on taking a walk around the square

it has been twenty years since my first artworks using squares. it is quite a scary thought that i haven’t (except in drawing) ever deviated from this pictorial format – as mentioned many times the concept of akind of objectification and visual containment ensues. however, i have been quietly contemplating the square’s more rounded friend for a while now… in fact, the circle within a square is something quite universal, symbolic & spiritual…

as written about in a previous post last year, i started printing lots of irregular circles (or discs as i prefer to call them as circle seems too linear as a term), taking multiple intaglio prints from some old sanding discs – even deciding to break the circle into two mismatching halves…

studio wall march 2010- intaglio prints & monoprints - eroded circles
[studio wall, march 2010]

these initial concepts gently simmered the imagination were then put on hold while i actively pursued the lichens & moulds (which, it has to be said, are also not yet ‘done’ as a series). i figure that i am on a five year cycle when it comes to resolving any of my own work so quite how art students complete projects in a couple of months is anyone’s guess (clue: they use the internet)…

myriad spots & patterned speckles of mould, and the irregular, frilly-edged crustose lichens, as photographed here on the farm in early 2008 (a ‘found painting’ that i found just as impressive as a monet at the time because they covered the whole of one side of a trailer container), also inspired a series of circular etchings (thanks go to SW for cutting the circles out for me) and these were also supposed to be loosely based on patterns of lichens or moulds…

crustose lichens growing on a blue farmyard container - abstract painting photograph
[some lichens growing on a large blue farmyard container, march 2008]

however, what turned out to be the most instantly visually gratifying way of creating lots of circles (with no blood, sweat or tears, on a very frosty morning just before christmas) was to simply take some of my small, square paintings and just digitally circle-ulise them. half an hour on the computer, scissors and some masking tape was all that was needed to create an instant wall piece… seen here with some flat farmscape paintings for visual contrast.

art studio wall - cones - circles
[studio wall, december 2010]

now, it might at first seem that these concentric circles remind one of the work of kenneth noland, frank stella or even damien hirst’s spin paintings, but any twentieth century art reference (within my own realm of prior knowledge and understanding) would be a big, fat red herring – even if academics, critics, writers, artists & students focus on the importance of the ‘contextual reference’…

art studio wall - cones - circles
[studio wall, december 2010]

choosing to work from digital scans of my own square paintings, those with only earthy ochre, brown or grey hues (from the ‘chromatids’ series, my terminological appropriation, as in chroma and id), i was actually planning to travel much further back in history… it was just a matter of time.

bronze age shield
a bronze age shield, image © Trustees of the British Museum

i instantly want to interpret these experimental concentric forms (they are inkjet prints on paper) as shield-like, for i have been feeling very defensive of late (even the paper bowls with their interior space and rough outer surface hint at a sense of self protection), and i also felt that they are symbolic (obviously) of arming oneself, more so because i have made them slightly convex, curved and cone-like (some sculptural thoughts pondered upon a few years previously) – and now i have a personal army of protective shields on my wall! a sign perhaps of beginning to win the small battles of making art on my own terms… it is just a matter of time.

art studio wall - concentric cones - circles
[digital spin (or spun) paintings, studio wall, january 2010]

i amusingly thought they looked a little like madonna’s famous jean-paul gaultier outfit at first, or one could easily see the organic growth rings of trees, turned wood, old vinyl records or even art deco buttons – and there was also something quite oriental in their projected layout, like a wall of japanese parasols or chinese hats… but i wasn’t really happy with the geometric spin factor, i wanted something a little more organic, natural, irregular in surface and form (as with the sanding disc prints above)… it was one of those random things which i like to do on a computer and these demonstrate working through something, initial workings-out and concepts which are forever spinning around in my head, breaking away from the notion of making a conventional picture into making ‘things’ – it is just a matter of time…

the bird’s nests i found, hen’s eggs, collected pebbles & seashells, a large piece of striated agate given to me by a friend, coins, a tin of buttons, fossils, cellular structures or satelite images, looking through a lens or a magnifying glass, even the little glass ramekins that i mix paint in or a simple paint jug, have all found their way, however obliquely, into my personal visual vocabulary… so the circles, however they evolve as artworks, will have forged a new way around of seeing things square on… i am the cave artist who has just discovered the wonder of the wheel!

art studio - abstact painting found within a paint jug
[the inside of one of my plastic painting jugs]

so, the overall plan has been (for two or more years at least) to create a series of circular works to banish the square from my creative life, and it is another reason to be indecisive about which way up it should be viewed, because there is no ‘right way up’… the circle ‘project’ was beginning to take form before christmas but my hopes for it to be part of a regional group exhibition** have been thwarted… sometimes you really need an exhibition to get going with an art project…

so today i have been feeling very melancholy, on whether it is worth pursuing this art ‘project’ any further, even though i’ve already started the work for it, if there is no venue to show it, no audience to see it… tomorrow i will feel better and by the weekend i will have forgotten all about the small matter of a simple rejection…

this is probably why i started writing this blog, to stay focused and committed to my art even when i feel utterly dejected, on those dark days when there seems to be no definitive reason for making art… i quite wanted to blog a little about the ‘project’, the creation of the work leading up to the ‘exhibition’.. i will try to keep myself focused on it and hope that it does still have some creative purpose, that even though it currently looks to be a non-runner it will perhaps feature in a another exhibition… it is just a matter of time…

art studio - circular handmade paper
[a handmade paper circle - who just said pancakes*?]

while perusing yet another charity shop i came across a box of sewing things, and there within the jumble was a bundle of embroidery hoops – it was serendipity indeed, when thinking of making paper for my ‘circle’ project! i bought two of them and then promptly made a large stash of circular sheets of paper, because i am still fascinated by the edges of things, be they straight, precise, irregular or broken. i wanted the irregular deckle edge of the paper (naturally) and also the uneven surface, the unique character in the random slubs of paper fibres – i didn’t want these to look perfect. this handmade paper has a purpose if even if won’t explain its potential use right now… it will just be a matter of time – and time is perfectly symbolised by the universality of the circle…

*pancakes were traditionally a means to use up stored food prior to the abstinence of the period of lent in the christian calendar (this year it’s on the 8th of march, buy your maple syrup early)…

** i started writing this post in the new year, hoping that it would round off quite nicely with some related exhibition news…

*** i took the title of this post from the fictional characters in ‘eastenders’ who invariably take a walk around albert square when they have ‘issues’…

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 17, 2011 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    always find your posts a wonderful read and inspiring; especially when i am attracted to theory & workings out; but also in the honesty of motivation in the face of adversity; something i am more than unfortunately familiar with. i am very fond of the irregular circles & find them very relaxing. your eye for naturally formed artworks in the surrounding environment is very fine tuned. i spent sometime taking photographs of cracks found in the pavement, beautiful in their very exposed human intervention. i constantly battle that motivation of creating art, especially when i have little or no demand in actual fact, no real need to create anything, as no real purpose presents itself. i like to compare the parallels between what i see and what i see you create we have an eye for similar objects. i recently acquired a birds nest, i have been after one for a long time & now have a lovely example that was abandoned, although the ideas are many, the actual execution may not be realised due to costs/time etc. thankyou for continuing to post such wonderful works in progress and writing these remarkable blog posts.

  2. Jazz
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    steve, thank you for the comment (and the compliments on the ‘blog’, although i am not sure it is ‘remarkable’, just my words)… as an artist who has expressed similar artistic concerns to my own in the past, your comment raises interesting issues regarding the motivation or incentive behind making art…

    i suppose i was quite fortunate in going to a very prestigious art college where one had to be very self-motivated, at a time when art-making seemed very process and studio-oriented and perhaps less theoretical than now, with quite minor references to other art, mostly what one gleaned from books, magazines or what was seen in galleries. the contemporary art scene seemed so much smaller back then, there was of course no ‘internet’ to speak of. sometimes i speculate how my art would have evolved had i stayed in london with its inevitable cosmopolitan influences, but i escaped to the countryside in order to pursue art, art that i felt i couldn’t effectively make happen in london… so this ‘place’ has become my main locus of inspiration or motivation, whether i like it or not…

    i think that honesty & self-awareness is integral to the motivation of the artist, that making ‘art’ requires the benefit of time, experience and personal insight as much as any external influence or opportunity… my own art is obviously the outcome of my own personal circumstances and my immediate environment and both these factors seem to have slowed things down a pace, as i seem to ponder on, adapt or revisit ideas for what seems like years, to get closer to my original thoughts or intentions – all of which has made one much more mindful of late…

    so, within what seems to be an increasingly philosophical framework to my own thinking, one then has to juggle the practicality of making art with other responsibilities, so sometimes yes, i do feel quite isolated or unsupported in what i choose to do – and is this the best way forward?… still, i have a personal history which is unavoidably invested in this ongoing process, that the myriad ‘dots’ of my own making will eventually join up to create the bigger picture, (it is just a matter of time), even if it does take years to see it… as an artist friend told me recently, referring to a remark (i think) made by bridget riley in an interview, one chooses one’s personal direction in art quite early on and is rather obligated to stick truthfully to it…

    gosh, that’s one long comment but this is my blog, so i guess it’s allowed…

    p.s. with reference to your own art making, i have just noticed you seem to have erased your entire blog as the link says it has been deleted – why so?