Tag Archives: artist rejection

on taking a walk around the square

Wednesday 16 February 2011

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’…

on nothing, to be done

Sunday 21 November 2010

lonely road sign
[a country road, a tree, evening…]

it was meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be,
it will happen, it might never happen

my life seems to have become quite beckettian of late…

i can’t claim to know much about the works of samuel beckett, other than what was required reading in my youth (waiting for godot, naturally)… beckett’s sardonic, sparse dialogue seems to make more sense now, in what i will fondly call the middle ages, in the middle of a sometimes barren & lonely landscape, on a road somewhere between what was and what will be… perhaps now is the time to immerse oneself in a closer study of samuel beckett. a quick ‘google’ has unearthed a few texts and many other resources online but nothing can quite match the tangibility of a real book…

these last couple of weeks have been a time of not quite knowing what will happen next; uncertainty is no ally of reassurance… just waiting to hear, waiting in a waiting room, or waiting in a queue, or waiting for the call back, or waiting in especially for the post to arrive (which more often than not is near enough lunchtime) just in case, only to receive a bundle of junk flyers on the benefits of hearing aids, double glazing and sky tv – so, no news is godot news..?

a couple of weeks ago i finally drafted my work proposal for a prospective exhibition, along the lines of this is what i want to do and why, this is what i will do and how. i have been playing around with these notions for ages but the chance to write a proposal gave the work some focus. i will start work on this very soon, just as soon as… well, some waiting is inevitably involved and i could say more about it but – it’s a secret for now…  i know what will happen…


[sketchbook page, vessels, early august 2010]

in these lean times i have, in the evening hours mostly, also been making more of these papier mache vessels. i like the repetition of this activity, it’s like making daily bread. they are made of my own handmade paper – seemingly delicate and yet robust – when i tap them they sound a little like hollowed-out wood or eggshells. the eggshell reference is perhaps no surprise. i like the disparity between lightness and solidity. these little vessels will, in time, have some of the environmental characteristics of my paintings, a bridge between object and subject, between appearance and substance, between fulfilling a need and having another purpose… as seems to be my habit these days, i have lots of little projects or themes in varying degrees of development and completion – is this normal practice for an artist?


[papier mache vessels]

i was prompted to to consider the issue of artistic rejection the other day, while waiting to pay for a book in a charity shop. the next customer in the queue spied that it was a book on turner, turner’s venice. the brief exchange went something like this:

hmm, turner, eh? i don’t like turner.
you don’t like turner? but the nation likes turner!
i like paintings that look like something, that you can recognise.
have you seen any of turner’s paintings – those in the tate?
yes, but i didn’t like them, they were all wishy-washy, nothing…
but turner, like monet, was suffering from failing eyesight they say…
no, couldn’t see anything in them. turner, very overrated i say…
what about turner’s earlier paintings of castles & ruins?
nope, turner, not what i would call proper painting, i’m afraid…

hmm… and i was afraid he would then say he liked paintings of classic cars, aeroplanes or racing horses, so i promptly paid my £3 for the turner book and then left the shop. i suppose it does help to see another person’s point of view, that the work is too different in style from what they have come to expect a landscape painting to look like, that they bring to it their own values and preconceptions about what is art (as we all do) – but art history often gives us a wry reflection on this cultural phenomena – on what is now highly regarded was perhaps once critically rejected… but there again…

in a recent conversation with another artist it was suggested to me that people (people who are likely to buy art from galleries or exhibitions) are most drawn to art that gives them a sense of joy or wonder about the world, hope for life not a reminder of the end of things. i didn’t agree entirely, but perhaps he was also referring to what is known as the ‘grey £’, since he then went on to explain why retired people like gardening so much – a sense of hope in the possibility of renewal. then i thought about vanitas, paintings which i view with a child-like fascination as much as seeing them as darkly symbolic allegories on nature and mortality – the memento mori. perhaps i seek out signs of imperfection & decay for a similar, symbolic significance, that death or decay is inevitable, but in a curious way it also signifies change and renewal…


[intaglio print on paper, mounted on canvas]

this small intaglio print on fabriano paper is from about five years ago. at some point i decided to adhere the print to a canvas, but then it was shelved. sometime later, i took the canvas into work where it hung up in the staffroom for a couple of years – but now it is back home again. it will serve to remind me that i shouldn’t dismiss things so easily…

lastly, this art journal (or blog) is also five years old… so, shall i go on..?

thank you […] is there anything else?
no, i think that’s everything… no wait, there is one last thing…
yes? what’s that?
it’s nothing, i just wanted to ask if….
ok, just wait there while i […] you don’t mind waiting..?
no, i don’t mind waiting, thank you…

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…