Monthly Archives: December 2005

Through a lens darkly

Thursday 22 December 2005

My work is getting darker, more gloomy, claustrophobic, misty, myopic even. Perhaps it is the time of year – today after all is the shortest day (the winter solstice, the night of the 21st as I write), and I prefer to work in natural light. The darker it gets outside the closer I need to get to my work. I appear to be avoiding clarity in preference for an overall infusion of subdued tonalities and dissolving textures; creating a distant hum rather than a distinct sound (taking the original meaning of tone).

abstract gesso textures, paintings

I have also been avoiding the usual visual dynamic of composition – there are few if any focal points. Composition should be used as a means to guide or control the viewer’s gaze, and yet I am denying this element (firstly for myself). I prefer to let my eyes travel over, scan, survey, speculate, pause and then be drawn to or arrive at a previously ignored or unseen detail – which leads to the next stage of developmemt. My only allowance to composition seems to be in a need for symmetry or balance.

abstract textures in painting, artist studio

Little to report, only possibilities at present. These (nine in total) are very small tablets (gesso on calico on wood) at 30 x 30cm. I’m still finding my way out of the fog I’ve created.

abstract textures, gesso on canvas

Dark, fraught, an oppressive shape emerging from the right?

mixed media paintings in progress in studio

Rivulets and puddles (of paint) messily join hands?

mixed media abstract, artist studio

Is that a flurry of snow, sweeping across the fences?

mixed media abstract landscape - painting in progress, artist studio

A strong north-easterly wind ravages across the vista?

I’ve been dipping into Roland Barthes ‘Camera Lucida‘ – for the third or fourth time. I’ve never managed to read it in one hit even though it’s a slim volume; the language although lyrical, perhaps through translation seems stilted or too ‘abrupt’ in places, and his bitesize insights make for episodic reading. I’m intrigued by his notion of retracing or traversing history from the moment a photograph is taken (the moment it represents in time) – not just what led to this point, but also what became of or happened next?

Of course, photography is through a single (fixed in focus) lens and as such its part in history could be seen to follow a linear path – but perhaps not. I view the world with two lenses, and so my own perceptions (through time and memory) are more layered, varying in depth and emphasis, at times distorted or dissipated. There must be a methodology to my avoidance of visual lucidity in painting – wanting more of an overall sensation than a clear snapshot. I begin with a rough haze, slowly moving around, forwards (or backwards) to arrive at a (perhaps the original) moment of clarity or relevance.

I’m rambling again, but hey, this is a journal, not an essay. What am I asking Santa for this Christmas – a new camera?? Binoculars would seem a better option…

Dear Artist

Monday 19 December 2005

I’ve recently had this painting, Edgescape #8, selected for the annual Artsway Open Exhibition. If you go to see this exhibition, do drop by again to tell me what you think of the show.

Artsway Open 05 exhibition. Edgescape #8 is hanging (darkly) by the archway.
The exhibition runs from 3 December 2005, at Artsway, Sway, Hants, until 19 February 2006 (closed from 19 December to 5 January 2006).

I’ve found this painting very difficult to photograph. The colours are quite muted from dark, earthy browns to ochre and grey, and the surface is quite textured and glistening in places, throwing the light off in different angles. It’s been over a year in the making and now when I look at it, I can see it is only a small vision of something much bigger. If only I had more space (and resources) in which to work much bigger.

I also received a generic rejection letter from an arts organisation in which it was decided that your submission was not as strong as others in terms of quality. All artists have to deal with rejection, but on this occasion I was disgruntled with their use of the term quality since it is so subjective. I would rather they were more diplomatic by saying my application was not what the selection panel were looking for and then elucidate on their specific selection criteria.

Does quality mean sophisticated materials, high-brow concepts or visual outcomes? Or is quality by definition more elusive, subject to contemporary styles and tastes in art?

Much contemporary art is rooted in ideas or concepts using sophisticated methods of delivery, but I am concerned with the very nature of crude, mundane, everyday materials – basic, humble – unsophisticated. I hope to produce in the process of engagement, outcomes which question notions of quality, visual aesthetic or perfection in a very material sense.

White cube installations with their walls of video, projections, light shows, sound loops or satellite links do not convey the artist’s personal reasoning behind the art, since the materials used are so, well.. very impersonal – you have to read the catalogue to fully relate to the work, and even then the exhibition blurb is cloaked in hyberbole and curatorial artspeak – but I’m wooed by the engagement with seemingly global issues in an often highly technical and elaborate way.

Is this an artform born out of a “virtual” needy generation, which relies on the abstracted reality of TV to give a true picture of the way we do or should live? Are we relying on technology to enable a fresh view of our world?

The painterly drips and poured layers, erased traces and accretion of surface texture provides physical evidence of a more discreet and intuitive thought process – in response to the emotions and memories of a particular place or time. It is made complicated only by my own interaction with the processes – no more, no less.

What am I trying to say? That my perception of the environment is not yet definite or resolved, but organic and open to change? Some research is in order, and I think perhaps less philosophical ramblings and more dogmatic realism would help me on my journey, but I can take some comfort from the opening salutation Dear Artist using a capital A…

A bird's eye view

Tuesday 6 December 2005

The first image is one of a series of small canvases that I am currently working on. The second is a happy accident. As I put my camera away after a long walk, an effect worthy of photoshop was made with a little camera shake and a slow exposure.

textures - painting in progress

A real mix of materials here – zinc oxide powder, ink, emulsion and a little soot, with the help of a hair dryer and some sgrafitto. I’m quite excited by the slow emergence of crosses, barely visible, unconsciously made, though I have been deliberating lately on the most simple but loaded of marks…

camera shake - photography

A cautionary note perhaps; never delete images from your camera until you’ve uploaded them and have lived with them for a while…

It’s also that time of year again – the highly controversial Turner Prize – and the winner is… five-year-old Terisha Reeve! She ‘uses the medium of watercolour to create a passionate, broad-brushstroke, post-modern interpretation of the 21st Century phenomena of celebrity‘! No, not THE Turner Prize we have all come to love and loathe in equal measure, but the alternative Anthea Turner Prize in which very young artists compete to produce the best portrait of B-list celebrity Anthea Turner. Proud mum Pam Reeve, said of her daughter’s achievement: I’m not sure she knows who Anthea Turner is. I told her she’s a journalist. She loves art. Ah, bless!

Another alternative arts award, the Turnip Prize, has been awarded to an empty birds’ nest and a flu remedy, created by 69-year-old Mr ‘Osenthroat’ from Somerset. He described his contemporary work, ‘Birds Flew’ as ‘feathery and titanic’. A great play on words and fabulously ironic since the real Turner Prize winner is a Mr. Simon Starling (an appropriately geeky name for a research-based artist). Feathers are sure to fly in artistic circles when the real competition involves an old shed/boat/shed and a bicycle, and it’s a thumbs up to the cackling red necks – I’m talking turkeys, of course!