Tag Archives: artspeak

some things i have been working on

Monday 27 June 2011

an old sheet, pinned up on the wall, especially framed for a sunday viewing…

[sheet pinned to a wall, 2011, mixed media on cotton]

in the lower section of this large abstract painting, we see a delicate layering of muted colours, a dash of yellow interacting with its colour complementary, a violet grey. notice how some colours have subtly stained the fabric, creating a halo effect or aura. this appears to be a very meditative & complex painting, lyrical abstraction doing what it does best, skillfully combining philosophical thought with material process…

let’s take a closer look at this work. in this section of the composition, a solid coal-black shape is juxtaposed with its nemesis, a rising trail of smokey grey, and a deft flick of verdurous green entering the picture plane lower left could allude to the possibility of regeneration from the contaminated ashes. it would seem that all aspects of mankind’s material world are exhibited here – from fossil fuels and their pollutants to the transient, small elements of nature in the quiet unfurling of a leaf…

moving on, we arrive at an intriguing abstract composition, which finds a compelling reference to american action painting, but it also suggests the philosophical exploration of a distant galaxy, looking to outer space, constellations, the milky way, pushing beyond the known planetary frontiers. this is a painting that perceptually ponders on the big questions in life, the universe and just about everything else. the work is made complete by the antique gold frame, reinforcing the ideological concept of travelling through the continuum of space & time…

[cosmic rhythm I, 2011, acrylic on tempered glass, dimensions unknown]

on closer inspection, one can delight in the visual intensity of the overlapping & colliding discs and platelets of rust, olive, ochre, mauve, white and grey, which have some echoes of patterns & forms found in nature..

the artist’s hotplate; it’s a very useful (and used) working surface…

is this a referential nod to van gogh’s chair? (but this is a stool, and it’s missing a pipe and tobacco)

[still life of a painter’s stool, 2002 to now, mixed media on wood]

this is an early work on wood, one of a series of studio still lifes, realised at around the same time as still life of a painter’s jug. it exhibits a characteristically reworked, encrusted surface. the artist has said of this work: ‘it deals with the notion of placement, alignment and subsequent sequence of actions within a given space, dialectically positioned between the opposing forces of standing up and sitting down. it seeks to answer the question – am i sitting comfortably? i also view it as a personal benchmark of my creative process, as it supports the works i make, although i wouldn’t put it on a pedestal’

above, a close-up of the dense, layered surface. below, a serendipitous spot of vermillion red immediately draws attention to the small smatter of paint, implying some key pointers to the artist’s influences, including impressionism, abstract expressionism and post-op art. there is a discreet, psychologcal hitchcockian reference too…

here is the artist’s painting box. apparently, no paints are stored in here, but it is a good height on which to place painterly-type things while working on a painting. this seemingly accidental composition of small vessels and green drapery draws some interesting parallels with flemish still life painting and also the paintings of cézanne, recalling the unfinished painting ‘still life with water jug’ in the national gallery, london…

[still life with plastic pots, 2011, dimensions variable]

to the rear of this composition one can just make out a long strip of white paper  – the loose, gestural brushmarks serendipitously also echo those of the aforementioned cézanne painting…

and seen here, more freely applied brushstrokes and energetic daubs of paint, in a visual concordance of violet-brown and green-grey, the artist’s chosen colour palette of the day…

in this particular work, the artist has explored the transparent new media of acetate film, incorporating chance and process to realise the final composition – it’s a readymade, reusable painting palette – a robust and yet highly flexible surface to work on…

[watching paint dry, acetate film; about four and a half minutes]

after studying the intricate surface patterns & textures evident in this small celluloid artwork for only a short while, one is reminded of max ernst‘s surrealist abstract landscape paintings – a primordial forest or a post-apocalyptic vision of the world…

last weekend i started and finished a painting (for a change). i first pinned a piece of canvas to the wall (on top of the dust sheet exhibited above). i worked into the wee, small hours to try to finish this painting. it is difficult to paint under artificial lights. i stretched the canvas afterwards, then varnished the painting. the painting was an enjoyable exercise in trying out a representational way of working but i am not that happy with the outcome; the dimension and scale feel wrong, it has become too dark & murky, the surface is too shiny and the texture of the canvas interferes with the transparent layers of paint. this painting is nonetheless appropriately titled, in all regards & references, green water

[green water, acrylic on canvas, 60cm x 100cm]

[green water, detail]

current exhibitions

Reunion Refresh @ Reunion Gallery, 5 Feb – 22 Oct 2011

HWAT exhibition 2011 @ Harleston Gallery, 18 June to 11 July 2011

how to be a contemporary artist

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Before you make or do any art, you must think alot about stuff… and perhaps read some books by notable philosophers such as Baudrillard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Bataille, Heidegger, Foucault… These writers will change your view of the world. It will not be enough to say I am inspired by… or want to encapsulate so-and-so quality…

It is much more academic to explore themes such as the human condition, communication, personal identity, gender, society, religion, politics, culture, technology, science and nature, the planet, the universe. Your perceived or intended audience is always paramount – to whom are you communicating and why? You will need to challenge accepted notions or perceptions of seemingly ordinary happenings or mundane objects for it to be received as high art. For instance, to create art within an architectural space, you could reinvent or redefine it using a range of non-traditional media, such as video projections, suspended objects, sound, anything which alters or distorts reality and brings into question the relevance of past, present or future events.

Artworks which are time-based, either through a series of moving images or performance-related or re-enacted (preferably through a willing public engagement) are good visitor attractors. Deconstructing, recycling or simply re-siting found objects is also a very good idea as the physical, tactile quality of materials reflect a sense of the cultural or historical perspective you wish to convey.

Light, ambient sound, layers of transparency or the invisibility of materials will project ideas of fragility, stillness or transience, and can also draw attention to the surrounding space (the context). Solid-type objects act as deliberate obstructions or interventions within the enclosed space, instigating a much-needed critical debate between the viewer(s), the artist’s intentions and the physical artwork, which is a core principle in site-specific, installation art. However, absurd juxtaposition, overblown kitsch, horror and vulgarity should be used with the utmost care; if it’s not Duchampian, Koonsish, or made by a couple (same or other), then it’s quite likely to be viewed as art for art’s sake, simply masquerading as risque, thought-provoking art.

A supporting artist statement for your work acts as a press release, editorial and exhibition review material for the (sometimes lazy) art media, so use communicative, dynamic words such as: subvert, intervene, integrate, interrogate, challenge, alter, extend, locate, dislocate, unauthorised, re-enacted, absence, presence, liminality, boundaries, thematic, critical, enquiry, investigation, systems. Highlighting historical references are very good for contextualising your ideas and authenticating the overall purpose of the work.

The use of graphical maps, charts, diagrams, linked events, repetitive processes or controlled systems of making, taxonomies, collections or categorisations are all very good methods and strategies to give a deeper sense of narrative (and deep meaning) in the artworks. You could also refer to the work of other respected artists, key thinkers or writers, but only back this up with a quote if it acts as the starting point or departure for your own work – you do not want to be narrowly defined by their work, unless appropriation is a key aspect of your practice.

Your current strategy or approach to your work (art) defines your artistic practice, so always begin an artist’s statement by stating this body/collection/series of work questions assumptions, highlights differences, challenges preconceptions, etc. Other words to convey an element of astute professionalism in your art/work include: engagement, debate, transfer, examine, authorship, ownership, relationship, establishment, globalisation, issues, quasi, methodology, schema, phenomenological.

Paid projects are sometimes referred to as artist commissions, whether for permanent public display or a private gallery space. Unpaid or unfunded series of works could be process or concept-based and this can usefully be referred to as thematic research and development, so include it in your resume for any future artist funding proposals, international art competitions, conventions, symposia, events or exhibition submissions.

So, to summarise; identify an interesting context, location or past event in which to develop or produce your artwork – this could be in response to a call for interest in a public art commission, a themed exhibition or an application to a major funding organisation such as the Arts Council. Research the history and culture of the location or event. Find and make new connections between that event and your own history or life experiences. Perhaps combine some ready-made or unconventional materials in your proposed artwork to convey a particular perspective or message – this need not be the answer or the resolution of an idea as art is much more tantalising to its audience when it subtly questions things or contains some deliberate ambiguity.

It will be important to build a network of associated technical specialists in which to call upon to make the actual artwork – after all, you are not a qualified or experienced cinematographer, electrician, architect or engineer (yet). Acknowledge that the artwork will have to be validated by some form of public response or engagement. Perhaps make it with many miniscule or moving parts or construct it incredibly large in scale and site it somewhere quite desolate but potentially open to the public and arts media, as anything that fits snugly in an A4 envelope or the back of a volvo estate will only be seen as sold-out commercial art, of little interest to serious commentators, critics or curators of art.

Lastly, if you can do all of the above within a practice-based PhD, then you’re really cooking on creative gas!

P.s. Of course, this has been a gentle satire on the making of contemporary art, but much of it actually holds true. Artists should not be just defined by their chosen method of work (so, an artist likes to use paint, the vehicle of painting is vacuous without a purpose). The reason to make work is what defines and shapes artists, who we are and how we see things – agents of change perhaps not, but artists should seek to continually explore ideas both within and beyond the immediate context in which they live and work. Materials or processes are chosen as the most appropriate concrete, visual language in which to realise the original intentions…

This thesis is still a work in progress, I am still learning….

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…