Category : Research & Reflection

//Visual // Thinking //

Stefan513593 - making connections - sketchbook 1

Stefan513593 - making connections - sketchbook 2

 

// Making – Connections // 

=> a visual encounter and  drawing line to connect, my previous work (see microscopic color circles at: Project 4.5: Colour) and ideas of sculptural paintings

  • How scale matters (estimated 1:300 – my paint circles versus large scale street installation)
  • How found objects, ‘canvas’ like, could be considered as urban installations. The bin or the pillar as context ‘stretching’ and containing meaning and perception.
  • How the embodied experience of site and objects are informing space perception, scaffolding as kinesfield experience (as the expanded field around the human body in interaction with objects is described by Gretchen Schiller)
  • How fake is faked through imagery

 

 


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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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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Fine Art – practice, research or what?

What is Art? What is Fine Art? What is Fine Art education?

This question is certainly a question with will no final answer. And to embrace this uncertainty is fine to me. At the London study day in May, Emma Drye asked us to reflect on the question what research means to us and  what we want from an art degree. 

At that time, I thought of ‘art as research’ as a search in iteration, a quest, getting background and context, opening up to new and/or different viewpoints, extending my own viewing field, discerning my position in a critical manner. And making art as enabler for communication, of ideas and explorations by opening and raising questions.

Perhaps, as a coincidence I read in the current issue of Turps Banana, a splendid painting journal issued twice a year, an article about that topic. Simon Bell argued against a position made by André Hunt, an educated painter and now professor of Fine Art and Curating in Manchester School of Art (Schwabsky, 2018). Hunt referred to a statement of Teresa Gleadowe, teacher for curating at RCA. She told Hunt that for her all ‘art is research’, resonating well with the topic of above mentioned study day, a common art college understanding? Hunt declared it this a ‘valid point’, considering the context of the UK system of REF, the Research Excellence Framework, that challenges higher education system in proficiency in research – and as art is mostly learned in academics is part of it.

Bell argues strongly against this position in a rather polemic manner that this would be a mere result of ‘conservative education policy and market oriented educational reform’ (Bell, 2019:32) that it is ‘enthusiastically implemented by (mainly) left wing staff’ (p. 30). He quotes  another Professor, Fiona Candlin of Birkbeck, that art colleges ‘rather than challenging the status quo it now upholds it’ (ibid:35).

I reminds me of the endless debate, even in public and my own local art community, of seeing art as fine art as academic art merely as a science-derivative occupation, versus a ‘pure’ art, an art based on merits.  Bell argued that fine art teachers are claiming themselves as artists without being ‘art practitioners’ . And he listed items, merits, that according to him would define somehow who ‘makes a living as an artist’ (ibid:32-33)

  1. Had an exhibition at a commercial gallery.
  2. Associated with that, they will have been represented by a gallery or galleries.
  3. They will have had an exhibition at a publicly funded gallery or museum.
  4. Sold their work.
  5. Had their work sold at auction.
  6. Had their work featured in an art magazine.
  7. Had their work shown abroad, in both commercial venues and museums.
  8. Had their work featured in art fairs like FRIEZE and Basel.
  9. They are also quite likely, as their career progresses, to have been involved in curating.
  10. They are quite likely to have dealt first-hand with collectors, and with socalled ‘art advisors.
  11. There will be catalogues, and even monographs about them.

 

These are certainly aspects of being an exhibiting artist in a cultural expected way of being. Making art as object, to present, to be represented, to sell commodities, and to make a career and a living from the revenues. I find the argumentation made by Bell refreshing as it challenges notions of what it is about. However, the binary opposites established by him, seems to be rather enforcing an established Modernist notion of the artist being a sales provider and maker of cultural collectibles. 

Is this my to-do list ? I am not planning to become an art teacher,  it even to spend future time at academics,  but to be an art practitioner, applying art as attitudes across areas of interest, and to continue to be curious of things that evolve, develop, materialize, and appear. To exhibit and to sell artworks is not only exciting but also a necessity when one wants to make a living from it.

Nevertheless, I continue to believe in art as attitude, art practices being more than selling and being represented by big-shots galleries. It is also an approach of awareness and finding new perspectives. I do relate this especially in my field of art therapy. Art practice as process, as an constant interrogation and exploration of material, images, responses, and an awareness of one own’s actions. In that sense, Fine Art is for me much more than  one of two sides stated by Bell. And the ‘art brut’ would still be seen as outsider art in Bell’s argumentation.

It is perhaps not a coincidence that on the discuss forum Heather Lloyd Payne asked students  to tell their stories #OCAstories, and this is what I posted :

“As a kid, I couldn’t speak until I went to primary school, though I could communicate with my parents and older sisters quite well, non-verbally. Painting and playing where my main means for expression and communication. At primary school I was recognized and invited to attend art school. My parents couldn’t afford the fees and life went on with painting and art displaced on a backburner. However, my first prizes won as a kid were for paintings. And I bought a guitar with the prize money at the age of twelve. After spending ‘successful’ but not quite satisfactory decades of life as an expat in corporations, life pulled a break – for me to revisit meaning in my life. I wanted to connect with what really mattered to me, but  living a ‘flying dutchman’ life it didn’t allow me to follow art education at a brick&mortar collage. With OCA I was able to re-connect to my passion and happily I embarked with high motivation on my journey as an emerging artist.” – SJSchaffeld

Perhaps, this is more to the bottom of why I am doing what I am doing with and in art.


Amendment

With some further cross-reading I found an interesting article by Karthrin Busch (2007) who wrote about the various aspects of art and research. From research and science as subject matter in art to a rather different conception based on M. Foucault’s ideas that art is a different form of knowledge and its role is to disturb ‘established knowledge structures, so as to reveal their innate power structures and restriction’ (p.41).  To compare way of knowing inherited by power structures and conventional scientific approaches will not enable access to the diversity of knowledge in itself.

By quoting Derrida, Bush highlights that ‘art is committed to represent the ephemeral forces and manifestations that emerge spontaneously and involuntarily’ against a rather ‘performative, institutionalized knowledge’ that ‘belongs to “the order of possibilities that can be mastered”‘ (pp.43-44).

In that sense, art could be considered as a force of doubting and embracing the ‘unexpected’, or as we discussed in the London Study Day, to embrace wonder in each encounter a-new.  Compared to science as problem-solving activity, art is a trouble-shooter, and the work in itself could be seen as research, not the final result as in science.


Image:

  • SJSchaffeld, painting from part3

Reference:

  • Bell, S. (2019) ‘Fine Art Education and ’Research Culture’’, In: Turps Banana, (21) pp. 28 – 35.
  • Busch, K. (2007) ‘Artistic Research and the Poetics of Knowledge’, in: AS Mediatijdschrift. [online]. (179),  pp. 36 – 45,  At: https://www.academia.edu/8568175/Artistic_Research_and_the_Poetics_of_Knowledge  (Accessed on 30 July 2019).
  • Schwabsky, B. and Hunt, A. (2018) ‘Critics speak: Barry Schwabsky interviews Andrew Hunt’, In: Turps Banana, (20) >pp. 18 – 25.
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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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Underground Poetry #artontheunderground

tube2flight - #artontheunderground - underground poetry

tube2flight – #artontheunderground – underground poetry

a combined version at: https://vimeo.com/350718770

 

Title of the work:

Underground poetry, take a pen, move on the paper from left to right back and force while moving, at station make circles till moving again, change the pen, each second station rotate the paper continue till your final destination

Words embedded: names of the underground stations (some time after Green Park till Heathrow Terminal, the Piccadilly line)

This work was inspired by my visit to Oscar Murillo at David Zwirner, London, and his ‘Poetics of Flight’ drawing made during his multiple flights. It is not a copying, as Murillo applied quite some different approaches and his embedded words do have a different connotations.

 

Learning

I found it absolutely fascinating how through travel motion, marks can be made in a constrained space through double physical movement: the underground (a linear trajectory) and my hand (small moves rotating the page)

I could envision this as a topology, or as mapping of time spent. A repetition in multiple underground rides, on bus? on train? 


thinking about communication

if this is site-specific work, would it not be good to share if site-specific? I.e. to share with London underground? Quick searching revealed that they actually have a social media presence for ‘Art on the Underground’

possible links to social media:

possible handles:

  • #ArtontheUnderground@aotulondon@transportforlondon
  • #stefanschaffeld@stefanschaffeldart#undergroundpoetry

 

 

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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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Assignment 4 – Preparatory Thoughts

Reflecting on my recent works on materiality, I can discern the following main aspects and learnings.

Painting

What started out as a seemingly modernist critique of deconstructing the canvas and the stretcher turned surprisingly into a more insightful interrogation of materiality, especially of liquid versus solid paint. I found it beneficial to explore some linguistic signs, e.g. stretching and holding, to see beyond the obvious and to see possibly a wider cultural context.

However, I was – and perhaps still are – a bit concerned about the loading of material aspects in a cultural discourse, as it could lead eventually to see a sign or a signifier in all material used. Could one ever appreciate an oil painting without thinking about what ‘oil’ and ‘oil-painting’ could refer to?

From the beginning of this course, and also in discussion with fellow students, I do find the the question of what painting is and might begin like a quest, a search that never ends.  For me, I enjoyed, working with tactile materials, but also to see color beyond the physical medium. Like sound, color can be digital  – or an architectural space. Mostly, it is for me about space, negative space in between, and relationship.

Paint as sculptural medium

Till now, I was less concerned with distinction between painting and sculpture. Even less, as the the credit between Modernism and Minimal Art: flatness and inner relationship versus Gestalt and oute relationship. During this part, I found that one doesn’t need to use those 2D and 3D formula to find a way between painting and sculpture. I found it insightful to hear that Karla Black is considering her raw material works as sculptures. The tactility of materiality in its relationship with the surrounding space and how the viewer as the walker encounters it, seem fascination for me. I sense, that scale matters, as small scale works do not work in such an extent. Considering this means to consider my works rather a maquette, proposals for larger scale work that can go into gallery or other public space. To negotiate between small scale and larger, human embodied scale, would be a topic to look at more in depth in my future work.

Alternative materials

As I am quite experimental since the beginning of my art studies with OCA, I found all kind of materials intriguing. To bend, to stretch, to play, to interrogate materiality and to see how to paint ith them. What changed a bit during this part of the course, was that I do not paint that much with the alternative materials, but rather to paint through them. To see the material as partner, less as a medium serving a purpose. In that sense, I finally understood that notion of ‘being complicit with material’, as expressed by Petra Lange-Berndt in her introduction to ‘Materiality, Documents of Contemporary Art’ (2015).

I felt intrigued by what I could do with paper chips, and what latex could do more. The latter will be the medium for my assignment. I could see both either just as performative materials, or open up a discourse along its cultural use. But this could lead to a Pandora’s box, as interpretation could go in any direction  

 

Aim for my assignment 4

To explore latex as material, as paint, and as performative subject. To find a balance between material feature, physical characteristics, composition, and aesthetics.

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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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