mystical symbolism, myth and folklore and he exploits runic motifs from legend and ancient history as well as other illustrative illusions.  As well as influencing his major works, Kiefer also created watercolours, woodcuts and photographs.  Because of his interest in German history and culture he became interested in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle (one of Hitler’s favourite composers) using his music to inform the subject matter of his paintings.  Death is also never far from Kiefer’s subject matter and he painted work after being influenced by the Romanian Jewish Poet Paul Celan’s Death Fugue.

Political strife was often depicted and in 1985, a work was created which related to NATO’s building of a tactical Nuclear Missile site on German soil and it is interesting that he has acquired a de-commissioned reactor site near Koblenz.

There is nothing remotely pretty about Kiefer’s paintings, indeed they are confrontational on a large scale and very dark physically and emotionally with themes that expunge the conventional in favour of experimentation with technique and subject matter.

Antoni Tàpies was born in Barcelona in 1923 and was therefore aware of the problems of the then Catalonian region. His mother tongue is Catalan so he not only knew of the problems developing at the time of his youth, but also its culture.  He would have read of Ramon Llull, the Enlightened Doctor, as he was know, who created the language, was a master Alchemist, Scientist, Mystic and Artist, a person one can’t help thinking may have influenced the young Tàpies.  During his teenage years Catalonia had reverted to classical art but Tapies preferred ‘Germanism’ and like Kiefer admired Wagner, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and had read much Philosophy including Sartre and Zen Buddhism. He liked the climate of  Germany's forests with its mists and storms.  During 1939 Catalonia’s hopes of being independent were dashed as resistance faltered and Franco eventually seized power.  As a consequence the young Tàpies was traumatised and felt abandoned.  His grandmother had been an artist and gave him materials with which to work, but he became ill and he was hospitalized.  He was affected psychologically but painted many portraits of himself in the mirror of the facing wardrobe.  In 1945 he drew a self-portrait with pastels which remind me of Odilon Redon’s Noirs which were drawn in similar circumstances – that of loneliness, illness, and abandonment as a young person.

Tapies decided he would become an artist and very quickly mastered the techniques of representation not needing to attend art school.  However he then became influenced by Surrealism and Dadaism.  He wanted to find elements of reality and to do this he sought new content, materials and forms.  The artist for him was somewhere between the life of the magician and specialist in the real and unreal, presence and appearance.  He felt that a painting was something in its own right and not a representation of something else.  Like Kiefer he used different types of media including collage, but his work does not emulate “field” painting like Kiefer, but is composed of different elements often on a fairly minimal but textured background. His palette is similar to Kiefer’s black, white, browns, ochres, but his mark marking and texture is different. Nonetheless his primitive work has the ability to shock just as Kiefer’s work did.  Tàpies too resorted to mythological images and esoteric visions of fire, spectres and astral bodies.  He used: yarn, cardboard, burned wood, rings, rice, collage, silver foil and even toilet paper, the latter offending the church in one painting as it appeared too close to the cross.  It was Surrealism that introduced him to Freud and Jung and the importance of the sub-conscious motivations.  So although he moved on from Surrealism it acted as a spring board into a new way of thinking and working.  His paintings became more ethereal using oil reduced to a thin consistency and careful scratching out.  After an unsatisfactory visit to Paris where he made little contact with the “old school” of avant garde  artists, including Picasso,  he returned to Barcelona somewhat disillusioned where his political views caused him to look at geometrical abstraction but his attempts didn’t work so he scratched out,  and over-painted his canvases which led him to discover even greater possibilities.  Using different materials: soil, white marble dust, sand, hair, and tissue enabled him to explore texture in new ways and to reflect on a cosmic unity through each grain of sand, this brought him closer to his aspiration to find an ultimate reality that applied universally.
It was at this point that he became aware of his canvas as a “wall” not a “window” on to the world.  His work came to embody the idea of lost empires, cultures and histories replete with markings of time, graffiti, incisions, scratches, hieroglyphs, letters, numbers and so on.  Much as Kiefer had used runic symbols.  Tàpies regarded the graffiti of the civil war as extremely moving.  In his art, politics, sexuality and death become the walls. Tàpies, unlike Kiefer was not drawn to literature and poetry for his inspiration he wanted to somehow reach a ubiquitous truth, albeit from a Catalonian perspective.  He rejects the idea of political reconciliation and his work has a melancholy which leads him to see the insignificance of man preferring to absorb the ideas of Eastern philosophy and Modern science in relation to the relevance of time and materiality.

Tàpies felt reassured when he learned of Zen Buddhists who contemplated the wall for houurs on end.  The concept of a wall being twofold.  First the idea is that of nothingness that surrounds us, where men are condemnded to exist (or as Sartre would have said "condemned to be free"), the second ideas is that of the wall as being an inner state which excludes, desire, understanding or "non-knowledge" which subsequuently leads to enlightenment.  In Tàpies' later work he retuurns to drawing as a significant element in his work. 
It was interesting to look at the work of Atol Dodiya he is an artist from Bombay born in 1959 and his work reminds me of Tàpies because of the social/political spectres that must have influenced his life and therefore his painting, just as the Civil War affected Tàpies, interestingly he has been influenced by Joseph Beuys, Philip Guston, Jasper Johns, René Magritte and Gerhard Richter. Where he differs is in the exeucution of his work which embrace traditional painting techniques.  He uses the shuttered door, just as Tàpies did in his work Porta metal-lica i violi. But instead of remaining static, as the Tàpies painting, his shutters can be moved up and down to reveal or hide the painting.  Nonetheless it is reminiscent of the "wall" in Tàpies' work.  His subject matter too, is charged with drama, as in Mahalaxmi, where the hidden image behind the shutter is of three women who hanged themselves because of their unbearable poverty.  He uses a limited palette shades of black on an ochre ground. He also uses marble dust for texture. Just as Tàpies had been influenced by Surrealism, it is evident from Dodiya's work that he too has been influenced by Magritte in Dadagirl which was painted using oil and again marble dust (one of Tàpies' favoured mediums).

Kai Altoff born in Cologne in 1966.  He produces installations, photography,drawing and sculpture as well as his resin paintings. He is a modern musician as well as a visual artist. The works produced in 2001 use paper lacquer and varnish and are "Untitled" paintings which are abstract or figurative.  There is an overwhelming sense of masculine oppression in the work of his figurative paintings which use texture as well as tone. Egon Schiele and Sigmar Polke seem to have influenced his work which combines paint and visual texture in his work. Some of his work revives earlier 20th centuury social political subjects and I can help feeling he might be a latter day Kifer, because of his interests, but perhaps that is just becuase of reading about Kiefer for this research project. Altoff has exhibited in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Hamburg, Cologne and London.

I am very keen to utilize some of the techniques used by Tàpies.  I like the outward simplicity of his work which is saturated in meaning.  I find Kiefer's work a bit too oppressive, probably due to his palette, but his use of materials is certainly very interesting and inspirational as is his use of texure.    Both artists have made me feel less nervous of using more and varied materials.  Tàpies' subject matter is sometimes obscure and he is aware of this and described some of the meanings behind his Straw and Wood painting of 1969 in Youssef Ishaghpour's biography.  

I have already tried out some wood chip, string, earth,dried flowers and human hair in my painting below.  It is a sort of homage to Tàpies as it is based on a recent photograph  taken in the Catalonia area and emphasizes his idea of graffiti being something to be considered seriously, it also echoes his "wall" and has a symbolic + in the painting too. It incorporates collage and is acrylic on canvas.  I intend to do more paintings of these old and crumbling buildings which are invariably covered in graffiti, adopting similar techniques and developing ideas relating to colour and texture.

References: Wickipedia: Anselm Kiefer, Antoni Tàpies by Youssef Ishaghpour, Ediciones Polfgrafa, SA, 2006
Vitamin P, 2002 - 2008, Introduction:Barry Schwabsky

PAINTING 2: Mixed Media

Part 1 – Physical and Visual Texture

Creating Visual Texture using Dark and Light Tones

I found it easier, rather than pinning textures to a board, to lay them on a board on the floor.  I wanted to include some hard round objects, i.e. stones to contrast with the other rather soft items. Having de-cluttered in my move last year I don’t have a garage full of bits and bobs although I have been trying to build up a collection of things I thought might be useful, which I keep in boxes in my studio.

Rather than use white cartridge paper, I felt it would be good to use a toned pastel paper in a deep plum.  I have used this before and find it is good for black and white as it contrasts with both.  My picture is approximately A3.  The soft pencil did not show up much so I pretty well stuck to charcoal a bit  of pastel and white chalk.  I enjoyed the exercise as it made me think about tone in terms of texture, rather than merely form.  The placement of the items was purely random but it still ended up with a satisfying (for me anyway) composition. 

The initials, top right, were practice signatures on the back of a cardboard box, and is reminiscent of the use of lettering and name initials as used by Antoni Tapies, as well as effectively being a signature for the piece of work. There’s a crumpled Sainsbury bag top left and various other things including string, fun foam leftover, canvas stretcher pegs, dried flowers, sacking, bubble wrap, clear cellophane, towelling, oasis foam, crumpled paper and a couple of lids.  I have often found in the past when setting up a still life, it is best done without too much manipulation, otherwise it tends to look contrived.  I hope this composition has remained spontaneous and interesting.

I think I am learning when to stop without involving myself in too much detail and overwork.  The exercise required a number of overlaid textures and I believe this is what I have achieved without becoming too cluttered. I quite liked the face which is lurking with the wonky teeth and Poirot moustache !

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

PAINTING 2: Mixed Media

Part 1 – Physical and Visual Texture

Project: Visual Texture of Paint – Research

The two artists I have chosen to explore in relation to the visual texture of paint are Peter Doig (1959 - ) and Edouard Vuillard (1868-11940)

I would like to start by mentioning the following two quotes, the first from Vuillard and the second from Marcel Proust.  Vuillard painted familiar scenes and interiors and Doig painted what he regards as incidents (as opposed to accidents) things he regarded as part of someone else’s experience.

 Why is it in the familiar places that the mind and the sensibility find the greatest degree of genuine novelty?1

Marcel Proust: ‘As habit [or familiarity] weakens every impression, what a person recalls to us most vividly is precisely what we had forgotten, because it was of no importance and [we] had therefore left [it] in full possession of its strength’ 2

It seems that both painters feel that familiar events and things in life are the most interesting.  In painting the ‘familiar’ the artist also taps into the collective sub conscious that Jung talks of, and in doing so their subject matter automatically resonates with the observer because of that ubiquitous familiarity.

In terms of style, however, their styles differ yet in terms of the visual mark making technique, they are similar.  Doig uses oil as his medium and his compositional style often includes the triple horizontal division of landscape painting to reveal something considered mystical and sometimes sinister.

The House that Jack Built depicts the central motif, the house as highly textured with coloured bricks, black face like windows and white trees offering a tracery screen which is so familiar in Doig’s work.  Above and below are textured elements which form a type of shutter and Doig felt that they look as though they might close and erase the central motif.  The colours used are predominantly red which gives the house a sinister look. We are left wondering what happened here, was it a druggy den, the venue for a murder, or a house that ended up as a ruin through adverse financial circumstances? Perhaps alluding to a final unwritten line in the nursery rhyme.

Doig uses overpainting, grattination, what looks like sponging, dripping, smearing, perhaps chalking, but he does not use the texture of the paint, but defines the texture using these techniques. The rhythmic brickwork in the bottom third is worked over smudged and dripped paint. The top third is abstract and is predominantly a mixture of red and black marks, possibly sponged.

Another of Doig’s paintings which illustrates the use of mark making as texture is demonstrated in his painting Swamped, oil on canvas of 1990.

Colour is used to dramatic effect and broken tree stumps cover the swamp.  A tracery of white trees on the right overlays a moon. The frequently used canoe motif is painted in smooth white paint to present a ghostly appearance.  The rendition of the painting again asks a question, is that a body slumped in the canoe or just some provisions, why is the canoe floating un-tethered?  The texture and colour provides the drama and gives us clues.  Doig’s paint is frequently thinned down considerably, so there is no impasto employed. Doig uses, tracery, spattering, mottling, sweeps and layering to produce visual texture, which in this painting is only relieved by the canoe itself, which is depicted in plain white paint.  Doig often used white paint either in outline or as blobs of paint and has become known as “snow”. He frequently using it as a screen beyond which the subject of the painting appears.

Vuillard, who was painting approximately one hundred years prior to Doig, uses visual texture in similar ways to Doig, and employs lateral and vertical divisions. He was one of the Nabi artists along with people such as Bonnard, Maurice Denis, and Roussel, whose work was very similar, using visual pattern and tone as texture.

Vuillard uses the tracery of tree branches in much the same way as Doig, his patches of sunlight are also just that, patches rendered flat in yellow and green small marks.  He also uses tree trunks as a compositional device as Doig does, some of which are textured.  The texture of the boys linen shirt on the left is almost criss-crossed in white, his trousers are plain black with no modelling, as are the distant ladies silhouettes. There is also a slight suggestion of the “snow” effect often seen in Doig paintings. He relies on tonal affects to indicate the sunlit patches and shadows.

Where Vuillard differs is in the expression of the subject, it is not sinister, more amusing as the two boys perhaps hide from their nanny.  Also Vuillard used a mixture of distemper and glue, or à la colle,3 not oil paint and leaves it unvarnished and therefore matt. Vuillard would scrape this off if it became too thick.

In Dressmaker’s Workshop of 1892 Vuillard treats us to a confection of texture and mark making in the dresses, the wallpaper and the floor, indeed they almost become abstract, just as Doig’s work hovers on the line between abstraction and representation.

The extensive mark making is offset by the occasional plain unmodulated black, as in the bodice of the lady on the left, which is a counter-change against the white door behind. The tone of the colours adds to the interest and contrasts with the patterns on the canvas that is divided vertically giving rhythm to the painting, accentuated by the stripes on the dress second from the right. It is a feast of visual texture. The scene was undoubtedly a familiar one at the time and there is no suggestion of the mysterious, just an everyday scene. The “familiar” subject was something that both artists considered to be an area with the most interest.





1 Quote by Vuillard, Renoir Fine Art Inc.
2 p31 Peter  Doig edited by Judith Nesbitt with essay by Richard Shiff, Tate Publishing 2008
3 Vuillard by John Russell Thames and Hudson 1971