Category : Exhibitions, Books, Film & more

Project 5.3: Locating Titles

The title of a work might act as a portal. Going to a museum or gallery, visitors tend to look at the name tag (often accompanied with listening to the audio guide at their ears). What always irritates me, first a surprise, then annoying, is how artists name works ‘untitled’ just to add another title in brackets:

 

‘Untitled (this is my title)’, 2019

 

What does this tell me? According to Danto (2006) , the title differentiates art from ‘mere things’. Mere things as a chair is just an object, a chair. Naming it like ‘Chair’, 2019 can place it into the realm of art. Naming a work is an artist’s gesture, reminding me of baptism, an un-named work not existing?

To name it ‘Untitled‘ can make the difference. Finally, I can write something on the name tag on the wall. It is one of my own experiences with recent local exhibitions, to provide a title and a price tag. As if these two are acknowledging as the final proof that it is really a piece of art.

The feature image above, a sketch I made during UVC1,  has no title (!?- is this already a title ??). The title is the work, or it is within the work, a statement, an intention?  If I consider giving a title to name it, perhaps it is just that- empty blackness filled with text.

It resonates how On Kawara (1932 – 2014) integrated the title as work. His painting series Today, 1966 – a repetitive series of painting the words of the day of making the painting for nearly five decades.  What normally would appear on the back of a painting, year or date of making, became the work as such. On Kawara applied a rigid working sequence in making these paintings. Interestingly, he also made for each painting, varying in size, a cardboard box, often lined with newspaper clippings. He considered the context of making by being informed by the country he stayed at that time. Overall, a massive archive created, a calendar materialised through painting. I could imagine that these minimalistic paintings turned into icons, as backdrop as decoration. The temporality of a day imprinted for ever in a painting.

It reminds me, although completely different and not made over that period of time, of Bruce Naumann soundscape installation Days, 2009. Multiple loudspeakers installed as a corridor, the viewer passes through, and can listen to the overlapping speeches from each loudspeaker, with someone saying the one day of the week. Those works are archives, lists, announcement of time in space. The title – the work – speech. I am intrigued by considering language not as written but as spoken words. 

 

An Oak Tree – Michael Craig-Martin, 1973

What is the title and what is the work? It is a three part piece of work: the title, the photographic image of ‘assorted objects’ and the text in the form of an interview. 

A sculpture, an installation?  With a longer text joining it, perhaps the text is the work and the sculpture is an illustration of the text? One tends to see text always as name text, guiding information as in leaflets written by a curator. The title is the gesture of the artist (always?). Artist writing tend to be either essays or something else. Joining visual and text. Since DADA a habit, expressed through self-made publication, quite similar to what we are doing as a group of students with edge-zine.

Can text be art? Writers, authors do it all the time. Are visual artist’s less prone to consider text as art? 

Craig-Martin made this work 1973, at the height of conceptual art. It resonates with conceptions of ‘Art as Idea’ as explored by Joseph Kosuth who quoted Donald Judd’s expression “if someone calls it art, it’s art” (2003). The idea is the gesture that turns anything into a piece of art. 

How serious does one takes it? In context of conceptual art Oak Tree might be just an institutional critique against commodification of art. Does art need to be easily understandable? This work might also reflect a viewpoint that one can’t argue with artist’s intentions. It is not science, it is not objective. One large portion of art is to ask questions (my view), what Oak Tree certainly does. 

To write the text in the form of an interview (Q and A) – apparently both sides written by the artist (!) – could mean to engage more and to be less obvious, didactic. 

Overall, what can one argue with? It reminds my of schizophrenia, a parallel reality that is true from a subjective point of view. 


Image:

  • featured image. Schaffeld, S.J. (2017) collage of screenshot found online

Reference:

  • Craig-Martin, M. (2019) ‘Michael Craig-Martin’ At: www.michaelcraigmartin.co.uk/work-index#/early-work/ (Accessed  29 July 2019).Danto, A. C. (2006) ‘Works of Art and More Real Things’, in: The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,,pp. 1 – 32.
  • Guggenheim (2019) ‘Paintings: Today Series/Date Paintings’ At: https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/paintings-today-seriesdate-paintings  (Accessed  25 July 2019). 
  • Kosuth, J. (2003) ‘Art After Philosophy (1969)’, in: Harrison, C. and Wood, P. (eds.) Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Malden, MA; Oxford, UK; Victoria, AUS: Blackwell Publishing,pp. 852-861. VIIA – 11.
  • Manchester , E. (2002) Michael Craig-Martin – An Oak Tree, 1973, At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/craig-martin-an-oak-tree-l02262 , London: Tate.(Accessed  25 July 2019). 
  • MoMA (2019) ‘Bruce Nauman: Days – MoMAJune 2–August 23, 2010’ At: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1057 (Accessed  25 July 2019).
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Project 5.1: Working with text

Words, text, literature do have a long history as time-based, linear narrative against visual arts as spatial art, the latter considered as unable to convey a narrative.  This dilemma was explored by Lessing in his book ‘Laocoon’, 1766; or  ‘on the Limits of Painting and Poetry’), an old time fight between both art forms. Time to mix and merge.

Cut-up as technique

Consciousness is a cut-up; Life is a cut up – William S Burroughs (Kahler, 2014:12)

Ken Hollings described how cut-up has been applied (Hollings, 2015) as a DADA technique since the 1920s with Tristin Tzara (Ragged Lion Press, 2016):  cut out words from a text and randomly re-arranged into a new poem.  The same technique can be applied with all king of media, e.g. sounds and video. Quite hip-hop and fragmented. Disruption and disturbance as a key aspect of the work.  Hollings explains that this initial experimental technique became a main stream part of popular culture and daily lives.

Text – Words – Speech – Sound – Motion – Chance

Home tape recorder became a trendy device with William S. Burroughs (William S. Burroughs – Topic, 2017), as an opposition against ‘bourgeois literature’: to record, to playback and stop randomly, and add a new sequence – resulting in a new juxtaposition, a start for a new writing. Burroughs also questioned how random is randomly. Nowadays, this technique is widely applied by DJs,  called scratching or scrubbing of a turntable (DJ decks work that way even with digital files). In music, sampling relates to this, allocating pitches to various sampled sounds, that can be played with a keyboard normally.

Bottomline, mix, cut and re-assemble any ‘raw material’ in order to layer, to disrupt orders, to break narratives, and to seek new ways of experiencing similar things a-fresh. The human brain is wired to make meaning out of chaos, a question of survival. This doesn’t mean that those re-assembled things can make one dizzy and uncomfortable.

Example of this dizziness or even  non-sense of stretching the words in its plasticity can be seen/read in Kurt Schwitters’ poem as (Morley, 2003:60)

lanke tr gl
pe pe pe pe pe
ooka ooka ooka ooka
lanke tr gl
pii pii pii pii ..

Words become visual, and logically cut-up as technique for collage was used by Cubist artists, e.g Pablo Picasso or Georges Braque. Fragmented text giving the impression of scale with a flattening effect.

Cut.up, collage, tape recorders and today online tools are democratic devices for everyone, like the idea of zines, simple, low-end, creative.  David Bowie mentioned that he used a computer program doing the cut-up work for him, and taken the results to work from there (BBC News, 2016). One example of online randomizer: https://onlinerandomtools.com/shuffle-words

To use other materials, words, text could be considered the same way as using other’s images; collage, pastiche. appropriation; raising questions of copyright and ownership that nowadays became a blurred idea of difference. 

The above quote from Burroughs can be related to today’s social media life, with a short attention span, swallowing huge amount of information (written, mostly visual, as who can read texts if not visually?). Today, cut-up techniques are called twitter etc.

Chop the painting

Cut-up as chopping and dicing brings me to the idea of chopping, dicing my own discarded paintings. The physical action of cutting, also reminds me of cutting through the skin. Scalpel as the scissor, paper as skin, pictures as words. Why to use words as pictures are similarly signs with deferred meaning?

The film director Gus Van Sant, described by Kahler as ‘a gay director of films’, is a creator of ‘surreal or dream imagery’ with a ‘painter’s aesthetic’(Kahler, 2014:1) and he appropriated Burroughs cut-up method for his films. Another reference for him was Eisenstein’s montage method, to juxtapose two unrelated scenes to create new meaning. Van Sant’s multiple cut-ups from other narrative do ‘move the linear narrative forward’. One of his visual cues are ‘time-lapse and shape shifting clouds as metaphors for change and the fleeting nature of life’ (ibid:6). An interesting a for me new Western film technique, informed by the Western normalised way of reading – left to right,  is described by Kahler at the example of van Sant’s film ‘Promised Land’ (2012) where entering a screen from the left symbolises the good, the protagonist side, and entering the screen from the right symbolises the villain, a visual narrative of showing conflict. Van Sant applies this in controversy order, creating a twist in narrative. In the work ‘One Step Big Shot’, Van Sant applied cut-up technique to create new images from snippets of portrait photographs to create ‘new beings .. from elements of others’ (ibid:12)

Text and Visuals

I want to name our pains, I want to keep our names, … Words and images drink the same wine. There is no purity to protect. – Marlene Dumas (Morley, 2003:9)

Morley (2003) described in his book four kind of interactions between text and visuals:

  1. trans-media, e.g., surveys and art critics
  2. multi-media with coexist closely in same space, e.g shop signs, comic books, Fra Angelico ‘Annunciation’,1432-3 or Marlene Dumas ‘Sold against one’s will’, 1990-91
  3. mixed-media with less ‘intrinsic coherence’, e.g. Raymond Pettibon ‘no title (just what was), 2001
  4. inter-media as a hybrid form of visual-text, writing as visual language, e.g signature of Albrecht Duerer, the Book of Kells

Especially, the fourth kind resonates with text that one cannot read when not learned the language, e.g. Cyrillic or Arabic script. The portraits photographs of Shirin Neshat an example, text written over the printed photograph, a poem, a secret language with quite decorative appeal for those not able to read. A rhythm and aesthetic of visual text in itself. I learned to speak and write Ukrainian and Russian language while I stayed for roughly three years in Ukraine, the west and the East, Ukrainian to speak in the West, Russian to speak in the East. Language as mean for communication, to touch the people living there, to be present.

Vincent van Gogh did appropriate foreign text as visual compositional device, e.g. The Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige), 1887, informed by Japanese wood cuts.  Drawing and painting of letters or signs a question of coherence (ibid:26-27).


Art Practitioners

Sarah Impey (Impey, 2019), a textile artist, makes quilts, that could be considered somehow between mixed-media and inter-media.  In some of her works, words are following a visual order, e.g. Iris Recognition. In other works, the words are dominantly laid over a backdrop, more independent and separate from it, e.g. Meeting Point. The work Interconnections, seem to take the linear syntax of text into the spatial realm of images, phrases as interconnection of words turning into chain-links interconnected visually.

There are wide and varied examples of artworks that use text, each has a particular intention behind it in terms of what the artist wants to communicate to, or elicit, in the viewer.

Annie Vought cuts away the negative space from enlarged handwriting text from found or written letters on paper, making the words a fragile experience. She said about her work ‘intricately dissecting the negative spaces with an Exact-o knife. The handwriting and the lines support the structure of the cut paper, keeping it very strong, despite its apparent fragility. The sculptural quality of the letter allows the viewer to examine the care it took to render each piece in relationship to what is actually being said…. I believe that I am just beginning to understand paper as a medium – its strength and fragility.’ (ArtistADay). Her cut-paper work series ‘Ideas are Objects’, informed by the book Metaphors we live by from Lakoff and Johnson, sounds like a critic against Kosuth’s ‘art as idea’ statement. Metaphors as communication of invisible images of the world.

At an earlier exhibition visit to Martha Roesler and Hito SteyerlWar Games’ , the first room was filled with suspended from the ceiling transparent banners with text imprinted from Hannah Arendt. The viewer is invited to walk through a text. However, I feel that this technique already became a trope, suspended text or words in the middle of a room (one just has to image search it). In a more recent exhibition at Serpentine Gallery, Hito Steyerl filled the rooms with vibrating and pulsing light, images and text in various outer turning the entire place into 4D book. And through a phone app, she applied AR layer of images and text onto a an external reality.

Joseph Kosuth His work Titled (Art as Idea as Idea (Idea)), 1967 can be seen similarly as Weiner’s work in context of conceptual art and as the visual counterpart to his writing ‘Art after Philosophy (1969)  (Kosuth, 2003). An upscaled white on black copy from a dictionary, term ‘idea’.  Another example for such conceptual use of ‘art as idea’ is the work Secret Painting (Ghost), 1968 that forces the viewer to look at a content that is not there. The artist’s words as proclamation and statement that can’t be rejected (Morley, 2003:146)

Lawrence Weiner: ‘Every artist’s work has a title. Titles are my work’ (Morley, 2003:143). His work Earth to Earth Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust, 1970 embodies exactly this: the title is the work, written in capital letters on a gallery wall. That’s it. The title in itself is the idea to contemplate on. Interesting to read Weiner’s notion that his work exists even without the inscription on the wall, as if the title is the artist’s immaterial gesture.

This reminds me how more and more exhibitions are nowadays juxtaposed with writing on the wall, either artist quotes, titles, reference – anything goes. 

Jenny Holzer used text as statement, as utterances, as expression of feelings on urban bill boards. Neon light texts with the aesthetic of advertisement to make people stop and ponder about deeper meaning. Words as more punchy that images, a disruption of imagery. Her short phrases built on semiotics and syntax, the linguistic structure of expression. At times the phrases seem content-wise paradox, e.g. IF THE PROCESS STARTS I WILL KILL THIS BABY A GOOD WAY.. Her works reminds me of the neon work Tracey Emin installed last year at St Pankreas train station in London: ‘I WANT MY TIME WITH YOU’ , a more personal and intimate expression relevant to the site of traveling and train station, arriving and welcoming, sharing between two people what matters.

Fiona Banner: I was fascinated to read about her work ‘Full Stops’, enlarged full stop letters from various type fonts that also gave each one its title. Virginia Button (1998) described this work of the full stop as representing ‘an ending but also signifies a beginning, an in between or a gap. Like the polystyrene, which is used as a packing material or ‘space-filler’, the full stop is transient. The names of the fonts are displayed on accompanying packing boxes, providing a possible titling system for the sculptures. The boxes also reinforce the idea that the full stops are transportable and multilingual.’ Building on the notion of a letter as metaphor. It is the syntax, less the semantics of text that can give another meaning. 

Jaqueline Humphries: Perhaps not the artist who applied written words in her paintings, but she appropriates emoijs, kind of contemporary verbal-visual language. For those, where social media is part of our life, and how to text without emoijs? She uses laser-cut stencils to rub the paint through those opening, leaving the emojis traces onto the surface. She also transformed ASCII codes of her earlier paintings, printed onto a support to laser-cut and do the same thing. Own or cultural memories embedded into new work , creating new meaning  kind of digital cut-up meeting painting (Schaffeld, 2019).

Christian Bonnefoi (2019) explored through cut-up collage as a dispositif, the disruption of temporal and at times paradoxical ideas. He uses mylar as in-between layer to partly conceal underlying text and images. Signs from the background became compositional elements of above layers. I find the layered approach and interplay of opaque and transparent intriguing, e.g Babel I, De la sphère 90°, 1978 or Babel 24 R, 2016-2017 or Janapa I, 1978 (Campoli Presti, 2018). The rather abstract cut-up shapes are placed in order to create a new work.

During my visit at the Drawing Room, London ‘From the Inside Out.’  I found other examples of how text, words, letter could be embedded into the fabric of a work.  The title reminded me of Elisabeth Grosz association of the Moebius strip with the self and the body. Athena Papadopoulos. In her work Even Deader than Dead Grapevine she embedded words, letter interwoven with materials traditionally connotated with ‘female’ activities.

William Kentridge, knowns for his animated drawings, installed as large scale performances through screening alongside installed sculptures, used words in various ways. I find the exhibition books NO IT IS ! (Kentridge 2016) an good examples of a book design and layout with merged texts, words, and images, as a fluid interrogation of his work. I felt intrigued by his work series Breathe, Dissolve, Return (2008) for its fluidity of visual and text and the aspect of time, fragmentation, and dissolving boundaries. All three are short films of around 4-5 minutes, initially intended to be projected on the fire curtain in the opera house in Venice; at the time when the orchestra is tuning the instruments and the audience is coming in. All three works are about disintegration, of material structures. Dissolve is visual only, Return includes the title as visual word, and Breathe consists of collaged texts with the title written on a piece of paper stuck to the background wall and a dominant ‘da capo’ placed as words at the bottom of the work. 

William Kentridge - NO IT IS ! (2016) Dissolve -Return - Breathe

William Kentridge – NO IT IS ! (2016) Dissolve -Return – Breathe // process as work

 


Conclusion

  • Words: statements, feeling, visual matter, physical matter, in-between spaces, paradox juxtapositions, appropriating other medium specific appearance: as sculpture, as advertisement, as fabric, as collage, as wall writing etc.
  • I was surprised that I applied apparently many of cut-up technique ideas already in my parallel project, Through my collaboration with music student Vicki, I not only applied a mixed cut-up of sound and images. But also the sequence, often disruptive, with apparent no connection to each other, could be considered as cut-up. 
  • During my collaboration, i was already intrigued by speech, something I learned now can be done as cut-up as well (Hollings, 2015). Who says that words need to be visual? I like to push conventional ideas (since Gutenberg ed al) that words are speech, quite resonating with ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1) No surprise that Morley referred to this back to a time when the spoken word was conceived with the ‘highest status'(Morley, 2003:14).
  • I would like to explore more the in-between space of text, words, speech and visuals. The work ‘full stop’ of Fiona Banner might be one direction of space and absence.
  • Words can disrupt in a more punchy visual imagery, especially when overwhelming like in urban centers as Jenny Holzer’s works show. Another image would have had less impact.
  • Overall, I am less impressed to use words as text as statements, I am more intrigued by appropriating text-words-conventions, e.g. deferred meaning, paradox, spaces in-between. And I do wonder whether words and text in that sense can not be expanded to notations, to music scores. Reading as way to create work and meaning, like a score as iconic imprint of music created in a different space.
  • I felt inspired by Kentridge’s process based animated images with one words dissolving and merging with the overall composition.

 

 


Reference:

 

 

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Writing on the Wall – a review

‘Writing on the Wall’, an exhibition at at Waddington Custot, London

Before going to the exhibition, I was wondering what to expect: graffiti, scribbling at the wall, ancient signs. Considering contemporary art and my coursework for part 5 on words, I had mixed feelings about it: would it inform my work? Would be distant me?

The website and the joining text is comprehensive and complete. Nearly all works (from Brassaï, Vlassis Caniaris, Jean Dubuffet, Manolo Millares, Antoni Tàpies and Cy Twombly) are visible on the galleries site, what I found not only helpful for me and for sharing, but also a good practice that makes it obsolete to take photographs on site, what I find sometime rather distracting. Additionally, the exhibition book is online accessible through issuu

The joining text had a quote of Henri Lefebvre The Urban Revolution, 1970:

The urban space of the street is a place for talk … A place where speech becomes writing. A place where speech can become “savage” and, by escaping rules and institutions, inscribe itself on walls. – Henri Lefebvre

I was thinking of those marks left by humans on walls, but also on other public spaces and objects, becoming personalised, inscribed as collective memory.

To inscribe

This word is more than writing text on a support, using tools or hand and fingers, using ink, paint, or just inscription. Inscription is incision, reminding me of human skin and people inscribing not their flesh, tattoo, bruises, scars carving, pinging, cutting. From making a mark as a picture to making a mark to get relieve or to feel oneself. Self-harming or harming or just part of identity?

Wall

Walls are protective layers, with the reading of Flusser, are not only a facade against the outside but also an enabler for meaning of the inside, a metaphor for a double dilemma (Flusser, 1993:27-32): to protect and to encapsulate, to look out and to look inside of oneself. The wall as a surface, a skin for projections and illusions.

Are public walls the skin of a society? -> To raise attention to? To leave marks?

Are human skins becoming a public wall? -> we expose ourselves more and more today, selfies, selfies in our inside rooms, surveillance, we make ourselves vulberable, we turn into public property.

I do feel a strong resonance between walls and skin, especially in context of my parallel project, medical imaging. My assignment 4 work was more about the skin as a material with plasticity and resistance. I don’t know whether it would make sense to expand to walls, perhaps the wall as a backdrop? Too flat. Skin closing a hole in a wall? too literal. Paint as skin as wall – vulnerable. It brings back to me my work done as personal project for PoP1: the decay of residential building, the breaking apart of bricks leaving a hole that allows to gaze inside. Another metaphor for medical imaging.

Considering my coursework, speech inscribed as text, could not also speech be uttered without text? Painting is visual speech, words added to it would possibly add another ‘speech’ to it, or just enforces a speech? Often the way it is done in propaganda, ads, or other affirmative visual statements.

What could be more subtle for doing it? And by subtle? Are bold messages less arty than ambiguous ones? It seems as if the wall to write onto, to inscribe into is a balancing surface between arty, propaganda and protest.

The works in the exhibition are either informed by found wall visual (e.g Brassaï, Dubuffet) or they are appropriating the mediums and materiality of the wall (e.g Tàpies, Twombly or Caniaris). Somehow, I feel uncomfortable of some works and perhaps attitudes, to appropriate works outside the art space made by people with in quite different conditions, to consider those as a new ‘raw’ and direct expression just to be applied and transformed into an art work as art-object. I always feel this sense when reading about ‘art brut’ and outsider art. At times, I am wondering whether those works are documentary or effect. Twombly considered scribbling and inscription as a performative act by deconstruction written language in its gestural aspects. Perhaps, this is closer to how I would like to approach the act of visually mark-making and text.

—-

Comment on gallery space: I felt the space, the rooms joined together, calming and relaxing. As mostly in galleries, the space is not crowded, me mostly the only visitor, at times one or two others. Passing by, not impacting space perception much. The entrance wall was covered with the work Duat (1994) of Antoni Tàpies, a large frieze size 250x600cm.


Image

  • featured image: collage from screenshot (Waddington Custot)  and photograph taken on site

Reference:

  • Flusser, V. (1993) Dinge und Undinge – Phänomenologische Skizzen, Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag
  • Waddington Custot (2019) Writing on he Wall – Exhibition (17 May – 08 Aug 2019), At: https://www.waddingtoncustot.com/exhibitions/133/ (Accessed 21 July 2019) :
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mono-ha // encounter // ephemeral and transient

While being in London, searching for galleries open on Monday, and eventually went to Cardi Gallery, London for a mono-ha exhibition: ‘Tribute to MONO-HA’ (13 March – 26th July 2019).

I had some idea about mono-ha, in the Western World often related to ‘the School of Things’. 

Another view on this Japanese art post-war art movement is described by Toothpicker

‘their aim was not to ‘create’ but ‘rearrange’ ‘things’, drawing attention to the interdependent relationships between these ‘things’ and the space surrounding them.’ – Toothpicker

 

I was intrigued by a wall text by Nobuo Sekine 

‘What we are doing is finding ways to have encounters today’ – Nobuo Sekine

An encounter of space between   

things – matter – mind

 

Fig 1: mono-ha and Nobuo Sekine - encounter

Fig 1: mono-ha and Nobuo Sekine – encounter

 

I was really fascinated by a rather simple approach, an approach to an essence of encounters. Not in a Platonist way of essence of an idea as transcendent truth, more as an essence of what matters. 

I was relfecting after my visit for quite some time about these words and along some words from Lee Ufan who stated that their works were made for a show and to be destroyed afterwards. Firstly, I was thinking that they actually physically destroyed the material as such, but it was more about the destruction of the installments, or the work, e.g Lee Ufan’s Relatum III (a place within a certain situation), 1970 (Toothpicker). A work of ropes tied around a pillar and wooden blocks to hold them in place. Each new installation they responded to the respective site to

re-arrange

things a-new, a-fresh

An encounter in-between, on site, in a physical space and place. Perhaps, I was impressed as my visit followed our performance and viewing event two days before. I could experience a difference between materiality in space and screen based art. A truly embodied encounter.

And I felt some resonance with my recent assignment works, latex-paint-skin, stretching as encounter of forces

Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld, assignment 4 work , detail

Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld, assignment 4 work , detail

 

 


Images:

  • Featured image: Screenshot from https://cardigallery.com/exhibitions/ and https://cardigallery.com/exhibitions/ 
  • Fig. 1: Collages form photographs taken in the exhibition 
  • Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld – assignment 4 work

Reference:

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Oscar Murillo ‘Manifestation’ at David Zwirner, London

Oscar Murillo (b. 1983) is shortlisted for this year Turner prize. He went through an amazing painting career with global single shows at major places and fairs. 

His large paintings were on show titled ‘Manifestation’ at David Zwirner Gallery, London (June 8—July 26, 2019).

Entering the gallery was a fab experience, as most works are made this year, the oil paint is still fresh:

His large scale painting contrasted with my visit to Frank Bowling at Tate Britain the day before. As Bowling’s work seemed to some extent more contrived, Murillo’s painting seemed to convey a more pulsing atmosphere. The colors are brighter, the texture of the surface more embedded in the picture plane, felt more coherent. But perhaps this was just my in the moment experience. But it definitely inspired me just to paint along.

One aspect that apparently went through most of his paintings, were a split compositional frame, at times left and right side, at times different sections. Similar to Bowling, Murillo used collaged figurative elements, embedded in the picture plane. Another aspect I find interesting, was stitching. Also seen in some of Bowling’s works, Murillo stitched some canvas pieces together (see Fig). I am wondering whether ‘stitching’ canvas is a trendy thing to do… In reminiscence to textile and fabrics was also the way of ‘curtain-hanging’  of another painting.

 ‘A lot of this mark-making is a release of anxiety and physical energy.’ – Oscar Murillo (interview with Peter Aspden, 2019)

Many of his paintings are an expression of physical energy released in the process of making. A notion that I feel resonates with my latest assignment work on latex-paint-skin, though the physical forces are certainly different depending on scale.

collage of photographs taken at exhibition - Oscar Murillo

collage of photographs taken at exhibition – Oscar Murillo

 

One part was keeping my attention, a projection on one gallery wall showing moving images in close up view of colored marks on paper. 

This piece is one of several works done in a similar way of his recent series Poetics of Flight. All of them are around around 57 x 40 cm. They are made during one of his flight travels, a visualisation of in-flight movement For these paper works, the gallery created a specific, time limited website (accessible through July 28th)

“Constant transnational movement has become an integral facet of my practice. Flight becomes not just a means of travel but a sacred ‘other’ space, the aeroplane seat itself becoming a unique ‘studio’ at a remove, a non-place which is both physically confined and freed from being in any real geographical location.” – Oscar Murillo, in conversation with the gallery

“The drawings made on board planes, in hotels, and in any space of transition have a similar function: they feed a sickness, a relentless laboring.” – Oscar Murillo (David Zwirner Gallery (2019b)

It really resonated with my own travelling and inspired me to work immediately afterwards on a piece Underground Poetry  on my way back from central London to Heathrow airport on the tube (considering my constraints 

 


Reference:

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Frank Bowling at Tate Britain

collage of photographs taken at exhibition -Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling (b. 1934 in Guayana) is an abstract painter still working today from his London studio at the age of 85. My tutor suggested to visit the currently major retrospective of his 60 years of work at Tate Britain (31 May – 26 Aug 2019)

At the beginning , I was not sure whether I would appreciate the work of this artist, perhaps too much of the same painting approaches from the 1960s / 1970s?  Anyhow, I entered the exhibition with open mind and eyes and was curious what I would encounter. Clearly, it was major retrospective, and the chronological order of the rooms seemed for me the right flow through a painterly movement since Modernism to Materiality, from Formalism to Serendipity. 

Whereas his earlier works of the 1960s seems to be made in a similar ‘style’ as his fellow students R.B.Kitaj and even Francis Bacon (e.g. Mirror, 1966) and/or take references from other artists, they are the starting point of Bowling’s interest in geometric abstraction and formalism. He was actually a good friend of Clement Greenberg (interesting to read one of the letters on display at Tate, Fig.1 ) 

 

collage of photographs taken at exhibition -Frank Bowling

Fig. 1: collage of photographs taken at Tate (https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/frank-bowling); left: letter from Clement Greenberg to Frank Bowling, 1971, Bowling’s studio spaces in London with his assistant Spencer A. Richards (right)

 

A few examples that stirred my flow and inspiration (Fig 2):

  • Vitacress, 1981: mark left by paint bucket on the canvas laying on the floor turning into visual language that Bowling incorporated also in later paintings
  • Benjamin Mess, 2013:  The layering of canvas pieces, different sizes, cut with a sewing scissor (patterned edges) 
  • Wintergreens, 1986: building up texture by using acrylic foam and thick acrylic gel, both materials he reduced in use in his later paintings. I didn’t find the embedded acrylic foam pieces that successful and convincing. They reminded me rather of my own experiment in part 2 of this course (e.g. Preservation box #1 and #2A2 – The Spatial Box)
  • Sam’Sentinal, 1999: he reflected on his mother’s activities and her job as dress and hat maker and intense use of sewing informed his ‘stitched’ canvas work. These layered and stitched smaller scale works are combined, from various paintings in progress works in parallel, as parts from one went into the other. It is like re-assembling different puzzles into new puzzles.  The painting is therefore the results of a process, of painting a canvas, and of placing it across. Reminded me of Sean Scully’s work Human 3, 2018 where he cut out a square from the center from one work and placed into an even cut out space in another work. 
  • Girls in the City, 1991: A combined work made from seven separate canvas, reflecting on the way ‘people structure themselves, in the way we are, we live in building and express life in opposition to minimalism, enclosure, and death’ (wall-note, quote from Frank Bowling)
  • From V2-RS1, 2005: Bowling started to make white paintings, and this one has embedded acupuncture needles (artist was treating his back-pain with acupuncture). These white paintings alongside its materiality made me think of how his works could inspire and inform my work. As I am still in a hotel in London, I wanted to make something, and milk and yoghurt came to my mind. The first liquid, the latter semi-solid, a transformation through a natural process of fermentation (and van Gogh used milk to fix his early charcoal/pencil drawings)

 

Fig. 2: collage of photographs from exhibition - Frank Bowling

Fig. 2: collage of photographs from exhibition – Frank Bowling; top left clockwise:  Vitacress, 1981- Benjamin Mess, 2013 – detail of Wintergreens, 1986 – Sam’Sentinal, 1999  – Girls in the City, 1991 – From V2-RS1, 2005.

 

His long time assistant Spence A. Richards stated once (from wall-note) about Bowling that

“[Bowling] would use whatever I did, even if it was a mistake, as a starting point for a painting.” – Spencer A Richards (Tate, 2019)

 

Conclusion:

I left impressed by the continuity and vitality of the experimental approaches in Bowling’s work. Considering that he worked constantly for 60 years with an open-mind, an attitude for wonder, and searching new approaches by embracing constraints or mistakes (as his assistant stated) as opportunities and including those partly in his painting as visual language, e.g the marks left by a paint bucket on the canvas laying on the floor in Vitacress, 1981. More impressive that he does this at his age of 85 with a decreasing mobility  pushing him to work mostly seated.

I do wonder whether all very large scale works do have to be that large. However, I like the way he considered his studio space and found creative ways of overcoming constraints (see Fig. 1).

Bowling started with formal and geometric explorations and this continued to be question throughout his later works. He explored deeply the materiality and physicality of his material. I was not so much impressed of his earlier experiments with adding all kind of material, especially acrylic foam, leaving a touch of failure of my own experiments with pouring paint over all sort of packaging material. His heavy use of acrylic gel had for me quite an ‘artificial’ aka deprived touch. It was fab to see how through his Thames paintings and making reference to the light in his home country Guyana turned the works into more articulated and refined works. I do relate strongly with Bowling’s attraction to the liquidity and fluidity of paint through spraying and letting it go/flow.

His stencil and screen printing techniques reminded me partly of Jacqueline Humphries. 

I take away from my visit that experimenting with materials is fine, but it need to put more attention onto aspects like surface structure and compositional elements in relationship to color to make the work pulsing and successful.

Overall, Bowling’s work do convey a contemporary abstract sense. Although, I am not sure whether this way of working alone would satisfy me for longer. I also left with a sense of ‘nostalgic modernism’ and missed some moments of excitement


Reference:

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Project 4.5: Colour

Colours & Names

George Szirties  listed in one section of his ‘Bad Machine’ – ‘Colours’ all sort of poetic names for colors, often related to flowers, natural situations, feelings, or attitudes.  I feel reminded of Serra’ verb list as transitive verbs for acting on materials, to transform. However, Szirties’ list is more a description without intention, rather psychological than physical. 

Amy Sillman describes in ‘On Color’ (Graw, I. and Lajer-Burcharth, E., 2016:103-116) her experience in art college and how they worked with color and paint. At times, reminding me of addiction but also passion to learn, to dive into the material.  She describes, how she was able to distinguish, to differentiate, and to identify – by senses as touch and smell, more than just sight. What reminds me of my own experience with color and paint. I do like natural or anorganic pigments more than chemical ones, especially I prefer ultramarine instead of phtalo blues, the latter staining too much with the effect that my hand stay blueish longer (as I ‘have to’ put my hands, my skin into the material, certainly to be careful about..) And with time, I got  to know how to mix certain colors easily, or what and how to use some paint material in order to get an effect (e.g. peeling of effect with acrylic on plastic). 

Both describe an intimacy, a ‘complicity’ as Petra Lange-Berndt described it, with material perception. The more one digs into , the more one knows about it. True for all kind of areas. Overall, colors to have an impact on human beings and the way we perceive and relate to the world around us.

This intimacy could also be a danger, or a risk – to know too much could mean to rely too much on learned patterns. To unlearn continuously, to see the making each time afresh and with ‘wonder’ could open more creative ways to find out new knowledge. This is one thing that I took away from the study day on London on Thinking Through Art. To use new, uncommon materials could free up the mind, and to explore more curiously.

 


Image:

  • Featured image work from project 5, SJSchaffeld

Reference:

  • Graw, I. and Lajer-Burcharth, E. (2016) Painting beyond Itself  The Medium in the Post-Medium Condition. Edited by Graw, I., Birnbaum, D. and Institut fuer Kunstkritik Frankfurt am Main. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
  • Szirtes, G. (2013) Bad Machine, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, p.10., At: https://www.scribd.com/read/353203926/Bad-Machine (accessed 10 May 2019)

 

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Project 4.4: Painting without Paint

What does painting without paint mean? In previous parts I looked at painting without brush, painting without gesture and control, painting without a ‘stretching’ support.

Painting without paint could be looked at from multiple perspectives:

  • paint as a material not consisting out of pigment and binder, and with conventional purpose of being used as paint, to paint with, e.g. found materials, urine, blood, skin, soap (materials that have more or less a staining or spatial impact when applied)
  • painting with paint that is different to conventional conceptions of how painting works, i.e. applying color to surfaces, creating illusion of space, playing with space-color relationships (I do consider color as light phenomena getting to our retinal surface of the eye).
  • without relating the material used (paint) to the technique applied (painting). Here I am not sure how this could look like, but perhaps to apply paint in different fashion, or to make a painting with 

Overall, considering the suggested artists to look at, I do believe the focus here is on non-traditional painting materials, i.e. anything but oil, acrylic, watercolor etc paint. Materials that do stain or not, materials that do can create spaces and illusions of space. Materials that are either direct or indirect materials creating through the act of making a ‘picture’ (flat, spatial, temporal, microscopic, cosmic etc.)

Material use seems to be more complex in contemporary art. In the past, the technical challenges and mastery of paint as material and its application to a surface were of main concern (alongside color theory, color matching perspective, and observational accuracy). Today, used materials are less ‘innocent’ and its deferred connotation and relationship in a wider cultural and political context are taking over interpretation and reception of artworks. Materials are associated with power structures, gender identities, environmental impact and consumer culture. My previous works since part 1 could be seen in this context: dog poop bags, packaging materials, shellac solution, or latex. However, I do sense that at that time I didn’t consider the wider context in depth. A more considered focus on one material alongside the process as an artist’s gesture might be the better.

Body fluids as material 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) Oxidation Painting, 1978. He coated canvases with wet copper paint and urinated on them. The following reaction of oxidation of urine oxidizes let the color change. His use of urine and the act of urination was considered as a reaction to one of Jackson Pollock’s attitude, and could be also seen as a male gestural act. 

Other often used body fluid is blood, the most symbolic material for life – as well for threat,  vulnerability. or as menstrual blood as a feminist position (Alvarez, 2015)

Soap as material

Rashid Johnson (b. 1977) and Anxious Men, 2015 (David Kordansky Gallery). He used black soap (a unique Western African cleansing soap) and shea butter (used in cosmetics as a moisturizer or lotion) for his black paintings. He is black and lives in the USA with the legacy of black heritage. I believe that this triple combination would always lead to a racial connotation and statement. Soap as a cleaning agent as a mean of failing to clean-off the black color. I never heard of black soap till I found out that it actually is a unique Western African soap with the color derived from plant ashes. 

Interesting to notice that he was inspired for his work at the show through his visit to the Freud Museum in London and especially the ‘day beds’. He related it to healing, as the material of soap and shea butter would relate to cleansing and made him to state that he ‘always wanted to make an object that you could potentially clean your body with.’ (BBC, 2012)

In another work he elevated the floor to the wall by using wooden floor tiles, burning them with a torch, and making in that was his own charcoal to draw with and into.

Any inanimate object would want to be an artwork – Rashid Johson 

Overall, he pulls from his autobiographic objects, e.g, read books or listened music album, to integrate them into his works. His works, though clearly having from a conceptual point of view a political statement, the visuals and paintings with various materials are conveying a uniform and independent visual language. 

For me the striking aspect is how cultural ordinary objects and materials can be used for painting. The connection between the pictorial and a cultural context is certainly more in the mind of the audience.

Dye as material (appropriated use)

Olafur Eliason (b. 1967) created a the land-art and site-specific project Green River Project (1998 – ) that was ‘installed’ and ‘performed’ across various locations. He put a a green dye used by biologists into various city streams and river to invite the audience to relate to this changing environment of their daily life. My first association when seeing the work was algae, a green surface growth indicating over-nutrition of urban or communal water areas. But as I got this impression only by looking at small images on my small screen devices. seeing the water in real life would certainly would be a different experience (as a dye is different to a material plant body)

He stated that

We tend to see cities and spaces as static images, but in fact they are changing all the time. Sometimes it takes a radical shift to make us aware of this fact.” – Olafur Eliason (The Art Story, 2019)

The coloring of water lasted a few hours, with different reactions from the audience. Eventually , and to overcome possible panic reactions (as by subjective connotations of ‘green colored river’), he moved this land-art experience including maquette of the surrounding nature into gallery spaces. 

Eliason’s project has two key aspects: Land-art and temporality. The focus lays on the encounter itself, the experience of a spatial and temporal phenomena through materiality. With respect to land-art or site-specificity and water I feel reminded of my personal project work for PoP1 related to decay of residential buildings. I was intrigued at that time also by the small canals around the neighborhood, canals originated from the peat cultivation culture for draining the land. Water that is often brownish (from peat) and in summer often green (from algae). A changing environment in colors – to think more about my local area perhaps.

Common materials (found materials)

Phyllida Barlow is using materials typically connected to DIY stores and to outside construction sites, e.g. untitled: shadowplatform, 2018– 2019).

The works of Karla Black (b. 1972) are similar to Eliason’s project site-specific ‘land-art’ explorations of materials and physical space are made from mundane materials and composed site-specific installations that response and reflect on the material characteristics, e.g throwing dry plaster powder across the space and not the floor, with the resulting sculptures having a sense of impromptu performativity. I can relate to her thought of a non-hierarchy between the different materials. In an interview, she mentioned two aspects that I find intriguing:

  • she considers her works as sculptures, pulling from other disciplines as painting, but not installing them at the wall
  • she feels a direct relationship with the material, nearly void of cultural connotations, responding to the intimate relationship with it (though, it would be myth to think that an artist can work ‘innocently’ void of context.

She considers her fragile works as a temporal encounter: 

The fact that the experience of making is allowed to be seen within the finished work of Land Art, its often temporary nature, its site specificity and its scale, as well as the materials themselves, are all things that stay in my mind. – Karla Black (National Galleries Scotland, 2019)

She stated that she wants ‚the work to be attractive, but also for the materials to remain as raw and unformed as possible‘ (ebid). In the video of her Venice Biennale 2011 works, her large scale sculptures seem to expand and fill the room in a similar way as Barlow´s sculptures did at RA, London. The suspended folded plastic sheets seem quite familiar to me, though large scale seem to make the difference as a physical encounter with materiality. There seemed to be some controlled randomness involved in the shown works, rather artefacts than finished works. They are working in the relationship with each other and the viewer. I am wondering how this kind body of work could be possibly shown to my tutor or assessment (similar works perhaps). I do have the impression, that what really matters is the negative space, the space around the objects, space to breathe, space to walk through without barriers. Something to think about deeper when it comes to pre-assessment.

Some of her large scale installations remind me – at much smaller scale though – of my work for A1: paper, crumpled, and placed (see A1 – One Attempt of Failure)

One my inspiring artist, Helen Chadwick (1953-1996) used and appropriated all sort of materials, rose pedals, lotion, chocolate, light, urine, hair etc. (Chadwick, 2004). Due to its temporality of the used materials, she mostly preserved the work through photography.that became the work in itself and was installed in different way: on glass or steel with backlight (e.g. Self Portrait, 1991 or the series ?Wreath to Pleasure, 1992-93), as plaster cast (Piss Flower, 1991-92)

 

Learnings

  • Any material can be of use by exploring its unique characteristics. Contextual notes would come afterwards (but certainly not to avoid during making as well – the idea of ‘innocent’ un-learning as we discussed at our study day Thinking Through Art  might be just a myth).
  • Context can lead to specific materials. Although, the making and my work could go of a tangent during the exploration and making, embracing intrinsic visual languages of the material used.
  • I very much like found objects, paper, tissue and plastic – from different origins
  • Overall, I do have a sense that some materials would better work when embedded into other materials (e.g.Johnson), some to expand the typical use at larger and public scale (e.g. Eliason), and other just as they are (e.g. Black)
  • Temporality of used materials can be either embraced through on-site installations (e.g. Eliason, Black), embedded with other materials (e.g. Johnson), or documented through photography that becomes the work in itself (e.g. Chadwick)
  • What would be my materials for painting? Are they easily available? Do they need to purchase? And how to interact with them? Should I just take one or two materials that cross my way? Or to think deeper how material relates to context, e.g. to my parallel project on medical imaging and the transparent body? Certainly, it will be a physical engagement with material in space.

Image:

  • Featured image: SJSchaffeld, 2019 – work from Project 2

Reference:

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Project 4.2: Paint as material

I’ve seen Frank Auerbach‘s (b. 1931) works some time ago in a museum during my Drawing 1 course. At that time being more interested in his bodily back and force approach to drawing – with the same sitter ‘E.O.W-‘ he made the drawing Head of E.O.W., 1959-60 (Schaffeld, 2015). The extremely thick painted portraits (e.g.  E.O.W. Sleeping, 1966) are so intense and deeply scratched into the painted mass. Any photographic reproductions doesn’t deliver on that experience. His approach in drawing and painted seemed to be quite similar, seeking for forms. Nevertheless, Auerbach did a portrait painting on board (canvas not strong enough to hold the weight of the paint). 

The step moving away from the canvas aka board constraints was partly done by Anj Smith (b. 1978) in her figurative and representational paintings, e.g. Chorus, 2012 (Hauser & Wirth Gallery).

Intermediate question to myself: Is latex a paint or a surface? And what about clay? (Fig. 1) 

Fig. 1: latex - clay

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld, 2019 – left: tissue , latex, watercolor, marker pen- the tissue as support for latex, the latex to support the tissue’s structure, contour as line; right: clay – medium to build, to paint on, to paint with

 

A much bigger leap was done by Lynda Benglis (b. 1941) by eliminating the canvas and working with the material properties of paint. She builds underlying structures just to keep the paint somehow suspended in mid-air, otherwise she just pours paint in thick layers onto the ground, e.g. Night Sherbet A, 1968. In other works the supporting material as bunting or plaster seem to be more of a partner in dialogue with the paint, e.g Sparkle Knot IV, 1972

Her approach to bodily texture and materiality is certainly relevant to how I engage with paint. I found her approach to build first some structures out of chicken wire and polyethylene an interesting aspect for setting the scene of her subsequent layering of polyurethane foam (Walker Art Center, 2015). She refers to oil flow in a river, for me it resembled (at least viewing screen framed video) more of chocolate mass. I also can relate this to the slick, mud at the Northsea coast, the wadden sea. A thick material created by tides. I am wondering about the distinction between material as index (mud) or as symbol (Benglis use of adhesive as paint) for meaning, and how this informs perception.

Her later appropriation of those polyurethane forms as a more ephemeral structure resulted in bronze casts, eg Quartered Meteor (1969, casted 1975). Through this re-sculptural process she made the work permanent, and the solid cast reflects in an uneasy way the surface of the foam. This casting process reminds me of Rachel Whiteread‘s House (1993) with the solid cast reflecting a vulnerable outer surface / skin. Rachel Taylor adds an interesting argument by stating that Benglis concern was ‘of the artist as a force of Nature’ with similar power to ‘congeal or liquify matter’ as rocks. I feel reminded of Barnett Newman‘ essay ‘The First Man was an Artist’ (1947) that I looked at during my UVC course (Newman, 2003).

Form and texture create the mood and the magic of a work – Lynda Benglis

I enjoyed hearing about her motivation for creating painterly spatial forms without : as a reaction to Minimal Art and informed by PopArt. Interesting to hear that she relates Minimal Art with ‘a final closing, …a closed deductive reaction’, and her wish to create more ‘excessive art’. A key difference for me between her and Minimal Art is more about difference in quality (surface, non-geometric) resulting in a different emotional response due to material quality’. Both seem to place the viewer into a relationship with the work and the surrounding space. More inspiring for me was her description of (Tate Shots, 2012):

‘Edges create kind of reading the way we read into clouds or landscape forms’ –  Lynda Benglis 

 


Reference:

 

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Reflection on a London visit

With some time to digest my recent week or art in London. It has been a full packed week of study days and gallery, museum visits, meeting good friends and working on my parallel project in a different location. While thinking how to capture best the essence of it (see reference list with links to separate reflection on study days), I decided eventually just to put down the moments that kept my mind busy for longer

A visual-verbal collection of lasting moments

Art History

A painting: figurative or abstract? The uncertainty of the floor area (Zanobi Strozzi, Anunciation, 1440-50) – wondering about the paint blots, contrasting so much with the detailed rendering of the rest.

Fig.1: Zanobi Strozzi, Anunciation, 1440-50 – photographed in National Gallery, London

 

Text as visuals

Seen at British Museum Drawing Room (art collective) after my study day in the Drawing Study Room – an exhibition on artist cards, smaller formats of visual stimuli, often to be shared, at times just as a piece of art. Inspiration for part 5 of my coursework.

Fig. 2: photographed in the Drawing Exhibition Room at British Museum, London

 

Making of zine at RA – longdistancepress.com

A collaborative project between artists, Adam Shield and Thomas Whittle, and public participatory exposure, at RA London. Seeing the result of the current trendy Riso technique famous in the group of zine-makers. But, the machine had a breakdown, a drawback with technology. Copy-machine as alternative. I liked the handing display , freed from the contained stapled/folded zine format

Inspiration for my involvement of as editing and curating team member for edge-zine, a collaborative continuing approach of 4 OCA students. Difference between print, handprinted, and online zines. Limitations and opportunities.

Fig. 3: photographed at Royal Academy, London – Image Drum

 

Sean Scully at National Gallery ‘Sea Star’ (13 April – 11 August 2019)

Oil paint on aluminium. Why aluminium? A smooth, shiny metallic surface, covered completely with oil paint, geometric abstract art. A series of paintings, Human 3 (2018), with cut out squares and inserted in another one, after all have been painted in the first place. Re-combining and embracing the concept of window. 

A window is a promise, like a doorway. A facade is not totally relentless because of the window and the door. That’s what humanises the wall’ – Sean Scully

A phrase that very much reminds me of V Flusser.

At times like checkerboards, at times color applied in abstract manner on canvas informed by art history, e.g. Vincent van Gogh’s paintings of Arles. And an appropriation of Turner’s The Evening Star (1830), juxtaposed in the exhibition both works, a modern abstract connection. I loved the smell of fresh paint in the room an index of new works, a similar experience I had while visiting Jaqueline Humphries show in East London last year.

Phyllida Barlow at Royal Academy (23 February — 23 June 2019)

Found objects, materials, at XXL magnitude, installed in dense spaces, though regular exhibition space. The sculptures, or sculptural paintings, seem to reach beyond the extensions of the room. Reaching out and beyond, overwhelming the viewer with large-scale, looking down on them. One work looked like solid, massive concrete construction, e.g. untitled: crease; 2018. Unfortunately, this exhibition was one like others in traditional museums: ‘don’t touch’ (wondering that RA also adheres to same modernist notions). Trying to overcome possible illusions of sight, I touched that work just to discover that it was very non-solid, rather light  PU construction, quite opposite to the visual illusion it conveys. The guard approached me to tell this is not allowed. I am thinking of how sight became so dominant in how we perceptive and receive knowledge of art nowadays, overriding other senses. Something for me to reflect more for my parallel project, as my embodied experience is key.

The exhibition booklet states that she used ‘inexpensive materials, including timber, plywood, plaster and polystyrene’ what certainly makes me wonder as I would not consider those materials like polystyrene as cheap, especially considering the massive amount of material she used. Kind of contradiction for me against ‘arte povera’ as she apparently ‘gravitated’ towards that movement. 

I really like the work untitled: shadowplatform; 2018– 2019, what reminded me of sliding mud-land, perhaps in the mountains after a very strong thunderstorm, leaving a desert with cut trees behind. A work that triggered my imagination further. The incisions made in the solid steel construction could contrast with my idea of skin, human skin that becomes porous and transparent through contemporary medical imaging techniques. A bold contrast might actually work better than finding a material that matches an intended connotation.

Phyllida Barlow untitled: shadowplatform (2018– 2019)

Fig. 4: Phyllida Barlow untitled: shadowplatform (2018– 2019)- installation view, photographed at Royal Academy, London

 

Overall, I am wondering about the titles: ‘untitled‘ – but still adding a description to it? To confuse or to make an intention explicit? More to reflect on in part 5.

Edvard Munch at British Museum ‘love and angst’ (11 April – 21 July 2019)

One of my long time favourite artist, mostly for his approach to psychological landscapes and his approach to series and repetition of themes across formats: painting and printmaking, color and B&W. Positive moment, this exhibition was more a side show compared with the parallel ongoing exhibitions in other places. Also the most famous works were not on display, e.g. the painting Scream, what I felt as a relief, as those famous pieces not only drive the fees up but also attracts massive crowds resulting in not being able to look and see all works more in depth.

I was very happy to have finally met with my fellow student Catherine. And  I do feel some resonating aspects as she also works in the medical area. I think we were talking about many other things than the exhibition itself But very worth it. An inspirational and motivating encounter.

Vincent van Gogh (27 March – 11 August 2019) and Don McCullin (5 February – 6 May 2019) at Tate Britain

Block buster shows! with massive crowds moving in and around. I was more interested in finding out more about Van Gogh’s time in Britain. But was disapppointed that the curators brought in all kind of later paintings (1889-90) and even the famous sunflower paintings, what possibly was the main attraction for visitors and selfie-makers. The last room showing works by other artist depicting van Gogh as subject matter. At times, I felt I had to step aside and even to apologize (what nonsense thought) when one person move with the camera from one piece to the other and approached my ‘zone of seeing’. 

However, being in London, I found out that one the boarding houses Van Gogh stayed, still exists (87 Hackford Road in Stockwell) – the picture of the facade was installed at the entrance to the show. Now under the guidance of Chinese owner to use it for artist exchange program with Chinese students. I find this a good idea.

I felt exhausted and left soon, going to Don McCullin and found that the combination of both exhibitions side by side actually made sense. The subject matter in both body of works is emotion empathy and mental or physical  distress (also resonating with Munch at British Museum). The context (personal encounters of the world around the artist versus war times and encounters with suffering and dying people) and format (paintings and drawings versus b&w photographic reproductions) were quite different, the artistic approach in trying to find visual expression of what one sees and feels and thinks were quite similar.

There was one phrase on the exhibition booklet that kept me wondering. It relates to McCullin’s fame as a war photographer and how he saw the impact his images made and that photography is about feeling.

‘If you can’t feel what you’re looking at’ he says, ‘then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures’. – Don McCullin quoted in Tate, 2019

A harsh statement as an artist statement. Is this true? What about people who have have difficulties in discerning human emotions (eg autistic spectrum)? Are those not also cultural constructions? And what about the idea that meaning and interpretation is in the mind of the beholder? This statement is quite didactic, and I was wondering about the curator’s motivation to stage such an amount of works in one show.

Bill Viola ‘Intimate Works’ (2 April – 4 May 2019) and Joan Snyder ‘Rosebuds & Rivers’ (4 April – 11 May 2019) at Blain Southern, London

Bill Viola is a video artist whom I started to appreciate since my UVC studies. Joan Snyder an artist I never heard about before. Viola is well known for his very-slow motion videos, often appropriating works from art history. The exhibition consisted of installed video only, either on one screen or multiple screen panels, no projection.

A new series of videos intrigued me most: Small Saints, 2008 (Fig 5). It reminded me of my work for part 3 with the flat screen and the performative aspects of painting through moving images. In this series, Viola captured the movement of six persons, each on one screen panel , moving forward through a curtain of water (kind of waterfall) and afterwards moving backwards. Behind the water the persons are depicted in b&w and in low resolution, in front of the curtain they are turning into 4K and color presentations. I find it fascinating, how Viola captured the sense of flat screen imagery with the perceived image not behind and not in front of the screen, not tangible. Through the water curtain he simulated the screen perception as bodily encounter (people in the video actually got wet) . Amazing piece of work.

Fig. 5: Bill Viola Small Saints (2008), looped video on six OLED flat panels mounted on shelf – installation view, photographed at Blain Southern, London

 

In the other room of the gallery, was the exhibition of Joan Snyder, an American painter having now her first solo show in UK. She looks at the anatomy of a painting, with gestural strokes and with found objects mostly organic matters, embedded in the picture plane creating a new narrative. Her works become a symbolist meaning that places here close to that movement. However, she doesn’t approach it from a figurative and imaginative view point but from a material view point. Quite in context of my coursework. As Viola in his shown work Dolorosa, 2000  – a bifold freestanding panel installation similar to middle age sacral paintings, she appropriates triptych setups reminding of sacral art as well. A staging to be looked at.

Joan Snyder - Summer Fugue, 2010 and Samll Rose Alter, 2014

Fig. 6: Joan Snyder – Summer Fugue, 2010 and Samll Rose Alter, 2014 – installation view, photographed at Blain Southern, London

Conclusion

Although, it was a very packed and dense week in London, I did appreciate the view from a different angle. Extracting more rather than collecting. A few visual stimuli and – alongside research in BL especially on Helen Chadwick and Mona Hatoum – I found it helpful to connect aspects in a different sense, e.g. screen, materiality, and curating impressions. 


Images:

  • all images reproduced in this blog post are photographic reproductions (by SJSchaffeld) of original works shown during exhibition hours at the respective galleries and museums. Copyright of the original work belongs either to the artists mentioned or to the gallery or other owners not know at this time. This blog is for educational and research purposes only.
  • Featured image at top: Photograph SJSchaffeld, 2019

Reference:

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Project 4.1: Reimagining the canvas

Art practitioners did re-visit the canvas as a stretched and framed picture since Modernism, e.g Barnett Newman, and especially in the evolvement of Minimal Art with Donald Judd or Richard Serra. The canvas as a surface dictated by it’s relationship to the stretcher was perceived as contrived, also at a wider visual cultural discourse. A key question could be what we would expect a painting to be located, and how we encounter it physically and embodied b moving towards, and around.

I looked at some aspects during my earlier coursework, e.g. Walk through Painting and my object-box (#Paint4OCA) – besides those earlier works that I made ‘on a side’ as reflected on in my current coursework.

Some time ago, I discovered during my visit to the Bern Kunsthalle (2018) the work Untitled Chair, 2015 of Nicole Wermers (b. 1971). Interestingly, that the work reproduced on the Art Basel webpage shows ‘just’ a chair with a fur coat. The Bern installation expanded this single viewpoint into a dialogue with a heater from the building, turning the latter into a piece of art work as well. In my visit reflection, I described my physical encounter as ‘my embodied perspective: distant, looking at it, looking down at it, sitting down and look in the direction’ (Schaffeld, 2018).  All together, installation of work can raise questions but also engage the viewer to look ‘beyond’ and to move into a physical dialogue.

Wermer’s work is not a painting, as apparently no paint was used, but it relates to the work Mundanza (green), 2015 or Mudanza (green), 2016 of Angela de la Cruz (b. 1965). The gallery’s artist description highlights how she embraces ‘deconstructing and reconstructing paintings into recyclable “Commodity Paintings” in a wider art historical discourse (Wetterling Gallery, 2016).  Here, she takes the canvas completely away from the stretcher;  compared to her earlier work Vacant, 2013, a canvas too small to fit the stretcher frame. The canvas as a glossy, shiny surface, emphasised with paint to make it a sculptural work, and even more, an installation.

I start to get a sense of how a sculpture could be seen differently from a sculptural painting. It seems, as the latter need to be installed. A sculpture as well, but the painting invites more for a relationship engagement, a sculpture possibly more for a face-to-face engagement. Possibly, that sculptural paintings like the ones of Angela de la Cruz do embrace much more a Minimal Art, a Gestalt approach as would be seen just at a first glance (or by looking at online screen based images alone). In this context one could see Frank Stella’s painting of shapes and lines with its own life, eliminating the support, letting the shapes and lines be the support in an open space. Similarly,  works by Richard Tuttle – or others.

I feel that Sarah Crowner‘s (b. 1974) paintings (as seen at Simon Lee Gallery) do relate strongly to an art historical moment of geometric abstraction, with large shapes painted with a limited palette but with high saturation that do extend the limits of the top surface and extend around the edges. I can certainly see some reference to Barnett Newman or Piet Mondrian and others. 

However, I am fascinated by her work ‘Garden Blue’ (2018) for the American Ballet Theater, New York (Morris, 2018). She made the customs and the props for the performance, reminding me of Robert Rauschenberg’s engagement (his series of ealier ‘Combines’ with Merce Cunningham’s Dance Theater (Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, 2019) or of Jean Dubuffet’s Coucou Bazar (1973, Foundation Jean Dubuffet). Both, painterly, sculptural and relational compositions to be engaged with (the actors) in a performative act.

Differently to de la Cruz, Dianna Molzan (b. 1972) engages at an intimate level with the stretcher. The stretcher functions beyond keeping a canvas tight and flat, e.g. untitled, 2014 (empty stretcher with suspended ‘cans’ inside the ‘picture plane’, or other works with suspended ‘pictures’ that build on art history and language to seek meaning from it. But not all works are embracing the stretcher frame, others look like side tables at the wall, with objects as pictures on the small shelf, e.g. untitled, 2015. I feel reminded of Nicole Wermers’ Moodboard #5, 2016 – as seen at the same Bern exhibition mentioned above (Schaffeld,2018). As stated on another site, Wermers  creates:

sculptures, collages and installations, whose humor and deep psychological resonance derive from their diverse subversions. They sabotage their objects’ original function, radically rethink unusual combinations of materials, and destabilize expected spatial and social hierarchies. – about Nicole Wermers (Art Viewer, 2017)

And her later work the conscientious objector, 2018 reminds me of Jutta Koether’s installation series ‘Seasons and Sacraments’ but also of Barnet Newman’s The Wild, 1950.

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld - Presence and Absence, 2017

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld – Presence and Absence, 2017 – an early approach to artefacts and releasing the frame. Re-staged as folded fabric on the stretcher (apparently new ones)

 

I can see other artists who work at the liminal space between painting and sculpture. With Sarah Crowner an example on the rather painting side and Nicole Wermers rather on the sculpture side. Somehow, all are in between, trying to get a physical demanding piece of work installed where the viewer can not relate merely on a dead-pan gaze of a flat surface, but need to put her/himself into a physical but also cultural and art historical relationship:

  • Alex Roberts (b. 1975) uses silk as a translucent supporting material, letting the stretcher shine through (Midpoint II, 2019) alongside an intriguing installation with fragmented painted parts on steel bars. Examples: Reds to blues, 2015 (Acrylic on wood, 23.5 x 17.5cm) as part of the installation The Room is the Resonator together with  Paul Abbott & Alex Roberts in an Old Police Station in Deptford, London (2016). The colored tiles resonating with the monochrome painting, questioning not only a White-Cube ideal but also the agency of a painting. 
  • Simon Callery (b. 1960) who embraces the textile materiality of the canvas to make sculptural paintings, e.g Undercut Yellow Wallspine, 2017.. Installed to advance from the wall into the open space. They remind me of large pocket filter units used in industrial air filter environments. These works seem to be a re-interpretation of the stretcher and the canvas as visible in Symmetrical Aluminium Wallspine, 2017. Fascinating to see how he even re-interprets the thread. In other works, e.g. Blue Horizontal Wall Pit Painting, 2014 the stretcher becomes a different shape and the viewer feels reminded of other cultural artefacts, e.g a toilette cover. An interesting approach can be seen in his work Flat Painting Bodfari 14/15 Ferrous, 2014 – 2015, painted on canvas with distemper and use of  thread, wood, and aluminium. (Distemper an interesting cheap material made from hide glue and wetted whitening chalk, with added colored pigments  – see here). Callery interrogates the material of the canvas as a fabric in all it spots and flaws, though installed as a flat wall based work.
  • Alexis Harding (b. ) looks at surface phenomena of paint on a canvas, e.g. Substance and Accident, 2012. The paint rather as a skin, peeling off the surface and extending the edges. Materiality of paint from a rheological perspective.
  • Sarah Sze (b ) is looking more at fragments of pictures in space through fragmented materiality of supports, turning the entire room into a colorful and painterly installation. She extends the dimension of painting <-> sculpture with the element of photography. Her installation are full immersive spaces of images leaving possibly the viewer uncertain whether to be an observer or an integrative part of the work.
  • Ally McGinn (b. ) defines herself on her webpage as a ‘conceptually representational painter and installation artist, working within a narrative that questions perceptions of art and the conditions of painting’. For her, paintings are paintings because of the materiality of it, not because they are painted. A very interesting shift in perspective on what is painting. The materiality of objects, used for work, are re-presented in a painterly manner. Perception of what material objects tell us. Her recent works after her MA (2017-2018) shows how the stretcher becomes embedded as an material object inside the picture plane of a painting.

Learnings:

  • The stretcher and the canvas, deconstructed in its structural elements (wooden frame, fabric, threads) are becoming materials for new interpretations and appropriations. Often applied, to raise questions in a wider cultural discourse – of rejected objects or commodities.
  • Materiality as such are combined with the visual energy of color. Paint as a mediator for new meaning.
  • It seems that a reduction on material  properties alongside linguistic signs (e.g. through shapes or cultural use) do open up new perspectives not only of meaning but mostly of creating, an exploration of material behavior.
  • Installation of such ‘sculptural paintings’  do question perception and can raise narratives beyond representational functions.
  • Re-staging painting as material performance, as Ally McGinn addresses a shifting perspective of what painting can be, as a very perceptual encounter.

Reference:

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Mona Hatoum: Dislocation, Materiality and the Uncanny

Stefan513593 - A3 - Representation and Interpretation no5 - developing A3

Mona Hatoum (b. 1952) works often in the realm of psychological encounters of the familiar, with common objects for daily use from home, with the experience of architectural structures. All that in order to instabilise experiences with reference to Surrealism and Freud‘s conception of the un-canny and the un-homely (White, 2017:19-25). 

She works with opposing materiality characteristics (e.g. Silence, 1994) or with opposing markings (e.g Frottage (Wee House 23 April 17) 4, 2017)

‘Mona Hatoum’s art is, therefore, difficult to bear and yet terribly lucid’ – Said, 2011

One aspect in her body of work fascinates me: the rather simple and reductive way she visually expresses her ideas, e.g. You are still here, 2013, a wall mirror with the title written on it, or the mentioned Frottage. Works that play somehow with the visual and it linguistic, one idea , one material, one surface, and the meaning in the space in-between, only there because of the viewer‘s thinking, reflecting and de-coding facilities. These works could be considered as artistic gestures, or as White described them as ‚anxiety-producing gestures‘ (p. 23). The engagement with her materialised gestures of uncertainty might then open up wider spaces of political and social conditions of uncertainty and homelessness.

There are two further aspects in her work that apparently informed her approach as well the audience response to her work. On the one hand, her biography as being grown up in a Palestinian family with a emigration to the UK after the outbreak of the Lebanon war in 1975. Alongside, the traumatic experience of dislocation. On the other hand, the conception of ‚Terra Infirma‘ (the title of her exhibition 2018 and the book) an analogy to the term ‚Terra firma‘ used at the time of Columbus for unknown, undiscovered solids landmass. But more in a sense of the post-modern description by visual culture critic Irit Rogoff when ‚we no longer believe in ..assumptions of authority‘ , loss of traditional navigational principles of mapping, and a sense of ‚unbelonging‘ that can open space for new meaning (in: White, 2017:28). I find the visuality of maps related to land, and the reversal of it that what was once known, or supposed to be known, becomes unstable and falls apart. Hatoum expressed this in her earlier works rather literally, eg. by using objects from the war region. Her later works became more reductive and possibly more linguistic, less didactic. Also with a broader sense of possible interpretations. The interpretation of a Palestinian displacement turns into ‚diverse conditions of placelessness.‘ (p.31).

Personally, I find those approaches that could open up wider spaces and different readings by the viewer more intriguing. Perhaps, because I went myself through various cycles of migration, loss, instability, and uncertainty. And a more psychological encounter with art works seems more fascinating (my art therapy practice coming across). It has also something to do with the way we as a viewer engages and read an art work, an object, an Installation: with the extreme ends of to easy to decipher or not to  be able to read at all (see my previous research on narrative ). And this certainly depends on viewer, the cultural setting, and mostly the prevailing social epistems as Foucault described the way we obtain and perceive knowledge (at times all works could be read from a Modernist high art, a post-structuralist, a racial, a feminist, or any other prevailing perspective).

‘Real art has the capacity to make us nervous.‘ – Susan Sonntag (1966) Against Interpretations and Other Essays, pp.7-8

I can see a relationship between e.g. Hatoum‘s Keffieh, 1993-94 (p.30)  and Angela de la Cruz Deflated (Green), 2010 or Self, 1997. A cotton fabric with hair installed on a chair on the one side, painted canvas displaced from a frame or context installed in space. Both do work with conventional connotations and deferred linguistic meanings. Both do use surface in its materiality. What is left aside is a quick read of content, even void of content in some way.

White described the approach to Hatoum‘s quite compelling as ‚physical sensations that rise the viewers‘ bodies as uncomfortable conduits for the formation of meaning. It is a visceral process that complicates distinctions between ‚us‘ and ‚them‘.‘ (pp.31-32).

It is this physicality and mental encounter with works that fascinates me and that I would like to embed in my own work. One question certainly how this could be achieved when most of the work I am doing in OCA coursework are screenbased, viewed online, virtually, as a digital reproduction? Would love to get some ideas and feedback on that.

‘For me, the embodiment of an artwork is within the physical realm; the body is the axis of our perceptions, so how can art afford not to take that as the starting point?‘ – Mona Hatoum, 2016

In that sense, I find her Corps étranger, 1994 (pp.34-35) very fascinating. It is an installation of a chamber to enter with an endoscopic video projection (through the artist’s orifices and inside the digestive tract) onto the floor where the viewer stands. A very visceral encounter with medical imaging technique, something to keep in my mind for my parallel project. Other works that embrace medical imaging technique and a relation to surveillance in reference to Foucault’s metaphorical use of the panopticon are: Don’t smile, you are on camera (1980) and Cells (2014) – (pp. 156-161). The first, combing with life feed video images of the audience mixed with x-ray and naked images leaving the viewer uncertain what is reality and what is visible. The latter a more metaphorical reference to the smallest  living units of human beings, in crimson red to connect with blood as the fluid of life, and placed in metal cages installed in the open gallery space, placing the viewer into a surveiller position. It is this playing with associations and connotations that give rise to unsettling sensations of displacement. 

If find these visceral encounters with material and its conventions very compelling, e.g. her work made of barb wire Impenetrable, 2009 (pp. 100-102) suspended from the ceiling but not touching the floor like a curtain inviting to go through with the awareness that it will hurt. I do sense that they are based in research of what is out there, and with ideas what could be different. A combination rather than a juxtaposition, a merging together rather than illustrating. 

I enjoyed listening to the insight of her practice (Tate, 2016) and how she engages and collects materials, objects when being either on art residences or when travelling to some places. Also an interesting aspect to hear that she replaced sketchbooks with notebooks, as she found sketchbooks ‘too heavy to carry around, too serious’. She carries now a smaller one, spiral bound in her purse.  Something, that I do, small and larger sketchbooks in my ‘mobile suitcase studio’. I am wondering how she differentiates between sketchbooks and notebooks, by size, by thickness of paper? And what if I would replace paper books with a digital tablet? By that decades of works that would fill my shelves could fit into one thing, with a constant weight. I am not sure that I am ready for it, certainly would miss the visceral experience of paper sketching (drawing, painting, note-taking). A nostalgia or the core of my practice?

Take away learnings

  • Combine conventions of materiality with new sensibilities and meaning.
  • Art as a visceral encounter opening up new mental images
  • Reductive versus literal approach in handling material
  • Collecting material as research 

Image

  • Featured image: My painting in developing assignment 3, Representation and Interpretation no5

Reference:

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Process of Art & Making – a strategy?

More in context of my other work as art therapist and finding out how to communicate artistic approaches to the public, I got hold of a book called ‘Complementary artistic Strategies’ from a series called ‘Transformation’ published by the MSH Medical School Hamburg (Freygarten, Strunk, 2017).

The interesting aspects brought forward by the authors are related to verbs of action. Something I very much do related to Richard Serra’s ‘Verb List’ from 1967-68. Serra created a list of transitive verbs that could be applied on material. The authors are using verbs to analyse and subdivide art creative processes of making, verbs they call ‘strategies‘:

Sammeln  Setzen  Variieren  Experimentieren  Improvisieren  Chaotisieren Fragmentieren  Reflektieren  Verwerfen  Kopieren  Strukturieren  Auflösen Irritieren  Verbinden  Zweifeln  Stabilisieren  Nuancieren  Verdichten Reduzieren  Kontrastieren  Konstruieren  Dynamisieren  Integrieren  Präzisieren

english translation by me:

Collecting   Setting   Varying  Experimenting  Improvising  Confusing Fragmenting   Reflecting  Discarding  Copying  Structuring  Resolving  Irritating   Connecting  Doubting  Stabilising  Nuancing  Condensing  Reducing  Contrasting  Constructing  Dynamising  Integrating  Specifying

 

Can a process of not-knowing, exploring, engaging with material matters, ideas, moments of epiphany be classified through these categories? 

It is certainly an interesting approach in using verbs or actions useful in art to transform and transmit in other areas outside of art, e.g. corporations, team work. Example: what do I discard in the development and making, to discern the more and the less successful attempts, and to discard the latter. What could be discarded in non-art projects? 

The authors describe the value of art practices as a change management strategy build upon not-knowing, improvising, and creative explorations. Not shaping from the past but from potentialities in material and form. This reminds me strongly of some ideas expressed by Deleuze related to becoming and difference.  

Personally, this is also how I approach with my clients in art therapy, solution focused, using material as a mean to recognise patterns in life, to reflect on, to paraphrase and to transfer new experiences and insights ‘back’ into one own’s life. Some call it also de-centering, step aside from a disturbing problem area, be creative and engaged, and to come back afterwards for integration.

I was always seeking ways of integrating myself as a person, my past, my work, my art, my approaches, my attitude. 

The book ended with a kind of summary reflecting once more on the process and phases of making. The author Peter Sinapius relates strategies and attitudes in three phases: treiben und sammeln (floating and collecting) // tasten und reflektieren (feeling and reflecting) // erspüren und integrieren (sensing and integrating). 

 

What do I take from it? 

I feel reminded of last year’s London Study Day where Caroline guided us through a iterative process of doing – reflecting – doing – etc. I feel that there is some structure around creation, and personally it might be useful for me to stay better on track re time-management. And it might be beneficial when organising a workshop ourselves in scope of our regional group activities. Certainly, something useful for me when approached future projects – with my belief that art practices do can add value to non-art areas.

On the other hand, I would have some concerns with trying to put the making into a method. Perhaps, the key idea is more about the attitude towards ‘problems’ and how to find new perspectives through verbalising. As Serra established a list to act on material. Nevertheless, an interesting transfer of art practices as a change management strategy.

 


Image credit: scan from Freygarten, Strunk, 2017:24-25

Reference:

  • Freygarten, S. and Strunk, M. (2017) Komplementäre Künstlerische Strategien: Ein Handbuch für Künstlerinnen, Berater und Multiplikatoren in Veränderungs- und Bildungsprozessen, Transformation. Edited by Jahn, H. Berlin; Hamburg: HPB University Press.
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Helen Chadwick: Mutability and Multiplicity

Stefan513593-A3-sketchbook - visual mapping

Helen Chadwick (1953 – 1996) is a fascinating artist and the more I dig deeper into her work the more I could relevance. After my first exploration of her work (Schaffeld, 2018) I wanted to understand more of her approach. Many of her works can be seen on ArtNet.

The advantage is that many of her works and her way of working are captured in her archived notebooks at the Henry Moore foundation (The Henry Moore Foundation, 2019) – though I find it difficult to read the flipbook online format. What makes it more intriguing to explore her thinking and making process. In her quite short life ended by a sudden heart failure (apparently due to viral infection – Wikipedia) her body of work is as diverse as it possibly could be.

Her early undergraduate and graduate works from the 1970s were informed by context of institutional critique and power relations expressed through architectural structures of the environment, e.g Menstrual Toilet, 1975-76, Train of Thought, 1978-79, or Model Institution, 1981-84 (Walker, 2013). But her sensibility to gender representations and the female self became already articulated in that early work. Afterwards, her body of work is often seen as complex and possibly ‚out of her time‘, making it more energetic nowadays (Chadwick and Walker, 2013:x). Or as Walker stated (2015) that the ‚epistemological underpinnings of her thinking become increasingly complex and dynamic‘. Maybe it resonates as at times I feel that my thinking could be quite complex as well?

It resonates when Walker describes her life and work as

‚chasing one of her enduring preoccupations – the construction and maintenance or personal identity – Chadwick‘s work can offer insights into a number of major, enduring questions: the relationship between body, space, self and world; between art and science; between artifice and nature; between theory and practice, creative self and creative process.‘ (Walker, 2013:x-xi).

Listening to the audio book version on her exhibition ‚Of Mutability‘ (James, 2017) allowed me to envision her work beyond reading, intrigued by her projects from mid-late 1980s, embracing light as performing media in installations, e.g. Blood Hyphen, 1988 and installations appropriating rococo aesthetics, eg. The Oval Court, 1984-86.

Her work could be considered as postmodernist art, it appropriates, collages and interprets art historical concepts of aesthetics. Also as she was ‚actively seeking the points of collapse in those structures that constrained identity and experience’ (Walker, 2013:2). But it is also more than a mere conceptual reflection. Her works are very much a bodily reflection on forms and thoughts. At times, rather literally as in The Oval Court where she used a photocopier to make fragmented images of her own body, a presence of the artist collaged into new works and surface illusion. Interesting aspect, that work as a picture was installed as a flat table (reminding me of the flatbed approach in part two of this course). Finger tips turned into golden spheres, raising the flatness upwards to sculptural perception. She plays with space and surface, with illusion and newly created narratives. She places the viewer into a situation of uncertainty and considers the image as the mirror image of the viewer (Chadwick, 2011).

‘we are determined by what is around us rather than being autonomous’ – Helen Chadwick (2011)

Some examples of her work (Chadwick, 2011 and James, 2017):

  • Ego Geometria Sum (1983-84):  sculptures representing her body at a certain age, inspired by Bachelard’s The Poetic of Space, form and image as a representation of self
  • ‘Of Mutability’ – The Oval Court (1986): aspects of decay ad renewal, photocopies, ‘the tactile as an absolute’, gold associated with the eternal, a Rococo richness  –  inspired by Bavarian churches, pleasure, decorative, dynamic, moving, multiple viewpoints, not one power principle, flat surface, a reflection, a kind of self-portraiture
  • Into the Light (1986-88): image as light projection, light touching the surface, giving it a different value, moving away from the physical surface into the light. This reminds me remind of Katharina Grosse’s approach in overcoming architectural constraints through thin layers of paint. Thin layers versus thick opaque paint, color and illumination versus physical tactile materiality, perception versus touch? 
  • Blood Hyphen (1988): laser beam, space (vault of a chapel) experienced as body chamber
  • Viral Landscapes (1988-89) – image of simultaneous penetration, fragments of inner self, made with computer technologies to control fusion, chromaline proofs

I can detect a movement in Chadwick’s work away from the physical and sculptural towards a more penetrated, introjected view into and beyond the things, the images. Using macro and microscopic technologies to look beyond an apparent Invisibility. A major concern in her work is form related to image. A key question relates to boundaries, of forms, of the body. Chadwick was seeking a deeper understanding and overcoming of ‘Canon of the Western Tradition’ (Walker, 2015:92). Her interest in  ‘Composite Images’ were less of a manipulation of images and rather an approach to look into ‘an image’s modality’ (Walker, 2013:202). Reduction as an opportunity ‘for a fuller perception and understanding’ (Walker, 2015:92). And last, not least, the process of viewing and its limitations in gaining understanding. A remark she made in her notebook (1984-92) (Henry Moore Foundation, HMI 2003.19/E/7 ): 

‘Self as event not matter [..] Dissolution of boundaries of self’ – Helen Chadwick 

 

Take away learnings:

My take aways from Chadwick’s work are her bodily interrogation of how we perceive and interact with the world around us, how we come to an understanding of seeing, and how materiality, forms, and surfaces can be seen as a reflection on the self, the identity. And similar to Jutta Koether,  art history informed Chadwick’s work – from a conceptual and an aesthetic point but also from an epistemological point. 

Another point relates to her practice of using notebooks as a visual mean to explore ideas and thoughts and to use them for future project realization. I realised through a deeper exploration of her body of work how forward moving research through practice can be and how works could evolve as solidification of fluid ideas.

In sum

  • Research as practice
  • (Visual) thinking through notebooks
  • Body as performing tool for visualization
  • ‘The mirror-image of the viewer’

Image:

  • Featured image: some of my sketchbook pages visual mapping, part of assignment 3 development, 2019

Reference:

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Project 3.4: Reflective surfaces and framed views – a stage on which to perform

Stefan513593 - P3Ex4 - staging reflections #2

Black Mirror

Arcade Fire
I walk down to the ocean
After waking from a nightmare
No moon, no pale reflection

Black mirror, black mirror
Shot by a security camera
You can’t watch your own image
And also look yourself in the eye

Black mirror, black mirror, black mirror
I know a time is coming
All words will lose their meaning
Please show me something that isn’t mine
But mine is the only kind that I relate to

Le mirroir casse
The mirror casts mon reflet partout

Disrupting the picture plane

I like the idea of disrupting planes that Katharina Grosse describes in the interview for her MOCA Cleveland (remark: exciting for me as I do relate to Cleveland as one of my home places where I lived in the past) work Third Man Begins Digging Through Her Pockets (Grosse, 2013). It is a more embodied encounter that one need to experience. It reminds me of my own ‘Walking through Painting’, in a constraint space though, but opening various always new insight and outside perspectives. The viewer becomes part of the object, the work as object becomes a performing subject. Mirrors, windows do add even an element of serendipity , an element non-knowing, an intrusion of outside shapes and forms (reality). It is the performing aspect driven by curiosity (participatory, as in the large convex mirrors of Anish Kapoor) that I can relate to and that resonate with my previous works, e.g ‘Object-Box‘ or the rather experimental sculptural paintings embracing ambiguity of perspective (Schaffeld, 2018b).

Grosse makes a difference between materialized space of architectural structures and imaginary spaces created by painting, regardless of structural constraints. I find this a massive insight opens up new ways of experiencing space. One could consider both parts as having a dialogue with each other, as Grosse’s paintings nonetheless depends also on physician structure, but they expand it and embraces a deeper psychological encounter with space.

However, I also can see Grosse’s work of spatial painting also form an architectural viewpoint, e.g. going up the staircase is a physical act that is combined with the psychological interaction with painted surfaces. It reminds me of my former approach for PoP1 to expand interior architectural structures through painting (Schaffeld, 2016)

In PoP1 I looked at films of Hitchcock and Tarkovsky (Schaffeld, 2017) and how both embrace in a different way the architectural elements, the sense of home and un-homely as a psychological encounter for the viewer. Grosse invites the viewer to be the performing subject inside the architectural structures. In a way as I walked through my painting, in the making as well as afterwards, responding to my close environment, an awareness of immediacy and directness.


The mirror and the reflected image

Rexer explores in his essay to use of mirror in art history. In Modern Art, Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 is one of the traditional examples, besides Jan van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini marriage’, 1434 and Diego Velàzquez Las Menias, 1656-57. It shows the effect and influence of a mirror in the reception of flat representational painting. The mirror, more or less small across the picture plane, either disrupts a linear perspective view or challenges the subject-object relationship between a gazing viewer and the subjects in the scene. Kind of illusionary breaking the 4th wall. Outside and inside at the same time. Apparently, Manet made another ‘Bar’ painting with a more concise viewpoint, placing the beholder of the painting more into an observer role. Through some compositional disruptions and displacements, the mirror images seems not be real, the reflection of the back of the woman not believable. However, through a rather formal flat and parallel composition of bar, mirror, and visitor gallery, the painting conveys more of the social construct of the scenery at Manet’s time. The mirror performs, a device for critique.

Jeff Wall’s Picture for Woman, 1979 is trying to subvert the gaze and the presence, including the camera, the viewer, and the subject in the same picture plane. However, those works can overcome the fact that all paintings or photographs are flat illusions trying to convey a sense of reality and truth, with a more or less strong challenge and ‘reflecting back’ the process of seeing itself to the viewer.  

Michel Foucault stated in reference to the Panopticon, the tower centered prison derived from Jeremy Bentham, that due to its architecture the prisoner could never be certain whether being under surveillance or not, and thus ‘becomes the principle of his own subjection’. A notion that one could relate to the back-gaze of a mirror-image, as Lacan expressed the psychological state of ‘mirror-stage’ in infant development. Geoffrey Batchen named this a ‘self-same simulacra’ , the desire to be both subject and object of its own gaze (Mirzoeff, 2002: 237-242).
 

Rene Magritte (1928) 'False Mirror' Fig. 1: René Magritte (1928) ‘False Mirror’ 

 
What these works and especially the post-modern critique of them has in common is the focus on the gaze and the image looking back, as if a person would look back. The process of viewing, or gazing, is becoming a conscious process. One feels trapped by the object-surveillance. And as the example of the Panopticon shows, one could even feel that sense of being observed, gazed at, without the presence of a subject looking back. As if the act of being observed is enough for an unsettling ‘Lacan’-moment. Interestingly, that power is being transformed to a painting, kind of dangerous object, that brings it quite closely to an fetish, as I explored the relationship of human beings with objects in part two (Schaffeld, 2018a).  Rène Magritte illustrated the nearly paradox between window and mirror and the gaze in his painting False Mirror (1928 , Fig. 1) as an ‘optical metaphor for all sign systems’ (Holly, 1996:87) that turns the viewer into ‘a representation’. 

I find Holly’s concluding sentence in the chapter ‘Looking into the past’ remarkable: ‘the person who does the looking is a person with power… but so too is the ability to make someone look’ (p.90) referring to Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) and in this context all following appropriations. A question of seeing and viewing, to be seen and to be viewed. 

Contemporary artist’s do take the mirror image as a reflected image certainly beyond the social constructed gaze. Roy Lichtenstein (1923 – 1997) painted mirrors in his bold graphic style with Benday dots, void of reflection and reflected representations, merely as an object, but as an object that can be identified as an mirror. Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) looked at the mirror differently, e.g Spiegel, grau (Grey Mirror) (1980-1990)r, a grey reflective painting that places the viewer inside of it, but with a grey reflection. Anish Kapoor (b. 1954) with the work Mirror (Black) (2014), a concave deep black reflective circular sculpture displays “the skin, the outermost covering” that is, Kapoor explains, “for me the place of action. It is the moment of contact between the thing and the world.” (Batten, 2016). I find it interesting that he relates the reflective surface of a mirror (black or not) to skin, that relates to the border and liminal sensation of inside and outside, like a box. His sculpture seek attention, draw the viewer inside, physically towards it, metaphorically beyond the surface and open new virtual spaces beyond the physical space (MASS MoCA, 2019). A virtual space that painting can embrace like in Grosse’s works. His ‘mirrors’ could be seen in context of his rather matte, deeply folded with dense colors reminding me of Baroque sensibility that swallow nearly the viewer inside . Both are engaging the viewer through attraction ‘these voids and protrusions summon up deep-felt metaphysical polarities of presence and absence, concealment and revelation’  (Lisson Gallery, 2018)

Robert Smithson (1936 – 1973) is an artist who also uses mirrors to explore space, either outside (e.g.Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1-9), 1969) or inside (e.g Corner Mirror with Coral, 1969) , mirrors that not only reflect surrounding space on a flat surface but actually can create new virtual spaces . 

In a similar way is Untitled, 1965/71 of Robert Morris (1931 – 2018), minimal sculptures in cube shape with overall mirrors outside in a gallery space. a reflection and generation of space.  The viewer is invited to engage and to place himself in relationship with the objects and the physical and virtual space. Similarly, Refractions, 1976-77  do embrace the viewer’s interaction and placement inside the virtual space. Refractions do have some relationship with shopping windows, like in Lee Friedlander New Orleans, Louisiana, 1978 (in: Rexer, 2010). Whereas,  Strike, 2012, as a suspended, fragmented reflective sculpture has more some elements of spatial discruption as can be seen in Grosse’s works. Morris’s  Glass Labyrinth in Henry Moore Sculpture Garden is building around architectural structures and the disorientation one perceives when all walls are glass and the surface skin is neither solid opaque nor reflective but transparent. A mirror with no reflection. 

Another artist is Dan Graham (b. 1942) explores through performative interactions the psychological dimension of reflection and original, of visual and audio. In ‘Performer / Audience / Mirror‘, 1975 his oral reflection (sound, 39:05min at Ubu Web) on his movements visible in the mirror act as a verbal reflection.  I find his works intriguing as the create a space for engagement along the borders, the surface, the skin. Similar to Kapoor’s mirrors, his works are placing the viewer like a user in the middle of the work. It reminds me of my recent works with being inside and outside the box, with the screen (mirror-like) placing me constantly in different spaces. Perhaps, there is also a different aspect in his works that could be seen as autobiographical works reflecting on his troubled childhood with anti-psychotic drugs for a borderline-schizophrenic diagnosis (Louisiana Channel, 2018). He works also with the two-way mirror glass, a surface that acts as a window and a mirror, a tool for surveillance, that Graham considers as an intersubjective space. An other aspect in his work is the mirror-object as standing-for-person, e.g. Two Adjacent Pavilions, 1978–82, that he describes as ‘two egos looking at one another’ (Enright and Walsh, 2009). In his pavilions as urban archictectural structures, Graham seems to be interested in the temporality of reflections alongside, somehow close to Morris Glass Labyrinth. 

 Coming back to Bruce Nauman, who also used mirror in one or the other way, often mirror more in the form or screens. In his work John Coltrane Piece, 1968 he made a large square flat aluminum slab with a mirror face, that face was touching the floor, completely concealed ‘the mirror reflecting and yet not being able to reflect the floor’ (in : Sharp, W. Nauman Interview 1970, MIT Press, P.129)

Variety of Mirrors

Some of Smithson’s outdoor works with mirrors do have a relationship to maps. A concept that Gombrich explored in his book  (2002:172-214). The mirror and the map are visual devices for representation, both different from an embodied way of seeing. Changing viewpoint positions when looking at an object makes this difference remarkably obvious. Interestingly in this context, Leonardo da Vinci ‘urged the painter to use a mirror as his standard of accuracy’ (ebid:193). Mirrors used by painters are eg. the Claude glass (pocked size slight convex black mirror) and the flat black mirror. Black because this acts as tool for abstraction, extracts hues from tone.

Other mirrors I can tell are: vanity mirror (flat, concave); rear view mirror; safety mirror (convex); surveillance mirror; mirror labyrinths ; mirror for communication (MRI) ; mirror as metaphor (Plato); mirror as psychological device (Lacan)

Mirror - Reflection

Fig 2: detail from my fetish board – black mirror – at: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?p=3070 

 

Brief summary of the performative mirror (as above artists used in one or the other way):

  • Mirror: framed view – seeing – reflection – representation, space creation; miss-en-scene (metapictures)
  • Reflections:  bouncing back, pulling into, crossing boundaries, surface – skin
  • Mirror as glass:  dislocation, distortion, fragmentation

I do come back to two artist’s who do not work specifically with mirrors, but where I can the sense of reflective spaces being part of some of their works:

  • Mona Hatoum You Are Still Here, 2013 => a reassuring confirmation through bouncing back the image and words to the viewer, an affirmation of presence in a space of uncertainty (at times in a disorienting space of Hatoum’s installations)
  • Sara Naim => interferences and glitch, technical devices that interfere with representations and known frameworks of the viewer, and crossing borders of identity 

 

Learnings and Take Aways

  • Mirror as creating virtual space
  • Mirror as surface, border, skin like
  • Mirror as ego reflection or as gaze reversal – the ‘object looks back at you’
  • Mirror as opening space and interaction, inviting audience to interact
  • Overall, mirrors seem to be an attractive object. ‘Naturally’ seeking attention, the viewer look at and into it. One can observe this regularly when seeing people passing a window, or high reflective surface to look at, mostly to look at oneself and one’s image of oneself.
  • The mirror as a metaphor for representational frameworks, disrupting those surfaces could mean to disrupt those frameworks and senses of identity

Images

Reference: 

 

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Regional Group study visit Switzerland

MuDA – Museum of Digital Art, Zurich

In context of our newly founded Swiss based regional group, three of us (Emma, Jane, and me) got together rather informally in Zurich to meet f2f for the very first time, to visit some shows and to have a nice lunch together. 

We visited the very first Swiss digital gallery, founded two years ago as a kickstarter project, at muda.co (13 Oct 2018 – 02 Feb 2019). On show were digital online works of Vincent Morisset (b. 1976) – https://muda.co/vincentmorisset/  and a larger team behind the creation (especially with Caroline Robert (b. 1983) and Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit (b. 1989). Most of Morisset’s works are available through his website at: http://aatoaa.com/

Quite a few works were created for internet and online presence relating to works (interactive music videos) developed for the Canadian Indie-rock band Arcade Fire. As the first work on display Neon-Bible, 2007 title from the album of Arcade Fire, and with a dedicated interactive online presence at: http://www.beonlineb.com/  This as well the other sites are flash based, thus not working on iphone and one need to see it on a computer, best with headphones on. Another interactive music video was Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) from the album The Suburbs, 2010 and justareflektor (album Reflektor, 2013) The first one inviting the viewer to dance and ‘to control’ to some extent the speed of the movements of the performers in the video.

The question arised how these works were developed, and the gallery assistance mentioned that they were re-created especially for viewing in the gallery space. Although, the digital work as such stayed the same, the gallery installation as transformation was done afterwards, with the unique addition of a suspended fresh apple centered above three tablet pillars.  I find this transformation quite fascinating, as purely digital online works ‘had to’ transformed ‘back’ into physical works (‘back’ if one could consider digital as post-material reality, what in this case might be just the other way round). I am wondering how much of my own work, especially coursework is at the threshold of digital and physical, as most of what I am doing is seen on screens, only those works I submit for assessment or a few assignment works for my tutor are actually looked at physically.  Unfortunately, the music as a key element of the initial music album was hard to hear.

Other works used motion detectors to either detect or monitor body or facial movements of the viewer aka sitter, or were build around interactive controls through touch, e.g Neon-Bible, 2007 or buttons, e.g. Way to Go, 2013 (at: http://a-way-to-go.com/) The latter one an interactive game like projected video, that invited the viewer top control a simple drawn avatar to jump, to run, to fly, and to look/to do things. A seven minutes interaction that we played and discovered with great fun.  

The two works with a mirror image aka avator reflecting, but not fully, more with a glitch, the sitter’s movements reminded me strongly of Alexa Wright’s earlier work Alter Ego, 2005. 

I was asking the staff before about digital painting and was positively surprised to see a large interactive projected work in the last room: Côte à Côte, 2017 – A proposal and commissioned work for a skate park in Montreal. Motion detectors control body movement as convergent and divergent forces in a colorful movement of abstract shapes in a flow. The visual flow reminded me of thickly poured paint flowing across a surface, or lava. Reminding me also of the puddle paintings of Ian Davenport .

This ‘painterly’ interactive work, a process work, stood out for me at this exhibition. Besides one other work BlaBla, 2011 (at:  http://blabla.nfb.ca/#/blabla ) . What was shown in the gallery was chapter 5 ‘Together’ on a touch wall (through projection), through touch one could add a new character and let those together interact, talk to , and singing a song after rain started to come. The characters embodying some social human features, e.g. being nice or nasty. As this work filled an entire room wall, the interaction was a quite physical one, as it was for the engagement with Côte à Côte, 2017 .

Stefan513593 - ideas - visit Muda.co

Fig.1: ideas – visit Muda.co

Overall, it was an interesting experience to see how online screen based works (typically looked at on a computer screen) can be transformed into physical viewing and engaging installations. For me the difference is really about installation, art in a gallery always need to be installed. The walking in and through viewer expects more than just looking at one computer screen.

Bildhalle (picture hall) Gallery, Zurich

Afterwards, we went to Bildhalle.ch with photographic reproduction of the Swiss mountaineer and photographer Robert Boesch (b. 1954) Some large pigment inkjet prints, framed with no glass, fascinated me through a certain sharpness of shapes and edges. The deep blackness on larger areas had quite a tactile, vellum like appeal. A closer viewer turned the massive snow-covered mountains into rather abstract shapes that reminded me of some of my own drawings. When I compare those tactile prints with e.g. C-prints as seen recently at the Andreas Gursky exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel, I can relate more to pigment prints. To notemark just in case I want to print some of my works as works (as Helen Chadwick or Boo Ritson are doing as non-photographer artists) 

We discussed how one could prevent such non-protected prints from dust and scratches. Although the surface itself seems to be rather robust against smooth wiping, the decisions whether not to add a glass protection might depend on the hanging place. 

Not on the walls, but on a nearby podest where some works by the Spanish artist duo Angel Albarrán and Anna Cabrera (both born 1969, based in Barcelona) , named Albarrán Cabrera. Photographic tonal works, that reminded my partly of the black drawings on yellow paper of Georges Seurat (1850 – 1891) alongside a surreal juxtaposition of various objects and forms. For the duo the handcrafted touch is of importance. They apply classical methods as platinum and silver halide. They also use new experimental methods as pigment prints on gold leaves. Through this process approach the works become unique and original.

«We are our memories. They define what and who we are and help us to understand our reality. … 

We visualize the future: imagining what will happen and how we’ll react. When we think about the future, we do the same mental work as when we remember. .. The two activities, remembering the past and remembering the future, are deeply connected and never stop.»

 – Albarrán Cabrera, Barcelona 2017

I find this quote from them intriguing, the past and the future as gap compositions, that we fill with our imagination. In visual art, these gaps might be filled by the viewer.

Interesting parallelism occured today when I posted one of my digital-narrative-paintings on Instagram and Sarah-Jane responded to that with sharing the reference of Albarrán Cabrera – a mere coincidence? 

Stefan513593 - vertigo - testing

Fig. 2: vertigo – testing; still from my series of enacted paintings – posted on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs2-ffrD5na/ 

 

Mai36 Gallery, Zurich – Robert Mapplethorpe

Last step for the day was a visit to Mai36 gallery and a retrospective (18 Jan – 02 Mar 2019) view on Robert Mapplethorpe‘s (1946- 1989) intimate nude and still life pictures, made and printed mostly in the standard square format of his Hasselblad camera. 

I looked at some his works in context of my UVC studies, tended at that time more to photographic works of John Coplans (showing masculine vulnerability) as Mapplethorpe’s works are looking more closely at an aesthetic appeal through close up views of nudes, various awkward body poses, and a conscious comparison with gendered and erotic connotated still lives. The works seem to me in a quite 1950s/1960s fashion style approach, reduced not only through black&white prints, but also through a stark formal composition of shapes. The nude becomes an abstract shape, and by that an object void of context. The white frames alongside the white walls of the gallery emphasises this impression. But I have to admit that my idea of the artist was influenced by secondary sources, often criticising him. 

There was one work that kept my attention immediately: Ken Moody, 1983 (50.6×40.6cm), a portrait of a black nude from half back view against a marbled backdrop. The body shape resembled a cut-out layered above another image of an abstract backdrop, a quite painterly backdrop. Emma explained how this could have been achieved technically – by placing the model at a distance to the wall with seperate lightening of the wall and the body. No shadows or reflected lights in the shadow are helped to discern a spatial organisation. Fascinating, that I could immediately related to painting (in layers). I was happy that this work was reproduced in the gallery flyer at large. 

Mapplethorpe’s black nudes was one key point of critique already at his time, considering that gay and blackness were at the bottom of the cultural acceptance scale and at the top of objectification scale. Mapplethorpe worked also with white male as well as with female models. The direct exposure of the male sex was quite offensive as his time. I can relate his gendered still-lives with works more known by female artists, eg. Georgia O’Keeffe. Overall, the diversity of the works made me think of how I would see the artist and I left with a feeling that I need to do a deeper research in his life and motivation if I want to take his works as a future reference for my own works. 

 


Learnings and Take Aways – ideas:

  • Transformation of digital art into physical engaging objects that invite the audience to interact
  • Technical issues with perhaps the more sophisticated technology, e.g. motion detectors, heavy hardware-software load , did and could always sacrify or even completely stop a viewing experience. 
  • How much to digital art build on mere effects versus a deeper role of questioning learned cultural and social patterns? I felt that some works were commissioned works, either for the music band to deliver a different experience while listening to music and as a rather entertaining approach like Côte à Côte, 2017 for a skate park.
  • Installation as key aspect when considering screen based, digital art in a gallery space.
  • Intersubjective parallelism – when we as distant learner are coming up with similar ideas, thoughts or references.
  • Body in artwork; between nude and formal abstraction through closer up view. A view that conceals, but at the same time reveals by triggering thoughts and association in the viewer’s mind. Something to look at in my coursework, especially when relating this to the fold painting of Alison Watt.
  • Bottomline, I need to explore further my approach with painting at the liminal edge to digital and online presence. Either I ignore the fact that my physical works are viewed on screens (and consider it merely as a practical reproduction tool) or I embrace that same fact by making work that needs both ‘worlds’ to exist (if that makes sense at all). The third and more jumping-out approach would be to go the way of Alexis Harding (paint forming a skin almost falling off the surface), Angela de La Cruz or Simon Callery (dismantled paintings) => embracing the materiality of paint but with a exploration of flatness (as in screen) in space. I do have concerns that more ‘screen-focus’ isn’t going to help at all.

Reference:

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Jacqueline Humphries: Layers – a painterly narrative

I do feel as if Jacqueline Humphries is becoming one of my influential artists, from whom I could learn at a deeper level how to approach art and painting. Jutta Koether is another artist whose approach I find fascinating, not necessarily the final visual outcome, more the approach and attitude towards painting.

After my visit to Modern Art Gallery, Vyner Street, East End London (see blog post Oct 2018) with her recent large scale paintings on display, I was hooked by her works. Humphries expressed her approach as creating a ‘pictorial distortion and disruption’ (Brown, 2009) and ‘painting as an event’ in the sense of ‘performing painting as opposed to crafting it per se’. She doesn’t work with preliminary drawings, everything is happening in the act of painting. She considers intentionality as a bifold area, having an idea to follow through painting in a more openendedness, and as becoming a predictable barrier.

For Humphries, the artist places herself at the center of a ‘role-playing’ and the viewer becoming a character, both ‘inhabiting and observing the space’ (Ryan, 2018). Painting as a space for anyone. In the interview with fellow painter artist Cecily Brown (2009) both discussed how to seek attention through painting, as ‘viewers want to feel that they’re part of the space of the painting’ (C Brown).

With respect to Humphries’ abstract painting Brown sees ‘a generosity to the space, an almost baroque feeling.’  What brings me back to my recent explorations of Baroque intensities.

“I never think of painting as a cathartic thing, but I definitely think it’s a way of processing things.- Cecily Brown

Humphries explored the expanded spectrum of visibility, not into the direction of invisible spaces, but in the direction of pushing the wavelength boundaries of what is visible and perceptible to the naked eye: use of light sensitive media and viewing under UV lights (‘Black Light Paintings’). For her, it is often about activation. Either as UV activation or just as paintings activating the surrounding environment. The latter, reminding me of how artists approached Minimal Art, as an object in space activating that space, with some notions to Gestalt psychology. 

  • ‘Silver Paintings’: Paintings with shimmering metallic surfaces nearly impossible to capture in photographs. The unstable situation of viewing, when light and position of the viewer depends on each other. Moving around results in changing perception of the painting. Light as ‘painting’ tool is one aspect I often face when taken a photograph from reflective surfaces (e.g. Fig 1 – perhaps something to embrace more as Humphries does?) What reminds me of the White Paintings (1951) of Robert Rauschenberg, where he considered that with a closer view the environment is impacting and modulating what we see in a monochrome, white painting. Micro structures become visible, and eventually leading towards a surface vibration. And through that temporal experience a sense of instability is occurring. Humphries described this her intention of painting, to provide a ‘new kind of viewing, to establish a site for “content” or experience. In a way, the paintings resist meaning.’ (Brown, 2009). 

 

Fig. 1: light as ‘painting’ tool – performative – painting in watercolor, observing reflections and projected images -> light as source for painting? a ‘painting’ tool?

 

  • Black Light Paintings : Paintings with light sensitive paint exposed to ultraviolet light. A phenomena one knows from dance floors, or as seen in the show of Mark Dion at Whitechapel. Humphries also has a sense for ‘making things entertaining’ (Brown, 2009). At times I am wondering whether use of specific ‘effect’  tools and paints are not rather a working on clichés, and even with a tendency towards kitsch as by the focus on effect. Interesting to read abut Humphries’s notion that it is the painter’s ‘primary job [is] to get people to stop and look’. (ebid.). 
    I find the ‘spectrum’ approach interesting, as I can related this at an even wider view to my parallel project on MRI, medical imaging, and the embodied sensation of sound. The first at the higher frequency rate beyond UV, the latter at the very low frequency end – in between the visual frequency range of colors. Perhaps, there might be an idea sitting to transform ‘non-visual’ data into visual data by frequency – bookmarked. And it also brings to me the idea discussed on the OCA forum of image distortion through audio processing systems, the latter as  the audio side of visual imagery (Amir, 2016)

 

  • Stencil paintings‘: Humphries applies a multilayering and superimposing approach in her paintings. She refers to screen based images (digital images) with the abundant presence, compressed in window frames, but with no ‘definitive image’ (Ryan, 2018). Humphries explores ways how to apply compression through painting as a physical objects. She is aware that painting relates to a different set of expectations. I am wondering how the technique of screen-printing could act as a metaphor for that digital world around us. Something, I will put off for later, as I am not familiar with that technique. However, regarding Humphries’ use of laser-cut stencils through which she pushes opaque thick paint through onto the canvas, I can sense a resonance. Partly, because of my recent ‘stencils’ sketches in part 2 (Fig. 2 – though still more as shape, less as layer), partly because of the idea to use stencils as a mean to transfer digital information gesturally onto a painting, becoming one of many layers. There seems to be a relationship with how Julie Mehretu approaches her latest works: layering, mix of digital images, transfer and print techniques and gestural markings. 
Stefan513593 - stencil technique - various sketchbooks pages

Fig. 2: stencil technique – various sketchbooks pages from part 2 and part 3 -> rather shapes than layers, what to learn from Humphries? micro versus macro view 

 

At times Humphries large scale paintings do remind me of the series paintings of Anne Martin, playing with the difference in perception between distant and near view (macro and micro viewpoints). As if it resides somewhere in between. One could even consider this on a social level as reality in between binary poles. 

I find the Journal of Contemporary Painting a very useful source for inspiration. Often artists are writing about artists, or artists interviewing artists, as Ryan and Brown did interview Humphries. The articles are mostly looking deeper and to include some philosophical aspects of the works, especially with references to Deleuze, Guattari or Derrida. I find the visual journal of Humphries as response on the interview with Ryan in the same journal (Humphries, 2018) fascinating, resonates quite well as I often tend to explore visually and less verbally new ideas or try to make sense of complex ideas. Humphries herself considers that kind of visual response as to be ‘.. meant to reflect and illustrate some of the ideas expressed in the interview’.

Take aways for my own work

  • Performing painting: an event – a making – a material approach as process, embodied experience and creating space
  • Layering: reflection on the abundance of images present in daily life, embedding digital in analog
  • Stencils: transfer of information onto a panting, a gesture of embedding, deferral of meaning, 
  • Spectrum of visibility: color as electro-magnetic waves, going beyond the border (UV -> MRI , IR -> sound), space creation through compression
  • Transposing and transforming information: embedding, layering, digital and analog data, compression; image transformation techniques

 


Images:

  • Fig. 1: Schaffeld, SJ (2019) Watercolor painting
  • Fig. 2: Schaffeld, SJ (2018) Sketchbook explorations and 
  • Featured image: Schaffeld, SJ (2019) digital composite of painted surfaces 

Reference:

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Project 3.3: Narratives – Visual Inspirations / Dislocation – Fragmentation

Ideas from visual inspirations:

I do wonder how my approach for project 3.3. (the Narrative) could inform further my parallel project. More by coincidence, I discovered the work of the Syrian artist Sara Naim, consisting of photographic sculptures as abstract objects. For her current series Building Blocks , on show in Dubai at The Third Line gallery, Naim used scientific technology,  Scanning Electron Microscopy, to capture the cellular structure of mundane objects (jasmine, soil and Aleppo soap) and through magnifying the images, revealing a sense of visual complexity. The large scale works are mounted on wood or plexiglass. She embraces glitches and distortion, fragmentation and interferences due to the use of digital technology, elements that I do feel relevant in my current direction, reminding me also of the most recent works of Jacqueline Humphries. The press release relates her work to ‘the imperfection of memory and thus of human nature.’  (The Third Line, 2019) and in her own words:

‘A glitch distances the viewer through its abstraction, but also unearths the inherent structure of a digital file’s expectation and miscommunication.’ – Sara Naim (Romdane, 2018)

It comes back to glitches and distortions as I was playing with some ideas since part 2: encoded visual information, void of context, fragmented, and with a sense of technological glitch (bar codes, video, QR codes, medical imaging etc.). One is never really in control of full information, of getting close to what is concealed. And a narrative that can evolve from the space between signifiers and visual sensations? Memory that can trigger narratives in the viewer’s mind?  Disruptive narratives. I do not see my work to be developed further in a sequential manner like a storyboard or telling a story (as my video above). I am more interested in searching ways of visual information that builds on various elements, signifiers, fragmented collages etc. A complexity and ambiguity that would invite the viewer to bring subjective narratives to the work – and the space in between. And that plays with the structures, the shapes around in a kind of dialogue. 

Another direction I can relate to is the performative work ‘Alter Ego‘ by Alexa Wright, brought to my attention during the recent peer review hangout. Wright studied Fine Arts and is now more interested in photography, video and sound installations. Her performative and participatory work explores the sense of being outside of oneself alongside a loss of control on one’s own identity, like the hand outside of my body, inside or outside the stage box. Through digital capture-technology a mirror image of a sitter of being overlayed with a 3D face structure, but contrasting to a flat mirror where the reflection is the same image of the sitter’s body actions, in ‘Alter Ego’ the mirror image is taken over a ‘life’ by its own. Quite a dissociative aspect, where what one might think is part of the body, turns out to be something different, with a strong uncanny sensation. There seems to occur a dialogue between the digital imagery and the sitter? What reminds me of the human-like robots – to overcome the ‘uncanny valley’ (Masahiro Mori, 1970). In my case it is not about a mirror image and a sitter, but my dissociative hand and my ‘outside-the-box-body’. 

Overall, I like to notions of layering, ambiguity, and dislocated forms, as I explored in my sketchbook (Fig 1):

 

Stefan513593 - sketchbook - dislocation and fragmentation

Fig 1: Sketchbook – dislocation and fragmentation

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Project 3.3: Constructing Narratives – Beyond past stories

Narratives in visual art

‘It is the ‘visual’ that functions as the purest form of sequential art,’ – Jason Lutes (Eisner, 2008a:136)

I find myself struggling with narratives and visual art, especially painting.  Narratives and stories. Maybe, because I am not a good story teller, and prefer visuals, images that can speak, but can a painting truly speak for itself without any external reference? For PoP1 I was looking at how to tell something through my painting (see Keti Koti and research on narratives in painting) With thanks to Helen Tennant, I concluded that narratives could be constructed in monoscenic,  multiscenic or sequential ways, by creating visual drama, using materials that trigger associations, embracing learned experiences and previous images, and through the way of installation (Schaffeld, 2017):

Recently, I explored deeper the exhibition ‘Flatland – Abstractions narratives‘ at MUDAM, Luxembourg (MUDAM Luxembourg, 2018), and discovered that abstract art can construct narratives, overcoming a seemingly paradox narrative-abstraction. I am really intrigued by looking at visual and verbal language not as binaries of copy and original (considering that reception of a narrative is referred to verbal language) but as Klaus Speidel (Derrien ed all, 2018) described a dependance of narration on: Recipient (motivation, skills , knowledge), Context (venue or seeing mode), Presentation (and used medium), and Content represented (nature and degree of explication). He further stated that ‘what matters is the way in which a particular work of art interacts with its references – the manner, for example, in which it rewrites the script on which it draws. What also counts is that there is a rich relationship between its material manifestation and the object of reference’ (ebid). He used the term ‘self-entanglement’ considering the bond between the viewer and the narrative. 

‘A story is the narration of a sequence of events deliberately arranged for telling.’ – Will Eisner (2008b:3)

This resonates with the essay ‘Narrative in Visual Art’ of James Elkins (n.D.) where Elkins considers the purpose of visual art nowadays to avoid any narrative and looking at the past. For him characteristic for photography in capturing a past moment in time. He relates narratives directly with telling stories. If I would consider the above quote from Will Eisner than there is a difference between both: a story is told when events are intentionally narrated in a sequence. Would this not mean that events narrated randomly would not result in telling a story?

Elkins refers to Nelson Goodman and established an extended three tiers of order in narration/story:

  1. order of occurence: past events,  the ‘fabula’, the reason for a story to exist
  2. order of telling: what is distinctive between literature as sequential or temporal narration versus visual art as spatial narration with all elements present at the same moment (different in comic as sequential art). 
  3. order of reading: the way the reader, viewer engages with the work

This could be related back to Saussure’s semiotics and the way he considered temporal and spatial signs. Elkins argues against semiotics in context of visual art, eventually arguing that any interpretation of visual art is trying to find meaning through signifiers without there existence in the first place. What certainly can be argued against. He rather employs examples from Renaissance Fresco cycles, organised in strong symmetries, to show how the order of telling could be so tangled that one cannot ‘read it’.  In that logic, Elkins concludes with an interesting argument by stating that visual art engages around a field of ‘feeling or meaning’:  the field between the viewer getting too close to the artist’s intention of ‘reading’ it (what would let to ‘pure legibility and empty meaningless’ ) and not being able to discern any meaning (what would turn the painting into a mere sign). 

Breaking narratives

Elkins also refers to other sources when playing with the sense of ambiguity in that field, leaving enough space for the viewer to add into. Elements of ‘instants’ as a turning point in the narrative, pivotal moments, or ‘snapshots’ are ‘attempts to break the narrative’ (p.36). Elkins named other ‘breaking’ elements that avoid a of chronological order: anatomy as an outline, epitome as a summary, encyclopedia as a series of short narratives

Visual art plays with certain ‘tools’ (e.g. juxtaposing, superimposing, displacing, transforming) to bring the viewer not to a past but to a possible future, an anticipative view. Or as Vincent Pecoil (Derrin ed al, 2018) described abstract art’s act to ‘transcribe vision as an imaginary space’ and transforming the artist into a ‘visionary whose gaze is turned towards the future’.

For me, the main take aways are:

  1. Visual art narration or non-narration is embracing imaginary spaces of meaning.
  2. Narrative is not story telling, through a co-creation between artist and viewer new meaning can develop. In that sense appropriation is a ‘visual commentary’ (Jan Verwoert) of past events for a future 
  3. Order to telling and order of reading might be quite ambiguous in visual arts versus temporal arts (incl. traditional comics)

Fig 1 and Fig 3 are showing two of my sketchbook explorations that one could consider as narrative, but with some disruptive elements:

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 'Fragmenting and Recomposing' - sketchbook explorations

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld – ‘Fragmenting and Recomposing’ – sketchbook explorations


Amy Sillman (b. 1955)

I am excited to see how Amy Sillman and Jutta Koether are going to address those narration questions through crossing borders between figurative and abstraction, through internal and external references. How do they construct narratives with the viewer as co-creator? Amy Sillman’s  approach one of ‘wrestling with the picture, ..with its many changes, ..with the question of whether or not a painting is done.’ and that ‘her paintings have always felt personal and emotional’ (Nickas, 2009:224-227)   

‘The experience of abstract painting is about having a body’ – Amy Sillman 

The animation Draft of a Voice-Over for Split-Screen Video Loop (Exact Change, 2014) is a collaboration between Amy Sillman and Lisa Robertson. Sillman paints digitally with an iPad.  2000 animated drawings aka paintings (what is the difference here?) she responded to the words of Robertson’s poem from 2009 – a 6 min duration dialogue, visually on a split screen, but perceptual on multiple channels.

Hoberman describes Sillman’s digital animation as a ‘mix of abstract and representational imagery … luscious candy-colored palette …. illustrates the complexities of expressing (or denying) femininity when language itself is a gendered construct.’ (Hoberman, 2012)

The work builds on the aspect of concealing, an important aspect of Sillman’s process (ebid.) Initial images are completely covered with new layers obscuring them in the finished painting. The digital animation embraces this process of additive and reductive evolution resulting in animation. One could consider this as a dialogue between abstraction and figurative, a search for meaning out of masses of color and shapes. In a sense playing with pareidolia in images and words, the illusion of a mental narrative. I can very much relate to this process of concealing and revealing as I explored myself during part 2 animated sequence as narratives (e.g Still-Life).

I’ve never heard about Robertson and found out that she relates in her feminist poetry to philosophers as Derrida. Derrida is also a source of reference for Sillman and Koether (see below). The poem explores language, words, as gendered expressions, and adding as a paradox new phrases to subvert the notion of an ‘innocent’ language. Sillman’s digital and performative sketches create a visual response, a unique visual language, a visual dialogue on two screens, or better a split screen. As if the verbal language, a reading of Robertson poem, is not the original that craves for illustration, but as a source of inspiration for an in-the moment gestural and emotional reaction. Sillman’s iPad sketches embrace color, fluidity, flat colored areas, along line markings, layered and constantly changing in transition, within one split screen and between both split screens. There is fast and breathless moving dynamic involved, at times too fast to discern specific static moments, change is the theme – and repetition. Some animated patterns, e.g. the color flooding the figure like shape, are returning, as if to catch up with memories before adding another variation to it. In that sense one could even consider the 6min audio-visual animation as a piece of music, a fugue in tradition of Bach, with up and downs and points of culmination. It is also about combining jokes and abstraction, embracing her interest in writing and cartoons. (Bradley and Sillman, 2014)

Sillman is at ease with combining material painting with digital painting, even to hang the same subject in both media side by side, e.g #841, 2012. A digital print from still from animated drawing alongside a similarly size painting, derived from the digital print from animated drawing’ (Saunders, 2014). Before she made pure digital painting animation she also made stop motion animation, taken with her phone camera from ink drawings, e.g, Triscuits, 2011–12. Her exhibitions do combine both media, with digital sketches as prints (reference to the photography and art as object legacy ?) As if Sillman tries to overcome that notion of commodification some prints from her digital animation work were for sale with the artist remark on the back of each print ‘This image was originally drawn on an iPad (with my finger) & was printed by the artist Nathan Baker on archival newsprint paper. It cost 30 euros to print, and is being sold for that cost. Please don’t resell it. If you don’t want to keep it, please give it to someone as a gift. Thank you.’ (Hoberman, 2012) I am wondering whether the display of printed stills from her animations are a ‘Jungian narrative, cartoon strips of the psyche‘ (Stern, 2014) or a claim of space of what otherwise would be contained within an framed screen. The materialised static moments of a still image, a storyboard side by side, cartoon or graphic novel like, inviting the viewer to pause and repeat the motion at one own’s pace? For me the key question how to display paintings in the liminal experience of physical and virtual matter. But this kind of expanded display of still images that are contained as an animation, do crave for space. And viewing them also means to move physically, to turn, and to be conscious of the time it takes to look through the visual narration. An aspect I find intriguing: the unfolding of time into space

In a more recent exhibition for Portikus, Frankfurt (Germany) Sillman created frieze and panorama like works, with no gaps in between, that are actually prints of drawings with additional layer of painterly interventions. This series plays with the logic of animation, repetition and looping, an iteration process. Through the combination of print and painting it is hard to tell what is what, what is physical or digital, what have been physical painted and what have been mechanically reproduced (Portikus, 2016).

She also makes her own zines, being distributed at the shows. A reference that our current OCA student-led zine initiative is relating to from its origin.

Jutta Koether (b. 1958)

Koether appropriates works of past artists in a free manner, e.g. in Aenderungen aller Art I, 2006 with using a canvas printed with a photographic reproduction of Cezanne’s painting on the canvas as an ‘almost readymade’ (ebid. 308), inviting her for free gestural responses. Quite in context of Verwoert’s viewpoint that appropriations of paintings is a visual commentary, similar to  For me fascinating that she considers the ‘engagement with painting .. invested with bodily nature and form’ (ebid) when announcing an exhibition of her works verbally with the term ‘inkarnat’ , a German term for flesh-colored paint. Koether looks at past artist in a way of ‘investigating the breaking point of the icon, or the point where painting entered abstraction’ (ebid)

She describes her work  Seasons and Sacraments , 2012-2013 (Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2013) as a painted ‘performance that only painting can do’. She appropriates the Four Seasons  and the Seven Sacraments of Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665) as an installation and a parcours to walk through and along with her ‘seven propositions’ of what a painting could be. She loosely translates key ideas from the original  and deconstructs traditional conceptions of painting through shifting of perspectives, e.g. using primary colors to mirror Poussin’s central use of them, inviting the viewer to find a way into the work. An interesting comment was made by Sherman Sam (2013) that Koether relates to philosophical questions in art with her reference to Poussin as the “philosopher painter,” and with giving her London exhibition the title ‘The Double Session’, referring to Derrida’s essay (1970) with the same name. In the latter one, Derrida explored and deconstructed the question of the original and the copy and the performative quality of mimesis. This is been reflected in the work she installed for Poussin’s Eucharist,  a projection of his paintings on a suspended screen. This is also a topic in her double painted work Marriage, 2012-13 with the same subject painted on two canvas. Other works, e.g. for Ordination, as series of red painted planks horizontally installed on the wall. she relates the height of the raised hand of Christ with Corbussier’s notion of the ideal place for the height of a door. And another time she extracts Poussin’s preference of using primary colors in his work Confirmation, painted on glass and with falling strips of paint.

I was glad to get hold of a copy of the exhibition book (Koether ed al, 2013) as it allowed me to look at the various works more in depth. Besides Confirmation, the spatial installation of Fifth Season Act, Apotheosically, 2012, made from acrylic, liquid glass, on canvas with concrete and glass display. Both painting sculptures resonate strongly, reminding me of my experiments of ‘two side box‘ for part 2 (Fig 2), although my experiments too dense, and certainly not concerned with art history, more with social history of packaging trash. Nevertheless, I do get some ideas of how transparent installations could work. And an interesting thought to symbolize water with transparent acrylic. Koether extracts elements from Poussin’s painting, illustrations of the Sacraments from the Holy Bible, and to use them as formal elements in composing the space.

Two Side Box - Sculptural Painting

Fig. 2:  SJSchaffeld – Two Side Box – Sculptural Painting – collage on acrylic – double sided

The gallery floor itself was flooded with gravel during the time of exhibition. This works resonated well as it reminded my of my previous works for part 2, my interest for translucent multi-viewpoints installation of paintings with The Preservation Box and especially the Two Side Box, with collaged items on two side of perspex. Perspex is also part of Koether’s work Penance, 2013, shaped or flat juxtaposed with found objects embedded in transparent layers. I never heard about liquid glass before and found that it is a quite expensive medium. Wondering whether acrylic adhesive, the medium I used in my works, would not be equally fine.

Koether’s series Seasons do remind me at times of Julie Mehretu, with her superimposed lines and planes, a narrative of process of making a painting. What the viewer sees are palimpsests of multiple layers, with the final image presenting something else, rather an abstraction. An interesting perspective is adding David Joselit (2009) to the work of Koether when referring to questions of ‘How does painting signify?’ and ‘How can the status of painting as matter be made explicit?’. For Joselit, Koether’s installed paintings demonstrate a sense of transitivity and a behavior of ‘belonging to a network’ . I can relate this to Klaus Speidel’s description that ‘what matters is the way in which a particular work of art interacts with its references’.

For Joselit, painting goes beyond being an object for a spectator’s gaze, but the painting as holding the capacity to hold and re-enact ‘behavior of objects within a (social) network’. I do read this as paintings that perform in relationship and context, a staged enactment. I have the feeling as here is something that resonates, especially with my recent appropriations and the passage of time (reflected in various cultural artifacts, and subsequently becoming something new.  

Koether concludes the talk at Dundee with the sensation of frustration that one could get when walking around due to its ‘being never complete’, finding things not finished , and eventually that finding into the work through a comparative approach one could get ‘a result’ (Koether).

Overall, both artists opens a different perspective to narratives, beyond story telling and material narratives as I found out from ‘Flatland – Abstract Narratives’. It seems as if the interplay between abstract shapes, geometric forms, and figurative suggestions do engage the viewer in creating narratives when seeing works not in isolation but as an installation or an animation.


Learnings:

  • Visual art narration or non-narration is embracing imaginary spaces of meaning.
  • Narrative is not (but could be) through telling a story, through a co-creation between artist and viewer new meaning can develop. In that sense appropriation is a ‘visual commentary’ (Jan Verwoert) of past events for a future.  Dialogue between abstraction and figurative as co-creator for narratives in the viewer’s mind.
  • How painting as performance can in itself be a narrative. the challenge is that it is hidden, concealed, embedded as a memory in the final work, invisible for the viewer. Do I want to show that or to invite the viewer to reveal whatever makes sense to them? My indexical presence just an ephemeral nostalgia. 
  • Presentation of digital and physical paintings in various formats. A disruption of narrative through disruption of space?
  • Verbal language as partner for visuals in creating narratives, is this a story? I am not sure that adding text is something I really want to work on. Possibly, sound yes, language less.
  • Split screen, projected screens, animated screens
  • Prints of still images from an animation installed on the wall (grid or cluster) a more embodied and visual art oriented approach? All images are present in space at the same moment, whereas in animation, films, literature and other sequential art forms the viewer is led through it, instead of let into it completely. A notion that I find interesting to follow further in my work.
Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 'Pull the Narrative' - sketchbook explorations

Fig 3: SJSchaffeld –  ‘Pull the Narrative’ – sketchbook explorations

remark: the featured image is another version of Fig 3, but with reflected light onto a sheet of  mylar underneath, resulting in an interesting additional layer – light as part of the work? To transform into painted patterns of serendipity?

Next steps

Aspects that I feel are relevant for my work:

  • Disruption of space, and time, and frame
  • contrast and juxtaposition of various elements, e.g. b&w / color, analog/digital, static/dynamic elements
  • Embracing paint in a sense of painting-out, to merge (e.g physical/digital) or to distinguish
  • Presentation: e.g animation / prints (A. Sillman) or series or painted, body, photographic, consciousness of time, an unfolding of time into space.
  • Fragmentation: to split (like split screens) or to dissect into single elements (J. Koether)
  • To embrace my ‘engagement with painting .. invested with bodily nature and form’ (J. Koether)
  • Considering dialogue of time and space, expansion of time into space, making time an embodied experience.

Reference:

 

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Visit: Ferdinand Hodler // Parallelism – Kunstmuseum Bern

screenshot youtube video, copyright Kunstmuseum Bern

During my stay in Bern, now as a visitor and not any longer as a resident, I went to the current retrospective of the Bern born Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853 – 1918). The best exhibition covered 10 rooms on two floors, and one focal point on the ground floor was ‘Parallelism’, the art theory relating to nature’s harmony, symmetry, and rhythm with a cosmic beauty. Through the compositional principles and parallels in cultural and nature that distinction would have become obsolete for Hodler.

For me an opportunity to study a Modernist painter and to see what to take away from this for my own work. Would it give me some new insights? Or a desire to paint figurative and in nature? Compared to my recent visit to Humphries the paintings did not smell any longer of oil paint, more a smell of museums archives. Some picture frames truly conveyed this sense of ‘old’.

‘I love clarity in a painting, and that is why I love parallelism. In many of my paintings I have chosen four or five figures to express a single feeling, because I know that repetition of a single thing deepens the impression. – Ferdinand Hodler, 1904

Hodler made the main large works of ‘Parallelism’ in the 1890s. Compositional formal aspects seeem to have guided the artist in painting human sensations in context of nature: symmetrical elements, lines, repetitive elements. Examples are: Les âmes déçues (The Disappointed Souls)’, 1892 or La Nuit (The Night)’, 1889-90. The number five seems to be quite a balanced number for Hodler, as quite a number of paintings incorporated five figures, two on the left and right side of a central more pronounced figure (besides La Nuit also in The Day, 1900)

I was somehow intrigued by the sharp appearance of the figures, at times with black outlines. I compared them with the reproductions in the exhibition book on site and was a bit disappointed for the ‘bad’ print. But it seemed to be an apt sensation I developed – in front of a painting with the title ‘The Disappointed Souls’ (Fig. 1)

Exhibition view - Hodler ‘Les âmes déçues’ - front reproduction, back painting; photograph: SJSchaffeld

Fig. 1: Exhibition view – Hodler ‘Les âmes déçues’ – front reproduction, back painting; photograph: SJSchaffeld

 

While posting this as another reproduction as a digital image in this post, I realize how difficult it becomes to express a difference visually through a similar technique, in this case reproduction of lens based captured images.

The more intriguing aspect of those works for me (besides the clarity of the figures) was the interplay between positive and negative space, the contrast between dark nearly black color and light, often skin tone color. I studied composition and tonal contrast more in detail on above mentioned two works (Fig 2)

Sketchbook - composition and tonal studies

Fig. 2: Sketchbook – composition and tonal studies

 

In another room I was fascinated by another powerful compositional tool: the diagonal.  And the juxtaposition of two paintings Woodcutter, 1910 and Portrait of Gertrud Mueller, 1911. The diagonal, filling the space of the framed painting, adding a sense of tension or balance to the whole picture. Both paintings are dynamic in their expression based on the conscious use of formal compositional elements. However, to a different end.

Exhibition view; photograph: SJSchaffeld

Fig: 3: Exhibition view; photograph: SJSchaffeld

The later work of the 20th Century are without depiction of human figuration, more capturing the essence of the Swiss landscape, a reduction towards essentials, e.g. Moench with Clouds, 1911 or The Niessen on a Rainy Day, 1910 Through their reduction to essentials the pictures turn nearly into symbols. Symbols for a landscape that became nearly a stereotype for Switzerland: mountains and lakes. Artists as J.M.W. Turner but also contemporary artists eg Emma Stibbon went to Switzerland in order to capture that essence. And I could truly relate some of Hodler’s paintings (e.g. Thunersee mit Niesen, 1910) as they reminded me of my own on-site sketchbook paintings of same scenery during my past PoP1 unit (Fig. 4)

'The Mountain Cries' , (c)SJSchaffeld, 2016

Fig. 4: ‘The Mountain Cries’ , (c)SJSchaffeld, 2016

 

In a smaller separate room were a collection of books, contemporaries of Holder, whose authors had a significant influence on his conceptions. Examples on display:  art theorist Charles Blanc,  zoologist Ernst Haeckel who emphasized symmetry as a constructive principle of nature,  Gustav Theodor Fechner and Ernst Mach who postulated the hypothesis of ‘psycho-physical parallelism’ as a correspondence between the physical and the psychical, body and soul. Especially the latter idea resonates with my approach in art therapy that mental disorders and physical diseases are not separate. 

Take aways:

  • Visual impact of compositional formal aspects
  • Feeling that art theories as Parallelism could lead eventually towards a dead end when seen as a paradigm
  • The difference it makes to me seeing and experiencing paintings versus reproductions in a wider sense.
  • The idea of capturing sensations or human emotions through repetition, as Hodler did do so with repetition of number of figures.
  • The power of simple but accurate execution of paintings

Featured image:

  • Screenshot from youtube video (Kunstmuseum Bern, 2018b), copyright Kunstmuseum Bern

Reference:

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Project 3.2: Appropriation

StefanJSchaffeld (2016) ?Keti Koti - Appropriating Olympia (detail) oil painting

This part of the course is not only, but also about working from images, appropriating images or others, to make new works, to add or to subtract something. Would this be a copyright infringement or the way art works? Some further insight reminded me of my previous exploration on Flatland and abstract narratives, where I do quote here some expression that I feel are getting more important for me.

Sherrie Levine applied in her ‘Statement’ from 1982 (Harrison and Wood , 2003:1038-39) a post-structuralist approach to photography by referring to painting as the model for appropriation. She rejected the notion of original as an author’s statement but considers any visual work as a trigger comprised of signs and deferred meanings that only in the viewer’s mind is being actualized.  This mirrors what Michael Ranta was stating: 

“narration always co-created with the viewer, kind of ‘script’ as a “generalized sets of expectations about what will happen in well-understood situations .”- Michael Ranta, 2011

Levine’s statement could be also seen as an anti-capitalist and anti-Modernist viewpoint in overcoming the notion to consider a piece or artwork merely by its exchange-value.

Glen Brown (Myers, 2011:167-168) sees appropriation in art as a visual commentary referring to verbal commentary on a work. By that he put visual works onto the same level as language, i.e. making a painting similar to a written essay. I am wondering how he would see somehow else appropriating his works? And if visual commentary is similar to verbal language, why don’t we just talk? I do believe that visual images have more to convey than just words. However, Brown’s viewpoint resonates with Gottfried Boehm question, that

“if the image is in truth reduced to being merely a monstrative repetition of what has already been said previously – a sort of detour taken by language – it has no sovereignty of right and can only remain confined to a copy-image, a second image.” – Gottfried Boehm, 2010

Jan Verwoert (2007) compares two stages of appropriation due to a difference in cultural sensibility in the immediate post-modernism and Cold War era (1960s) and the later stage post-Cold War era (since 1989). The first stage characterized by a freezing-in of time through art historical appropriation and still images, e.g. the staged stills from films as seen in the work of Cindy Sherman or Yasumasa Morimura, both embracing still images as an interrogation of historical and cultural conventions and prevailing conceptions.

The second stage as a return to temporal movement as it has been reflected in the growth of global communities and decline of stable, frozen markets (e.g. collapse of Soviet Union). The atemporal world was reflected in a timeless material culture and a notion of discontinuity of history. The later and contemporary stage characterized by a ‘multiplicity of spatialized realities’ reflecting on parallelities in a globally connected world.

Could this parallelism be a different view on the previous, modernist art movement of Parallelism as I’ve seen in the recent exhibition in Basel of Ferdinand Hodler and parallellism ? But instead drawing parallels between a binary nature-culture paradigm, now drawing parallels between multiplicity of cultures? 

‘Temporalities in commodity cultures like strata in the skin’ – Verwoert, 2007

Verwoert relates with this sentence to material culture, appropriation a question of property as a question of spacial allocation (where was it owned, where is it displaced to?). He considers current appropriation approaches as a temporal one where the object is not any longer a commodity fetish in space and in-time but as an object that lives ‘through time’, and where the discontinuity of history is reflected in an endless loop of a void of historical meaning. One of the concluding points is the hollowness of seeking historical meaning in appropriated images.

‘allegory as a rhetoric form to capture the experience of the present that the historical language of modernism is dead and in ruins….signifier in ruins that exposes the ruin of signification.’  – Owens , quoted by Verwoert

The author quotes Craig who considered modern appropriation as a modern fetish, a desire to pastiche past fetish objects together into new meaning, a meaning that apparently is void of historical meaning, leaving behind  a fetish desire. Fetish because one takes pleasure in the de-signification. And according to Jameson the intensity of the presence as an atemporal sensation and at the same of time multi-temporal nature resembles a schizophrenic experience due to loss of linear time experiences and an experience between ‘depression and ecstasy’. With these references to art critiques and referring to Gothic novels when expressing his view that modern appropriation is recalling dead ghosts from the past , the author concludes that it is language as a performative act or actor staging those sensations and renewed meanings. He places the author aka artist into a role of a considered stage director who directs the staging of a work and its effects. However, this seems to be a dangerous play as instead of possessing this work and effects it could possess one self (author citing Derrida). What brings me back to fetishism and the power we embed into objects of any kind. The main conclusion the author draws is that

‘Appropriation .. is about performing the unresolved by staging object, images or allegories that invoke the ghosts of unclosed histories in a way that allows them to appear as ghosts and reveal the nature of the ambiguous presence.’ -Verwoert, 2007

By referring to Derrida, the author considers modern appropriation as a ‘concern for justice’ and as a ‘question of practice’, and not as a quest to resolve the past.

Stefan513593 -Catch_Paint_Move - screenshot

Fig. 1: Appropriating Richard Serra – spatial expansion of the catching hand

In this context, I find the work of the Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum quite representative for the notion of dislocation, displacement, dysfunctional, and unsettling moments of non-resolving ambiguity and past tensions (Said, 2011) It is the staging of a broken past through dysfunctional domestic objects in the present space without resolving it or providing comfort that makes Hatoum’s work a contemporary work of appropriation of cultural artefacts that speaks to the Palestinian experience of displacement.

‘Narrative potential lies in everyday objects and materials, and their embedded cultural associations. Through extensive research, acts of appropriation, or performance, layers of meaning can be uncovered. Individual experience as a means of conveying stories.’ – Guggenheim Museum, 2016 

When it comes to my own practice and how I consider appropriation, copyright and the right to ‘visually comment’, I feel reminded of a previous issue of the OCA student led Edge-zine SHARE (no.5, 2017).  The scope was to expand on the word ‘share’ and especially in context of collaboration. Images or words that act as an input for another, And the entire work is such of a collaborative work, one not without the other. I contributed to that issue with  a project done with two fellow students. It also brings up to my mind a project done for painting 1: ‘Keti Koti’, remembering the abolition of slavery (1863) and the presence of modern slavery, especially targeting women through sex trafficking (Schaffeld, 2016). One painting I did was appropriating Édouard Manet’s Olympia, 1863 -> Appropriating Olympia (featured image) with some reverted roles. Reflecting on it a bit dense and raw, but for me a visual commentary on the observation that the background female slave was not really a scope of discourse, neither at Manet’s time nor now.

During my UVC studies, I explored aspects of appropriation as a cultural sensibility, kind of resurfacing past memories, or as Verwoert stated, the ghosts of the past. This can be seen in a way of making or perceiving differences in the same work but at a different time or different place, e.g. in some works of Michael Asher, Art&Language, or Fred WIlson (Schaffeld, 2017). Key take away for me were: Appropriation as a technique to challenge political, social and cultural beliefs and questioning art perception and meaning of art . Regarding ‘originals’, the question is whether one considers the idea, or the object is the original, When it comes to music or writing, that distinction get even more blurred, i.e. a book purchased is always a copy, a reproduction, but what is the original? the manuscript? the idea? In music similar: the idea of the composer? the handwritten notes? the first performance? What makes visual art different? And how is digital creation influencing that definition?

Conclusion

  • Appropriation as recalling past memories, under the condition of present prevailing knowledge, beliefs, assumptions, sensibilities. 
  • A sense of fairness: when concealing, and for an engaging viewer not discernible, the intention of the artist might be a critical moment: profit gain thus forgery, deceiving, or subversion?
  • Appropriation as something in-between: going beyond the object’s exchange value and having more of a cultural conceptual value. And this conceptual meaning resembles for me an abstract narrative, the artwork in itself just the trigger.
  • Interpretation is in the viewer’s mind (see Levine’ statement), once a work is out in the public it is out of control, even destroying the work would not destroy the way it has been received. It could even turn into an imprint in an artist’s person, e.g. Levine is quite often just connected with her appropriation works. 
  • The expression of Verwoert that material culture relates to ‘temporalities in commodity cultures like strata in the skin’ quite insightful and wondering how this could influence not only my own practice and project.
  • Objects, including physical artworks, as fetishes, resonating well with my previous exploration. Is appropriation one way to overcome this, or just to create another fetish?
  • Language as a performative act – with schizophrenic sensibility of multitemporal exposure – but with a ‘concern for justice’ (Derrida). Artworks as creating tension and ambiguity to hold past memories in the present moment.

 


Images:

  • Fig. 1: Schaffeld, SJ (2018) ‘Screenshot from performative painting Catch-Paint-Move’
  • Featured image: Schaffeld, S.J. (2016) Keti Koti – Appropriating Olympia (detail) [oil painting]

Reference:

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Symbolism of hands and/or feet

How does it look when searching for ‘hands’ and ‘feet’ in social media?

Pinterest: Hands and Feet

Instagram: 5 Mio hits on ‘hands‘ and 10 Mio hits on ‘feet

Google: 9 Bio hits on ‘hands‘ and 1 Bio hits on ‘feet‘, and the results become more interesting when combined with ‘gesture’ : ‘hands gesture‘ and ‘feet gesture

What it tells me, that hands and feet are so abundant and present in our cultures around the world, that they play an important part of how we interact socially with each other. More than just mere body parts, they are part of identity. Hands and feet telling a story of the person, how they behave, how they live.

Hands are more connected with openness, the clean aspect, the head with a sacred aspect, and feet with the dirty ground, the unclean, the filthy aspects, eg. in Thailand it is rude to show the sole of the feet, and in Arab countries it is rude to show the shoe. The feet, the bottom of the body is the lowest rank, what adds the meaning to washing one’ s feet signifies humility and servanthood, to be second to another person. Christ as the sacred king subordinating himself to others.

Hand gestures are constrained by cultural conventions. Gestures are pre-lingual, infant start to explore the world with gestures, hand gestures do point and sign, they give meaning to content, and often lingual words derive from gestures. Hand gestures become a cultural secret language as today emojicons, signs for conventions. What is fine in one culture can be rude in another. Cultural appropriation need to consider differences. From my own experience and life in various countries and cultures, I became more humble to non-verbal expressions. At times hard to distinguish, other times one way to engage with people. But always with an attitude of not knowing how it might be perceived.

Besides hands and feet, body gestures and facial expression do also play a social role. Overall, we as human beings do communicate through many verbal and non-verbal channels. At the end it seems so complex, that eventually the wholeness of a person becomes the Gestalt that one perceives. The Gestalt that actually made its turn in art through Minimal Art.

Comparing and Contrast

At my visit to the National Portrait Gallery, London I came across her work Malala, 2018 (NPG 7052),  a photographic work of Shirin Neshat (b. 1957), an Iranian visual artist living in the USA. Malala Yousafzai (b. 1997) is an activist and recent Nobel Prize Winner. Yousafzai fights for human rights and especially the right of education of girls. During an attack in 2012 she was shot in her head, and fortunately recovered.  In the NPG her portrait was a focus point of attention to the vast amount of visitors walking through.

Neshat manually inscribed on the photographic print, the area of the unveiled skin, a poem by the Pashto poet Rahmat Shah Sayel, 2011. Whereas, in a second photograph (NPG 7053), not on display at NPG, the inscription is in the background, leaving the skin ‘untouched’. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find translations of the poetry, leaving me with the graphic and rhythmic appeal of an additional visual layer. For Neshat, poetry is a cultural heritage of importance, of cultural identity, poetry as a philosophical and mystic dimension of life (Bates, 2013). Interestingly, compared to her ealier series ‘Women of Allah‘, 1993-97 where she inscripted poems of female writers during the Islamic Revolution talking about their role and ‘martyrdom’, she took for ‘Malala’ the poem of a male writer.

She addresses questions of gender and conflicts from her remote place considering the life of women in Iran. The veil for women was enforced in Iran in 1983 after the Islamic Revolution. Before women did walk through the streets as men, unveiled. Neshat places through her photograph portraits women in a position of power, empowered by poems, and with a direct gaze, at times rather deadpan faces, towards the camera aka the viewer of the images. The gaze in reference to the prevailing conception of the male gaze is returned back, challenging the objecthood of women.

According to Young, Neshat appropriated four symbols reflecting Western conceptions of the Islamic World: the veil, the gun, the text and the gaze. Her use of B&W images puts more focus on symbolic meanings and less on portrait emotions. Overall, one could consider her works as a dialogue with conflicts and paradox situations, questioning conceptions of the role of an Islamic woman (Young, 2015) 

Another interesting photograph with a visual pun is her work  My House is On Fire, from The Book of Kings series, 2012 , as if the hand’s force on the breast created those graphic words.


Compared to Neshat bold women portraits, Douglas Gordon (b. 1966) uses split video sets in his workThe Divided Self, 1996 (Juliá, 2012). The gap and dislocation of body parts and the tension in that space between, the invisible, the viewer can engage with the narrative of the person struggling with himself. Over time becoming clear that the artist himself is wrestling with himself, not two people. I can relate this to the earlier video work of Richard Serra Hands Tight, 1968, where two performers wrestling with hands tied together. 

Gordon visualizes in a the paradox installation of contained TV sets and the gap in between both, the conditions of human nature, the at times rather paradox mental states, the eventually could result in mental disorders of dissociative ego states, like the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, two separate persons.

Often, his duo-screen videos are installed at an angle, corner, e.g. 24 hour Psycho , 1993, what makes the viewing experience more inclusive, kind of embodied experience around one.


In the OCA discuss forum a current thread is about self – portrait in photography, the anxiety and the unease that comes along with making self-portraits photographs (considering self-portrait in the conventional sense of making a reproduction of one own’s head, face or body) Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) uses props, costumes etc. to step herself into staged personas, enacted self or cultural identities, challenging conceptions of identity and how we perceive others through a superficial appearance. She appropriates still image from movies, commercials, and even pornography. Sherman explores through the staged personas and identities question of constructive selfs and questions related to ‘aging in a youth- and status-obsessed society’ (Stigh and Doyle, 2012). How we perceive beauty and how we consider honesty through photographic imagery. At times with quite some unsettling sensations when seeing her works, e.g. Sex Pictures, 1989 – 1992.


Featured Image: 

  • Screenshot from Pinterest search ‘Hands – Art – gesture’

Reference:

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Project 3.2: Becoming an image

Stefan513593 - Body and Image - self portraits from POP1
Before looking deeper into some artists’ works and their writing, I do wonder how I perceive body and image as of today.
 
The body as a vulnerable physical matter protected through a skin. Skin as I explored in previous exercise, not as clothing surrounding us in a cultural environment, but as the human skin – when naked we expose ourselves to vulnerability, physical and conceptual –  or even metaphorical. My previous works do reflect somehow this sensibility through it translucent materiality. 
How does our body reflect what we are? Is the body a self, our identity? Some reflection – using the ‘Inspiration‘ app while travelling. I took some reference to a past exhibition visit in 2016 in Zurich on self-portraits ‘Me/Not Me‘ .
 
visual mapping of what I know - mapping on the go

Fig. 1: visual mapping of what I know – mapping ‘on the go’

 

The painterly human body

 
SKIN
 
to paint with = brush
   to paint on = canvas
   to paint of = object
   to paint through = performance
 
 
 
Being reminded of my ‘body as brush’ paintings during PoP1 as an expansion of self-portrait, made with gouache ‘ The Eyes of the Skin‘ (Schaffeld, 2016 – see featured image) – the title as reference to the book The Eyes of the Skin (2005) by Juhani Pallasmaa.
 
My thoughts wandering around the skin and identity, something that resonates well in the work of Boo Ritson. And body and skin reminds me strongly of touch, possibly the most intimate human sensation. Reminding me of my past exhibition visit in Basel Prière de toucher, 2016. From touching the skin to belief – reminiscence to ‘Emblemata’ and allegorical subject of the five senses in 16th and 17th century art – touching as a haptic process and experience for the blind, up to scratching the skin like a sculptural material, quite a violent act (reminding me of the symptoms of some borderline people). At the exposure of body and skin to pain and violent interventions brings me to Ana Mendieta, and even more to the performative works of Marina Abramovic and to a lesser extent to Carolee Schneeman. In found the book ‘The Body in Contemporary Art’ (O’Relly, 2009), now more fascinating for me than some time ago, with one example of Daniel Joseph Martinez Self Portrait #9  (p.182) putting his hand deep inside his stomach (manipulated photographs) – appropriating Gustave Moreau Prometheus ,1868 – what brings me possibly closer to my personal project of inside-out, the skin and the inner parts, the body and identity. 
 
It also reminds me of the video work ‘Pickelporno‘ by Pipilotta Rist, on that I wrote my final assignment essay for UVC, an intimate close-up view on skin and the human body at sexual intercourse transformed into psychedelic landscapes and eruption of colors. 
 
I found incidentally the works of the artist Yasumusa Morimura, quite close to works if Cindy Sherman or Gillian Wearing.  He stages himself in historical scenes, using appropriation through enactment as a tool to challenge
‘What is history? What is historical truth? – Yasumasa Morimura 
He started in 1985 with making self-portraits using prosthetics and cosmetics as sets assuming a role of figures that signify more than themselves (Hiji, 2018) And as a non-Western, asian man he subverts tropes and concepts of masculinity and femininity, e.g the concept of the “male gaze” .
 
Cindy Sherman uses her own body, make-up, prosthetics, costume and props to speak about issues around the depiction of women in society and culture. In the OCA discuss forum a current thread is about self – portrait in photography, the anxiety and the unease that comes along with making self-portraits photographs (considering self-portrait in the conventional sense of making a reproduction of one own’s head, face or body). Staging a self through a maskerade could be seen as just another selfie-persona, but could be also seen as a sensibility to draw attention to conventions we often take for granted.
 

The Make up Body

The artist Boo Ritson (b. 1969) merges conventional classifications of painting, sculpture, performance and photography, the final work as object though is a photograph of a sitter covered with thick paint and photographed when paint was still wet. Apparently, she had only 20min to take the photograph after painting before it dried (Davies, 2011). At first one might see these works just as body-paintings, as a make-up for a party or just for fun. I felt reminded of the video work Art Make Up, 1967 of Bruce Nauman (Tramontin, 2016) seen at the retrospective in Basel: a painterly exploration of the self, with the painted surface taken over a deferred meaning.

‘I’m not a photographer; I’m an artist who uses photography. In its raw state, my work can only be seen by me and the people I work with, so photography is essential. I can’t show my work without it.’ – Boo Ritson (Benedictus, 2007)

I am wondering whether she takes herself the photographs or does work with the photographer Andy Crawford ?(Davies, 2011) A question of copyright and ownership? Or the photographer as the assistant to execute, hired by RItson? So, not truly a collaboration? Topics, I discussed in April with Caroline Wright during London Study Day.

Her work is informed by or appropriating of American road movies.  Her series ‘Back Road Journey’s is considered by the artist as ‘unfinished’ pieces, models painted in white and halfway painted in color, reminiscence of the blank canvas (Aesthetica, 2009). The process she applied reminds me also of some works by Helen Chadwick, e.g. her ‘Wreath to pleasure’ series, photographs of living materials, decaying over time.

The paint could be considered as a skin, enclosing or concealing the layer, the body below (Saatchi Gallery). It reminds me of the plaster masks that we made at school, casted with tissues of plaster put onto the face with holes for eyes, mouth, and nose to breath, waiting till it is roughly dry and tearing if off: masks as the skin peeled off, masks to paint and to manipulate dislocated, displaced on a table, kind of externalization of what is part of oneself.  It is mentioned that she used household paint, I am pondering health topics (did she applied a protective layer underneath?). 

Raising questions what is art, what is the object of art (the final photograph? the process of painting the sitter? 

We do not see the sitter but the character they have become.- Source: davidrisleygallery.com 

The photographs do convey a creepy sense for me, reminding me of the ‘uncanny valley’, a term coined by Masahiro Mori in 1970 relating to the creation of robots with human appearance. The sensation one could have when it is not clear whether the figure in front of one is artificial or human, e.g a prosthetic hand (Schaffeld, 2017). And like the prosthetic hand Ritson’s photographed painted models seem to reside somehow between the painted skin and the human sitter. 

‘The ‘Cast’ are the people that the people I know could be, if they weren’t the people I know. They give the work its texture, like the characters in a film’. – Boo Ritson (Saatchi)

Besides the blur between disciplines, Ritson’s work also questions the relationship between the sitter, her as the painter and the paint. What does the sitter adds to the work? Does Ritson knows anything about them, and is this even relevant at all? The paint can be seen as an additional skin, a layer of closing, though it conveys more a sense of enclosure, encapsulation. Is the sitter free to escape? The ‘overpainted’ persons get a sense of fragility, like porcelain, I think due to the glossy shin of the wet paint. On the other hand, the persons are being portrait and archived forever through their masks, they will live further, even after the sitter’s death.

In other series, e.g. ‘D is for Donut‘, 2011, Ritson places the models in context, a landscape environment, adding more layers, making the painted models look more vivid, e.g Bear Creek, Alabama (Davies, 2011) or Prairie View, Texas

A slightly different approach takes Rachel Russell with her either painted models series (with context) or her performative painting (2012) as enactment of Philip Gustons’ painting, The Studio, 1969. I find it fascinating how well she translated Guston’s hues and composition into her space. Just an interesting aspect, that she didn’t appropriated Guston’s meta-picture, the painting inside the painting. In her performative painting she paints a different subject. It reminds of Levine’s work, appropriating a work in a different context, the image as such just a background ‘noise’.

Take-away and questions

  • Photography as documentation painting (resonates with some of my earlier approaches)
  • Making photographs of a work as a job of hiring a photographer, as an assistant? The reproduction bear Ritson’s name, or not? 
  • Portraiture: more about the artist or the sitter? Ritson’s work seems to sit in-between, void of personality of the sitter, and still with an uncanny sense of presence.
  • Paint as skin, as material to encapsulate, to conceal. But also to reveal new meaning, to add another deferred layer in a literal sense. The Body as skin, the skin as paint, the paint as concealing and dislocating – aspects that do intrigue me
  • Appropriation of past works, or of identities, or of context – a question to be considered and looked at deeper

 


Image:

  • Featured image: Paitings and photographs of me and my body imprints, done as part of daily parallel project during PoP1 (c)SJSchaffeld, 2016

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Visits: Julie Mehretu – Helen Chadwick

Fragmentation - Assemblage - Sketchbook ideas

Julie Mehretu at White Cube Mason’s Yard (21 September 2018 – 3 November 2018): ‘Sextant

An Exhibition of more recent works from 2018 by Mehretu with a joined text by the curators stating`Featuring large-scale paintings and etchings, the exhibition highlights Mehretu’s use of gestural abstraction as a conduit for evocative and charged emotion and intellectual enquiry.’

She applied a multiple layered process in the large scale paintings in the basement that I found especially intriguing, perhaps as they combined color and gestural marks broader than possibly her previous works. Her starting are found images, manipulated in Photoshop, and airbrushed onto canvas. From this rather abstracted picture created she continued with layers of screen printing, ink and acrylic paint – applying broad strokes and marks, challenging conceptions of whether this is a drawing or a painting. A space in-between resonating with how I find my place at the moment. Following a Fine Arts degree, working currently on a painting course, I am wondering whether the work in itself should not be more important than a classification. Questions of wether the work engages the viewer and opens questions might be more relevant for me.

One could see her process works as layers of memories, materialized through paint or other media. Faded images as abstract reflections do allow a more holistic view on the work as such. The power of the applied colors in relationship with marks, edges and soft tones. The room as such seemed to be activated by the energy of her paintings.

Compared to the basement room, I found the upper room with more monochrome and mostly aquatint techniques quite dull. Not that thoses didnt’ have a certain appeal, but I found the energy to be quite different.

Fig. 1: Installation views – digital collage , photo: SJSchaffeld / Copyright: Mehretu, White Cube

Helen Chadwick (1953-1996) – a reading encounter at the British Library

I pre-registered abroad as a reader to the British Library, and was excited to reserve upfront some book to read in the reading room ‘Humanities’. I registered beforehand and now I am an official BL reader.

Chadwick’s subjects are often around a gender sensibility and to the material side of life. One of her main disruptive series is ‘Viral Landscapes’ (Walker, 2010) –  viral in relation to microbiological phenomena. She feels attracted by Roccoco, the decorative and moving element pulsing at the same time. Roccoco is quite close to the Baroque and the aspect of movement and concealing is an aspect I looked at since part one of my current course. 

I found her sketchbooks pages interesting as they allowed me to look inside the artist’s approach of working, how she uses various media and visual thinking in developing her works (Fig. 2). 

Helen Chadwick's sketchbook notes (book scan)

Fig. 2: Helen Chadwick’s sketchbook notes on developing ‘Wreath to Pleasure’ (book scan – taken in reading room of DrawingRoom)

Her sense of materiality is reflected in her earlier sculptures made of cloth, vinyl, rubber, latex, hair. She used photography to document the objects as they were worn by models or performed. I find this resonating as at times I am wondering how photography sits in my working approach.

Her idea development alongside her photography approach is reflected in her series Wreath to Pleasure, 1992-93. Formal composition, mandala like using various materials (flowers, creams, soap etc.) to convey senses of touch and pleasure sensations. the work as such are volatile sculptural compositions. The works on display are printed photographs (C-prints on aluminium faced MDF, framed in circular powder coated steel frames) of these compositions, executed to high quality. I very much like her approach to transmit sensations through materiality, although the final work is ‘material-less’, ie. a flat glossy reproduction. 

On the other hand she worked with performance to present work, as a display of things relating to the body. Kind of moving ‘tableaux vivant‘ with an emphasis on the body as subject in relation to the object (Chadwick, Walker, 2013)

Her work ‘of  mutability‘ are photocopies, using the photocopier as camera, everything has been placed onto the glass plate of the copier, and subsequently creating out of each image a composite, a mosaic of hundreds of pieces of photo copy. The machine as an object that performs and the artist’s gesture is the intervention through an assemblage approach. This approach to  In another work she reflects on spheres as representing fingertips that explode (Chadwick, 2011).

 

Take aways:

  • Materiality can be seen quite differently: medium as material, material as medium, material as model, material as reference (e.g. for sensations)
  • Layering: Both artists do work with layering. Mehretu through a process of layering incorporating photography as a point of depature, and Chadwick photography as a way of documentation.
  • Visual exploration of ideas (Fig. 2) resonates well with the way I want to work
  • I feel that both artist will play a deeper role in my own practice and will look at a few aspects deeper:
    – object-subject relationship related to image (original, machines)
    – question of reproduction in the process of making
    – objects as precious things, mediated through participation , agency of the viewer
    – Fragmentation and concealing, an aspect that I do relate also to Jacqueline Humphries work.

Reference:

 

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Visit: Drawing Room ‘From the Inside Out’

My visit to DrawingRoom, London was suggested by fellow students who will attend a study visit on Nov. 3rd. I was excited to go and see that place and how artist explore the theme of the current exhibition was ‘From the Inside Out‘ (20 Sep – 11 Nov 2018). From the curator’s point of view it would be considered as a female and feminine approach to topics of vulnerability that often seem to be rather a tabu. interesting to note that the curators don’t walk about ‘feminist’ position, what shows me an increasing contemporary sensibility of a difference between feminist and feminine. The latter possibly, and considering the personal approach taken by the artists in this show, a more intimate and less political positioning. A curators’ perspective – but also resonating with my sensation on site.

‘the exhibition explores the capacity of drawing to convey the complexity and diversity of female” experience’ – Exhibition text

I knew one artist, Emma Talbot, who wrote an insightful article about her journey and struggle with and through painting (Talbot, 2017). One other artist Athena Papadopoulos was suggested to me by Catherine. The other two were new to me: Nilbar Güreş and Marie Jacotey.

In preparation of this visit I was positively surprised to see how the gallery was publishing further resources on their website: Besides the Exhibition guide also  Reading lists (selective books or articles chosen by the exhibiting artists or curators)

The exhibition was located in one room and with 17 pieces on display, on four walls, one piece on the floor and two on a plinth, and one suspended from the ceiling. Through this variety the room was activated, but not too full. I very much appreciated the reduced number of works, allowing me to spend more time with the works. Attached to this room, was a reading room with a table and book shelfs around. One shelf held a selection of books from the reading lists (other books were linked to amazon items)

Sketching on site FIg. 2: Sketching on site

I was intrigued by the multiplicity of layers and materiality alongside the expansion in space of the work of Athena Papadopoulos, especially her work Even Deader than Dead Grapevine, 2018 . With a connotation of a drape and with a strong presence. Layers of text, letter and words, embedded in thr work, used materials e.g. antlers with deferred meaning. Altogether, a work that kept my attention and I studied it more in detail through sketching.

Fig. 1: Sketching on siteThe other work that kept my attention was Frozen Zebra, 2017 of Nilbar Güres. A mesmerizing alternative pattern of black and white stripes making me dizzy when looking too closely at it. She stated that her work is related to her home country Turkey and the connection to a queer community. Fragments of human shapes, concealing full disclosure, only partly visible – a reflection on how she experienced life. 

The works by Emma Talbot are in more ‘illustrative’ narrative, at times amended with symbolic meaning. In a more sketchy way, Marie Jacotey is expressing her feelings and sensation of her living a female life with menstruation, pain, and feeling of death ideas. Her works reminded me often of diary sketches. 

Looking across the common theme of female expressions that according to the curators are often hidden or not expressed openly, I can understand the intention of the exhibition of getting things out, or as a quote by Helen Cixous mentioned in the joined text:

‘Woman must write herself …must put herself into the text’ – Helen Cixous

In that sense, I got a feeling of familiarity, resonating partly with what I experience in my work as art therapist. Inner mental images and partly visualized archetypes relating to C.G. Jung gave the exhibition a sense of raw expression. For me good to see how artists, all four are MA graduates, do express themselves in a more direct and at times symbolic manner. I will bookmark them for reference, useful to talk about in my art therapy practice as well. 

Overall, I left with a mixed sensation – between my curiosity of exploring painting and drawing through materiality, and a concern of being overly symbolic and illustrative. Wondering how my fellow students do respond to the exhibition at the study visit.


Images:

  • Featured Image: Installation view with my reflection in the work Gloria in excelcis, 2018 of Marie Jacotey, photograph SJSchaffeld
  • Fig. 1: Sketchbook page, SJSchaffeld

Reference:

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Visits: Identity & Technology

Stefan514593 - Parallel Project - sketchbook

Wellcome Collection

After suggestions by my tutor and others I visited the Wellcome Trust Collection. The Wellcome Trust has the ambition to bring science, health and thriving life together through embracing new and creative ideas. 

For me there were two aspects to that visit:

  1. Seeing the collection and get possibly new viewpoints on medical imaging and arts that could inform my personal project
  2. Engaging with the people to see how I could benefit from an exchange of ideas. 

The second point kept still open as I have to undergo a written request (ongoing). On the first point I got a few ideas of creative transcriptions of medical imaging techniques.

Artist works:

  • Michael Hopkins (2004) Untitled: He applied white ink on slate to freely and more gestural with eraser and stiff bristle brushes to make suggestive abstract works , appropriating x-ray visuals of the human body (bones structure)
  • Annie Cattrell (2001-03) SenseShe uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)technique to visualize human five senses (touch, smell, taste, hearing and seeing). The generated scans of active brain zones were converted into three-dimensional  structures of amber resin using rapid-phototyping process. 
  • Chris Drury (2003) Landscape of the Heart: A layered and interwoven work consisting of ECG patterns and a mountain landscape, linking heart rate increase when one climbs the mountain. The artist stated ‘to make mind and visual connections’ between microcosm and macrocosm. 

I was surprised that I could find these works. For me perhaps too literal takes and visualization of the process. Not sure it is the way I want to move forward. Nevertheless, it made me aware of how sculptural elements, layering (Drury) and isolation (Cattrell) could be used to explore invisible things.

In context of medical imaging, I was excited to see OCA student Beverly Duckworth’s work ‘Capsula’ at SHOWCASE. Understanding that her work has been selected for the May 2018 conference ‘Becoming Image: Medicine and the Algorithmic Gaze.’ by Digital insides, supported by Wellcome and UCL, made it even more fascinating. Unfortunately, not having much time to talk with Bev, I am starting to see a wider picture of medical imaging in arts and some key artists, institutions etc.  What I saw from the various works was that nearly all of them are digital lens based or using primary medical imagery as such for the work. Wondering how painting could leverage or providing a different viewpoint on this. It might seem a stretch to move from medical techniques to painting or video, though both have in common the visualization effect and a deferred meaning. What the eye sees (paint or curves or images) is not what one stays at, it goes deeper, a process of reflection and encoding of signs is happening.

I find the idea of layering technical patterns with gestural patterns an interesting idea. Something that I can relate to the works of Jacqueline Humphries and Jillian Mayer.

Both encounters were rather a coincidence than a planned trip. Browsing the current  galleriesnow.net map I was intrigued by how both artist explore sense of identity technology, wondering whether I could get some further inspirations for my personal project. 

Sketching ideas for PP - inspired by exhibition visits and talks

Fig. 1: Sketching ideas for PP – inspired by exhibition visits and talks

 

 

Jacqueline Humphries 

At Modern Art Gallery Vyner Street (02 Oct – 10 Nov 2018)

All new large scale paintings from 2018. Entering the newly ‘White Cube’ (reconstructed one year ago) I could smell the oil paint, kept my attention and made me aware why I love oil paintings (versus rather sterile acrylic paint when finished and installed). 

Humphries (b. 1960) is an accomplished abstract painter and the new works on display is her process driven encounter with her older paintings seen through a layer of digital information technique. She converted the visual scanned information into ASCII strings, made from these strings larger sheets of laser cut stencils, and pushed through these holes thick paint manually onto the canvas surface. A process form analogue through digital towards analogue again. With subsequent erasing those paint partly and with added gestural strokes, she created mesmerizing works, decontextualized (nearly void) and with an emphasis on an aesthetic outcome. The joined text states that

‚the emotive content contains traces of memory and ghosts in the process of their translation‘ – Modern Art Gallery

I like the idea of memory and fascimiles, layers of time and space developing into something new. Her stencil approach resonates with some of my explorations with cut-outs and overpainting, exploring shapes and edges.

It is a very tactile approach to code, encoded information. Something that I like compared to some more literal translations of coded (medical) date as seen at Wellcome Collection (see above). A possible approach to my more embodied encounter with MRI imagery.

 

Jillian Mayer

At Annka Kultys Gallery (24 Oct – 24 Nov 2018)

Quite a shift to see Mayer’s work. All video art from the filmmaker who co-runs the company Borscht and openly publishes on YouTube. Fluent with media and exploring liminal experiences in a digital age impacting our sense of identity. Instructional videos how to disguise one’s face to move undetected in public spaces (considering the presence of facial detectors), how facial measure could tell more about oneself than in would expect, and a musical performance as a work between video, film, and musical. At times with a dystopian sense reminding me of the film ‘Matrix’. 

I looked up the artist website and found her painterly sculptures ‘Slumpies’, useable sculptures that either enforce or enable a posture typical for some cultural habits of interaction with smartphones, or making selfies. Fascinating for me to see the ‘rawness’ of the sculptures that I could related to the ‘rawness’ of the objects in my Object-Box. An appearance my tutor was questioning. Mayer sees the ‘lack of conscientious design as an ad hoc solution made from simple materials in direct contradiction to the sleek forms and designs, and the marketing culture, that defines our intimate dependence on technology.’ (Artist website at: https://www.jillianmayer.net/slumpies-1

I was thrilled to have an engaging talk with the gallery owner. The gallery was upstairs above a shop, one open room with a desk and three walls. She even asked for my IG profile -what by itself was a ‘shocking’ moment for me after the private view at SHOWCASE – totally unexpected. But after visiting another small gallery in the same neighborhood made me aware of the importance of social media interaction with newer galleries. Something more traditional galleries, e.g. Marlborough Gallery, would be less engaged with. For me, to think how and what I want to use which channel for.

Conclusion

Technology, eg medical imaging techniques, could be either translated literally through drawing and painting (eg Hopkins, Cattrell), or layered with paint as fragments and memory (eg Drury, Humphries) or just using primary imagery for new ways of seeing at things, alongside an aesthetic appeal of the resulting work (e.g Duckworth). Making the invisible visible relating to how it impacts our self image (Mayer) is showing through her layered video projects. 

I take away the idea of layering of coded information with gestural marks, technology created patterns as a layer in between. 

After my visit to London and some further visual encounters with various works and artists, I sense a better understanding on how things might move forward. I sketched a few ideas on one of my many tube rides and am exciting to play around with some of them when back in my studio. 

I will definitely reach out to more people (e.g Liz Orton from Digital Insides, or Wellcome) to see how this could evolve. But first to make some practical stuff – as I feel that I need to phrase somehow my scope before talking with people who could possibly support me.


Reference:

  • Duckworth, B. (2018) [Email sent to Stefan Schaffeld, 29 Oct 2018]

 

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Virtual Study Visit (VCrits): Lee Miller and Viviane Sassen

The first virtual study visit organized by OCA was managed as a VCrits by photography tutor Helen Warburton. The visit covered two exhibitions at the Hepworth Wakefield museum (22 June – 07 Oct 2018): ‘Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain‘ and ‘Viviane Sassen – Hot Mirror‘.  I was not be able to visit in person, thus prepared myself with the marvellous resource package provided beforehand with good questions to reflect on and substantial numbers of online and offline references. The material perhaps too much to digest as a mere preparatory material, but definitely very helpful for future reference and deeper researches. I didn’t know the artists, and had some concerns about a totally photography focus, what really was not the case as it turned out. 

We were a group of 8 students from various pathways and levels plus Helen as tutor, two incl me were not from UK. Two students visited the exhibition in person what led to a good discussion around difference in virtual versus physical experiences (quite strong in Sassen’s video installation Totem)

Key learnings

  • Virtual study visits are different in quality versus physical study visits. Perhaps more contextual focused, whereas an physical visit seem to be more focused on the actual visual imageries. 
  • VCrits in the form of Google Meet do add a layer of reflection through various viewpoints, e.g. :
    – surrealism as a personal response to war traumatic experiences?
    – telling a story 
  • Considering the two shown artist’s works it became clear that both do act in a different time (around WWII and today), informing not only techniques used but also questions around identity and gendered roles and expectations
  • Role of the curator: Viviane Sassen were actively involved in making the exhibition, Lee Miller was ‘represented’ by curator’s voices, interpretations, and staging the show.

Take aways:

  • Before visiting an exhibition to compare what the gallery, curator and what press and/or the artist is saying about it. 
  • Considering the purpose of the exhibition (e.g. documentary, increase the visibility of an artist?)
  • Considering how images do reflect context of time and could be linked with different artists
  • Embracing artist’s talks and discern how online images versus physical encounters can change meaning and impact (also for my own work)
  • Viviane Sassen’s work Totem is really intriguing, a pity that I can’t see it in reality, as it adds a narrative through a rupture of the pictorial plane by the way mirrors and projection is installed. Very relevant to my current coursework.

 

Conclusion:
The kind of virtual study visits and VCrits was a pilot, new to all incl. to Helen. The package provided beforehand was outstanding (though it would have been good to add sizes of reproduced works) and close to a coursematerial. I believe it took quite some efforts from the authors to make it. A resource document valuable for future references as well. What opens the question of preparation for an exhibition or physical study visit that mostly do not include such comprehensive package. 

One comment from Helen to take further into account: to run such VCrits under students’s ownerships, perhaps with invitation of a tutor. Question of preparation as well.


Background on the two artists: 

Lee Miller (1907 – 1977): A pioneer of experimental and surreal photography from a female perspective. The exhibition text explained her role, at her time underestimated and mostly falling behind her male contemporaries as Man Ray, Henry Moore, and Roland Penrose (her later husband). She was a key person in the surrealist movement in Britain around the 1930s/1940s. As a fashion photographer working for Vogue she became during WWII a war photographer that made apparently a deep impact not in her time but also mentally on her health.

Viviane Sassen (b. 1972): A contemporary Dutch fashion photographer and artist living in Amsterdam with for me a strong painterly exploration of visual images through a more abstract approach. She explores the subconscious, the uncanny and the spiritual realm of dreams – quite in context of original surrealist thoughts as proaclaimed by André Breton in the ‘Surrealist Manifesto’ (1924). 

What I find interesting is her approach to photography crossing boundaries to other discoplines:

“I’m interested in material, texture and tactility. I’ve always been drawn to sculpture and painting, and photography – being a medium with such smooth surfaces –makes me particularly obsessed with texture!” – Viviane Sassen (Muraben, 2018)

 


Reference:

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Project 3.1: Working from props

Props, costumes, masks, models – disguise or make-up as absence of human body

After part two with my exploration of objects that do related to how we as human being relate to our non-human environment, more a mental exploration with giving objects a certain subject-hood instead seeing them only as objects, to function, to use, to collect, to trash.

But what about us? What are the objects closest to us, that we not only take us as I did with my object-box, but actually take on and off with a routine without even thinking of it: clothes, undershirts, shoes, glasses, hats, and perhaps jewellery.

Objects that represent us, and objects through which we present. Not always consciously. How to move from fetish-objects to clothing?

Clothes are performing objects

The artist Paula Rego uses models, masks, costume and props to construct complex and often unsettling visual narratives that are being represented through her paintings. Her paintings could be considered as  the reproductions of telling a story, a story the objects did in her studio in the first place. Objects charged with memory, and empathy.

What I like is when she said

“It is real, or I pretend it is real – what is the same thing” – Paula Rego

There is quite substance in it, a constructivist approach, and resonating well with my experience in art therapy and constellation work: what we perceive or see as a visual mentally transcribed image is the real thing that matters to the person – it guides them in life, it is part of their life.

Rego works quite traditionally with her figurative paintings of things, she doesn’t work with human life models, but with made life objects. She stages a scenery similar to a film or stage director with found and made objects, all with a human touch, either through a likeliness with human bodies or through a human memory related to these objects. By that the objects are charged with power, a process that very much resonates with my exploration of subject-object relationship and fetishism.  I am wondering what was the motivation for Rego to work that way.

Another thought that Rego’s works triggers in my mind is the distinction – or no distinction – between objects, made, painted and the representative and observational painting of it. During part 2 I was shifting my attention from observational paintings to painting with and onto objects in order to let them perform for their own sake.

During my reflection on ‘Flatland – Abstract Narratives’ I was wondering how objects by themselves can perform and convey a narrative. Rego’s work shows another, figurative and charged with human memory, approach towards narratives. Question which way to go?

Example: Rego’s found monkey puppet is her life model for a narrating painting. Can the puppet be in itself the support for a narrative that goes beyond the subjective memory or her? Can the puppet be transformed into something else through a co-creation of the viewer? And what is the difference or advantage or a flat representative painting of staged object scenery versus an installation of such a scenery as I did in my Walking Through Painting, though not quite anthropomorphic as Rego is doing it.

Another work that I can related to this performing clothes might be the work by Carolina Burandt‘s work ‘FLURMOMENTE – Garderobe (example procedure)’  She graduated this year with a BA in Fine arts from the Academie Minerva, Hanzehogeschool Groningen (the closest brick&mortar university for arts for me) who won this year the Klaas Dijkstra Academy Award.  The work is a participatory performance art, about transitional moments in-between and as a research project. The audience is invited to redress and take on some construction gowns before be asked to do some tasks (see video here) What strikes me here are the element of dressing up for a performance (the dress as an objects to give permission?), the contrast between bright color of the gown and the environment, and the conception of addressing the space in between artist and viewer, art and mundane objects/tasks, visible and mental images, inviting for a dialogue, art as a mediator for collaboration. and social exchange.

Question: How do clothes contribute to identity ?

Mockup Patient Gown - acting and performing, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Fig. 1: Mockup Patient Gown – acting and performing, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Clothes are Identity

Pawel Althamer’s installation of objects as representing his identity in ‘Self-Portrait as a Businessman, 2002/2004. It is this question of self-portrait and identity that let me start looking at my frequent travelling and living with and out of suitcase at the start of part two (see my blog post here).

Althamer’s earlier work Self-Portrait in a Suitcase, 1996 seems closer to my idea as it developed over time. Although, I find the presence of the artist as a puppet a bit redundant, restricting a co-creation of narrative in the viewer’s mind too much.

The interesting aspect with Self-Portrait as a Businessman is possibly less the final image, but the process as it developed, unfolded: the artist took on clothes and props that he thought or representative for a businessman (external conception) and undressed him completely in a public square, walking away naked. This performance not only attracts more people but also adds a narrative to the installation. What if the installation was done without performance? Would it be less strong? Less narrating? The final plays with absence of the person (either artist or a businessman), the dressing and undressing adds another layer of artist’s intervention and intentionality. It reminds me of my own corporate business past, and how at the end I consciously undressed after work to ‘get rid’ of a layer, a mask, an identity perceived. Clothes do impact how we perceive ourselves, and how we are perceived by others. Clothes do tell a lot of the person wearing them. After death they are intrinsically charged with presence of the deceased. Buying new or second hand also can add a different connotation:. Who was the person wearing them before?

 Lisa Milroy’s use of clothing is perhaps more of topology (e. the ‘Dress’ series), paintings resembling an apparel boutique. At times fragmented like sewing patterns pre-cut and ready to be stitched together, e.g. Coming Apart, 2012. At times they remind of paper doll clothes, paper cut-outs, e.g. For White, 2012. Ideas of archive, as the collection of shoes shows. At first glance neat and in order, with closer view more with disorder and hard to distinguish one pair from the others (though they are all in pairs), e.g. Recent Shoes, 2014. The vast repetitive amount reminds me the work in series of Allen McCollum (e.g. ‘Surrogates’). Somehow I find her installation paintings PARTY OF ONE, 2013 or Split Personality, 2013 or 70 dress-paintings more intriguing, they are sculptural, painterly and building with references of visual language and eventually leading towards spatial curiosities, e.g One-to-One, 2015 – and they are to be engaged with, the viewer can get close. Her work White Shadow, 2012 is a painting that wants to get out of the flat surface, building on her earlier ‘Dress’ series but not at the stage of an installation painting yet. I have the feeling that her later works are getting more abstract and possibly more interesting as they build on absence and patterns across objects, e.g. Bag, 2014. Overall, Milroy’s paintings and installation flow between performative objects and identity-giving objects.

Mockup Patient Gown - a second skin, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Fig. 2: Mockup Patient Gown – a second skin, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

 

With regards to painting, installation and clothing the Japanese artist and queen of polka dots’ comes to my mind : Yayoi Kusama, e.g. Dots Obsession ,1997 or Infinity Rooms. Often the artist wearing clothes matching the patterns of the objects and the room, making her a living object of it. In the 1950s she even created a fashion series with the polka dots. 

Clothes becomes skin

This brings me to a work I’ve notice in ArtForum, Anvar Musrepov, IKEA Costume, 2017. It resonates with my work from part two  (packaging material, useful object) and to transform it into an outfit, even an identity? A dress is what one wears, and the IKEA bag (blue is the one one can buy and take home, the yellow one is for in-story use only) is often see for many different purposes, it is big, and one can put quite an amount of stuff inside. A dress, a fashion, a cultural identity. As it is IKEA one could connotate this with a lot of lifestyle and consumption habits as well.  His work relates to the work of Edson Chagas and his series ‘Back to Purgatory’, appropriation of African tribal masks and a consumption oriented world, the bag becomes a piece of our clothing, our outer shell, or as C.G. Jung described our social mask once, our ‘persona’.

It seems as if clothing gets close to our skin, our natural outer shell before culture invented clothing. In the work of Toyin Ojih Odutola this becomes visible through regular patterns on the skin, opening question whether it is skin or clothing, conveying an unsetting feeling.

Re clothes and Sam Gilliam I find one notion relevant during my past exhibition visit when Gilliam was asked to get more personal in his drapes and eventually he incorporated found objects from his direct environment into the canvas, traces of his identity, concealed or trapped inside the drape as reference for clothes one wears and one is recognized for (e.g. Jail Jungle I, II, III, 1969 or Composed (Formerly Dark As I Am), 1968-74). Reading the joining exhibition text I was wondering how personal expression in painting and cultural identities are related with each other, as according to the text ‘some African Americans working in figurative modes described Gilliam as making art in service to the white power structures’ – quite a statement. Re my own work and reflecting on my tutor’s comments on my Object-Box ‘as apparently less personal’ due to ‘rather crude objects’

Another approach to that could be seen in the role clothes play through replacing as second skin, eliminating faces, disguised faces. Ewa Juszkiewicz (Beers, 2015:138-39) paintings are conventionally painted portraits, appropriated from original older paintings, in three-forth profile, fully clothed in the dress of the profession (Cardinal, 2012) with disguised faces, folded, clothes or locks (Locks, 2012), the backside of the head. This disruption of an expected picture disrupts the narrative, through a high quality execution of the paintings, the unsettling effect seems to be stronger as if applied more abstract paintings, e.g. as in Dana Schutz‘s provocative painting Open Casket, 2016 appropriating a photograph of the lynched African American Till Emmett (see my blog post for UVC) that opened up questions of who had a right for cultural appropriation.

One artist who explores fabric and social heritage across cultures is Yinka Shonibarembe MBE. In his recent exhibition ‘Ruins Decorated’ classical ruined white marble sculptures are decorated with Dutch wax textiles. Dutch wax are considered as staple in African clothing. Double side printed cotton fabric in batik method, originally known for the technique developed in the Durch West Indies. One manufacturer of that traditional style is https://www.jansenholland.com/nl/. With the contrast of materiality (white marble, Batik textiles) he challenges color conceptions of cultural appropriation and colonial power structures of a Western White and an African colorful. The materiality and iconic perception of Dutch wax fabric informed his paintings (http://www.yinkashonibarembe.com/artwork/painting/) in a reduced abstraction moment with geometric shapes .

Without the content as such I  ponder choice of materiality alongside color, shapes and forms to be used in contrast or disruption of a narrative.

Below the Skin

Considering my tutors’s comment about my choice of bright red in my Fabric Wall #2 (too symbolic to connotate with blood? ), I was curious to see how other artists are handling bright red paint, e.g. Jane Lee‘s Solid Turn Liquid, 2015 (Melick and Morril, 2016:168-169), triggering ideas of blood dripping clothes, folded canvas that remind me of the multicolored canvas drapes of Sam Gilliam.  The paint on the floor alongside the painted canvas is conveying the spatial dimension of the material. At the end, it is all a painting. I find the comment in the book text interesting

“any symbolic violence is quickly undermined by the attention to material and form”

Another example is Turned Out, 2009, bright red painted canvas cut in thin strips and rolled like a firehose, certainly nothing to do with clothes any longer, but with materiality and surface. Both works emphasis the materiality of paint, the chosen color triggering ideas of blood might be just a reference to another reference, as blood could be seen as a paint as well (through its red color) Would the comment from the book mean that the chosen color and the chosen form are talking to the viewer through its materiality in a dialogue? Both bringing in different references, e.g. red=blood, form=fire hose?

Conclusion

What do I take away from this?

  • Clothes are a second skin.
  • Clothes are performing, are part of our identity, or part of our ‘persona’ (social mask)
  • Clothes do perform in absence of human beings.
  • Clothes are objects of desire, obsessive things to collect and to stage.
  • Skin:  human skin as clothes are the layer that surround us closely , in that sense clothes a second skin. Both protecting us, allowing us to interact with the environment, and give a sense of identity. Question what is behind or below? what is concealed? person, body  – blood, organs
  • Identity: Clothes to represent, they perform on us or for us.
  • Materiality : contrast alongside cultural connotations to disrupt narratives

Another object that is considered as identity given is the human brain, behind the skin, concealed by nature’s or culture’s clothing. An aspect that might bring me from a different angle to my personal project – to keep in mind, to explore.


Images:

  • All images are my own paintings as part of Ex3.1 (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Reference:

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Flatland and the Narrative

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Flatland – Abstraction Narratives

It is already some time ago since I went to Luxembourg and discovered the past exhibition at MUDAM Luxembourg (07 Oct 2017 – 02 Apr 2018) on ‘Flatland / Abstractions narratives #2‘, the second part of contemporary abstract art after a previous first exhibition at RAC Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée in Sérignan in 2016. It felt quite relevant to my coursework and especially with the recent works I did during part 2. I purchased the exhibition book (covering part one and two) with some good essays about context from the curators Marianne Derrien and Sarah Ihler-Meyer in the ‘Introduction’ and from Vincent Pecoil on ‘Flatland’ and a more art historical essay by Klaus Speidel on ‘The Problem of Narration in Abstract Art’.

The title of the exhibition derived form the book of Edwin A. Abbott ‘Flatland: A romance of many dimensions’ (1884), a story of two worlds: a two dimensional, flat world and the encounter of a square with a three-dimensional world. Flatness in painting is a paradigm since Modernism with the influencing writing oy Clement Greenberg and his view of medium-specificity, and to empty all external reference from painting embracing an ‘utterly flatness’ of the painting support.
One key aspect the curators and authors were addressing is how abstract art can convey narratives. Challenging another paradigm that G. Lessing explored in his book ‘The New Laocoon’ (1767) with the fight between spatial arts (e.g.painting, sculpture, photography) and temporal arts (e.g. poetry, literature, cinema). It was considered that only temporal arts with the key element of time can convey a narrative, telling a story. Still, spatial pictures would not be able to do so. A notion that I felt is still prevalent today when revisiting current comments from photography students on the OCA discuss forum, the challenge whether and how one photograph could have a narrative.
I found the differentiation of how we conceive narratives quite insightful:
  • by codification: signs, pictogramm, ideograms referring to meaning and concepts
  • by condensation: shapes and colors as strictly pictorial are hybrids referring to uses and practices (history and cross disciplinary)
  • by suggestion process: shapes and colors suggesting sensations and atmospheres inducing narratives via effects related to texture and material (eg Vera Kox)
And an open questions that very much followed my reflection on my works how to see fictional narratives versus the material reality. An example my interrogation of cut out shapes and a step-by step process of arranging various ‘events’ (Fig .1), leading into a time-based animation.

Stefan513593 -SP - part2- cut out collage - a step in between

Fig. 1: cut out collage – a step in between – a step in between – (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

I do agree with the authors that still-images are ‘silent’ images waiting to be activated by the viewer’.

“Exhibition labels appear between paintings like intertitles in silent films” – V.Pecoil

What all these aspects of ‘narratives’ have in common is a reference to external parts, not being part of the work itself. The narrative shifts away from the work to its context (history, intention, connotation) as Vincent Pecoil explained it, what also resonates for me with Barthes conception of denotation and connotation. What leaves the question how abstract art can tell stories through the painting?
Pecoil compared this with the visual language of abstraction and how we speak through flowers – building on the underlying idea that verbal language can be substituted by language of flowers

“Our beliefs and knowledge influence our aesthetic experience. In that sense , the immediate experience of a work of art does not exist” – Vincent Pecoil

Words are always there, if not in written form then in our heads, letting abstract art evoking it’s own history. The narrative of traditional history paintings was included in the work, it subject. Abstract art with the subject eliminated has to ‘transcribe vision as an imaginary space’ and transforming the artist into a ‘visionary whose gaze is turned towards the future’ (Pecoil). The author is given the example of Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ with the icon structurally persisting in the viewer’s mind.

But is the picture only triggers a narrative that is already there, in the mind? Would this not make the work just second to language? Klaus Speidel quotes Gottfried Boehm here when asking that

“if the image is in truth reduced to being merely a monstrative repetition of what has already been said previously – a sort of detour taken by language – it has no sovereignty of right and can only remain confined to a copy-image, a second image.” – Gottfried Boehm, 2010

What altogether brings me back to my past work (Fig.1) asking whether the narrative derives from the fork-shape object with its cultural meaning or if there is more at stake?

The author describes that shapes can behave as actors, with a subject-hood I would add. A way of thinking that was studied at a deeper psychological level by Fritz Heider and Marianne Summer with their work ‘An experimental study of apparent behaviour’, a film that triggered all sort of different stories by the participants.

It resonates very much with my own experience with the ‘cut-out collages’ but also with my larger scale Walking through Painting that both eventually led to my Object-Box, when Speidel explained how narrativity is gradual, relating to aspects of dynamism, transaction, conflict and tension inside the work and between shapes or objects.

“narration always co-created with the viewer, kind of ‘script’ as a “generalized sets of expectations about what will happen in well-understood situations .”- Michael Ranta, 2011

Speidel concludes that this kind of narration depends on:

  • Recipient (motivation, skills , knowledge )
  • Context (venue or seeing mode)
  • Presentation (and used medium)
  • Content represented (nature and degree of explication)

Two questions remain unanswered, how the element of time adds to the narration, whether it is rather restrictive or open. And what would be difference between a narrative and an invention of a story? At the end it comes down to the two poles of artist’s intention as a criterion for capturing the narrative and the participation of the audience as a co-creator of meaning. I like the term ‘self-entanglement’ the author is using considering the bond between the viewer and the narrative.

The final conclusion seems to me very relevant, though I feel I didn’t grasp it completely, as the meaning of it feels as vulnerable as its content. The author state that not recognition of a narrative is the ground, often restricting further reflection, but

“what matters is the way in which a particular work of art interacts with its references – the manner, for example, in which it rewrites the script on which it draws. What also counts is that there is a rich relationship between its material manifestation and the object of reference – the fact that the reference does not merely provide a surplus of meaning to a pretty form. It is only when we begin to ask ourselves these kinds of questions that we can advance from being mere passive receivers who play the gratifying game of arty storytelling to becoming emancipated spectators who avoid the trappings of their own vanity.” – Klaus Speidel

I am wondering how my Walking Through Painting (Fig.2) does respond and deliver to these process of questioning and ‘rewriting of scripts’?  The latter referring in my case to my object box (Fig,3) and our relationship with mundane objects.

Stefan513593 - SP - Part 2 - Walking Through Painting

Fig. 2: Walking Through Painting – (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

 

I was inspired by some artists and their works where I feel some resonance with what I did so far -and that I will take notes for future reference:

Artist – works – abstract narratives

Vera Kox (b. 1984)

She works with and explores materiality of polyurethane, bubble pack, and silica gel beads. The text tells that her sculptures in ‘artificial colours evoke future relics of an industrial present’. 

Her exposed work Temporary forms and permanent doubts,2013 (polyurethane foam and acoustic foam- one piece out of a series) is a chain suspended painted sculpture that reminds me strongly of my made-objects, especially those activators’ made from irregular shapes from packaging material and sprayed with bright colors. Her material choice is intriguing (something to test myself?). Her works plays with the relationship of organic and inorganic materials and forms, something I can relate back to Candice Lin. The growth tendency of PU foam is in itself a material that overcomes full control and adheres a certain subject-hood. Her objects seem to ‘live’ their own life, quite organic, and at the same time vulnerable – a element that I can related mostly only with my red made object from a towel in Walking Through Painting (Fig. 2 and 3). An aspect that I feel intriguing.

Sonia Kacem (b. 1985)

Her human scale installations are made with found materials and shapes derived from ordinary objects, and often made with fabric (striped and monochromatic blinds ) with connotations of memory of holidays at seaside. I can relate her works to folding, drapes as seen in the works of Sam Gilliam and Katharina Grosse, also bringing back my earlier explorations on folding-unfolding and the Baroque., an approach of concealing an revealing. 

Her exposed work Loulou, 2016-16 (owing its name to Félicité’s parrot in Flaubert’s ‘Un coeur simple’) is quite an geometric abstract work of pyramidal structures. Versus some of her other works that remind me at times of my studio table or floor space (see here). For me the fascinating aspect of using fabric to cover abstract forms, and to convey through colorful patterns and use of ordinary materiality of blinds a mystic sense as a narrative to engage with.

Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann (b. 1960)

The shown work L’Amour est plus froid que la mort, 2015 the artist expresses the strong emotional oppositions related to human conditions of desire and mourning. She relates this to two other works, poetry and filmic, one the novel of Jean Genet ‘Querelle de Brest’, 1947 and films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder who adpoted Genet’s novel for cinema. In this approach she takes external references as Candice Lin did in her work A Hard White Body, 2017 and triggers various narratives that the viewer can tap into or to stay at the work itself and to connect with the visual expression of shapes, color and spatial extension. For me, the contrast at play feels intriguing: metal shapes and soft pliable velvet tissue.

Tarik Kiswanson (b. 1986) 
The shown work Robe, 2015 felt quite harsh against above mentioned organic and pliable sculptures. I felt more intrigued by the multiplicity of reflection and disruption of reflection through cut slits and bended plates.  
The work evokes connotations to masks and knights’ armours. His sculpture Father Form, 2017 is composed of several dozen metal slats polished to become mirrors. The sheer endless and multiplicity of reflections can be also considered as a multiplication of our own image. A mix and match of objects and identities. 

Walking Through Painting (detail) - (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

Fig. 3: Walking Through Painting (detail) – (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

Learnings

  • Objects and materiality that convey a sense of grow and inner ‘life’ (e.g. Vera Kox Temporary forms and permanent doubts)
  • Contrast: playing with materiality characteristic to establish tension and dynamic that can trigger a narrative (e.g. Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann’s L’Amour est plus froid que la mort, 2015) 
  • Fabric as pliable material to use as a narrative medium through folding and concealing (e.g Sonia Kacem)
  • Dynamism, transaction, conflict and tension as internal elements that can establish an abstract narrative
  • Conception of narratives through: codification (signs), condensation (shapes and color referring to cultural practices), and suggestion process (shapes and colors suggesting atmosphere and sensations)

Reference:
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Project 2.6: Painting in the round – color, paint and objects

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Color, paint and objects – an exploration of space

What is color doing through paint? And who says that paint application is painting and working with objects is sculpture?

“painting is taken away the boundaries of an object” – Katharina Grosse (Art21, 2015)

Those questions seem to have a tradition in art history, earlier on more related to color, afterwards relating to painting versus drawing, and since Modernism the question whether painting is an object or not. With the rise of photography, painting was seeking a new identity beyond representing an external reality, what was not anyhow not really the case in e.g. medieval manuscript paintings.

And whether my observational sketch of the unfolded object-box is still figurative and objects as part focused or whether the paint applied is blurring the boundaries (Fig. 1) might be a question to the beholder.

StefanJSchaffeld - Object Box - painted unfolded

Fig. 1: StefanJSchaffeld – ‘Object Box’ – painted unfolded, 2018

At stake was the objecthood of art versus non-art, a continuous quest to understand art at large. We live in a world with things, as Bruno Latour once expressed it with  ‘Humans are not any longer between themselves’, challenging the distinction between subject and object. A painting or a sculpture as an object is described by Michael Fried through the expression of objecthood in his essay Art and Objecthood (1967) as a situation of a human experience of an artwork that places the spectator into the role of a subject.  Interesting for me now, after having read Fried’s essay during UVC in context of Modernism, to revisit his writing in context of paint and color. Recently, I encountered the term ‘objecthood’ again in the work of Olafur Eliasson when he expressed his intention to place the viewer into objecthood by stepping into the space and encounter the experience as the work.

Color and paint 

I looked earlier on at artists exploring materiality of paint, especially under the constraint of gravity and movement, e.g. Ian Davenport and his materialized puddle paintings or color waterfalls (see my reflection during POP1). Or the Swiss less known artist Elsbeth Böniger (see my post during POP1)  who changed the way she applied paint by moving the support, not the paint, and using the materiality of paint in her creations. Another approach to use gravity for paint application and the fluidity of water are Jessica Warboys with her ‘Sea paintings’ and Barbara Nicholls with her ‘Sedimentary Flow’ series of watercolor sedimenting in plenty of water. Both artists reflecting on natural processes.

One artist who is rather disconnected or independent from natural and even outside influences is Katharina Grosse, who makes large scale abstract, gestural spatial color works. Her more recent works are related to large installations of suspended fabric that she spray-painted after installation, e.g. The Horse Trotted Another Couple Of Metres, Then It Stopped, 2018. A work that I felt reminded of when visiting an show of Sam Gilliam and his attempts to overcome the stretched canvas limitations and moved partly into the viewer’s space. Now looking back at my work done for part one, it resonates so much with my assignment work in process (Fig. 2)

StefanJSchaffeld - Painting as folding - unfolding paper, 2018

Fig. 2: StefanJSchaffeld – Painting as folding – unfolding paper, 2018 – paper on plastic sheet

In her conversation with Jonathan Watkins (Myers, 2011: 161), Grosse describes her making as thinking and embracing the moves that come. She works and moves in spaces with spray paint and the required protective gear that makes her on the one hand disconnected with the intimacy of painting. On the other hand it makes her making more as ‘looking at pictures’. For her, color need to be thin in order to make impact. Versus her earlier approaches to work with thick paint and its materiality to achieve volume. Volume or substance derives for her from the architectural objects as supporting structure,  e.g. walls or corners.

There seems to be a distinction between paint and color.  Although, paint is often associated with color and vice versa. Godfrey described the work of Phyllida Barlow as a way how with ‘paint, color could become physical’.

However, Grosse could be seen perhaps more as a color artist or colorist rather than a paint artist, painter. Her material of choice is spray paint to create luminous spatial explorations and visualizations of ideas, as she expressed how

“painting is a way to make visible and understandable for the ideas and thoughts, it is thinking and acting the same time’ – Katharina Grosse (Art21, 2015)

One could say that her presence is expressed in the moment. And for her painting has the advantage versus reading of having a ‘synchronicity that is not linear’.

I am asking myself whether using a spray versus a brush is really more direct? Though the brush can be seen as a curse, more direct for me is still working with the body, fingers and touching the materiality and substance. But perhaps the ephemeral nature of light as well as color is ‘untouchable’ – our eyes and our mind are discerning as a process what and how we see. Also one could see Grosse’ way of painting supporting a Western ocularcentrism that Martin Jay explored I’ve and criticized in his book ‘Downcast Eyes’. But this might be just an appearance.

Color and light 

Looking at color without paint and unrestricted of painting as an object, is what we experience all day around us in daylight: the blue sky the green gras, the colorful flowers, the grey concrete buldings, or even at night with artificial lights:the traffic light, the neon advertisements, the headlights. I remember in the past when we crossed the border Netherlands – Belgium, the border as such not visible in the Benelux, but Belgian cars had strong yellow headlights, quite different to Dutch cars’ headlights. Light as source for color, powered by the sun. Or as Jessica Stockholder stated that color is ‘ephemeral and embodied’ (Chartwell Collection, 2014).

In art, color and light relate to  James Turelland his light installations, as well as some works of Olafur Eliasson. Both are working also in public spaces and use color and light as a spatial phenomena that brings the spectator into an active role of participation and experiencing. The sun plays an important role in Eliasson’s work, e.g ‘The Weather Project’ (2003) ,  and even created a mobile sun Little Sun (2012) as a project to support solar energy, quite a commodity object. And other artists worked with artificial light as color in the form of neon tubes, e.g Dan Flavin or Bruce Nauman

Experience of Color

Color is experience in the form of paint for interior walls to feel more comfortable at home, or as a symbol for meaning and emotions, e.g. in analytical art therapy practices, or in color therapy for healing purposes similar to wall paint. Bruce Nauman played with this color connotations in his neon work One Hundred Live and Die (1984) or White Anger, Red Danger, Yellow Peril, Black Death (1985). Katharina Groosse is using color a different way and without symbolic meaning. For her the use of bright colors is what she perceives underneath a surface and the the way she sees the world (Arken, 2009). What reminds me of the scratch pictures done in primary school made with wax crayons, overpainted with black, and scrapped through to make the color underneath visible. Other times she works  ‘over-explicit with raw color’, i.e. juxtaposing sprayed color with pigments on the ground.

This resonates well with how I not only work with color in my art therapy practice, but also how I consider colors in painting. A color in itself not charged with meaning, but being relevant in relationship with other colors, shapes and associated objects. Often language is getting into the way of color, biased by cultural conventions or subjective beliefs. All in all, that may be a reason why white as a color is considered as the multiplicity of colors. And after various experiences with ‘white’ paper, I sense that there is no ‘pure’ white (though photographers may say white is 255), all do have some hue or another. And human perception if white is delusive as well, e.g the ‘watercolor illusion’ test shows.

“painting is the ability to manifest your existence in moments in space and because of non materialized existence of thought” – Katharina Grosse (Arken, 2009)

To work with color is to make information visible, and to raise awareness of the invisible and the space between, those are Grosse’s conceptions of how she works, without making claims as in graffiti works (Arken, 2009). A conception that resonates and made me aware of how possibly I approached my work during London Study Day in April 2018, as an experience in space and as a visualisation of space  – the installation reflecting on the space in between (Fig. 3)

StefanJSchaffeld - Pebble and Gravity, 2018 - work at London Study Day - the visible and the invisible

Fig. 3: StefanJSchaffeld – Pebble and Gravity, 2018 – work at London Study Day – the visible and the invisible

Color and objects 

Objects are painted, color is applied to the surface, that’s how we experience objects around us. Throug  my learnings with painting so far, I find that color could be split into hue, saturation and tonal value (color theory), with the latter often the most discriminative  element, especially when identifying distant forms, e.g people, and / or at twilight. Color in the sense of hue has for me more a sense of depth and multiplicity. Following various discussions on the OCA forum by photography students, I do find it insightful how they look at color versus black&white, the latter having more of a nostalgic appeal, colored pictures as more contemporary and life-full, less graphical. As starting with drawing on my degree pathway started monochromic, looking at marks and texture. Painting is therefore truly not only about paint but also about color as a different dimension of experience and expression.

Michael Fried argues in his essay from a Modernist perspective aligned with Clément Greenberg when he defends painting against a ‘literalist’ (Fried’s term for Minimalist position of Donald Judd or Robert Morris placing an object in space as an object of experience by a subject and making the space in-between an integral part of work. Therefore, painting objects would be non-art, furniture in space. For Fried painting was about inner relationships of a parts of a whole,  it the whole in relationship to a subject.

The dilemma started with the paradigm of Modernist painting or sculpture as independent disciplines, and painting to be only converted with the flatness of the picture, but not as an object defined by a flat canvas.  Sculpture got the issue of that when painted it enforces the underlying structures as a part. What was opposed by Minimal Sculptures by Judd or Morris.

Fried quotes Greenberg who wrote 1961 (p.161)

“to render substance entirely optical, and form, whether pictorial, sculptural, or architectural, as an integral part of ambient space – this brings anti-illusionism full circle. Instead of illusion of things, we are now offered the illusion of modalities: namely, that matter is incorporeal, weightless, and exists only optically like a mirage.”

This was exemplified at that time by Anthony Caro and his uniform painted multiparts sculptures. In a sense that each part is important for the whole, but the whole is more than the combination of its parts. A notion that was further articulated by Deleuze and the conception of assemblages.I find Jessica Stockholder realized the ‘modalities’ in a different way (see below).

It seems, color through the medium of paint wanted to escape the flat constrains of a frame (literally and metaphorically). Color as constrained to surface, a surface that enforces the perception of the underlying thing as an object (aka objecthood). Early one Jules Olitski tried with Bunga 45, 1967 or Whip Out, 1968 to overcome object appearance through variations of painted surfaces. However, I felt that paint was applied to object, not to an assembly of objects and even space as can be seen in the work of Richard Tuttle or Jessica Stockholder.

Painted space 

Phyllida Barlow makes large scale sculptural works, that could are intentionally theatrical, as if she would challenge and offset Fried’s critique of ‘literalist’ objects.  In an interview given in the context of her installation for the British Pavillon at Venice Biennal, 2017 she ‘hoped for a theatrical encounter, with the audience as performers’. The installation of a balcony inside the work and space enforces the ‘play within a play’. Her works do question whether the objects, the sculpture do dominate space or vice versa. Also as if she would criticises Fried her objects are hollow and to be looked inside. An aspect Fried dismissed as ‘blatantly anthropomorphic ‘. Her work ‘Folly’ is interestingly painted in mute colors quite different to Grosse or Stockholder who prefer to paint with saturated and often primary colors. Although other works of Barlow are also painted brighter. I find in her works the paint is a supporting agent, scale and shape as the dominant force of the visual encounter.

Jessica Stockholder expands color into space, similar to Katharina Grosse, but mediated through objects, not through surfaces (although objects to have surfaces) . It seems as if Greenberg’s words of 1961 became substance in space now. Her dysfunctional object works, seemingly arbitrary arrangement of objects painted across boundaries (as Katharina Grosse stated it) intriguing. At times her works remind me as mix of Richard Tuttle, Betty Woodman and John Armleder.

In an interview (Chartwell Collection, 2014) she describes how she considers material qualities similar to qualities of color. Color as a material experience in space, or as she states

“color as a skin on a surface or as permeating the whole thing”  – Jessica Stockholder

SImilar to Grosse, one important aspect for her is the awareness of presence, and painting be a ‘ fresher way of being present’. For her one main reason to make art is to getting new thoughts not having before. Overcoming learned patterns, painting as thinking process of not-knowing before starting doing it. It resonates not only with Katharina Grosse’s approach but also with my raising awareness over the span of this course, that preconceived idea and concepts to be executed are a dead end. resulting in ‘nice’ pictures, but not to a new understanding how how I related to the action I am doing and the result I am creating. A process based activity with the artist being the arranger, to conductor of things happening.

Stockholder is intrigued by how we resemble each other at the appearance in sameness,  but are also different inside  – or speaking in painting terms: different materiality.

The color that is a true surface phenomena although physically also deeper layers do impacts reflected light. At a distance, the surface of an object reflects light into our eyes and we discern it as an object. We describe object by discontinuities, edges and mediated by learned patterns. Stockholder’s work is informed by that . The question she addresses is how to disconnect color and object perception, applying continuities of paint across various objects making the whole as a pictorial assemblage that exceeds the perception of its parts. In that sense a work of relationships and perception , quite in a Modernist tradition of embracing the flatness of painting, ie the surface adherence of paint and avoiding the objecthood of its parts.

Painting across and painting out – something I tried to work out during previous exercise (Fig. 4)

StefanJSchaffeld - Two Folds of Folly, 2018 - installation view

Fig. 4: StefanJSchaffeld – Two Folds of Folly, 2018 – installation view

Objects to paint out

By coincidence I came across the work of Sarah Sze  who expresses a desire of material intimacy in her installation work ‘How We See the World’ at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, 2015

” We have so much illusion but we don’t have touch and we don’t have taste and we don’t have smell” – Sarah Sze (Art21, 2016)

More conceptually situated, she responds to today’s visual culture of image distribution ‘similar to debris’. What resonates for me is her material approach by ‘arranging paint skins, torn paper images, and other materials such as wood, thread, and rocks’.  For Sze an exploration of  ‘our fragmented relationship to illusionistic images by focusing our attention on each object’s materiality’  by creating  ‘images that can be anywhere at anytime’. Space coming together like a floating frame, not knowing where a work begins and where it ends. Sze describes the way we see the world, in fragments. Quite different to Katharina Grosse who perceives the world through underlying colors. I like her questions e.g. ‘how does paint behave in space? how does it feel, how does it dry , how does it hear?’ And how we can approach material as not representing something else. How can we obtain awareness of images, of visual information, through edges, materiality and spatial interaction? Something that is certainly missing in a virtual world of flatscreen imagery. Where the edges are not part of an image, but of the here-world screen, where images can’t be touched, but just to screen surface. All trials to link the  touch with certain noises (e,g. the click of smartphone camera) are just another kind of illusion and delusion. Looking at some fragmented images of her installation made me smile, as it looks exactly like the pile of cut-outs from my previous works (Fig. 5)

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Fig. 5: StefanJSchaffeld – Part 2 – Materiality – Fragments, 2018

Reflection

Paint – color – objects – and images

Time to reflect how I approached painting since I started with OCA. During POP1, I painted pictures on a flat support, learning and sharpening my observation and color mixing skills. The pictures were either representational (e.g. My Presence, 2016 ) or abstract,  concerned with an inner pictorial logic and with my mental images (e.g. InsideOut-De(I)llusion, 2016). I did consider my paintings as movable objects, to be able to ship to my tutor or for assessment. In this current course, I painted not for the sake of creating pictures, more to express body movements, or processes of action. Performative paintings that eventually resulted in pictorial images, at times the ephemeral moments were captured through lens based moving images of the action taking place (e.g. Folding and Unfolding, 2018 and Fig. 2), that brought me into contact with folds and questioning fabric and paper related partly to Sam Gilliam. Or through animated time-based images (e..g Still-life Arrangement I, 2018). What leads me to the question what  painting actually is and whether painting interior walls or arranging colored pieces is painting or craft or decoration. The funny thing with German language: ‘Maler’ ( painter) is the profession for interior wall painting, a painter in the sense of art need to be amended as ‘Kunst-Maler’ (art-painter).

During part two I worked with objects, more or less flat, and my relationship to them, arranging and organising, activating interactions and using painted surfaces as a mean to distinguish, to uniform, to activate. And to disguise or to enforce form perception leveraging the human conditions of making sense of whatever strikes the eyes (see Fig. 4).

Looking at Katharina Grosse, Jessica Stockholder, Phyllida Barlow, and Sarah Sze (coincidence that all are women?) made me aware of how painting in color on surface of objects can be more than the creation of an image, a representation of something. Paint is material, and color can be experienced as material as well. Color is space experience, and objects are spatial things we experience. Objects can be anything, a chair, a printed photograph, a picture, or a fragment of something. Objects are materialised in a real world (not considering idealist positions of objects as ideas). I experimented with materiality in my sketchbook as a way of thinking through visuals (Fig. 6)

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Sketchbook

Fig. 6: StefanJSchaffeld – Part 2 – Materiality – Sketchbook, 2018

Sarah Sze informed me further about fragmentation as conceptual aspect of visual culture, an aspect I explored in part one (e.g. What is Left Behind, 2018 or ‘The Puzzle of Gesture‘, 2018). In that same exploration I revisited aspects of ground and figure, and how ground can be a figure, painted objects, though resulting as flat pictures, kind of flatland work with intermediated breathing of expanded space.

All in all I can relate to Katharina Grosse and Jessica Stockholder when they approach painting as an encounter with the visual, and at times also non-visual world. An aspect of tactility and proximity that is also reflected in Sarah Sze’s installations. And that I found a more intimate relationship while working on my second Object-Collage What is Below and Beyond (Fig. 7)

StefanJSchaffeld - What is Below and Beyond, 2018 -installation view

Fig. 7: StefanJSchaffeld – What is Below and Beyond, 2018 -installation view

What is left now?

A question whether painting need paint and whether painting need color. Or put in a different way, if I work across, around and through surfaces with colored things, readymade color e.g. tape as I’ve seen in some works of Barlow, is this a sculpture or a painting or an installation?

Or is it important that I take paint in my ‘hand’ to apply to? I feel a bit lost in transition.

But I am also excited to work more spatial, not to paint on objects but to paint with them and through them. Perhaps, it comes back to a fetishism and object ontology. But I still believe that there are always two layers working in parallel when looking at a work: the work in itself as a object or assemblage and the deferred sense that one subjectively makes and connote with the work in a given situation.


Images:

  • all works are made by me during the span of this course. (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2017-18

Reference:

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Documentary: Olafur Eliasson ‘Space is Process’ (DVD)

OLAFUR ELIASSON: “THINGS GO WRONG AND WE CELEBRATE IT”
Olafur Eliasson is not an artist, it is large studio team exploring and creating all kind of works in context of art. I was excited to watch his the film ‘Space is Process’ on DVD, hoping to get different viewpoints on space and process, that seem so relevant to my own work and way of working.
He stated in the film
“It is not about me, it is about you” – Olafur Eliasson
Eliasson is known for his interrogation of space and light, our sensual responses to how these interact as a subjective experiences. As stated that the body makes sense out of space (dimension, scale) and he considers his working in already existing spaces as different to ‘a neutral, empty canvas’, as already been charged with ‘meaning and intentionalities’. One of his aims is ‘to do something having an impact’.
 
The film follows a few projects of Eliasson and his team with more end-to-end narrative of the ‘New York Waterfalls‘ installation 2008. A major project resembling at time more a construction work project. But at the end, it is still about him and his celebrity status.
For him, it is important that that his ‘values and qualities I believe in are communicated throughout the project’. Quite an art director position, or in other companies the director position in his team. He described his way of working as ‘having others to take care of something, I am  joining, get inspired and then we work from there’.
With regards to ‘Waterfalls’, Eliasson expresses his belief in inclusivity of a space, asking what a space, city and nature is about. With the dominance of water and the Hudson River in New York City, he applies his conception of environmental sensitivity to it, not only considering water as a surface, but to give it volume aka bringing out of the surface into 3D space. By that it would be more engaging to the  senses and be more than a picture. The spectator’s feeling would be different than just thinking and see a painted waterfall.  Further, he considers this intervention not only as a questioning of space but also of time, what is history and what is now.
 
I feel the question around how we interact and make sense of our surrounding, a spatial dimension, intriguing. Eliassson invites people to participate, to experiment with the space and to construct its own subjective meaning, and to include the spectator into the objecthood. An objecthood quite in the tradition of Fried’s critique of literalism as the experience encountered by an subject makes the experience itself part of the object. For him, the world becomes negotiable. It is up to us, the spectators to get involved.
“One unique quality of the language art speaks, it doesn’t take the world as granted, reality – constructed, thus re-negotiatable” – Olafur Eliasson
He is very much in exploring those aspects through his works and avoids to be personally part of the work.. He explained in the film that topics as his origin in Iceland are existentialist subjects and ‘there is no sense in communication with other people questions of existentialism‘. This feels strange to me, as if he would like to separate his personal life from his business structured ‘art’ life. A notion that sound quite familiar for me from my corporate background. And raising the question to me what kind of artwork or artist or impact in the artworld I would like to be or to make.
 
Another interesting aspect I captured in the film is his experience that ‘a work of art can embrace different people having different experiences at the same time’. It is his ambition to show that difference at the same time is actually a good thing, that one can be an individual as well a member of a group. It reminds me strongly of Deleuze and his conception of ‘Assemblages’.
 
Further, Eliasson elaborated the purpose of a studio and the question of balance between form and content.  The latter, he answered his viewpoint of form succeeding and resulting from content.  Quite a conceptual approach to artwork. Re studio, he sees it as am amplifier for his at times off-site responses to  nature or city. The studio would amplify those responses and another idea would eventually be generated. Although, he acknowledged that the studio could be restrictive as well due its structural constraints, and sees in organising workshop a way out.
 
Last not least, I found his view on exhibitions and retrospectives quite enlightening: to see shows not as showing pf past works but as a show of new experiences and installations, though the physical work itself could have been made ten years ago.
 

Conclusion

I enjoyed watching the film and Eliasson’s viewpoints and intentions behind his and his team works. I felt a bit intimidated by the extensive work efforts of his studio reminding me at times of construction and engineering projects. Perhaps, memories from my corporate past, not all pleasant, resurfaced and looking at life from a different, artist perspective (and ‘smaller’ one as well, economically speaken).
The expression of engaging the viewer’s into the work, not in a didactic way, but in a way to make one own’s subjective sense, resonates well. Whatever, the artist or designer has in mind, the viewer is processing and acting upon her/his own way. And there is no one better or worse.
I looked briefly at the artist’s website and the first glance went to a video, called ‘Wasserfarben‘  (2:48 min) on the frontpage, Eliasson describing is experience with drawing as way to understand. and how it related to chance and uncertainty.

 
 
Reference:
  • Olafur Eliasson – Space is process (2011) Directed by: Lundø, H., Jørgensen, J. and Olafur, E. 2011, [DVD], Indigo.
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Project 2.5: Still life and the Combine – Robert Rauschenberg and more

Stefan513593 -Ex. 2.4 - Combine Two - feat2

Robert Rauschenberg

Looking at Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) seem to be a expansive endeavour. Thus, I looked first how others did see him and noted down some quotes from statements of various artists ( Tate shots video on Rauschenberg:

“He is one of the first people to explode the surface of the painting into the world of the viewer”, “our tendency is to seek a narrative, he presents possibilities of that, and then undercuts it”, “everything is part of our visual world, thus everything can be drawn into a piece of an art” – Sir Alan Parker

“do require a bit of work from the viewer, comfort zone disruptive quite visceral” – Cornelia Parker

The following two quotes from the same video resonates very truthfully how I envision, experience my surrounding world, me and the way I want to make sense as an artist:

“ability to making images, is in us – the complexity of how we assemble a picture of the world” – Philippe Parreno

and last not least Rauschenberg’s own words

“Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)” – Robert Rauschenberg, 1959

With relation to my object-box made out of all kind of nonsense, dysfunctional objects, not really of use in daily life as such, another thought crosses my mind of how we do make sense and build relationship with objects, objects we know, possibly experience more unconsciously, and how possibly my work can address that mental and emotional process of connectivity and relationship. What draws our attention, our empathy? What makes it that we keep that attention over time and space? And what makes it fail, that we get rid of it? Unattended, lost, without even mourning ? In this context, Rauschenberg’s series ‘Cardboards’ (1971-72) seem to be a possible perspective for my unfolding box, all those works from his series are wall pieces (installations?) of unfolded found card boxes with traces of their origin and usage.  Based on these found objects, he made some ceramic casts, e.g. Tampa Clay Piece 3, 1972-73,  added tape and silkscreened details, confusion and challenging the viewer of their verisimilitude (Katz, 2017). I encountered the idea of casting first in House, 1993 of Rachel Whiteread and later Bruce Nauman’s A Cast of the Space Under my Chair, 1965-66 – both revealing the surface of an object otherwise concealed, or unnoticed. Whereas, Rauschenberg’s work addresses the question of object as ready-made versus artwork representing a ‘real’ object.

Stefan513593 - Project 2.5 - Sketchbook unfolded Cardboard

Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – Project 2.5 – Sketchbook unfolded Cardboard

I would love to see a major retrospective of Rauschenberg’s work, at least to see some of his objectified objects in reality. So far, I have to be satisfied with printed and online reproductions.

Rauschenberg was facing misinterpretations and was criticised for an appropriation of past strategies to critique contemporary art practices e.g, the gestural affirmation by Abstract Expressionists. Together with his close friend Jasper Johns (b. 1930), he is often classified by critique as Neo-Dada, because of their collage and multi-pictorial works relating to some works by Kurt Schwitters (1887 – 1948) and e.g. his Merz Pictures as a collage of found imagery (the name Merz derives from the rather oldish German word Kommerz=commerce, or perhaps better to say: mass consumption). However, according to Craft (2013) the Neo-Dada notion would have been better been associated with the public outcry against his Combines or his earlier works Elemental Sculptures, e.g. Music Box, 1955, reminiscent to Marcel Duchamp’s With Hidden Noise, 1916. Rauschenberg’s earlier works ‘Scatole Personali (Personal Boxes)‘ , 1952/53 and ‘Feticci Personali (Personal Fetishes), 1953 that he made during his stay in Italy, resonate very much with my current ‘obsession’ with my peronal object-box though the objects I placed inside are not really personal (perhaps they just became it). But perhaps, each object in itself is of less importance?

Found object, ‘objets trouves’, collecting them and in incorporating them into new artefacts were one area of Surrealist artist, e.g. Man Ray (Cadeau, 1921/1970), Alberto Giacometti (Table, 1933/1969), Joan Miro (Peinture-objet, 1931 – see at: http://www.alaintruong.com/archives/2008/11/02/11205036.html or http://successiomiro.com/catalogue/7) or Max Ernst (The Sea (Marine), 1928). Miro and Ernst more in the tradition of painting. These Surrealists used found objects as artefacts in a juxtaposition for dysfunctional and rather symbolic assemblages. The called the relief or sculptural works ‘objects’ in order to distinguish the from the aesthetic connotation of sculptures. At times those object-assemblages became a mystic, surreal or fetishist dimension. Quite different from Duchamp’s ready-made that defer our perception of objects onto a meta-level of reflection (Zentrum Paul Klee, 2016:306-325).

The Combines: a collage response to a visual world

Rauschenberg’s Combines, created mainly between 1955 and 1961, do show a progression. His earlier works forming a critique of Abstract Expressionism as gestural emotional self expression by using a mix of personal and non-personal items, multi media, multi pictorial and sculptural, e.g. Untitled, 1954 – at times called by him as ‘Plymouth Rock’ as a ‘point of arrival in an unknown land’ (Craft, 2015:48). His later Combines could be seen more as reflection and journalistic strolling along a urban life and its environment, e.g. Rebus, 1955 or First Landing Jump, 1961.  And as the pulsing, ads, multiple pictures flooding towards the eyes, the attention to details is lost, blurred. Often one can’t remember at the end of the day what the eye received in visual information. Images pass by, and this might be the case with ‘Combines’ as well, so many visual information  in different places, seen from a distant, one tends to move along. But in a space like a gallery, one tends to look deeper, seeking meaning, trying to make sense out of it. As if the surrounding space supports as a protective space against further intrusion. It takes time to look at, through, outside and inside, and to digest or to make sense, if possible at all. Curiosity as a main driver. I feel as if this flood of visual information through objects and pictures is getting more and more a dominant presence in art spaces, e.g. Mark Dion’s exhibition at Whitechapel. Time to stroll or contemplate is over, though a deeper interrogation with one object or an assemblage might still be seen as ‘contemplative’ . Return of Modern Art in at a meta-level? Are we dumb and un-receptive for all kinds of visual information outside and more receptive in art spaces?

Steinberg (1972) stated in his essay that ‘the painted surface is no longer the analogue of a visual experience of nature but a operational process’. With this he describes a paradigm shift from a vertical posture towards a working on a horizontal surface like the flatbed printing press or studio floor or tabletops. A verticality that prevailed since the Renaissance one point view of perspective. Main force is gravity, as John Cage also argued (2003,) the vertical representing sight, the horizontal tactility and placement of objects as a ‘receptor surface on which objects are scattered’ (as those would obviously fall down on a vertical surface). Bottomline, how we relate to the world around (vision, operation) us dictates how we perceive a work, a painting, a map, an installation. What brings me once again to my previous reflection on perspective and imagery in a contemporary context related to today’s practice of top down views related to Google and satellite derived maps. A distancing view as an observer, even as an voyeur, looking down, to overview, for possible arrangements – quite like I experienced the previous exercise work with cut outs collage, a map.

Another aspect I find quite relevant in the perception of ‘Combines’, and later sculptural painting works, is the sense of assemblage, the sense that the whole is not any longer just the combine of all parts, but that the whole need to be seen rather independent of its parts. Looking at each part separately will only give some information, looking at the whole as an assemblage will provide a different insight. A notion that Sophia Starling described as the ‘integral whole’ (See below).

Rauschenberg’s famous ‘Combine’ is Monogram, 1955-59. He worked for four years on it till he found apparently the right assembly of the goat, the tyre and the support. There exist many different interpretations, related to critique of Abstract Expressionism to sexual statement. Possibly, this variety of interpretations, of sense-making, is one key aspect of ‘Combines’: the viewer as integral part of the work and the artist having merely a mediator role, a choreographer, as the viewer need to walk around or at times crouch down (as with the work Untitled, 1954). I find one aspect interesting in Monogram considering my object-box project : the hinge, normally intended to close or to fold, now a dysfunctional object, an artefact, a memory. 

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Project 2.4 – Ex 2.3: Reflective exercise – Studio reflections

Studio space

What is my relationship to my work place or studio space?

I started this course while still being a frequent traveller, my suitcase was my studio and workplace, my objects had to be transportable, my relationship was a question of fitting in and packing/unpacking. This has changed the last months, as I decided to move and relocate to Germany, given up my residency in Switzerland. I re-constructed and established a new space (Fig. 1) –  space that I hoped for to become a creative place.

(c) 2018, StefansJSchaffeld

Fig. 1: Studio space[/cap

Now, with the idea realized future becomings are still to be actualised. A starting and coming back point – a place of collection, surely for all my done works (reminds me to start with the business side of being an artist as well, to show, to share and to sell).

I have seen a few other studio spaces from local artists, more or less living room spaces, at times a separate building, crowded, cramped, at times open space with nearly nothing in it. So it all depends on the way the artist would like to be – and what one needs to work creatively. Also, if intended to work alone, or to be frequented or visited by others as well.

I should be happy, and actually after all the hassle with moving and settling in with my other professional activities, it is more than many have: dedicated, a retreat, a space where my objects, tools and media do have a home. Nevertheless, I do feel not complete yet. Being still excited to get out, to do more, interaction, performance? Coursework needs my attention, but should it really restrict me to the studio space?

On the other hand, the space is fresh, quite new . The smell of long lasting hours and residues of paint and obsolete objects not there yet. Too clean?

What is useful for me? 

A base, a place to keep, a place to get things done. A place to explore and visual map (on the wall, Fig .2)

Stefan513593 - studio space - visual mapping part 2

Fig. 2: studio space – visual mapping part 2

What do I need further? 

Movement, free flow, and multiple viewpoints. I’ve been a nomad the last decades, now I will not stop. To be a nomad in the art world seems to be another cup of tea, how to get there, I have no idea – interaction, communication, collaboration. One more time, that being a distant art student feels lonely – quite remote.

Space and scale: As reflected in the previous exercise one important aspect for me is space, room to move. I need floor and wall space. At times during the process of making I work on the floor, add objects one after the other beside me – till it is crowded. At the end it is time to clean, to get ready for new work. It is a cycle, and this cycle or intensity, crowdedness and cleaning up seems to be important in my way of working.

Home

What is home? I am Dutch, having spend more time in other countries more time than in Netherlands. Feeling a stranger in familiar grounds.  Does my studio space support this feeling or would it restrict it? Open questions with unclear directions.

Function of my studio space

Till now, I had various spaces to work with and out of: suitcase, apartment, studio. And the space in-between that I truly found inspirational, e.g train, airport, street, hotel. It was quite frustrating to take partly tools, objects, and paint with me, and to keep more or less doubled stuff in two place. That was the ground for me creating the object-box table starting this part of the course, and now perhaps already nostalgic?

My studio space is in a side building on our property where I also installed my art therapy practice for outpatients and clients (in the process of settling in). My idea would be to obtain a space that communicates visually and emotionally. It would be a place to relax, to inspire, to create, and to establish new perspectives. Still work in progress – some work will be done off-site.

Also I am trying to establish now a certain daily and weekly routine – being there, working there and here, not somewhere else. And yes, a place that allows different things to do. Although, sometimes I still have a sensation of getting out, breaking out.

Overall, a place of return – work in progress is waiting to be continued.

Drawbacks

I started with OCA working in different locations. After moving, it merged into one place alone. The nomad part is over, spatially?. Since April this year, other business activities took my attention. What was intended to open up, felt at the beginning as closing down. With frustration with postponing my coursework, until the moment I really had to get back on track – my passion for art making could not be hold back any longer.

That period, unproductive longer than expected, was possibly supportive in another sense. That I know and feel stronger to move ahead. I tried towards getting rid of distractive objects, boxes, and all sort of other things (not only physical parts). Another view on restriction or limitation as being more productive. I still work from my transport object-box what feels right at the moment. Perhaps as a more expanded field. To keep it small? Or till the time comes to make it bigger?

Forward

My routine still to be maintained, work to be done and created. And not only coursework. So far, interaction with what is around me takes quite some time. And freedom to play around.

Or as verbs of action considering my space:

to play,

     to enjoy,

          to use,

              to experiment,

                   to explore,

                        to discover,

                            to frequent,

                                  to make sense, 

In this sense, I find Uri Aran’s perspective on interaction with his work place intriguing.

“how to solve the day in the studio” – Uri Aran

Uri Aran explained during an interview at the 55th Biennale (BiennaleChannel,2013:0:40) his ‘toolbox of action’ when exploring:

to make sense of things, to organize, to re-organize, to design, to wait, to put together, to let age, to move (around), to revisit, to think every day about, to map, to present, to explain, to make social meaning

Aran highlights a few aspect of importance to his work and the reception of it:

  • flat logic (flatbed, work table)
  • topography (a map)
  • narrative (to get some meaning out of the arrangement)
  • rhythmic feeling (the embodied encounter)
  • storyboard (that unfolds)

I find the mapping resonates with Perec’ and Bishop’s description of work tables. The narrative is certainly what the viewer looks at, as the human brain tries to make sense out of complexity. And what is better suited then a story to be told? I personally can very much relate to the rhythmic feeling in the sense of feeling with all senses the encounter of objects.

The sense of narrating and interacting objects  might go into the direction of New Materialism and object-orientation of post-human theories, something I not understand well yet, possibly more to read through.

I am not so intrigued by the ‘toolbox’ conception as it feels too much of pre-mediated design. Especially in my professional field of art therapy and coaching it is more of attending the moment and less designing the moment. Sticking to a toolbox can end up ugly.

Valérie Mréjen describes the flow of a studio day in her short diary ‘Start Working’, (Hoffman,2012:180), an instructional piece for ‘Do It’, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Perhaps less about a focused problem solving activity and effective work attainment. It is more about the struggle, procrastination, and distraction that is happening every day, especially when one seeks inspiration for creative work. Something, I truly could relate to, nearly feeling it as a joke. But also the importance of embracing all moments in space and time as they come along, as new perspectives might open up. As she issued this in the context of ‘instructions’ it might well be something like mapping out and planning ahead. Being an independent artist (not thinking about commissioned work yet) means to be self-instructive. One need to set time, space, and resources to get something done. I never believed in the notion of the relaxed artist waiting for inspiration and creative muse. It is work, and routine work that requires quite some discipline. And to make, to DO IT. An exclamation that quite characterizes my life, especially my business life. Making more work is often more fruitful than trying to make less, but high quality work (this doesn’t mean that the many works need to be rubbish)


Reference:

  • BiennaleChannel (2013) Biennale Arte 2013 – Uri Aran,  [online], At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHQ–mq_lRY  (Accessed on 12 Feb 2018).
  • Hoffman, J. (2012) The Studio, Documents of Contemporary Art. Edited by Blazwick, I. London: Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press.
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Project 2.3: Contemporary approaches to still life – Exploring space

During my previous course units I looked briefly at Cubism as an avant-garde movement within Modern Art. Especially during my UVC course (this post and this post) I came across the quite famous Barr chart, created by the art historian and first director of the ‘Museum of Modern Art’ in New York in 1929. Alfred H. Barr (1902 – 1981) curated  the first Modern Art exhibition ‘Cubism and Abstract Art’ in 1936 and this chart with one focus on Cubism was presented on the catalogue cover (Fig. 1). Barr created a kind of genealogy of art movement towards Cubism with a touch of scientific fact appeal. What can be argued to quite some extent nowadays, but also gave some indication on how Modern Art especially in the USA and part of the Western World developed further.

arr Chart 'Cubism and Abstract Art'

Fig. 1: Barr Chart ‘Cubism and Abstract Art’

 
Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) nd George Braque (1882 – 1963) were contemporaries and exploring together issues of reshaping painting and perspective, first in an analytical way (Analytical Cubism, 1909-1912) and later in a constructed and composed way (Synthetic Cubism, 1912-1914).In Analytical Cubism objects were diligently analysed and dissected. Through a reduction of shading, use of limited color palette (ochres, greys) the main focus was on compressing objects in a flattened picture plane by studying lines and creating overlapping layers and edges.  With the later  Synthetic Cubism the focus shifted towards more collage works build from simple geometric shapes and use of a more colorful palette. It was more of an experimental, open approach to multiple perspectives. It was also more about composition and exploring pictorial relationship. 

A major influence was Paul Cézanne influencing both Picasso and Braque. Non-Western African tribal sculptures did shape the especially Picasso’s painting aesthetic. Cubism could be considered as a continuation of Modern Art that by convention started with Manet with respect to flattening and a disruption of the picture plane separated from a mere representational function. The artists tried to refrain from creating sculptural visual depth in the tradition of the Renaissanc’s paradigm of linear perspective and a sense of ‘walking into’ the painting (Trompe d’oeil effect). Neo-Impressionism and especially Pointillism paved the way for a different way of seeing a picture, in a sense that content and form became independent.

The term Cubism was coined by the art critique Louis Vauxcelles in 1908 referring to early landscape paintings with ‘cubic oddities’ (Tate). One could easily compare and see similarities between Cézanne’s painting Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibemus Quarry1897 and Georges Braque, Houses at L’Estaque, 1908 and Pablo Picasso, Brick Factory at Tortosa, 1909: a flattening out through nearly geometric irregular shapes in various tones. Cézanne’s naturalistic sky turns into Picasso’s geometric patches. Nevertheless, one can still make out some linear perspectives concepts in those paintings.

Key aspects of the early Cubism are:

  • Differentiation from traditional manner to build on linear perspectives in depicting objects. Establishing multiple views from different viewpoint in one painting.
  • Breaking down forms into simple geometric shapes (that influenced later Suprematism and Constructivism)
  • Flatting the picture plane. Colors and tones are applied to further flatten the picture plane and to disturb continuity of forms.
  • Avoiding shading to create three dimensional illusion and depth. Actual distance of objects are unrelated to perceived placement, eg. with contradictory overlapping layers and no differentiation between ground and figure.

A later artist of further disrupting picture plane and Western perspective was Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954). He once described his art as a ‘balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter.’ (ArtStory)

 

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Mary Heilmann – sense of space

(c) 2018, StefanJSchaffeld 'Imagining Mary Heilmann'

Mary Heilmann (b. 1940) described her work through expressing a viewer’s perspective:

“I am obsessed with the space in Asian painting….how there can be several kinds of space at once. I play with this idea as I look, my eye and my mind flicking back and forth from one sense of space to another.

This is the front. That’s behind. No that’s the front and this is the background. That’s an edge. No it’s a line. That’s a space. No, it’s a thing. Round and round, and over and over.” – Heilmann, 2011:132

She describes the sensation as a viewer and ‘player’ looking at a picture that gives some indications, some hints of shape that one possibly could allocate to a form (based on learned patterns), But the next moment on sees something else and brings this into a new relationship or context. By that, one moves with the eye around the picture plane, never be sure what one sees or just imagines. It is the act of looking and seeing itself as the subject matter. Whatever inspired the artist in making a work (‘memories of the distinctive colors and lines of the West Coast’s landscape and surf culture’, Hauser & Wirth), it is not important, not even relevant perhaps. As making new connections and building relationships between visual cues is at the core of the work. And eventually, her works are closer to poetry similar to Gertrude Stein’s expression of her personal encounter with objects in ‘Tender Buttons’. Interestingly, Heilman stated that her work titles are ‘related to some kind of narrative that was going on with me. So the titles are often like a three-word poem that is part of the piece.’ A portrait or a diary?

Her works (painting, design, furniture) remind me strongly of Piet Mondrian and De Stijl, a minimalist, geometric abstract art that made its way into design, furniture and even fashion. A play with primary colors and relationships of shapes and colors with at times quite balanced compositions. Influenced as well by Pop Art, and cartoons like the Simpsons. But one could see her works also as a medley or pastiche of various art movements, crossing boundaries of those, as crossing edges on the picture plane. But with a closer view, the geometric shapes are not so geometric, edges are soft or hard. The overall impression is playful, enjoying life through colors and paint. I can relate her work to Frank Stella (e.g. Haran II, 1962) or Daniel Buren (e.g. Photo-souvenir: Enamel paint on cotton canvas, [September-October],1965) or Richard Tuttle or Donald Judd (e.g. Untitled, 1985)

“I play with composition being in balance and out of balance.” – Mary Heilmann (Laster, 2017)

In the following interview Heilman talks about her post-modernism abstract painting (Heaven) and partly making a joke of American Abstract Painting. e.g De Kooning.kind of avoiding to come across as expressionistic abstract painter. She found her breakthrough in the combination of Albers (hard edge geometric abstraction) and De Kooning (gestural painting)

In the interview with Paul Laster she describes her work Home Arts, inspired by domestic experiences in her childhood:

“Growing up, there was always a lot of conversation about the dinnerware, the tables—all of this home-stuff. My mom was constantly re-arranging the furniture and art on the walls, which was a big influence. And when studying Japanese art and ceramics I learned that things can be as high as art sometimes.” – Mary Heilman (Laster, 2017)

Key aspects of her work:

  • Use of bright, often primary or secondary colors
  • Often simple geometric shapes put in relationship to each other
  • At time hard edges, another time soft, blurred or disappearing edges
  • Combination of hard edges and gestural strokes
  • The background color activates in a uniques sense each of her work
  • The furniture could be considered as a spatial extension of her paintings
  • The eye follows edges, and shapes like wandering through a landscape, discovering disruptive edges like a river crossing
  • Composition is arrangement, placing and moving, organising and revisiting

Some of Mara Heilmann’s works collected on my Pinterest board:

Images:

  • Featured Image:  Schaffeld, S.J. (2018) Imagining Mary Heilmann‘ [painting]

=> with this quick sketch, I felt more relaxed after previous cut out collages and responded more viscerally to the edges, shapes and relationship. Hard edges alongside overlapping shapes conveying more a sense of spatial depth through sudden disruption, soft edges a more gentle transition. Overpainted shapes receding them and disrupting the illusion of spatial depth. Colors (hues, tone, saturation) contributing to a sense of atmosphere as well as sense of space.


Reference:

  • Art21 (2010) Mary Heilmann: Abstract Painting | Art21 “Exclusive”, [online], At: https://youtu.be/I17qqiz_l2U(Accessed on 04 Aug 2018).
  • Heilmann, M. (2011) ‘Looking at Pictures (1999)’, in: Myers, T. R. (ed.) Painting: Documents of Contemporary Art, London: Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press, p. 132.
  • Laster, P. (2017) ‘The painter’s painter theory of solid space’, in: [online].At: https://www.conceptualfinearts.com/cfa/2017/07/24/mary-heilmann/(Accessed on 06 Aug 2018).
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Folds, Unfolding and Why baroque is not dead

Stefan513593_SP_part2_warmup feature

Warming up gestural drawing that possibly could lead into gestural painting? For the time being I restricted myself to charcoal sticks, one stick a day, one week.

Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture
 
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #1
day 1
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #1
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #2
day 2
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #2
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #3
day 2
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #3
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day 4
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #4
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #5
day 5
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #5
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day 6
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #6
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day 7
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #7
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day 8
Stefan513593 - SP2 -warm up - Baroque gesture #8

In parallel my reading, bits by bits of Deleuze ‘Folds – Leibniz and the Baroque’, trying to find context for my assignment 1 work on folding and unfolding, my exhibition visit on Sam Gilliam and my curiosity to seek new perspectives and meaning.

“The model for the science of matter is the ‘origami’,… the art of folding paper.” – Deleuze

And reading on the side some parts in Holly’s book ‘Past Looking’, helping me to understand better what Deleuze was trying to say.

“Unfolding is not the contrary of folding, but follows the fold up to the following fold. A fold is always folded within a fold.” – Deleuze

Key learnings in Baroque and Deleuze:

The Baroque House - an allegory

Fig. 1: The Baroque House – An Allegory (after: Deleuze)

  • Difference Renaissance – Baroque:
    solid figure – changing appearance, enduring form-movement, thing in itself – thing in its relations, thing as they are – things as they seem to be, absence – presence
  • Connotation with Baroque: excessive, ecstatic, theatrical, allegorical, intertwining of death and desire
  • Baroque as a ‘subversion of dominant visual order of scientific reason’
  • Baroque a ‘world of two floors, separated by a fold that echoes itself.’, a separation between matter and manner, material and soul
  • The fold: a form of expression, a Gestaltung, an infinite line of inflection
  • Open facade and hermetic inner volume
  • A room, a place with no windows covered with ‘lines of inflection’ (the monad according to Leibniz), a cell, a sacristy, a study room
  • The outer is not visible in the inner, only through invisible openings or mirrors light enters
  • Dark background, things appearing from the background
  • 6 traits assigned to the Baroque:
    – 1. the fold, 2. the inside and outside, 3. the high and the low, 4. the unfold, 5. textures, 6. the paradigm

At the end of the week I was wondering whether my gestural drawing expresses some of the Baroque elements: two halves (though no horizontal line), thrusting upwards, darkness below and light at the top. folds and twisting alongside a sense of filling of voids? Are folds nothing else than concealing of form? In the Baroque, the expansive garments that were completely bidding underlying body form.

The funny thing about Baroque is, that I always associated it with decadency and voluptuous forms. However, I liked also to play Baroque music on my guitar or recorder. Perhaps it is so rich in various tonal dimensions? Only till I got hooked with my ‘folding and unfolding’-thing I felt more excited to look deeper. Deleuze opens it for me a more ‘post-structuralist’ approach.

Would this be another subject matter as my personal project?

Not sure if I can add something ‘new’ to it, even personally. Looking up google search for ‘folds AND baroque’ it turns out nearly 1’160’000 hits on google and even 14’900 on google scholar.

Interestingly Deleuze made some references to art practitioners re folds, some works I collected on my separate Pinterest board: El Greco and Tintoretto as Baroque painters, Klee (inflection as a core element of the variable curve, the spontaneous line), Rauschenberg (tabulation the grid), Jean Dubuffet (texturologie), Simon Hantai (folded canvas, painted, unfolded), Georges Jeanclos (sculptures), Elga Heinzen (painted folds)

And there are certainly those painted sculptural folds in the works of Sam Gilliam, Sophia Starling, some of Frank Stella or Katharina Grosse


Reference:

  • Deleuze, G. and Conley, T. (2015) The Fold – Leibniz and the Baroque, 9th ed. Translated by Conley, T. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Holly, M. A. (1996) Past Looking: Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
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Making Sense – Rashaad Newsome ‘Shade Compositions’, 2007

Rashaad Newsom 'Shade Compositions', 2009, screenshot of : https://vimeo.com/219147231

I came across an article by Hentyle Yapp in Journal of Visual Culture (2018) where he talked about the ‘Sense of Up’, relationality, the presence of women of color in television and film, racism, and racial stereotypes of ‘black women as angry and intense’. He is drawing from references to Melanie Klein and her object relationship, Sigmund Freud’s conception of relationship as finding oneself in the other, and Gilles Deleuze’s conception of difference and repetition alongside a sense of intensity. At the beginning, the article was a bit difficult to understand for me when the author wrote about Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing (1989) with the long dance performance of Rosie Perez as a statement against racism and stereotypes.

It became more ‘interesting’ when he started to discuss the performance of Rashaad Newsome Shade Composition (2007). A stage performance of black colored women with the artist as conductor the live performance as well by using a modified Wii controller to direct a video projection at the wall. The 50min – performance (the duration of the video is around 21 min) is a multimedia exploration of the prevailing culture and black women and how tropes are placed onto black female bodies as objects. Starting with close up views on black woman skin in a studio environment, accompanied by a cappella song of ‘Back to Life‘ by Soul lI Soul, it changes to color (>3:06 min) and with a short transition phase to a full view on the stage performance (>3:22 min), and the previous video now a projection on the wall. Yapp considers Shades as a ‘reperformance of upness’ in a Deleuzian sense of intensity

“‘When one tracks sense and intensity, the subject becomes not fully knowable and fractured: ‘[intensity] is an I fractured by this form of time which finds itself constrained to think that which can only be thought'”. (Deleuze in H. Yapp, p.15)

Quite dense but that it triggers in me that I cannot understand fully everything, or makes sense out text. Nevertheless, what resonates with me are ‘fractured’ , ‘not knowing’, and ‘intensity and sense’, as sensations of myself during my work so far, my exploration of drawings and paintings. Perhaps What is Left Behind (Fig. 1), one of my assignment 1 pieces , could actually makes sense in this context:

StefanJSchaffeld 'What is Left Behind', 2018 - collage

Fig. 1: StefanJSchaffeld ‘What is Left Behind’, 2018 – collage[/capt

Besides Yapp’s rather philosophical interrogations, I found a few aspects quite relevant to my work, journey and struggle:

  • Sense: a linguistic play of senses and making sense
  • Sense and Intensity: To live and experience the moment to its full extent To be aware of my movements, the sound of the drawing stick, or other strokes made on a surface
  • Repetition and Failure: the experience of ongoing repetitions, various emotions surfacing e.g. anger and frustration, on a deeper psychological level as am embodied sensation.
  • Trying to make sense out of something – that possibly can not makes sense at all. Like pareidolia or Rorschach blots, illusions of patterns that the human brain tries to make sense of (Fig. 2).
Making Sense - Pareidolia - Rorschach Blots, (c)2016 StefanJSchaffeld

Fig. 2: Making Sense – Pareidolia – Rorschach Blots, (c)2016 StefanJSchaffeld

 

“Moving away from the impulse to have things make (full) sense.” – H Yapp, p.15

In Shades the stage performers do seemingly have no strict script to follow. Each of them utterings words ‘hmms’, ‘unhuh’, ‘excuse’, ‘really’, ‘child please’,  or ‘girl’. Phrases that according to the author are expressions of racist tropes. The initial laughter turns into anger, and the performance is cut. Through this repetitions of sense Newsome overcomes ‘visual or representational forms of racial critique’. It doesn’t makes sense, the repetition of gestures (and gesture are according to some developmental psychology theory a pre-linguistic expression of intent) ‘directs us to the limits of a theatre of representation’. Eventually, all gestural repetition turns into physical exhaustion that ultimately ‘kill’s the performance. Alongside exhaustion, feelings physical pain, burnout, or ‘internal sadness’ are following.

Here comes it again, the sense of physical exhaustion of repetition, a sense that I experienced during my part 1 experiments on Laundry, Dog Shit Performance, and Folding-Unfolding.

Yapp concluded that ‘intensity must expire’, in order to not become a norm. If this is true than cutting it off, ‘killing it’ is an immanent aspect of any performance or gesture based on repetition.

Reading a bit further, I found an article (Bolah, 2013) with an interview with Rashaad Newsome where he mentioned the impact of making the performance on some of the actors.

“people in the piece realize how they’ve accepted that label, accepted that gaze from someone else instead of owning their own gaze.” – R Newsome

Conclusion:

In that sense, I find Shades remarkable, as it overcomes representational models of making sense by comparison and differentiating. The reactions of the actors shows for me how important it is to experience oneself certain performative activities, to experience the body and sensations that come with it. Shades acts here certainly also as a documentary of that experience. the actor of the viewer.

The key question for me, how to explore what I started further? How to build on repetition, concealing, representation, revealing? My tutor gave me some insights to look at the painterly approach to it by e.g. Clare Price or Sophia Starling. I will see how I could take this with me when visiting exhibitions and to see how ‘to make sense’ and to make connections’ – feeling positive that my visceral reaction and bodily interaction will guide me through the process of ‘more – not-knowing’. What I definitely take with me is an overcoming of representational tropes.


Images:

  • Featured image: screenshot of video Rashaad Newsom ‘Shade Compositions’, 2009

Reference:

  • Bolah, A. (2013) ‘The Recontextualist Artist Rashaad Newsome ‘, in: AfroStyle Mag. [online].At: http://www.afrostylemag.com/ASM9/rashaad_newsome.html(Accessed on 12 June 2018).
  • Furnace, F. (2017) Newsome, Rashaad – Shade Compositions (2007),  [online], At: https://vimeo.com/219147231  (Accessed on 12 June 2018).
  • Yapp, H. (2018) ‘Feeling Down(town Julie Brown): The Sense of Up and Expiring Relationality’, In: Journal of Visual Culture, 17 (1) pp. 3-21.
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Exhibition: Bruce Nauman ‘Disappearing Acts’, Basel

Bruce Nauman - image credit Schaulager Basel, photo: Jason Schmidt

Disappearing Acts

Bruce Nauman (b. 1941) ‘Disappearing Acts’  (17 March to 26 August 2018) at Schaulager Basel, Switzerland

“If I was an artist
and I was in the studio

then whatever I was doing
in the studio must be art” – Bruce Nauman (Tate, 2017) 

A major retrospective – the first since 25 years, now in collaboration with MoMA and shown first in Basel. A blockbuster show I would assume attracts massive visitors – and capital. And I was excited to discover Nauman’s works I knew only from my previous researches, and to see how studio space can be a subject matter and a work in itself, as the quote made me wonder.

It was my first visit to the museum Schaulager in Basel, a modern architecture full of various perspectives. I was early and enjoyed exploring the surrounding and different viewpoints (Fig. 1):

Stefan513593 - Exterior Schaulager - Bruce Nauman - June 2018

Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – Exterior Schaulager – Bruce Nauman – June 2018

Some works inspired me – not always clear why. Nevertheless, I spend more time there – and different things started to happen. The title of the exhibition ‘Disappearing Acts’ intriguing, as it doesn’t clearly communicate what it is all about, what is behind. The outside of the museum with double large screens (these are permanently there) with a lo-tech and ad-hoc iphone recording called Mr Rogers (2013) of Nauman’s balancing act of keeping a short pencil with two pencil, each touching each other just with the tip of the sharpened end. The arbitrary title Mr Rogers, because it is the name of Nauman’s cat and his paws appeared at one moment into view. Kind of work on the go, enlarged for the public. For Nauman, this was another physical reflection on optical illusion of the parallax phenomena where one can see a virtual third pencil. So less disappearing than appearing, a human physiological phenomena. For me also a good example to look at my own space , to explore it and to make discoveries. Presentation of the work might be another topic.

Venice Fountain, 2007 

Standing and sketching. How did it kept my attention? The fountain that relates to Nauman’s earlier work Myself as a Marble Fountain (1967) (see Fig. 2), a conscious self-image as an artist (he just finished his MFA) and reflecting the quote above, the artist as the master and genius, quite contemporary of his time back then.

For me, it was more about the water flowing out of the negative (plaster and wax) casts (masks of the artist face) in a never ending loop, a loop like video or endless sequence (what I do at times with vimeo videos – loop at the end), no start, no end. Negative casts, another example his work A Cast of the Space Under my Chair (1965-68), the latter reminded my strongly of Rachel Whiteread House (1993) and her negative casting technique.

Nauman’s work is an assembly of stuff from his studio (later I found out that the sinks were already staged in his ealier work Mapping the Studio (2001). For me an expression of absence and presence of the artist. And the reversal of two flow directions, external and internal, outside the body and through the body. I found especially the inside-out presentation of what may happen inside of us an intriguing thought, though it might not be what the artist intended.

 

Stefan513593 - Sketches; Bruce Nauman 'Venice Fountain' (2007)

Fig. 2: Stefan513593 – Sketches, Bruce Nauman ‘Venice Fountain’ (2007)

The following rooms to be curated in chronological order, starting with Nauman’s earliest work from the 1960s.

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Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel

  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel

The Music of Color

Sam Gilliam (b. 1933 ) ‘The Music of Color – 1967 -1973‘ (9 June  30 Sep 2018) Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland

I was really looking forward to this exhibition, seeking for some further context for my current coursework, and looking for new inspiration. The scope of the exhibition was the early period ot the artist in context of post-war American Abstract Painting (1967-1973). A period that is characterized by his moving away from constraints of a stretched canvas with right angles and creation of drapes, capes, cowls, clovers and beveled-edge paintings.

“If you study art, our teacher can be very fixed. Your paper has to be up that way. …your can’t come up the top, you always have to use that baseline so that your figure stand up this way. If you bowl it up, you have different edges, it becomes sulptural, or if you fold it, and has stripes and move across, that’s me-”  – Sam Gilliam (Kunstmuseum Basel, 2018b)

and he continued with stating that what may become important:

“The objection to somehow”

Sketches during my visit – studying spatial relationship:

Gilliam’s beginnings were beveled-edge paintings that overcome the right angle of a stretched canvas to either give more attention to the sides of the canvas (with edges moving away from the canvas) as object or to make it flowing over the wall (with edges towards the center) – Fig 3:

Sam Gilliam 'Beveled Edge Paintings' 1967-70 - installation view; photo: StefanJSchaffeld

Fig 3: Sam Gilliam ‘Beveled Edge Paintings’ 1967-70 – installation view; photo: StefanJSchaffeld

What becomes visible are traces of folding, the canvas unstretched, painted, folded, unfolded, stretched. 

What occurs to me when entering the exhibition was how relevant Sam Gilliam did become to me. The folding and unfolding reminded me directly of my recent assignment 1 work (Fig. 4) and I could even put some experimental work I did earlier (Fig. 5)  – not knowing where this could lead me towards.

There is some relationship with the process painting of Jessica Warboys Sea Paintings.with folding, unfolding and letting the paint being shaped through folds and creases by chance, less control. I could see here great relationship with my work during part 1 on ‘removing gestures‘. What a great find was this exhihibition to become!

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Exhibition: Martha Rosler & Hito Steyerl ‘War Games’, Basel

  • Exhibition: Martha Rosler & Hito Steyerl ‘War Games’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Martha Rosler & Hito Steyerl ‘War Games’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Martha Rosler & Hito Steyerl ‘War Games’, Basel

War Games

Martha Roesler (b. 1943) & Hito Steyerl (b. 1966) WAR GAMES (05.05.–02.12.2018) in Basel Kunstmuseum. 

The title shows, it is about games and  wartime. Analogies to online war games, simulations and connotations in context of Baudrillard’s conception of the Hyperrealism and the Simulacra (1994) with his comparisons of Disney Land with WaterGate and the Gulf war. The Simulacra that happens on a screen, a remote reality that become the only reality. The exhibition crossed several floors, with large installation, multiple screens projections, sculptural and wall visual imagery. As a visitor I was invited to walk through, to sit at times in chairs resembling aircraft or playstation seats and being more or less subimmersed in dense, high tech moving imagery, like in a control station or airport tower.  I knew Martha Rosler from her war collages (House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home) that I looked at during my UVC course (see blog post), therefore excited to see some her works in situ.

Hito Steyerl very new to me. The companion text of the museum states that ‘Steyerl’s more recent video installations … are among the most advanced work done by visual artists in this medium today.’ (Kunstmuseum Basel, 2018). And one of her work was even called The Tower, a work based on a computer game by the company of Program-Ace based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. What felts somehow strange when reading it, as I lived and worked two years in that city between 2012/13 – together with my wife. How different the first reception is when one can place a memory or personal association with it, with words, with titles. It is a digital composite of images of post-war Iraq, views on Kharkiv, luxury homes simulations and military scenarios bundled in three screens 3D simulations – with the viewer seated in a flexible simulator seat. Rising the question what is real and what is fiction. A good representation of Baudrillard’s Simulacra. 

I’ve tried to capture  the screen imagery with my phone. and noticing only later that scenes were not captured but obviously the gap, the white in between. What in itself looks to me a different point of view, what is present or absent, what is visible or not, imagined, dreamed, or real (Fig. 1) A glitch or part of a deeper sense? Somehow I could related this to images we see – and still don’t see. As images of wars, simulation or real?

 

Fig 1: The Tower (2015) Three channel video installation, color, sound, chairs, 8:00min

 

The shown works were very much a critical interrogation of how visual imagery is presented to us in the current socio-political world, imagery that are made for a purpose. And visual technologies as remote systems, e.g. drones, that do not only act as surveillance cameras but actually kill

Martha Rosler continued with her series  House Beautiful: Bringing War Home (2004-2008) that she started in 1967, with Vietnam war replaced by Iraq and Afghanistan War (Fig. 2). For me a step in connecting once more with my UVC studies. 

Martha Rosler - House Beautiful: Bringing War Home (2004-2008), Photo: StefanJSchaffeld

Fig. 2: Martha Rosler – House Beautiful: Bringing War Home (2004-2008), Photo: StefanJSchaffeld

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Study Visit: Mark Dion, Whitechapel – April 15th

  • Study Visit: Mark Dion, Whitechapel – April 15th

On my second day in London I joined my tutor Clare Wilson with some other fellow students for a study visit of Mark Dion (b. 1961) – Theatre of the Natural World  I went there with some ambivalent sensations as I’ve heard and read before from others that this would be quite a different exhibition. Anyway, I was curious to experience it myself. 

According to the Whitechapel site, Mark Dion’s ‘drawings, sculptures and installations draw on the techniques of scientific enquiry and museum display; and on the telling of natural histories.’ (Whitechapel, 2018)

 

The Library for the Birds of London, 2018:

The Library for the Birds of London, 2018

Fig. 1: The Library for the Birds of London, 2018

To have a library for birds seem silly, but could be considered to two ways: Either as a reflection on human desire to explain and understand everything around, or as an anthropocentric viewpoint to feel superior over birds who nonetheless ‘remain indifferent to these human artefacts’ , as the exhibition booklet describes. Whether the really remain indifferent is an assumption, somehow juxtaposed by a sensibility for animal welfare (wall image  ‘Commonly Asked Questions about the Birds’ ) and the instruction that not more than four people are allowed to be inside the cave the same time. 

The tree inside the cave is bolted visibly together showing itself as an object of an artificial habitat.

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Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain

  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain
  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain
  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain

I started my exciting London weekend with a visit to Tate Britain and the exhibition of ‘All Too Human‘, a retrospective of British figure painting, mainly focusing on post-war painters.

My first impression after entering the building was ‘What an art temple’ – a majestic building, flooded with visitors and guards, with spacious architecture. A place that illustrated to me the conception of art space as a sanctuary for contemplation of art, alienated from the surrounding social and cultural situation.

One has to know the way to move, as various exhibitions and spaces are located in the building. Not to talk about the human ‘needs’ for food (several restaurants) and acquiring (stores).

The paintings on display were quite a show of the British painting stars: Walter Sickert, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerback, R.B. Kitaj etc. The exhibition was structured chronologically, starting with Sickert from beginning of the 20th century and finishing with the female painters: Paula Rego, Jenny Saville, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The last made me aware how male driven human figure painting was. Are the three women showing a shift in appreciation and a new reality? Or was this a conscious intention of the curator, kind of ‘making a statement’? 

Sketchbook pages

Fig. 1: Sketchbook pages

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Exhibition: Abraham Curzvillegas ‘Autorreconstrucción: Social Tissue’, Zurich

I went to the exhibition of Abraham Cruzvillegas (b. 1968), an Mexican artist, at the Kunsthaus in Zurich (16 February – 25 March 2018) not knowing what I would expect and see there . It was the second last day of the exhibition and from my experience museum exhibitions have a certain life-cyle change, as most visitors seem to come either at the very beginning or at the very end. 

The exhibition text mentioned that the artist ‘investigates architecture as the expression of social conditions’. Relating to his origin in a rural area south of Mexico city, as ‘a centre of makeshift, self-built housing constructed from materials found nearby, without foundations or construction plans. The entire community of family members and neighbours was involved in building them.’

“sculptural form a process of transformation, action and solidarity… a constant becoming.” – Kunsthaus Zurich text

The scope or purpose of the exhibition was to use the opened museum space as a workshop for a continuous and dynamic process of creation of objects in interaction with or response to the artist, his assistant and some co-workers from the museum staff and in a wider context of sequences of events (film screenings, workshops, concerts, discussions, and skateboarding days as well as kids’ club). Thus, to use the space as a space for interaction as well as for education and dialogue. Overall, showing progress as a laboratory or workshop of actions.

I went to the exhibition outside of the event program, kind of experiencing the snapshot moment of in-between, a stasis in time, as well as the image of the final days. 

 

Sketchbook on site - exploring space

Fig. 1: Sketchbook on site – exploring space – observing other visitor’s movements and interactions. Exhibition space as social space? What is my role?

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Exhibition: Die Zelle (The White Cube), Bern

Today, I went to the local exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern titled ‘Die Zelle’

The exhibition text relates the exhibition to the architectural space of the museum, with its ornamental ceiling demonstrating elegance, and a notion of in between White Cube as a temple for contemplation and an idea of 19th century exhibition space when rugs, tables and upholstered furniture offered the viewer a comfortable place to remain for a while. The text relates it also back to the argumentation by Brian O’Doherty (I looked into this during my UVC studies, see also O’Doherty, 1999) of the White Cube as a detached and alienated, timeless place, away from the society outside

The curating concept is that of ‘furnishing’ (Kunsthalle Bern, 2018). Furnitures not in a common sense, as objects with a purpose and use. The shown objects are functionless, the mere existence in space and the demanded relationship with the viewer makes them to ‘function’. The only function of these objects are their being as art objects in a museum or gallery. 

They cultivate a playful approach between function and lack of function and sometimes combine with constructivist concepts. – Kunsthalle Bern

Many questions are popping up, what is art, why are these objects considered as art, what is the role of the museum space as art space. It brings back my former UVC studies, how the space turns objects into art. Arthur C Danto wrote about this ontological question (2006) and Bourriaud explored in his Relational Aesthetics the question of creation of art through social interaction (2002).

Objects in space seeking attention, mere presence, at times obstacles in space, at times guides for further exploration and interrogation. How do I related to them in space and through my bodily presence? Between being painting and minimalist sculptures the objects are playing with me, as I can play with them. A relationship is established, I can talk to them as much as they talk to me. 

Artists organize an exhibition and fit it out. Fitting out may mean adjusting and aligning things such as a chair. Or it may mean creating furnishings that refuse to fit. – Kunsthalle Bern

 

Questions that came up during my walking around and my shortly afterwards reflections:

  • What are those objects in space? No use of function (Fig. 1)
  • Some triggering more or less associations with real life experience (e.g. chair is a chair, or not?)
  • Some are just objects, 3D in space, nothing more and nothing less
  • I can walk around, look at it, look down at it, look up at it, look through it (Fig. 2)
  • Some are sturdy, heavy – some others more ephemeral, translucent, as if they would invite me to look beyond or something else 
  • All objects are in the museum – therefore art? And what about the objects that belong to the real ‘furniture’ of the museum (Fig. 3)
  • Question to me: How do I take notice around me in real life? 
  • How is this furnishing of the White Cube transforming the space? I get reminded of Michael Asher and his gallery works (see my assignment 4 for UVC)
  • Are the objects mere objects to function? What if I embrace them as interior furniture and use them? => I tried this with Nicole Wermer’s Untitled Chair, 2015 (Fig. 4)
  • Questions of mere objects, aesthetic objects, art objects, functioning objects. 
  • The dysfunction of an object, e.g. Beat Feller’s Lots in one, 2016 – stacked tables, glued together, not useable, adds another function of the object, the function of an object as an art object challenging me the viewer to question its function and my relationship to it.
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Exhibition: ‘Material Matters’ – Georg Baselitz, Basel

  • Exhibition: ‘Material Matters’ – Georg Baselitz, Basel

Material Matters

I was excited to meet yesterday finally one OCA student in ‘real life’. I went together with Sibylle, who was visiting her home country Switzerland, the exhibition Material Matters‘ at the Foundation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland. (February 6 – April 8, 2018), a collection of paintings and sculptures that would address materiality, and the body as human body as well as material body. This collection was attached to the major retrospective of Georg Baselitz, one of the German post-was artists and mostly known for his figurative paintings top-down.

We are a bit unsure about the motivation and curation of the exhibition. Why these works? For me it seemed that this exhibition was more of an attachment to the bigger Baselitz show, a selection from the museum’s collection with special focus on post-war painting.

Entering ‘Material Matters’ started with works by Cézanne, and Picasso. Modernist painter who explored the pictorial space in its internal relationship and considering the painting in itself as an object beyond external representations. Sculptures of Giacometti complemented the paintings throughs their spatial presence as material and physical bodies. Some paintings of Dubuffet were shown that I already explored during the Dubuffet retrospective in that same museum in 2016. 

What added a different twist to the exhibition was a rectangular ‘carpet’ on the floor made from colorful candies. After asking the guard about this, he couldn’t say anything about the motivation or intention, just that one can take a candy. They would have a good stock in the basement to fill back with new candies. And that the ‘carpet’ moves from day to day in space. Paint or color in a bodily form, ready to consume. The outer shape made from small candies, reminded me of the shapes of birds flying in the sky, when thousands of birds are establishing an outer form, a constellation, dynamic and temporal.

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Duchamp: The Readymade and the process of questioning

Herbert Molderings explores in his article ‘Marcel Duchamp’s Studio as a Laboratory of Perception’ (Hoffman, 2012:72-76) the Readymades as ‘epistemic objects’, the way Duchamp looked at them.  Visual Art as a process in generating knowledge, not to illustrate or to demonstrate knowledge. for Duchamp looked at the process of questioning itself mediated by his studio experiments with all sort of objects. His readymades were not mere objects that demonstrated something but rather an aesthetic experimental object for a ‘speculatively imaginative thought process’. Not the objects per se as important, but the studio space as such, establishing a ‘creative atmosphere’. 

The article relates Duchamp’s work to the work of the mathematician Henri Poincaré who articulated space in four dimension, influencing Einstein and Picasso, and leading Duchamp to dislocate his coat-rack from the wall to the floor to overcome conventional spatial perception, to challenge conventional perspective and theoretical assumptions. Objects become the focus of a new spatial perception in relationship to the viewer’s body and the surrounding space.

Duchamp was trying to question prevailing assumptions about what visual art is (Cincinnati Art Museum). His work Boîte-en-valise shows a transportable mini-museum, a collection of take-away objects in a box. Besides the notion of objects, the work also embraces the tactile sense of exploration. One need to put the hands onto the work in order to obtain a full spatial experience. Certainly not so much in favor of museums and their intention to preserve art work versus to use artwork.

Fig. 1: ‘Box in a Valise’ from or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy (Boîte-en-valise de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy), conceived 1935–41, edition E assembled in Paris in 1963. At: http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/exhibitions/exhibition-archive/2018-exhibtions/duchamp/

 

 

I can sense here a close link to Uri Aran‘s experimental table works. The objects mediating a new aesthetic experience beyond representational frameworks. What makes me wonder whether I am not too self-conscious at the start of my interrogation to get my temporal work places by regular travels would not restrict and reject a more playful interrogation with space and object relationships. It is perhaps much more pre-abstract, as the experiments are pre-epistemic. They would generate knowledge and perception, and would not be built on that.

With that reflection I think I just need to be more embedded in my surrounding space and see what the objects do to me – or to each other, a performance 


Reference:

  • Hoffman, J. (2012) The Studio, Documents of Contemporary Art. Edited by Blazwick, I. London: Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press.

 

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Project 2.1: Contemporary approaches to still life – Object table development

  • Project 2.1: Contemporary approaches to still life – Object table development

Questions at the beginning

The table, the work-table, the artist’s table. Objects collected, arranged, and performing. How do I relate to the objects? Do I see them merely as functional items to ‘perform’? How do I perceive my close environment? How much do I perform through the objects, or how much am I guided by them? What does it tell me or the viewer? An indexical sign of my presence and work? Or as a symbolic sign for who I am and what matters to me? Making a painting of my table with objects – can this be considered as a self-portrait, or rather a cultural portrait of my role in society, the way culture is surrounding me? And what is added or removed when moving from the sculptural installation of my table towards a flat painting, and what can be in between.

Many questions, and I am eager to tap into different perspectives by artist who  explored there closest environment, their working place, work-table. 

Viewpoints

Declan Long (2014) looks in his article for Frieze magazine ‘In Its Place, Decoding Uri Aran’s mysterious work-tables’, at the working practices of Uri Aran (b. 1977) who exhibited his work at the Whitney Biennial, 2014 and the Liverpool Biennial, 2014.

Long described the work-tables as ‘Messthetics’, as work in itself, that can be frustrated to look at but also to be recognized as evidence of the artist’ work. As a momentarily snapshot of one time in the process of making, moving, and re-arrangement of objects. The physicality of the work-table give form to an temporality, indexed and conserved. Long related to terms as ‘system-building’ and ‘new connections’ with a sense of ‘repetition and release’. And relating to the Aran’s biography and life as an expatriate, that Long describes as a tension within an identification process and as

a continuing attention to the difficulty of creating movement, as well as to the consistent possibility of new departures. – Declan Long

Long compares Aran’s ‘work-tables’ with the verbal descriptions of work places by Georges Perec in his ‘Notes Concerning the Objects that are on my Work-table’, (Perec, 2008) and by Elizabeth Bishop’s (1911 – 1979) in her ‘12 o’clock news’ (Ayerarguelles, 2013): Perec’s description as accurate as an inventory and with ‘everything in its place’ versus Bishop’s description of imaginary and ‘mysterious, newly discovered landscapes’.

What makes a difference in Aran’s work, articulates Long as the ‘uncertain space between attentive positions’ and as a transitional moment of ‘becoming something else’. 

I can discern various verbs relating to Richard Serra’s conception with his ‘Verb List’:

  • transitive verbs: to process, to relate, to connect, to control, to build, to contrast, to repeat, to arrange, to categorize, to pause, to clutter, to invent, to inspect, to preserve, to pack, to transport, to invest, to release, to depart, to create, to correspond, etc.  and
  • context related verbs as: of system, of evidence, of structure, of stability, of security, of movement, of materiality, of inventory, of expatriation etc. 

It seems to me a sheer endless list of how to look, perceive, and contextualize a simple table of ordinary things. At the end I do have the feeling of dance, movement, and transformation.

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Failure – process or result?

Inspired by my previous reading and experiments, especially the one with our cat, I remembered a chat with Catherine about the possible purpose of this course: ‘failure’.

So what is failure? How do I respond to it, and most of all what do I take away from failure as such. Failure would possibly be considered as the opposite to success. Nevertheless, while reading some articles in the splendid collection of artist’s writing and others Failure, part of the Whitechapel Gallery series, I learned new perspectives and also some repetitive insights, e.g that the artist’s ‘doubt and anxiety’ is a theme of continuity in literature with the examples of Nikolai Gogol The Portrait (1835), Emile Zola The Masterpiece (1886), Alberto Moravia The Empty Canvas (1961), , or Antonio Tabucchi Dreams of Dreams (1992). These are examples given by Paul Barolsky (1997)  ‘The Fable of Failure in Modern Art’ (Le Feuvre, 2010:24-27). It resonates with the struggle Emma Talbot went through as I reflected on in a previous post. Is therefore failure all a mental crisis of the artist in not knowing anything eventually leading to stasis of human activity? Kind of hitting the rock bottom? Or is this just another myth of the artist in tradition of Modernism? 

I found it interesting to read that one could differentiate between four types of failure, as described 2010 by Emma Cocker (Le Feuvre, 2010:162):

  1. by failing to accomplish a task or success (if intend was to succeed)
  2. by breaking the rules
  3. by succeeding (if failure was the task)
    and the fourth as the most absurd way
  4. by failing (if intend was to fail) as the task has succeeded to fail

She explored in her essay the Classical Mythodology of Sisyphus, who after trying escape death and cheating the gods, was punished for his missing respect to ‘roll a rock to the top of a mountain, only for it then roll back again’ (p.154). The endless repetitive task reminds me of this part of the course, where I have to admit I only worked through a couple of repetitions (max. was 12 times of 12 days in my extended project for Ex1.0) or four times 15 min in my ‘washboard‘ experiment, not ‘endless’.

But the Sisyphean trope includes a ‘recipe’ for failure, as the rules, in that case gravity, would not allow to succeed and to finish, to accomplish. Kind of tragedy and purposeless endeavor.

But as by the four types of failure, what if failure means succeeding? And what if the rules are changing and what was one considered as an endless repetition turns into a sudden end?

There are some aspects in the trope explored by Cocker that keeps my attention: the subjective response between resignation or resistance, and the break the moment the ‘rock rolls back’. Cocker refers to Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) with the idea that the break is like  ‘a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness’ , the break is the space for thinking. I can clearly relate this to my own repetitive works, the time in between for reflection, for taken a deep breath, and trying again. It seems as if in this break lies the energy for endurance. And it seems that this moment of thought is a crucial moment, in which I can again and again decide to continue or to stop, to protest, to resist, or to break the rules and following different tasks. 

The rather absurb repetition of action with no results is shown e.g. in Vlatka Horvat’s This Here and That There, 2007, an 8 hour performance with chairs  (see featured image) (Cocker, 2011:280):

“The event proper, for which this activity is preseumable but a preparation, is always absent or does not take place, so the act of getting ready, of ‘setting the stage’ becomes the event” – Vlatka Horvat 

 Cocker mentions some examples in art of this sisyphean paradigm, of wanting and not wanting:

  • Bas Jan Ader Broken Fall, 1971 = hanging at a tree branch, until his body falls under the pull of gravity
  • Vlatka Horvat At the Door, 2002 (video installation, 52 min) = trying to find articulations of declaring to open the door and to leave, never happens and with evolvement of her frustration  – she stays, door not open, she not leaving
  • Francis Alÿs Caracoles, 1999 = children game, kicking an empty bottle a steep road upwards

What these examples do demonstrate, explains Cocker in the sense of ‘I preferring not’ – a deviation from ‘I don’t want’ towards an alternative ‘preference’ of wanting. It seems rather theoretical, but I can see that failure is not any longer the negation of success, but an alternative affirmation. It is like not to oppose to be productive, but preferring not to follow rules, and doing something to show that one is not productive. Basically, one is productive in an alternative sense. 

What can I conclude for painting?  Repetition is not a question of trying once again to be successful, but rather a performative affirmation of doing something repetitive. Thus, to repeat one painterly gesture over and over again, can actually make a lot of sense.

Another article in this book by Coosje van Burgen discusses the work of the conceptual artist Bruce Nauman (b.1941) ‘Sounddance’ (1988)

One example is Nauman’s performance Bouncing Two Balls Between the Floor and Ceiling with Changing Rhythms, 1967-68. The artist throwing two balls hard against wall and ceiling that they bounce back and he had to catch them to throw again. Over time he lost control, a certain rhythm started to appear and he experiences a different sensation. Nauman explains that ‘experience you can’t anticipate – it hits you, you cam’t explain it intellectually’ (p.168) and what reminded him of his childhood memories of being hit hard into the face while playing baseball.

Conclusion / key elements:

  • Failure not as opposition to success, but as an alternative affirmation.
  • The importance of the break, the interruption, the silence the moment of thought, between repetitions of actions
  • Apparently, childhood memories resurface through performative actions. Not only to Bruce Nauman in his Bouncing Two Balls, but it also happened to Janine Antoni in her Loving Care.

 


Image:

  • Featured image: Horvat, V. (2007) This Here and That There [performance] in: Cocker, 2011:280

Reference:

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Kinesphere and Kinesfield

From my preliminary research on gesture and body movement, I noticed that a few artists have a kind of dance background – while it seems somehow logic or obvious that dance and choreographic are linked together – choreographic as the intent to structure movement in space and time. I came across an artist article by Gretchen Schiller, who explored interactive artworks from the kinesphere to the kinesfield – a terminology going back to Rudolf Von Laban (1879 – 1958) graphic artist, dancer and choreographer who introduced the notion of kinesphere in 1926 :

“The kinesphere is the sphere around the body whose periphery can be reached by easily extended limbs without stepping away from the place which is the point of support when standing on one foot, which we shall call the “stance.” – Rudolf Von Laban

I can relate this to the first exercise in this part ‘reaching the limits of the body’

Gretchen Schiller is extending this into the kinesfield* where participants’ bodies move with moving objects together and creating a dynamic transactional relationship – the question of the individual’s dynamic shaping bodily movement and it’s expression in space versus a dynamic impact of space – some of her works are Shifting Ground (1999), Raumspielpuzzle (2003) and trajets (2000).

The question is all about interactivity and what it means. Schiller is referring to Stephen Wilson who stated that interactive means ‘that the user, audience has the ability to act influence the flow of events to modify the form’. 

This reminds me of ‘relational aesthetics’ of Nicolas Bourriaud, performance as social interaction in space and time. The point is how relevant is this to my work? As I am on my own, alone, just me in a limited space and time. How can I embrace this?  I can just do what my body can do within the limited around me, limitations that possibly could inform my movement.  I like the idea of responsiveness where people are moving and responding to that –  making the space ‘active and reactive’ with a sound feedback as in Schiller’s Raumspielpuzzle. She is referring to von Laban through ‘creating a scripting game that would generate choreographic possibilities’. There is certainly a sense of rhythm, energy and a temporal and spatial phenomenology experience, Schiller is saying about her works as ‘physiological playgrounds to investigate theoretical and physical notions of the kinesthetically aware body and it’s dynamic interaction’

She concludes that ‘bodily awareness and kinesthesia are not fixed they are dynamically cultivated’. I am intrigued by that but how to transform this into painting? Painting is certainly a temporal and spatial activity and an action with and onto material. At this moment it adds another dimension and complexity.  I have to see – and start doing things, painting. Her work trajets evokes some ideas with how to see painting on transparent paper suspended from a ceiling as installation (reminding me of my Cat Wand experiment)

Possibly, those exploration would be a future area, but going beyond the scope of assignment one. For me the question of making a performative painting with body awareness in space versus the spatial experience of a person through artworks and exposure to sensual stimuli.

 

* The concept of the kinesfield is employed to describe the relational dynamic of movement interactions that traverse the body and material forms in unbounded space. (Schiller, 2008)


Image:

Reference:

  • Schiller, G. (2008) ‘From the Kinesphere to the Kinesfield: Three Choreographic Interactive Artworks’, in: Leonardo. [online]. 41(5),  pp. 431-437,  At: https://doi.org/10.1162/leon.2008.41.5.431  (Accessed on 10 Dec 2017).
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Berne Cantonale – Exhibition

Installation view - Hannah Kuelling, 'salle de séjour', 2017, photo: SJSchaffeld

Visiting one part of the regionale (cantonale) show of artists from Bern canton. A show between 03 Dec 2017 and 28 Jan 2018 in nine locations.

For me an opportunity to see and feel more about the regional contemporary art scene. Today, I’ve been to the Kunstmuseum Thun, that beside the cantonale show also had work of the Swiss artist Michael Streun (b. 1965), work he did during his stay between Feb – July 2017 in Berlin ‘Ortswechsel‘ (location change).

It was Friday afternoon, and I was the last and only visitor. All spaces for me – but what made me aware of how some artworks seem rather out of place if they rely on certain interaction with the audience.

A) Berne Cantonale

This kind of shows are demanding in a sense that they show one work per artist, and it is hard to explore the approach of one artist. It is perhaps more to have an overview of the art scene in that region, knowing that in order to a full picture I would need to visit all nine sites (?).

Nevertheless, it gives me the opportunity to stroll through the space, and get more or less absorbed by one or the other work. Quite diverse, painting, drawings, photography, collage, sculptures, installations, video art and performances. Some more contemplative works for deeper absorption in a Modernist sense, some other more challenging the process of seeing and believing. The museum itself is located on a typical big old ‘respectfull’ house at the border of the Aare river (location)

I was especially interested to see performance related works.

What impressed me?

  • Time and space: in relationship to age: 34 Jahre / 15.31 min (video installation) by Livio Baumgartner(b. 1982) 
    => The artist manually cutting down a tree as physical labor, the tree of same age as the artist, related to ending the life of a tree and the current society based on fast consumption (specifically associations of christmas tree, certainly in context of the show as it started three weeks before christmas till today). I found the relationship of artist physical engagement, the work, and the relationship with subject matter through elements of time (34 age, 15 min) and space (forrest) appealing.
  • Nature and scale:  Large scale drawing Immortel le Mélèze (ink on panel, 300x600cm) by Cedric Bregnard (b. 1974) (Fig. 1)
    => I like to monumentality, and a sense of sublime, through scale and exploration of mascroscopic details. A question where to stand and look at the work, close or with distance.
Installation view - Cedric Bregnard 'Immortel de Mélèze', 2017 - photo SJSchaffeld

Fig. 1: Installation view – Cedric Bregnard ‘Immortel de Mélèze’, 2017 – photo SJSchaffeld

  • The sculptureOhne Titel (untitled), 2015 by Elisa Daubner (b. 1981)
    => A found walking stick hold at the wall at the top through a metal ring, where at the top end a piece of tree root is appearing. A notion that the human made walking stick is growing further. A work of humour but the same also a trigger for further thinking. I liked the simplicity of it and at the same aesthetically appealing through it shapes.
  • PhotographyRotation 1-20, 2015 by Sylvia Hostettler (b. 1965)
    => forms made from colored plastic foil and put into rotation , lit by focused light. The rotation blurs the form and the resulting ‘still images’ capture the lightness of a deferred object, visible only through capturing a still image of a rotating object. It also results into images where the light seem to appear from inside of the objects.
  • Artworks related to process and materialMesopotectonic, 2017 and Solar Panel 1-3, 2017 by Karin Lehmann (b. 1981)
    => a very material and process based related to cyanotype, combination of painting and sculpture. This technique is applied in her work Solar Panel on a ground of plaster and burlap, and through the light sensitiveness the color is changing over time.
  • Painting as relational object: the multi picture work salle de séjour, 2017 by Hannah Kuelling (b. 1965) (see featured image at top of this post) consisting of post-edited photographic images from a family album taken at the home of her mother that show a painting at the wall made by the artist in 1984. This painting itself is juxtaposed to the photographs in this exhibition. It stimulates temporal as well as spatial association through the physical displacement of the painting from the home , from the photographs into the space of viewing. This works could be related to fragmented memories, distorted, ‘colored’ in the mind, resurfacing through the physical presence of the painting, that exists literally. I do like the play with time and space, the relationship of images in memories, family albums and the physical presence of an object as kind of evidence, as proof of existence. 
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Contextual thoughts – Dirty Protest IRA, 1978

Dirty Protest IRA, 1978

During the peer review of my work Washboard (laundry) it was associated with the ‘Dirty protest’ in North Ireland in the 1970s and 80s.  Some information collected from different sources on the situation that led to the ‘dirty protest’, prisoner smearing their excrements onto the wall:

Bobby Sands Tribune described the escalation of the protest in North Ireland and the situation of the prisoners in Her Majesty’s Prison Maze:

‘In March 1978 some prisoners refused to leave their cells to shower or use the lavatory because of attacks by prison officers, and were provided with wash-hand basins in their cells. The prisoners requested showers installed in their cells, and when this request was turned down they refused to use the wash-hand basins. At the end of April 1978 a fight occurred between a prisoner and a prison officer in H-Block 6. The prisoner was taken away to solitary confinement, and news spread across the wing that the prisoner had been badly beaten. The prisoners responded by smashing the furniture in their cells, and the prison authorities responded by removing the remaining furniture from the cells leaving the prisoners in cells with just blankets and mattresses. The prisoners responded by refusing to leave their cells, and as a result the prison officers were unable to clear them. This resulted in the blanket protest escalating into the dirty protest, as the prisoners were unable to “slop out” (i.e., empty their chamber pots) so resorted to smearing excrement on the walls of their cells. ‘

“There were times when you would vomit. There were times when you were so run down that you would lie for days and not do anything with the maggots crawling all over you. The rain would be coming in the window and you would be lying there with the maggots all over the place.” – Pat McGeown, 1985 (prisoner)

The prison authorities attempted to keep the cells clean by breaking the cell windows and spraying in disinfectant, then temporarily removing the prisoners and sending in rubber-suited prison officers with steam hoses to clean the walls. However, as soon as the prisoners were returned to their cells they resumed their protest. By mid-1978 there were between 250 and 300 protesting prisoners, and the protest was attracting media attention from around the world.

“Having spent the whole of Sunday in the prison, I was shocked at the inhuman conditions prevailing in H-Blocks, three, four and five, where over 300 prisoners were incarcerated. One would hardly allow an animal to remain in such conditions, let alone a human being. The nearest approach to it that I have seen was the spectacle of hundreds of homeless people living in the sewer pipes in the slums of Calcutta. The stench and filth in some of the cells, with the remains of rotten food and human excreta scattered around the walls was almost unbearable. In two of them I was unable to speak for fear of vomiting.” – Tomás Ó Fiaich (Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh)

 

I found a painting of Richard Hamilton (1981) The Citizen, where he appropriated the events and wrote: 

“The symbols of Christ’s agony were there, not only the crucifix on the neck of the prisoners and the rosary which confirmed the monastic austerity but the self inflicted suffering which has marked Christianity from the earliest times.”- Richard Hamilton

His painting reminds me of iconic painting and it brings back my research on Andrei Tarkovsky and Andrei Rublev

Reflection

This brief research would definitely place my work or derivations of it in a quite different context. As I don’t control how the audience will perceive a work, even if provided with contextual information, it would be possibly much wiser to leave the area for response wide open. What would bring it back to my own performative painting, responding to my immediate bodily and emotional sensations, and to see when to continue and when to stop. Also to consider to which extent I want to get context inspiring my work. Julie Mehretu’s work is for me an example of how both questions (immediate response and wider context) could be combined.


 

Images:

Reference:

 

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‘Coming to Painting’ – Emma Talbot

After reading Fortnum’s article on ‘Not Knowing‘  and looking out for artist’s writing I read an article by Emma Talbot (2017). The article is part of the special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Painting related to an symposium and interrogation of painting with conceptions of Jean-Paul Sartre What is Literature?  and the question of commitment. How committed am I to painting? And how and why? 

Talbot describes her struggle with painting, that eventually moved her away from a deeply resonating endeavour into a more self-conscious agony and being anxious of whether she was doing any good. She worked from photographic images mainly from fashion magazines and started to ask herself whether she was just playing the game of the fashion world, or making any new. She worked heavily and intensively in oil paint, smearing and combining. 

I can sense in her writing how her life was under heavy weight, her husband passed away one year before she shifted eventually her focus and way of making art. A condition that made her judging herself ‘I couldn’t paint.. painting seemed so pointless and wasteful’ .

She related her work and struggle with the the ideas articulated by the writer Hélène Cixous and the question of having the ‘right reasons’ to write (aka to paint). Talbot eventually turned away from external subordinated meaning towards a ‘becoming’, a fragmentary articulation. as Cixous expressed it. And to achieve lightness in painting 

“One has to have broken off with everything that holds one back… And especially all the fears: fear of the unknown, fear of criticism, fear of not knowing” – Hélène Cixous (1991)

What a statement of ‘tabula rasa’! Brings me back to suprematist notion of Malevich related to his Black Square (1915) painting as an expression of spiritual freedom and expression. A notion that I looked at during my UVC assignment on the monochrome.

“Good and Bad are indefinable measures in relation to painting. They are judgments that are used to help painting find its value out in the world. If they’re allowed into the studio, they seem to operate as gatekeepers or permission.” – Emma Talbot (2017)

 

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Project 1.4: Things perform for you

Looking at works that embrace non-gestural markings, paintings etc. For me this could mean either through external natural forces or through artificial human constructed machines. 

Jessica Warboys Sea paintings (2015-16) could be seen as a gestural painting through the artist’s bodily movement, the dragging and pulling of the canvas and the movement of the sea. Her painting is wet and the paint as such is a combination of mineral pigments applied to the canvas mixed and blended with the salty sea water through moving actions. In the interview for the British Art Show 8 she desribes her paintings as a map of space and time and of layering of three locations composed together as one large mural.

I am not concerned with how the tableau looks or appears as I make a sea painting, but with the result or record of the process.” – Jessica Warboys

Her work could be seen as three step approach:

  1. Preparation: with a conscious decision of choosing material (mineral pigments, canvas rolls), scale (one entire canvas roll) and location (three sea shores in UK). She also made a decision on time (neap tide)
  2. Making & Performance: working on sea soaked canvas with mineral pigments, her body movements of dragging and pulling a response to the sea movement at the edge between beach and water. The creases and folds as kind of indexical representation of that movement. The sea and the artist ‘painting’ together, a response to atmosphere of the location.
  3. Montage: a conscious arrangement of rhythm and composition, a montage, she described it as a narrative.

Lastly, the presentation, either as a large mural above. Or for the Kunstverein Munich (2016) she installed the painted canvas on rotating drums with remiiscence to ‘proto-cinematic moving panoramas and the loops of film stock’, a movement of the painting alongside its indexical and pictorial information in front of the viewer, also as an association of the rhythm of the sea and the tides.

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Project 1.3: Visual Reflection

Stefan513593 - studio snap shot

 

Not Knowing is Knowing More

 

.. this seems to be the creative way explored by Rebecca Fortnum in her article on ‘Creative Accounting: Not Knowing In Talking and Making’ (2013).

What differentiates art and painting from craft, design, or science? And what is creativity?

Some months ago, creativity was a topic of discussion at the OCA discuss forum: relationship intention and making, restrictions, and experimentation. I took that opportunity to reflect on my own approach so far (see my blog post Notes on Creativity). 

Making of Uncertainty

Fortnum highlights three key aspects while taking some references to others :

  • a solution focused approach and embracing the unpredictable and uncertainty, the unforeseen 
  • a knowledge beyond rationale thinking, ‚feeling the outcome‘, a ‚visceral moment’, a sense of ‚epiphany‘, measuring success and failure by that reaction
  • a doing something new, a sense of originality. Knowing something as opposite to new.

I can relate to the approach of uncertainty, at times it feels like moving into uncertainty with assertiveness. To recognize the outcome through a non-rationale ‘thinking’ is often what I face in my works. How to recognize successfulm outcome? How to know what to do next, next brushstroke, next body movement, next decision? But are the ‘visceral moments’, as M Chevska expressed this, the measure for success and failure? Is my reaction alone the measure?

Her description of ‘originality’ brings me back to my earlier studies on Modernisim and Kant. The notion of authorship and originality was challenged and overthrown by post-modernist thinkers and artists, and is still today in contemporary art a rather ambivalent topic. Kant described a ‘genius’  the artist who ‘does not know, and so cannot explain, how he or she was able to bring them into being’ and thus ‘does not consciously follow rules’ (Ginsborg, 2013). Is this ‘not knowing’ just a modernist return with a Kantian affirmation?

Most interesting for me to follow her argumentation on space, process, and language related to painting. Where to make and how to make art, a painting, and now to talk about it? 

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Project 1.2: Alternative Painting Tools – Gutai and more

Alternative Painting Tools: Gesture – throw, drip, splash, scatter, gravity

When we talk about painting we think about paint and paintbrush. Brushes to apply the paint to the surface as an extension of the hand. What made humankind to invent the brush for painting? I was wondering how the early cave paintings were made and at which phase we currently are.

Searching online for history of painting it seemed that the prehistoric paintings of Chauvet Cave (around 30000-37000 BC) were made with some kind of brushes. Early brushes were made from wood or from palm leaves. In early Chinese dynasties (Qin 220 BC – Tang 900 AD) the paintbrush used mainly for calligraphy was developed and even mass produced. In Western Art is was Cennini who wrote extensively about painting and use of brushes. Some online users did create paintbrush infographics.

One could say, that painting without a paintbrush has not a tradition. Humans painted and still paint with ‘brushes’. I just can guess that this might be for accuracy, for precious appeal, or just for not getting dirty hands.

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Research: Janini Antoni

Janine Antoni (b. 1964) works in  performance art, sculpture, and photography. Most of her works do relate to the process of making and her own body.

Her work Loving Care, 1993 is a good example for the arist’s body (hair) as a ‘brush’ placing her work and the process of making it in context of her own biography (her mother mobbing the floor), of art history (Yves Klein) and feminist movement (College Art Association, 2013; Moore College, 2011; Risbeck, 2016).

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Gesture

Stefan513593 - gesture - sketch b

Gesture

How to describe gesture?

Oxford Reference for Media and Communication (Chandler and Munday, 2011) describes it as: ‘A meaningful body movement, usually of the hand or head, though the term can include facial expression and expressive movements of the whole body. The main kinds of gestures are manual ones, primarily: emblems, illustrators, batons, and self-touch. They are culturally highly variable, although a few are universal. The study of gesture is an aspect of kinesics…’ and further on Kinesics ‘Within the study of nonverbal communication , a field including bodily movement, posture, gesture, facial expression, and gaze. Such nonverbal cues reflect differences in culture, gender, and personality and are particularly important in communicating liking (affiliation), agreement, and dominance.’

Some elements (wikipedia) of non-verbal communication through gesture and/or body movements:

  • Emblems: non-verbal cues, e.g. V(ictory) sign, gestures that one could translate into on word
  • Illustrators: reinforcing verbal messages e.g. pointing at something
  • Affective Display: affects, emotional expressions
  • Regulators: non-verbal signs regulating and maintainting flow of speech
  • Manipulators: release bodily tensions
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Project 1.2: Performativity of the self

Jackson Pollock in the eyes of Hans Namuth (Muse, 2010):

The film starts with Pollock’s description of his painting approach: canvas on the floor, a more direct painting, being part of the painting, reminiscence to Indian sandpainting of the West (mostly Navajo and Hopi, Zuni, Plains Tripes). using sticks instead of brushes, pouring paint out of cans, using fluid dripping paint, using sand, broken glass, pebbles, nails and other found objects. Some control of the process, with no beginning and end, the painting having a life on its own.

The image created by Hans Namuth: Namuth made the film with a double focus on the artist in process of painting and the marks themselves. Through applying moving images techniques of collage and sound effects he created a certain drama. Some sound effects remind me of screaming and  brings thoughts of some Hitchcook psychological juxtapostions. Namuth creates  a certain ‘heroic’ image of the artist transforming the act of painting into a staged theatrical act.

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Book ‘Reflexivity and Agency beyond the canvas’

Small book (Graw ed al., 2014) consisting of three main articles by André Rottmann, Peter Geimer and Isabelle Graw. All art historians and/or critique based in Germany. Some thought provoking ideas that links nicely with my latest studies on UVC (Understanding Visual Culture).

Geimer explores Tuyman’s post-post-modern approach to painting. He mainly deconstructs critiques of Tuyman’s painting e.g. Der Architekt, 1997 and Gaskammer, 1986. Flat paintings that could be anything – without context, mostly just an aesthetic work of painting. Considering the title, context of Holocaust and in case of Der Architekt the photographic historical base, the question is whether the imagery in a painting can transcend the banality of ordinary imagery and through that into art, or whether there is a deeper meaning in painting and it’s materiality. Overall, I can see that institutional context of art and the signifiers used (e.g. Title) are deferring response and emotional meaning beyond the pictorial image. Geimer is searching for a reason why specifically painting is able to do so (compared with the banal still images from original film) For me perhaps still something to do with the social and human affection towards painting,

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Project 1.1: Gesture – the limits of the bodies reach

Two other artists with quite some different background are using body movement and gestures as a main part of their work. Both with a background in dance. Both artists deal in their own unique way with choreography, the design of sequential steps move movement of bodies. A term widely used beyon dance and ballet e.g in swimming, gymastics, fashion shows.

“Dancers should show expression through their body movement. They’re not actors.” – Shen Wei

Shen Wei (b. 1968) choreographer, painter and director from China and now New York based. He studied Chinese classical opera, modern dance and combined dance, music and visual elements in his movement based body of work that includes areas as dance, theater, painting, sound, and sculpture. (www.shenwei.art)

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Research: Julie Mehretu

Some key works of Julie Mehretu (b. 1970)

I knew some of her works before, especially in context of her use of image projection to trace outlines. Having now looked deeper into her works, thoughts and motivation opened up a deeper insight and understanding. Also to see how it could related to my approach and my learnings in the first project.

(An overview of of her works is available at the Marian Goodman Gallery, and some on my pinterest board at: https://www.pinterest.com/sjschaffeld/julie-mehretu/)

  • Mind Breath Drawings, 2010 (Mehretu, 2012)
    => an exploration of ‘juxtaposition of looking at images and listening’ in her response to Das Rheingold of Richard Wagner. The drawings were shown 2011 at the Metropolitan Opera,  where the same Das Rheingold of Robert Lepage was played. Gestural mark makings as a visualization of the subjective response to music. Mehretu relates her drawings back to her interest in going to opera during her time in Berlin.
  • Mural, 2010 (Art21, 2010)
    => the largest and one of the most colorful murals by Mehrtu in some tradition of Suprematism, could be considered as geometric abstract work (one of two possible development predicted by Alfred. Barr, 1936)
  • Grey Area, 2007-2010 (DeutscheGuggenheim, 2010)
    => a change from color to grey tone, more gestural and layered
  • Mogamma, 2012 (High Museum of Art Atlanta, 2017)
    => in reference to the Tahir square in Cairo, a place of multi faith with church, synagoge and mosque, the works consists of mulitple layers, a tapestry of architectural drawing of worldwide square associated with unrest. All these layers are further obfuscated by gestural markings
  • Cairo, 2013 &  Chimera, 2013
    => in the aftermath of the Aral spring a large scale work portraing Cairo’s public squares with tumult and uncertainty
  • Invisible Sun, 2014 (museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, 2016)
    => Aftermath of Arab Spring and the collapse of architectural structure, searching for new forms of articulation and invention of a new visual language
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Tarkovsky Andrei Rublev: Cinema, Iconic Painting and the Artist

Trinity (c)2017, SJSchaffeld -c opy of Andrei Rublev 'Trinity'

Andrei Rublev is considered as one of the top cinematic masterpieces. Rubley was a iconic painter and was considered a hero in the 15th century in Russia during the time of the tatars. The film deals with the troubles of the artist’s soul and life between religion, war and cruelty, pagan rites, and his art – a commission for the palace of the Grand Prince.

Andrei Tarkosky‘s exploration of space and the human conditions of life as a deeply psychological encounter fascinates me already since my painting 1 course unit some time ago. This was reflected in my research on the sublime and on Juhani Pallasmaa’s argumentation on the embodied architecture in moving images.

Watching now Tarkovsky’s two part film Andrei Rublev (1966, 1969) and reading Angela Dalle Vacche article ‘Cinema as the Restoration of Icon Painting’, exploring the film in her book Cinema and Painting (1996:135-160) a couple of thoughts strike me:

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Heater – Typology

Stefan513593 - Typology Heater- feature image

Afterthought 12 Dec:

On the edited version the comment relating to the alcoves ‘disappearance’ was that it would be better to make the composition first with the camera and refine later. There is certainly something for me to rethink when making ‘quick’ snapshot on what vsually attracts me. It would have been truly better and more relevant for me to possibly make sketches and think visually in that place, to explore deeper on site what it is. Perhaps, I got sidertracked and the main reason for me being there was the exhibition of Stefan Burger.

Lesson learned, embrace such ‘disturbances’ and look what it makes it such way.

——-

During my exhibition visit of Stefan Burger at the Kunsthalle Bern I felt attracted by the row and vintage looking row of heaters. I posted that quickly combined imaged in the discuss forum under ‘just because’ thread, and Clive gave some excellent feedback:

First, that it is a typology, a classification of types belonging to one group. Second, that it is accuracy if of importance in such subjects (perspecte, orientation, size)

Therefore, I adjusted white level, and perspective in photoshop and modified with the clone stamp the edges to make it more coherent. Although, this manipulation reduced the visual depth and impact of the alcove. Partly due to the perspective cropping as well.

Here the results (also posted in the forum):

Stefan513593 - Typology Heater

Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – Typology Heater

 

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Stefan Burger – Exhibition Kunsthalle Bern

  • Stefan Burger – Exhibition Kunsthalle Bern
  • Stefan Burger – Exhibition Kunsthalle Bern
  • Stefan Burger – Exhibition Kunsthalle Bern
  • Stefan Burger – Exhibition Kunsthalle Bern
  • Stefan Burger – Exhibition Kunsthalle Bern

I went to the exhition on Stefan Burger (Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland – Stefan Burger (14 October – 10 December 2017)

Burger’s photographs of flowers with their strong tonal contrast, a rather graphically appeal and  an expression of serenity, do remind me of some flower paintings by the Swiss artists Pascal Danz (brice marden, 2014) and Kotscha Reist (Vanitas).  I researched both artists during my painting1 course unit.

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