Tuesday, 26 August 2014


I was inspired by Joseph Cornell's  "Taglioni's Jewel Box" .  It is a romantic piece of work with hidden depths beneath the ice cubes, with an inscription of the moment when the ballerina is said to have danced on a panther skin in the snow, for a highwayman who had stopped her carriage. 

Having seen how Cornell worked I wanted to create something that might be considered interactive in an albeit limited sense, but as a piece of fun. I conceived the idea of a pun on 'box' by creating a toy box., situated in a diorama setting but without creating an actual room.  I went to some charity shops with my grandson and he helped rummage among the toy section for appropriate pieces, so it was a joint effort!

The items I managed to pick up all lent themselves to being "usable".  Wooden dominoes with images on them which can effectively be played with by piling them against the back wall, a plastic flute, a small ball, a beach hut with walls that can be moved and in the middle a little mouse who's tail you pull to get the arms and legs to flick out.  One of the Lego bricks is adhered to the rear wall and the other brick can be attached or not.  The only black object both in colour and message is the automatic weapon placed on top of the teddy bear 'box'  - a box within a box, repeated in the toy box itself, creating repeating motifs. I wanted the contents of the box to be considered as a reflection of the development of children generally: Love, represented by the cuddly toy, Aggression by the automatic rifle and tiny plastic sword, Intellect by the dominoes, Energy by the ball, Music by the little whistle, Exploration by the beach hut, love of Animals by the sheep, Creativity by the Lego bricks, Fun by the extending mouse.

I originally considered painting the frame white in similar style to Michale Buhler, but I liked the idea of red because it is an 'active' colour and remembered something that was said, I by Matisse,  that if you are going to use red, use a lot of it.  Having thought of Matisse I remembered his Red Interior painting which I have always admired and decided my Toy Box was going to be red.

The 'box' support was actually a canvas in reverse, which had a painting of the leaning tower of Pizza on the front, which I have left as part of the original object.  I used Artex to form the "frame" and stuck some objects to the "room" leaving others to be played with. therefore giving another dimension to the visual work.


For my recycled frame I decided to replicate one of the sketches I had produced in an earlier exercise.  My intention was to produce something visually fairly plain but to have a narrative that hinted at more complex ideas.  

The title of the frame is "Language barrier".  The image features 'made up' hieroglyphs on the top section with Pitman's shorthand in the bottom section. The two are separated by what appears to be a river or a sea.  Continents with different cultures and languages unable to communicate, hints of the Rosetta Stone and the rivalries over its ownership. Idealistic ideas of communication being a potential instrument for peace (if you can translate the shorthand), barriers, bridges, Gulfs, being engulfed and so on.  It seemed appropriate to use the frame as the river is seemingly without end and therefore the number of languages too.  It is a reference to the field painting of Jackson Pollock which extends beyond the canvas, into infinity, but it also insinuates, or carries a suggestion of, a bridge from one side to the other, at least I hope it does.  


At the time of doing this exercise the Scottish referendum vote is in progress and the outcome unknown.  I thought it would be interesting therefore to "fracture" the flags making up the Union Flag.  I decided it would be better to print the Scottish soltire, St Patrick's flag and St George's flag to ensure I had matching sizes.  I tried painting, but it was not as effective.  I overprinted the St George and St Patrick flags on to one image with the Scottish Soltire printed separately.  After all, it may mean a change of flag if Independence is favoured, presumably the Soltire.  would be removed. By fracturing the images using the weaving technique, I felt it was appropriate to mark the current state of play.  It is also an evocation of Jackson Pollock's US flags.

My first attempt used one inch strips and I don't think I got the alignment quite right.  It was also painted which  wasn't as crisp as I wanted.  

For the second attempt I thought it might be an idea to try smaller strips, just in the middle to see how the image displayed then, and whether or not it would look more interesting.  It was better than the first but didn't quite look enough like the Union Flag for it to have much meaning. Strangely, the tops are aligned yet the bottom is out of alignment but there are no vertical gaps to account for this.

For the third attempt, the Goldilocks principal springs to mind,  I decided to take the central crossover out of the Soltire and to space those strips differently, eliminating two strips altogether.  I also cut the horizontals much narrower still.  The finished result looks closer to a "fractured" Union Flag, with St George's flag more readable and bolder than the other two flags, which is the effect I wanted to achieve.  I hope it is not a beheading offence!


Because I live in a fairly modern house now I didn't think there was much scope for an "interesting corner".  However, the stairwell possibly had potential so  I thought I would see what I could make of it.  The more photographs I took from different angles, the more interesting the area became.  The clean lines and almost white planes offered an  architectural interest similar to that of the work of Corbusier.

I felt there was some possibility in the photos to produce something with a  geometric sculptural feel to it, a sort of labyrinth of conflicting  perspectives.  Rather than using collage I thought I would use Fireworks to move the photos into different positions to see what I came up with.  
I was pleased with the finished product and it was surprising the amount of moving around that was necessary to achieve the effect I was after, getting the angles right and covering parts of the image I didn't want took some time but I think it was worth persevering . I decided to reduce the colour on one of the prints and turn it around, but am not sure which I prefer, I think possibly the green one. I decided it might be worth increasing the contrast on the near black and white and also the saturation , maybe making it completely black and white, (see third image below), so now I am even more uncertain of my preference.  Just turning the photograph made a huge difference to the feel of the image, and added a vertiginous aspect which I felt was interesting.  It is almost like a dream sequence of a house with stairs that lead nowhere and spaces that don't cohere properly. 


Picasso/Braque,  Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis
Daniel Pitin, Ben Yates, Gilbert and George, Anthony Green, Robert Rauschenberg
Anselm Kiefer

Matisse developed his style to include his unique cut-outs but not necessarily to produce a multi-perspective.  He was interested in dance and one of the ways that he was able to define different spatial limits was in his Dance of 1931-33 which is produced in three portions on shaped canvases.  Simplicity of style was what he was endeavouring to find through new definitions of form.

Picasso’s development of cubism with Braque was a way of producing an object or person in three dimensions from different perspectives but to produce an image with little in the way of actual perspective, so that the image became a sort of cut out (similar to Matisse’s cut-outs) offering a different view of the same object. However, in works such as Night Fishing at Antibes 1939, Picasso produced multi images in a large painting which is very reminiscent in style to his Guernica painted two years earlier.

Bonnard had a different way of pursuing the idea of the unusual perspective which he did using panels for screens, which took his work away from the easel.  As a consequence his style became more decorative (Nannies’ Promenade, Frieze of Carriages, 1895/6.  In his Twilight, or Croquet Game of 1892, by producing “flat” images they become separated and slightly abstracted as if forming different motifs or pictures in the same painting. Maurice Denis develops this style even further.

Anthony Green’s shaped canvases with their multi aspects could be said to be reminiscent of Matisse’s cut-outs, except that Green has synthesized them into one image. Had Picasso’s separate objects in Night Fishing at Antibes been cut out and stuck to the support his work might have ended up looking similar. Green’s work is almost cubist at times but “opened out” cubism.

Gilbert and George use the multi-image approach to their work, but it is used more as a montage. Balls: The Evening Before the Morning After.  In Dead Boards No: 5, multi perspective images are interspersed with plain wood.

Robert Rauschenberg uses photography in his paintings to restructure the pictorial imagery in his “combines”, doing much the same thing as earlier collage, it incorporated a different discipline firmly into the art world. He also introduces objects into his work, such as the Goat inside the tyre.  Bonnard  effectively  incorporated small paintings within a painting which is similar to  Rauschenberg’s work which provides conflicting viewpoints in one painting.

Daniel Pitin de-constructs a scene by representing buildings and parts of buildings in seemingly impossible but readable scenes.  By painting in this way he effectively opens up the interior space not only in the painting but psychologically as well.  His paintings often depict war ravaged landscapes, exploring the darker side of the aftermath of conflict.

In terms of sculpture, contemporary work seems generally to display the temporary rather than the multi image.  Splashes of glass or material of all kinds, although Anselm Kiefer’s Books display various view points, but that is what sculpture is about, viewing something from different angles and in that sense it does draw upon the early cubist work I suppose. Because film can now utilize digital technology the created image can be incorporated into different aspects of a live frame by frame movie. Therefore the options for multi-layering and multi-imaging are limitless.

Digital photography enables artists to juxtapose images in three dimensional ways as seen in the work of Ben Yates’ photo cubism.  The view of reality can become split so that there is a discontinuity in the visual image leading to insubstantial views which can be provocative and disconcerting. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014


Robert Mangold (1937 -      )

I am not sure that with Robert Mangold's work colour and form are mutually dependent any more than in other work, but his colours generally are muted. It is true that he seems to have given great consideration to the painted quality of his work.  His work has an architectural quality to it, crossing the border between painting and sculpture. Through pure line he develops the idea of distorted shapes, asymmetry in squares, circles which cause the image to tilt in certain directions very minimally.  The restrained beauty of his work pays great attention to detail, but do not invoke much in the way of an emotional response, they are closer to conceptual rather than traditional art.

Ellsworth Kelly (1923   )

Kelly's paintings seem influenced by Mondrian and Gerhard Richter, except that his grid of colours is produced n separate panels and assembled in a grid, though originally he is said to have been influenced by Picasso and Paul Klee. Early on he had been partial to Greco/Roman reliefs.  Like Mangold he works on organic shapes and assemblages, occasionally using shaped canvases.  He also uses supports which deviate from the norm, i.e. a square panel may have one side shaped.  What does this say to the viewer? The uniform isn't always what is seems: I don't know.  He also produces sculptures, based on his paintings. Unlike Mangold he does not use line as the main element of his paintings.

Charles Hinman (1932   )

Produces similar shaped canvases that are influenced by Suprematism, his wall pieces hint at geometric  and hard edged shapes, a style that is also introduced into the design of car bodies during the 1980s. The elements combine  and contrast with each other at the same time, leaving the viewer with interesting concepts to juggle with visually.  The link with wall sculpture both to Mangold and Kelly is similar. There is a rhythm to his work that is almost musical.

The sparseness and geometric nature of the work of such artists means that a great deal of gallery space needs to be allocated for the work to be exhibited satisfactorily, as the exhibits need to be viewed almost in isolation with few distractions.  The minimal use of colour echoes that of work like Barnet Newman, Malevich and Dadaists, and presumably follows the Kantian idea of the sublime.(see: Kant's Analytic of the sublime). However, even the sublime nature of Malevich's Black Square is in a state of flux and the original pristine paint has deteriorated, as all things must, to reveal a cracked and crazed surface. The forms of Kelly and Mangold's works echo the elementary building blocks of the universe using geometric shapes like the square, triangle, circle etc.  Mangold questions their perfection by producing assymetric shapes, as does Kelly, perhaps learning from the degradation of the Black Square.

Shaped paintings produce practical difficulties in that supports have to be custom made and are not confined to modular sizes, therefore their transportation is more difficult than paintings using conventional supports. Wall space and lighting have to be customized to suit the works.

Friday, 1 August 2014


Using a combination of photographic software my intention was to use the strong images of the Nurburgring grandstand for the multi-part images.  These images were similar to those used by Richard Hamilton/ I found that the software is so sophisticated it is easy to produce the pop art images but there is no flexibility to chose the number or size of the cells, nor indeed the colours, so that was a limitation, I wanted to choose red and yellow only for the German flag.  Cropping some of the image made an interesting alternative to the four squares. No doubt with time I will find other options, but at the moment I am limited by the software.

The next image uses the same photos but with something resembling speed overlaid.  My aim was to turn something static into something representing speed but it is too messy I think.  The modern take would probably have a plain shape on the surface, and I will have to consider this with future work. 

I think this works much better as the actual image is deconstructed vaguely into shape and colour, so the multi-part element works much better. 

The idea here was to eliminate as much detail as possible so that the gesture of the model became the focus of attention, rather than say her clothes or make-up.  I worked on the image first of all but found that the pop-art feature in Photoshop more or less did all the work for me, so I didn't need to spend so much time reducing the detail of the image beforehand.  However, I did make the background dark so that probably wouldn't have happened without my intervention in the first place.  Again, there is no option to alter the colours or the number of images which I felt was a great shortcoming.


Similar in content to Biography and Creating narrative, for this section I decided to include some pictures of Nurburgring which is where historic Group C cars are raced. I chose the multi image of the grandstand which is an outstanding looking building and overlaid it with a photograph of a driver in his helmet, which in turn had various images superimposed.  For example the Zakspeed probe, an historic race car.  Also the name of the race circuit, the Nurburgring, which is used not only for Grand Prix events at the moment but is an historic circuit with interesting history behind it.  I further enhanced the image to give a feeling of movement and speed. I wanted to relay something of the feeling of fast Le Mans cars of the past echoing in the present.  They have a sound unlike modern race cars and reach speeds of over 200 mph; they are not formula cars in the sense that grand prix cars are, but are endurance characterful bolides.

To create a feeling of the passing of time, I intended that the following image of a derelict petrol station taken in Spain, on route 66 offered the opportunity to introduce all three, history, narrative and intimacy in the same image.  The historic element is implied by the feeling of a building with a past, and the narrative of desolation is also discernable. There is an eerie quality to buildings that have fallen into dis-use and by making he photo negative there appears to be light emenating from the building which adds to the mystery, and gives it an intimacy it wouldn't otherwise have, one feels almost drawn to the light to know what might be going on inside the building. There are some lovely shapes and contrasts going on which make the picture visually interesting. The contrasting black and white is lifted by the text in red.

Temporary Image

It seems to me that most temporary things appear in earth, air,  fire and water, the four elements, so my pictures reflect this. Flames dying in the hearth after a roaring fire; waves rolling across the sands, enhanced to produce something semi-abstract; trees from a moving vehicle give an ethereal look to the landscape, something fleeting and captured in that split second.  The Red Arrows, like any aeroplane makes a temporary appearance and the smoke they emit is equally short lived, but I couldn't leave out the USAF Aerobatic Team, so perfectly synchronized for a short moment. The sun is rarely captured so bright with such crisp shadows forming an interesting pattern, just at that particular time of day. Water again, this time bubbling following the splash of a swimmer, something that David Hockney was mesmerized by.  A water spout with a bird in the foreground, two mercurial events in one.

In case you have difficulty recognizing this last one, it is a water stain on a wooden table.

Repeated and Multiple Images

Below are various examples of multiple and repeated images which have been produced on my computer using different photographic software to produce the effects.  I enjoy enhancing, cropping, and reproducing images in this way, the permutations are endless and as software improves the options also increase.  I have recently bought a copy of Photoshop elements 12 but have not yet had time to play with it, hopefully it will provide me with more opportunities to be creative with my photographs.

I used pictures of the Nurburgring grand- stand which were enhanced in different ways to produce multiple repeating images.
This was a found image in a journal which I enhanced then cloned in various places to produce the multiple image. The colours remained natural to the image and produce a somewhat watery image.

I really liked this image found in a fashion magazine and got carried away which the possibilities, some of which I can't reproduce here because the file size is too big, but this gives a flavour.  I wanted to produce a wave in blue with the second image. The picture of the lady with her "halo" was cropped from her background and produced as an individual image which I could then manipulate at will.  I then decided to add a background taken from a building which contained wave shapes and fish.  Putting them both together gave me the idea of presenting the combination of images as a Wave.  The frothy hair representing foam, and the swirling shapes of the background forming the undertow of water currents.

This image is used in my second large painting, but is enhanced in a different way and printed on A3 paper. It contains many cropped images of ladies and dolls dressed in saris.

Gondolas  in black and white made an interesting abstract picture.

Creating a Narrative

I played around with various ideas for a long time on this, using Fireworks to cut and paste images on screen.

Having seen Hamilton's exhibition in London I thought I would use some of his ideas to create new narratives and images.  I used the glasses idea, (as created by Jasper Johns and subsequently, Richard Hamilton), on top of the building to look at the woman descending the staircase and called in "Critical Gaze", then reproduced it in colour and in a sort of Kline blue. It incorporates a modern environment which has been clipped and pasted to form the kind of landscape that Pitin creates in collage and paint.


The John Wayne picture refers to Hamilton's Interior 1, it incorporates conceptual art as well as the "selfie" and John Wayne looks on in disbelief.

 My "Arrangement in Grey and Black/The female gaze"  Uses images of my female cat looking straight at the viewer, which echoes the Manet painting on the wall where the female gazes at the spectator.  It might be better produced entirely in Black, White and Grey, rather than the slightly brown overtones, but I liked the warm effect which is reminiscent of Sepia used in old photographs.

The word Holy Moly, is of unknown origin, but an art group was formed with the name and is a pun on the serving spoon with holes and the general mixture of various other cooking utensils, as being extraordinary in their variety.Holy Moly is now taken to mean something extraordinary or unusual.

The handbag refers to the expletive/question in the well known Shaw play "The importance of being Ernest"  The sentence is usually spoken with raised inflection, hence the expanding text.

JOSEPH  CORNELL (1803-1972)

Born in New York during 1903, Cornell was a self taught artist who experimented with surrealist ideas, developing the concept of a box or diorama to display his work using all sorts of abandoned pieces of life’s objects.  He created interesting poetic and sometimes rhetorical works of art.  They often featured ballerinas, opera singers and film stars.   He met European Surrealists and exhibited at a Dada exhibition.  His close friends included Lee Miller the Photographer and Marcel Duchamp. Cornell was interested in the film world and even made short films himself, experimenting with editing to create unusual juxtapositions. He was interested in the beauty of the everyday, a slightly more positive take on surrealism than the likes of Salvador Dali and Max Ernst.  He himself was a very private person who tended to isolate himself from society.
One of his pieces that refers to a well known ballerina of the past, is Taglioni’s Jewel Box. The compartments in the box have cubes of glass in the base with a simple necklace in the lid.  At the base of the cube sections there is blue glass which when removed display a collection of sand, crystal and rhinestones resting on a mirrored surface.  It is almost like looking through the sea to the gems below, though it may have meant to indicate the sky.   Taglioni was a very chaste ballerina who was one of the first to dance on point, her father created her image dressing  her in calf length tulle and net ballet dress which gave her a fragility and innocence which she exemplified in her dancing.  I think Cornell is hinting at that fragility and perfection in his box, the cubes are  like ice cubes, and refer to an incident which was supposed to have happened in 1835:  "On a moonlight night in the winter of 1835 the carriage of Marie Taglioni was halted by a Russian highwayman, and that enchanting creature commanded to dance for this audience of one upon a panther’s skin spread over the snow beneath the stars. From this actuality arose the legend that to keep alive the memory of this adventure so precious to her, Taglioni formed the habit of placing a piece of artificial ice in her jewel casket or dressing table where, melting among the sparkling stones, there was evoked a hint of the atmosphere of the starlit heavens over the ice-covered landscape."  This text appears on the lid of the box, which is very beautiful in concept and presentation.

Another of Cornell’s pieces is the Blue Owl Box (Untitled) which is a sculpture containing tree bark, sawdust, and glass with electric light bulb to illuminate the reproduction of an owl. It does not have the romantic imagery alluded to in the Taglioni 'sJewel Box but does represent nature’s own beauty which is captured by the light, possibly replicating moonlight where in that instant the owl is caught by it’s rays. The box is not as deep as some of his works but it realistically represents the owl, and the use of the light is innovative at the time.  Much of Cornell’s work is more abstract than this which is why I wanted to include it as it shows the range and depth of Cornell’s creative ability, and his love of the natural world around him, which included astronomy as well as the natural sciences, often with hints of mythology and legend.  In this case the owl hints at that fairy tale world.