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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