Friday, 28 February 2014

Collage Letter Painting

I felt rather at sea with this exercise as the letters are foreboding in the sense that they are cold and non visual.  In an odd sort of way the letters themselves were preventing me from being creative, they are so unforgiving and seemed to almost force themselves into my final large painting but not terribly well, and I had a block for a while.

I think you never enjoy what you are not good at, and I am no good at collage, particularly letters, perhaps it has something to do with learning to form them at primary school!

In a way I feel about these as I do about some conceptual art - what is there to say? It's not art (in my view), hardly creative and not purposeful.  Does it have any value? not that I can see.  An event maybe that may be intellectually stimulating but not visually so.  This exercise is an arrangement of various letters set in a meaningless way, robbing them of any sense almost turning them into objects in their own right.  It may be argued that some letters are beautiful in their form.  Certainly Far Eastern and Middle Eastern writing looks attractive, but perhaps the 'beautiful' is irrelevant in which case what replaces that?  What is the relevance of pasting individual letters on to the page?  I am struggling here but still willing.  I know what it is not but I don't know what it is. When analysing or appreciating a painting one thinks in terms of composition, colour, texture, perspective (if relevant), narrative, and finally emotional response.  I cannot apply these to these images so it is difficult to comprehend their meaning, they just are, a Cartesian thought.  It might be argued that Abstract Expressionism cannot be thought of enitrely within those parameters but is perceived as art because one senses the artists "hand".  I suspect that is where I find the difficulty with conceptual art using text. The pieces which I do appreciate are those which make the viewer consider his own relationship to the work.  I have read New Art in the 60s and 70s from cover to cover and considered the work of many of the artists but seem unable to find the value.  I am currently attending an Art and Philosophy class which may help me to appreciate these concepts more. 
I am finding with letters and found words etc., that I  am thinking as a graphic designer might think to produce a poster or advertirement.  I have produced the odd brochure on my pc and I find I am using the same value judgements and not strictly speaking artistic judgements and I can't quite define the difference, except to say one partakes slightly of craft (pre-determined ideals), whilst the other partakes of an open ended projection  of ideas.
Only two of the pieces above have a narrative and therefore give meaning to the letters.
The first is the one with the word "end".  I am interested in cosmology and understand that black holes consume matter, they are almost the dustbins of the universe.  But because they do not conform to physical ideas relating to the rest of the universe their gravitational pull prevents everything, including light from  escaping and therefore being observed.  I can't pretend to even begin to understand the science behind it but that very fact, as a lay person, enables me to visualize the possibility of black holes being the respository for lost souls, hence my picture.
The other piece is crator, or creator. It is almost too big a subject to be re-presented in such a minimal way. However, it is supposed that life on earth may have been started by a comet primed with particles in the form of  chemicals and trace elements from inter-stellar space crashing into the earth, thereby introducing the necessary elements for possibilities of life forms developing. Some of the essential "ingredients" required for this to happen linked with the right environmental conditions to promote growth and the sequence of life's chain from the primordial soup to the present day therefore occurred.  It is also interesting to note the similarities with the process of procreation in animals, the ripe egg being fertilized from a another source. It still doesn't quite answer the question of the "spark" of life, which is another matter, possibly requiring different premises and a whole bucket load of science to pursue the answer. What interests me is the progression in science which makes these contentious topics possible to comprehend, even if the science behind them is a bit of a mystery.
The piece below, which involved the human hand, is a little more engaging.  It actually includes all the letters of the alphabet and I tried to allow the oil stick to "walk" accross the page whilst at the same time elucidating the letters, albeit in different sizes and unconventional shapes. I thought the colours worked well, and the overall balance is acceptable.  There is the suggestion of texture with the white floating on top of the painting, sometimes obscuring, sometimes being obscured. It could be read as Abe, or Ame but "reading" the letters is not what it is about. If one wanted to elaborate it is the concept of the letters of the  Western Alphabet being the basis of  global communication over millenia.

The large painting in this group was equally hard to wrestle with and I am not sure that it was entirely successful but did have some redeeming features.  I used tissue paper from China as a background as I wanted to say something about the global influence of that country and its economic impact on the West - effectively the apparent reversal of fortunes,  with the West being pressed down and dominated by the East.  I felt happier because I was able to restore meaning to the  letters and because there was a message.  The Mondrian-like lines and boxes, came about as the result of looking at i-pads with their colourful blocked windows and I intended to colour them in that way but I felt it would break down the homogeneity of the picture if I did that. The arrangement of the lines gives the painting its main construct and balance.  Buddhism isn't the religion of China but it stands between East and West spreading the branches of enlightenment in all directions, almost mediating between the blocks of power. The letters have been re-assembled from the letter paintings (above) to form a slightly more co-ordinated picture. I chose yellow (it is the colour of the royal emporor) and also of the sun which rises in the East. The dragon, one of China's important symbols breathes fire on the West euphamistacally causing its destruction. Red lettering is politically the colour we think of for China, it is also a colour that can represent war and agression as in the red planet Mars the Roman god of war, as well as the dominant colour of the flag of China.


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