Tag Archives: antoni tapies

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]

Curiouser and curiouser!

Thursday 22 June 2006

I’ve just sent an email to a student in art and design, in reply to the following questions. It is apparently to help with her visual research journal (perhaps that is how she found mine). I’ve received a few emails like this from time to time and I thank her curiosity or interest in my work for helping to add a new entry to my journal…

Why do you choose to work in mixed media?

I am not sure it’s always a conscious choice to use mixed media, it’s more intuitive than that, based on what seems right at the time. However, I am very concerned with the physical presence and tactile qualities of materials and the creative possibilities contained thererin. I did my Masters Degree in printmaking and learnt how to grind pigments for ink, pulp paper and use chemicals to alter the physical surfaces of things. I began to enjoy more the experimenting with raw materials (copper, wood, paper, etc) than merely visualising finished images for prints, which could be made by knowledge of a particular process. In my degree show, I did a series of cast paper reliefs on the thirty-six longest rivers of the world and constructed very large composite prints from contour lines of maps using deeply bitten copper and etched linoleum – even then the theme in my work was to do with the topography of the landscape. I still use a lot of basic printmaking methods in my work, such as transfer, surface engraving and monoprinting but these tend to be embedded within the layers of the finished work. Sometimes I am uneasy with calling them paintings since I rarely use a brush!

How does your photography link to your paintings?

Photography is often (but not always) more immediate in terms of realising an interesting image than painting. On some occasions I have been back to a location at particular times to take more photographs so that I get the image I want – light plays a big part. Whilst they are standalone images they do influence my other work to a degree – as ongoing visual references. Photography definitely provides a clearer narrative (its a real situation not reconstructed), but mixed media has a unique visual language of its own – a strong physical presence through the combination of media used – straight photography sometimes lacks these more emotive and visceral qualities. I do not consider my photographs to be artworks in themselves since they are so easily arrived at – but they do provide a complementary glimpse into my artistic concerns. A big influence on me has been the work of the Boyle family – their painted constructions are breathtaking, living photographs in 3D, if that makes sense. I would absolutely love to get a glimpse into their working methods! However, in my paintings (as mentioned above) the materials seem to take control, and so none of them are a direct copy or facsimile of a location, though of course I could not paint them without having first observed some object or detail in the landscape.

Why do you title many of your paintings edgescape with a number but the photographs have different titles?

It’s a word I made up (though it may already exist!) – edge refers to locations or places which are marginal, peripheral, and to the physical edges of materials (even a simple line has two edges), scape signifies the lie of the land (as in original meaning/origin of landscape). Together they seemed to sum up my feeling of being both an observer of something real and yet also to do with the visual perception (and memories) of such subject matter and the finished artwork. As mentioned above, although derived from landscape, something changes in the translation from looking through to making so that I end up with something which only hints at its origin, which could also be perceived afresh when pictorial logic is removed (ie, a representational image). I also didn’t want the works to be misinterpreted, rather they are very open to interpretation (to illicit a more intuitive or abstract response). So, the numbering system began – they link in many ways – in timescale usually (date started or completed) but also it helps to see them as an ongoing series. I’ve often felt duty bound to add a subtitle but these usually refer to the influence or use of a particular material in the making of it (as in Sylte for silt). Leonardo Da Vinci said in his Treatise on Painting, to look at the mud on walls, ashes from a fire, for here you will see beautiful new things – pretty advanced thinking for the time, but he was a scientist of sorts too. Regarding the photographs, as mentioned above, they’re real, truthful, so the title is merely descriptive and are not intended to influence any reading or interpretation of the image.

Which artists have inspired you and why?

Da Vinci, as mentioned above for starters. Rothko was one of the first modern artist’s work I saw in the flesh at the tender age of seventeen – I was astounded that pure colour could generate so much contemplation! Pollock too at this time since I really connected with the physical making of the work and the heartache behind it – not everyone gets it of course, but I think it’s quite lyrical in essence. Over the years, I have been inspired by the work of many artists but perhaps more recently I would definitely say late Constable and Turner for their abandonment of formality, Schwitters, Tapies, Burri for their unconventional or unorthodox use of materials, Twombly for sublimely poetic works which have a genuine, unadulterated touch of hand, and now Anselm Kiefer – whose work is brutal and visually arresting but also quite intriguing and beautiful to look at on a formal level, despite the quite deeply moving subject matter. I suppose I must also thank Picasso for using collage in his Cubist painting period – prior to this, painting had very much followed a trajectory of pictorial illusion.

Thanks for your questions – it’s been good to sit down and answer one by one – I almost feel like a student again too – validating my work to my tutors!

P.s Anyone reading this, feel free to email similar (or different) questions. They make for easy journal entries!