Monthly Archives: May 2010

some large sculptures and a few small sketches

Sunday 30 May 2010

I took the opportunity this weekend to visit Snape Maltings by way of going to see a new exhibition by SOS artists Elizabeth James, Clare Rizzo, Carol Pask and Hilli Thompson in the Pond Gallery. It’s a mixed show, with paintings, prints, ceramics and textiles. It’s a good space to exhibit but the steep stairs make access difficult for the less physically able.

Whilst there, I also had a stroll around the outdoor sculptures at Snape… these images were taken with a mobile phone, around the moment the breeze picked up and it began to rain…


Three ‘figures’ from The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth was a friend of the Suffolk-born composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, Peter Pears. She also stayed in Happisburgh in Norfolk in the 1930’s with the sculptor Henry Moore and the painter Ben Nicholson (who later became her second husband). These three totems were offered a gift to Britten (who established Snape Maltings as the main venue for the Aldeburgh Music Festival) in the 1970’s. I am sure there used to be a Henry Moore sculpture sited at Snape too, perhaps on the vacant plinth across from the main music hall…

There was a very good exhibition devoted to Hepworth, Moore and Nicholson and their connection to Norfolk at Norwich Castle in 2009. Both Hepworth and Moore were inspired by their beach finds at Happisburgh (pronounced haze-burrh), in the figurative forms of weathered flints, but more notably the sea-smoothed pebbles (which they collected and often carved). Hepworth, writing to Nicholson in 1931, tells of finding ‘a most beautiful stone […] I am so pleased with it I have packed it’;  in 1937 Moore writes in The Listener: ‘Pebbles show nature’s working of stone. Some of the pebbles I pick up have holes right through them.’ So there you have it, a shortcut key to British sculptural abstraction – truth to materials and derived from natural forms…


Migrant (2003) by Alison Wilding, located in a wide ditch before the expanse of the reed beds

Alison Wilding‘s installation ‘Migrant’ perhaps needs no further explanation (they are grounded and yet outcast), but I like how the two forms allude to hooded figures as much the steely vehicles in which they might secretly travel – and the surrounding vegetation will, over the course of the seasons, alternately reveal and then hide a sense of quiet movement in the landscape…


Perceval by Sarah Lucas (photographed looking east to accommodate the wider vista)

‘Perceval’ is a life size replica of a Shire horse in painted bronze (one of a edition of five), pulling a cart containing two supersized concrete marrows (making a connection to Lucas’s other work), a work that also replicates a familiar British, and now very kitsch, ornament. Perceval also makes an allusion to the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and so many other literary associations abound.

Sarah Lucas is one of the original YBAs (and old friend of Tracey Emin), and is known for subversive (and often lewd) mixed media works that mock cultural, social and gender stereotypes. This work seems very polished in comparison (with some irony) for Lucas, who is known for combining low-tech, crude objects and materials in her smaller sculptures (tights, kapok, wire, plaster). This sculpture is undeniably Duchampian in its conceptual influences, elevating the commonplace ‘trashy’ object into a more sophisticated artform, alluding to the British preoccupation with issues of class, taste, sentimentality, nostalgia and our relationship to the (pastoral) landscape. I could also mention Constable, but Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst come to mind instead…

I did some quick panoramic landscape sketches of the ‘greening’ Suffolk countryside this weekend …

Here are four of them (14cm x 40cm) in a very small sketchbook – and for some visual contrast, are shown with corresponding photographic snapshots of the same (or near as possible) ‘street view’ from Google Maps (I did not have a camera)…


[field, looking south west – graphite pencil on paper]


[same field, looking south – watercolour on paper]


[old airfield runway with rapeseed field and green wheat – watercolour and pencil on paper)


[road towards village with church and poplars – watercolour and graphite pencil on paper]

These images are courtesy of Google Maps, cropped to correspond to the above landscape drawings…

This is not exactly an awe inspiring landscape to draw, but a sense of distance clears the mind – the clear horizons and expansive skies compensate in contemplative terms…

on breaking the mould

Saturday 29 May 2010

this is a papier maché decorative bowl – one of a series that i made as a supporting sideline to my artistic practice soon after graduation from art school.


[papier maché bowl, c.1993]

my papier maché objects were influenced by things I saw in books, artefacts in local museums, and stories of Anglo-Saxon hoards such as Sutton Hoo… it seemed much more straightforward to develop, promote and market one’s work in those days, with none of the ‘issues’ associated with art on the internet…

i am revisiting some ideas and ways of working in 3d again, but differently… i do have, at least, a personal history to draw from….


[plaster cast moulds]

here are some other experimental things in the working – inkjet transfers and monoprints, from my lichen photographs…


[lichen photographic image transfers]

i like the subtle degradation of the images here, more authentic and textural than a glossy photograph…


[image transfer]

which links back to the previous blog post on using digital images in artmaking.


[lichen on stonework – digital photograph]

my digitally dissolved ‘blind’ landscape photographs also created some interesting effects as image transfers – resulting in quite delicately textured works on paper…


[inkjet monoprint transfer]

strangely, what was once just a traditional landscape image of East Anglia has now evolved into what looks like mould spores on a damp wall… i am trying out some different substrates…

I spent my amazon gift voucher on Richter’s ‘Cage’ paintings book, having picked it up and put it down on two occasions at the Tate Modern. Storr’s accompanying text is rich in description and poetic metaphor, putting into words the action of painting, but much of this text is aimed at the non-artist. Gerhard Richter‘s own words on the ‘Cage’ series are curiously absent, but this is more than made up in the many and generous photographic details of painting processes and surface textures…

mist opportunities [again]

Thursday 27 May 2010


a straight photograph; morning mist, winter…


with some digital blurs applied…


then with a dark vignette…

The original photograph had, by nature’s own means, some readymade atmosphere… I could, I suppose, use some mechanical filters to achieve a similar effect, as I am not a fan of post-processing in digital photography – in the deceit of any number of wow and pop effects – aka ‘photoshopped’…

It seems to me that when using digital technology the artist should have a rough idea of the visual outcome they want to achieve and then experiment with the tools to realise the vision or intention.

David Hockney quite likes using computers… as does Julian Opie… so computers can be good tools for artists…

This painting, by the British artist Gary Hume, displays the digital effects of Photoshop’s pointillize filter, but this was ‘painted‘ in 1998… he must have been one of the first to use Photoshop software as a ‘creative’ tool…

Gary Hume, Bird point III, 1998 – gloss paint on aluminium

Here’s a little Photoshopped  ‘Humeresque‘ I made earlier, (in the ‘Blue Peter’ tradition, of course)…

Created from this original photograph…

Like many successful international artists, Gary Hume has a painter’s assistant… he ‘can’t bear doing the really fiddly bits’ apparently. The painter and the assistant must be a strange relationship to maintain, when the fabrication of the work has to embody the style and technical skill(?) of one artist… I wonder if the ‘artist‘ in such a situation ever feels that the assistant is the more accomplished craftsman (if not the artist), or if the assistant sees the role as a type of apprenticeship, providing the necessary first steps to their own success…

Software such as Photoshop can provide new creative tools (or assistance) in making art. As mentioned, Hockney excels in exploiting the finer nuances of the capabilities of the software; looking at Hockney’s new digital drawings one doesn’t immediately want to recall the brand of software used. Another artist, Paul John Taylor, who came to my attention via Jerwood Painters 2009 (exhibition reviewed here), seems to be using digital filters to design his paintings (referencing media photographs) – they apppear to look as though a selected photograph has been post-processed with filters (as with Gary Hume’s painting above) and then are mechanically painted (or reproduced) onto canvas.


Paul John Taylor Bombed Beirut, second from right

I had a little go with some digital filters and visual effects. Below is a news image I found on Reuters that I have digitally manipulated showing similar image manipulation methods.


[click to view larger]

I am fascinated by the desire or concept to translate digitally manipulated images back into handcrafted paintings – the painting becomes a reproduction (or facsimile) of its digital counterpart – validated as art by the very materiality of paint as opposed to pixels. They could print them straight onto canvas or panel, but then they wouldn’t be original paintings.

Whereas Opie and Hockney use the tools of technology in very individual ways (in both artist’s work mechanical drawing or mark-making is a part of the process) with very distinct visual outcomes, Taylor and Hume seem to have merely appropriated the built-in filters and effects of the software. The British artist Maggi Hambling (whose recent seascape paintings display the energy of both the artist and the subject matter) once said that ‘photography is inevitably a dead thing’, so perhaps digital manipulation just continues the flogging…