Tag Archives: andrei tarkovsky

mind over matter

Sunday 12 February 2012

the surfaces of the sculptural ‘woodwork’ pieces have progressed which has in turn inspired something else…

sculptural relief wood panels in art studio

see previous states of this work in progress here: on making art again and not a painting, not a sculpture.

on the much smaller panels (gesso on wood), there is a deep bloom of patina, quite muted and monochromatic at the moment, with the illusion of atmospheric depth (if it is a given that painting is always an illusion).

patina on gesso wood panels in art studio

and inbetween things, some sketchbook drawing…

in the new year i decided to watch three tarkovsky films almost back-to-back (a feat of visual endurance) with some sideline dipping into ‘sculpting in time‘. it was interesting to compare tarkovsky’s writings on art and film to the ‘the non-object through painting‘ (with only six illustrations!) – slow looking, slow narratives, subtle signs and symbols that we wait (or wish) to discover for what they might reveal to us about the perilous course (and meaning) of life – allusions and analogies aplenty.

art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art.

andrei tarkovsky, sculpting in time

there are always books of various kinds ‘open’ here, as art seems unavoidably connected to various strands of philosophical thinking – artists are natural thinkers although we may take some time to arrive at any clear conclusions.

last week i read an excerpt of foucault’s the order of things; back in 2007 a work colleague had mentioned this book, because of foucault’s critical discussion of the interplay of analogies or ‘similitudes‘ as he terms them, to communicate and construct a universal ‘taxonomy’ of knowledge (inspired by a story by borges). this resonated with me:

the interplay of duplicated resemblances to all the realms of nature; it provides all investigation with an assurance that everything will find its mirror and its macrocosmic justification on another and larger scale; it affirms, inversely, that the visible order of the highest spheres will be found reflected in the darkest depths of the earth.

michel foucault, the order of things

i found some of foucault’s textual expressions quite poetic (obviously in translation) but mostly it seemed too convoluted in its reasoning and argument to grasp it fully. i could see how my work colleague found this book a stimulating read, as a collector of things, how someone working in art or education could create new taxonomies, creating new meanings and connections out of collections of things. you can read more about foucault’s concepts here.

however, foucault’s reference to ‘nature’ drew me back into thinking once more about the miniature world of lichens, and also to many years back, when i worked for a while in a herbal dispensary, learning more about various healing plants and their connections to organs and functions of the body. i recall the ‘story’ my boss told me of the plant usnea (a type of hairy lichen, also known as oak moss), how it was once harvested from the rotting skulls of dead soldiers and then used to treat the wounds and infections of the other (alive!) soldiers in the battle field. i am not sure how true this story is although the plant is known for its antibiotic properties. extracts of willow bark reduces pain & inflammation and oak bark is a powerful astringent, suggesting that their ‘nature’ or constitution (such as willows near flowing water) somehow aptly signifies their medicinal benefits.

thinking of weeping willows and oak trees and the history of herbal medicine (many herbal cures & remedies originate from china) draws me back to the non-object through painting again and to the notion of the ‘holistic’. the inter-connectedness of nature feels to be one of one vast, breathing organism, a symbiosis of forms and space, between being and non-being, as he describes:

true resemblance lies in the allusivity to the invisible dimension that permeates the concrete particularity.

françois jullien

the ambiguity that resides between space and form, between the real and the imagined, the perceived and the invisible is difficult to express in art without some outward expression of an object, a physical, lasting presence – which leads me back to materiality of process and the making of art in the physical absence of the ‘thing’ that it represents, and that in time the ‘thing’ will make itself visible again. is this the difference between western reasoning & eastern spiritualism..? that a form need not have to represent (or depict) the original form (a look-a-likeness) to be truthful, but could appear as a re-representation in a new form/space, as an emblem or a symbol for it, or (as i have understood from the book), a ‘transcendence‘ of it. in essence, one need not  ‘picture’ the whole form to ‘see’ it whole.

also fascinating to watch a while back, was the bbc documentary ‘the strange science of decay‘, how slime mould so efficiently & intelligently ‘grows’ and maps out a network in the search for nutrients for its survival, a pattern mirroring modern transport systems – and thinking along similar lines, how certain cells in the body when observed under the microscope function like miniature cities, or how the network of blood vessels mirror the spreading branches of a tree. this is not the stuff of science analogy, it is the stuff of life and the cosmos (but i am not a scientist).

mould seen through a microscope

last summer i took some photographs of grape mould through the lens of a cheap (a child’s) microscope…

mould seen through a microscope

and a couple years ago, while photographing some lichens, i also stopped to gaze at the miniature landscape of mosses growing on a grave. who wouldn’t find such micro-landscapes fascinating to observe?

moss landscape

moss landscape

i was reminded of a more reflective, spiritual path in art earlier this week on hearing about the death of the catalan painter, antoni tàpies. for the media to describe tàpies as an abstract painter (abstract reduced to the expression of a style) rather misses the material complexity and the philosophical, symbolic content so evident in much of his work. i first got to know about tàpies’ work when i was an art student and his work regularly appeared in the high-end galleries of london. around this time, the work of the artist anselm kiefer also started to become more widely known and there are many similarities in their work.

for all the ambiguity of my painting [et amicorum, 1978], i wanted it to express a central theme: it signifies both a symbolic gift to all friends of painting – only they really know that its beauty belongs only to those who love it! – and a homage to my best friends, books…

antoni tàpies [in tàpies, andreas franzke]

on losing focus and seeing things

Saturday 22 May 2010

I have been playing with a few landscape digital photographs, having not pursued much in the way of any painting or drawing this week…

A few filters applied here and there, playing with digital effects up to the point of image dissolution… i am interested in the notion of blindness or visual impairment and the many classifications and measures of visual acuity… rarely is someone completely blind… they may have an awareness of objects in space, a perception of distance, or a sense of light in determining day or night time… one assumes that the other senses are heightened in compensation – hearing, touch, taste and smell..

these images mirror washes of watercolour or sepia ink blots on wet paper, or smoke drawings…






blindness has also become a metaphor for stubborness, weakness, ignorance or indifference, on not wanting to see something: turning a blind eye, having blind faith, going up a blind alley, not listening to a blind word, effing and blinding, it’s all so blindingly obvious…

I am not just seeing things; i have some ideas…

I could, in artspeak, say that in these images i am aiming to subvert or undermine a belief that landscape photography is inherently truthful… but when i really think about it, it’s about achieving emotional distance, separation, remoteness, seeking a form of liberation, acceptance, transformative and reflective, of one’s own memory to reality… even a memento mori… but it seems too reductive and limiting to intellectualise from a distance; art is inseparable from one’s own experiences of life – there are gaps waiting to be filled. these are just my thoughts; here are some from others…

Anselm Kiefer:
I don’t paint to present an image of something. I paint only when I have received an apparition, a shock, when I want to transform something. Something that possesses me, and from which I have to deliver myself. Something I need to transform, to metabolize, and which gives me a reason to paint.

Anselm Kiefer, Heavy Cloud, lead and shellac on photograph, 1985

Gerhard Richter:
Strange though this may sound, not knowing where one is going, being lost, being a loser, reveals the greatest possible faith and optimism, as against collective security and collective significance. To believe, one must have lost God; to paint, one must have lost art.

Gerhard Richter, overpainted photograph, 1992

Andrei Tarkovsky:
Any artist in any genre is striving to reflect as deep as possible a person’s inner world… [to tell] about the inner duality of a human being, about his contradictory position between spirit and substance, between spiritual ideals and the necessity to exist in this material world.

Tarkovsky – Solaris

[last scene, solaris]

the local lakes shrouded in mist in midwinter recall Tarkovsky…

question and answer

Thursday 24 September 2009

an email interview from 2008… written in my usual lazy lower-caps style i’m afraid

When did you first become interested in art and why?
in a school report at around 7-8 years old my year teacher praised my drawings and said how they had impressed the other children in the class. i’m not sure i saw it then as art, just a natural activity, but my mother covered all of my bedroom walls with my drawings. i formally became more interested in art or in being an artist at around 14-15 years old.

Who are your main influences?
i like elements of abstract expressionism, the process of painting as the message, also elements of arte povera and art brut, also the work of the british artist richard long. i’ve never felt brave enough to use text or words in my work but poetry and prose are just as visual to me. whilst at art school i first saw the work of the boyle family and they were quite a big influence in terms of the concrete reality of materials.

How would you describe your style?
at the moment – fluid, evocative, contemplative – difficult to pinpoint, quite a tough question.

Who is your favourite artist?
i don’t think i have an absolute favourite – you admire different artists for different reasons – i feel an affinity with artists such as pollock and rothko in their search for spiritual meaning and purpose, going beyond the need to depict concrete things but towards the more psychoanalytical. i like turner and monet too (as do most painters!)… more recently, i’ve begun to really admire the work of edward hopper – they are understated and yet very powerful, atmospheric, the stories or narratives unfold slowly – he had the most incredible skill in using the effects of light and the absence of things to tell a story, and the images, although representational, have very abstract qualities in their composition and use of colour. i like art that compels me to just stare and it reveals its meaning over a period of time.

Is anyone else in your family interested in or practice art? If so do you think that influenced you?
an old relative was an amateur artist, a couple of other relatives are involved in the arts – one in graphics, the other involved in theatre production. nobody has influenced me directly to pursue art, art was really a vehicle for me to gain confidence in myself. the great thing about art is that it allows you to be opinionated, forthright, passionate about things and no one can knock you for misrepresenting things because its about your interpretation.

What are your favourite subjects to paint?
i like the overlooked details, disregarded things, decaying structures and forms that have a quiet history…. i also like transient things, frost, fog, rain on a window pane, shadows, reflections in puddles, clouds, the sky after heavy rain… these thoughts and memories filter through in the making of my work.

What are your favourite mediums to work in and what mediums do you work in the most?
collage is very therapeutic and also fun, i utilise all of my accidents and paper discards, i like the organic, fluid, layered nature of painting, the do a bit, ponder, do a bit more… it’s a personal journey of discovery. i might incorporate paper, sand, chalk, to build up texture. i’m not a purist with materials, i am always prepared to take a risk.

Do you prefer working on paper or canvas?
my preferred surface to work on would be a hard substance such as plaster or wood as i like sgrafitto, but that makes the finished artwork very heavy. i also like working on or with paper but there’s always the added cost of framing if you want to exhibit them. i prefer to work with more robust materials, the constructed panels become sculptural objects, they don’t require a frame.

How long does it take you to complete a typical piece?
oh months!! i do a bit, then leave them, come back… it seems more authentic to let them develop slowly. it’s perhaps not very disciplined or well planned but the works become more vital to me, i have a strong commitment to their integrity as artworks, i never just embrace the accidental. i always have lots of things on the go and they resolve themselves within different timescales…. i seem to work better this way, rather than outwardly planning what i want to do, having works at different stages kicks off new ideas and approaches.

Tell me about the importance of photography in your art work.
it’s a useful tool for recording things, an aid to my visual memory – i never work directly from photographs, they are just starting points or more often departures – often it’s because the objects or things that i see are transient events and photography serves to record the moment, but the real idea is in my personal thoughts. another aspect of photography which i like is the way in which it forces you to think about subject, composition and colour very quickly… the restriction in using a viewfinder to study things very closely.

When did you start using photography to aid your artwork?
i guess when i got my first digital camera in around 2003 – so not that long ago – i have so many images now it’s quite a headache to keep on top of what to keep and what to erase. i have a habit of taking many photographs of the same scene and then i procrastinate over which is best.

I noticed that your style has adapted over the years from art works such as ‘road/kill’ compared with your ‘works in progress’ in recent years. Is there a particular reason for the changes in style?
no particular reason – space, time, cost of materials, circumstances, the location in which you live/work is always the first point of reference for ideas – actual experiences – i suppose that with the more recent paintings i was seeking something more sculptural, tactile, and more simplified too.

I particularly like ‘mire’. What inspired this piece and does it have a particular meaning behind the painting?
oh yes, mire is about flooding, rain, bogginess, mould, damp, the overwhelming sense of a landscape slowly returning to sludge and slime – a strange ecology – i do follow the news stories such as the increase of algae in rivers posing a threat to aquatic wildlife.

You describe some of your painting to give the impression of pollution, coastal erosion and decay. Are you concerned about the effects of global warming? How do you feel about the current situation regarding pollution and global warming?
yes i am concerned – it seems too many people are concerned with material things, the biggest house, fastest car, the best tv, there’s a sort of selfishness in living today. scientists and experts seem divided on the global warming issue, whether it’s a natural event or manmade… the truth is the landscape, the planet, has altered radically, even in my own lifetime.

What is your idea of ‘good art’?
oh, well – i know what i like! seriously, for me it has to have a particular materiality, something vaguely familar but still has some layers of mystery – something which makes me contemplate, think a lot, makes me connect with something i had forgotten, a memory, an emotion, an awareness of the sense of just being – visceral sums it up. sometimes i get irritated with conceptual art when it’s just a video box on a plinth as the method of portraying the idea is very bland – i won’t knock film as an artform as there are some great arthouse movies and they often make a better job of portraying human emotions (such as tarkovsky) than a ‘video artist’.

Do you have any ideas for future projects?
yes, i have been working on some initial ideas around roads, architecture, scaffolding and maps (again!), in the the sense that nothing is ever finished, things are built, demolished, added to, taken away, new buildings and roads, to create a more efficient and comfortable lifestyle, its getting quite ‘busy’, and very noisy!! let’s slow down a little… all this redevelopment seems at odds with a reuse, recycle culture – shouldn’t we make more use of what we already have?