Project 1.2 – Ex 1.1: Painting without the brush

  • Project 1.2 – Ex 1.1: Painting without the brush
  • Project 1.2 – Ex 1.1: Painting without the brush
  • Project 1.2 – Ex 1.1: Painting without the brush

Gesture – throw, drip, splash, scatter, gravity

In my previous experiments I explored gestural mark making in space and time, focusing on my bodily awareness while applying marks, and with a sensibility towards visuals, sounds, and body movement. I am wondering how to expand on this through tools, in painting this is typically a brush. Gesture as a mean of human non-verbal communication (see my gesture reflection) , strongly connected with the human body and body movement. During my research on alternative painting tools, I came across some main areas that kept me thinking how to embedd in my own work:

  1. The body as painting tool:
    – connection body – surface (e.g. Kazuo Shiraga, Janine Antoni)
    – crossing boundaries painting-space (e.g. Murakami Saburo)
    – using body as tool (e.g. Murakami Saburo, Carolee Schneeman, Yves Klein)
  2. Use of ordinary tools with some kinetic force to juxtapose meaning, e.g. Gutai group,
  3. Spatial gestural art, expanding 2D into the open space e.g. Carolee Schneeman, Kusho Art
  4. Documention of the event more important than an aesthetic value of the work?
  5. Painting, gesture as transitive action in space and time. Mani-pulating material, as Richard Serra articulated in his ‘Verb list’ (1967-68
  6. Mechanical devices as painting tool:
    – to remove subjective and personal gesture (e.g. Kanayama Akira, Nicki de Saint-Phalle) – this will be a more a focus of the next exercise (and wondering how much can be removed)


Based on these three aspects I am going to explore further different ways of gestural, bodily, and painterly interactions. How to come up with actions and tools? Brainstorm? Make it meaningful? Looking up dictionary? Take the word of the day? E.g. the word of the day (on Merriam-Webster App), or anything from Facebook of Instagram (#wordofday)?  => a temporal dimension of actions what would resonate with my extended project and ‘daily’ routines


  • Corner space (e.g. Carolee Schneeman, Michael Croft) to exhance my spatial reach
  • Floor space with actions related to floor activities
  • Wall space related to floor activities
  • To reverse space and activity relationship
  • Actions and tools related to my art therapy and coaching practice
  • Actions and tools related to my daily movements, activities in space and time
  • ..

I am going to explore three approaches:

  1. Body repetitive movement with my hands as tool
  2. Body exploratory movement with my feet as tool
  3. Exploration of space with ‘cat wand’ as tool

Other aspects to look at more carefully:

  • My awareness of forces, movement of body to apply those forces, chance, sustainment (repetition?), significance painting-action, associations
  • Documentation / Recording: still images, moving images, composites, stop motion

Run #1 Washboard (laundry)

  • Tool: plastic sheet, my hands
  • Paint: shellac and gum solution
  • Support: paper on board (approx 70x50cm)
  • Action: rub, roll, swipe, press

=> I came up with this idea as kind of spin-off from my project work on difference, the rising ground, and becoming in context of Deleuze conceptions ( I am working a while now with shellac solution, ink and pigments, exploring material characteristics of water-repellent shellac in relation to watersoluble media. Part of my project interrogation is the differentiation of the ground, explored through additive and subtractive imprints with plastic sheets, my choice of gum solution a kind of derivation. In context of this course work I was now more interested in the interaction of my body movement, the material, and the surface.

Stefan513593 - Part 1 - Exercise 2 - Painting without brush #1

Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – Part 1 – Exercise 2 – Painting without brush #1

I didn’t know what I would expect, being on my knees I just moved back and forth with my hands. At that time the idea occured to me of context.

Would this be an approriated simulation of washboard laundry? Reminded of Antoni, I did’t clean, I rather spoiled. My rubbings eventually were challenged by incremental friction, as the shellac and the gum solution became more solid, the fluidity of initial movement turned into a physical demanding rubbing and pressing. Eventually, I stopped one sequence when I felt either the counterforce as too strong or my body signaled a stop. Working such a way over the period of four days, four sequences, each around 15min.

Final paintings: Surface (ground) and sheet, shellac, gum on paper (approx. 70 x 50 cm)

Stefan513593 - Part 1 - Exercise 2 - Painting without brush #1 - ground and sheet

Fig. 2: Stefan513593 – Part 1 – Exercise 2 – Painting without brush #1 – ground and sheet

Moving images – video fast motion

What happened?

An initial drive to experiment turned into a physical activity and alongside my associations of washboard laundry became some significance. My actions and forces applied, counter forces experienced, alongside the repetitive sequences, changed my attitude and the development of imagery. The surface (paper on board) became associated with washboard, the plastic sheet with some laundry stuff. At the end I was wondering what the work is: the painted surface? the dirty plastic sheet? the recording? Or all together?

The plastic sheet, hanging at the wall (Fig. 2 – right) reminded me later of Christ burial shroud (see Shroud of Turin)

Run #2 Skating 

  • Tool: shoes, plastic bag
  • Paint: acrylic paint made with blue pigment
  • Support: paper (roll) on floor (approx. 2.2 x 1.5 m)
  • Action: skate, slide, press

=> another work that was triggered by other works. For my difference&becoming project I start to apply acrylic adhesive on two boards, stick them together with adhesive sides together and before it is thoroughly dry tear them apart what results in random relief patterns on each side. To increase the force I put my feet onto the stack and could feel a slippery movement, triggering associations of skating or mud sleighing. How could I elaborate that experience on larger scale, exploring that sensation? With my action set I was wondering how to use boards as skating tool, how to fix small canvas boards to my feet so that I can move(skate) around? Eventually, I took a pragmatic approach and used plastic bags as overshoes, plastic good to skate with, and much easier to fix to my feet.

a) Moving images – stop motion

b) Moving images – video fast motion

Final image: acrylic paint on paper (approx. 2.2 x 1.5 m)


Fig. 3: Stefan513593_part1_project2_skate_final-2

What happened?

After putting on my skates aka plastic bags, I enjoyed the free movement across the surface. It worked very well and I was pleased to have found that solution and not thinkin too much of how to fix boards under my feet (where the idea of skating initially derived from).  I ‘skated’, ‘slided’, and ‘pressed’ at times onto the surface.

Addition of black hue (charcoal) and later of white was a response to the image appearing under my feet as well as my memories of dark markings over time on the ice surface (till the maintanance team cleaned up the surface). After the blue i added white (or white grey) as a free meaningful association with the  blue-white hue of winter ice. Also, as one way to make visible differences on my paper ‘ice’.

In between,  I had to be careful not to fall, an experience too well known from my own ice skating experience. Falling a mistake or a a trouble to avoid? Mostly I was concerned about the tight space and the risk of taking down other materials. In open space with more space around me I would have been more courageous. Variation of my pressure, full body, finding the balance, pressing, compensating, a dialogue between responding what I saw below me (being conscious about ‘making’ a painting) and my balance, process, enjoyment. I became more aware of my body and movement, my memories, my experience at that moment, and what appears through paint.  Fascinating process.

The final image triggered some figurative associations I further elaborated in my sketchbook (pareidolia effect).

As in my project ‘Difference & Becoming,’ I am very much interested in exploring the liminal perceptive zone of abstract, undifferentiated forms and figurative forms, a mental perceptive process that seem to be quite unique depending on the viewer and subjective responses possibly informed by individual experiences.

Run #3 Cat Wand

  • Tool: self made cat wand from primed canvase left overs
  • Paint: acrylic paint (three hues)
  • Support: transparent paper, placed in a corner space
  • Action:  wipe, swing, jump. drag
  • Context:
    – Pollock’s stick painting, playing with our cat at home

=> this experiment of gestural painting is perhaps the most consciously driven approach. Our cat, called Dobby, is a male persian cat 15 months old, and I am playing with in spare time with all kind of stuff. I built play boxes from salvaged cardboxes, and one toy is the cat wand with leather stripes. I didn’t want to

Stefan513593 - part1 - project2 - wand

Fig. 4: Stefan513593 – part1 – project2 – wand

use the real one, also too expensive just to try, and build my own simple one with leftovers from primed canvas taped to a stick (Fig. 4).

I choose three hues relating to the two colors of our cat (white, ochre) and the color of our floor tiles (dark brown).

My intention was to simulate somehow my gestures, my body movement playing with the cat, but without him and in my studio, quite a remove from reality, but still worth to try tools and action.

One element that I added consciously, and inspired by Carolee Schneeman, was to work in a more 3D space (corner, wall, floor) to be able to make more spatial gestural movements  – and to visualize them.



Work in action:

Stefan513593 - part1 - project2 - wand . work in action

Moving images – stop motion


Final – unfolded – gestural space: acrylic paint on tracing paper, triptych (approx. 3 x 1.7 x 0.7 m)

Stefan513593 - part1 - project2 - wand - unfolded

Fig. 5: Stefan513593 – part1 – project2 – wand – unfolded

What happened?

With my paint, support and painting tool prepared, I moved through space and applied paint simulating the way I play with the cat wand with our cat. I noticed that the ‘reaction’ of our cat Dobby was missing, I pretended, and possibly moved through space more informed by what I see in front of me. As in my previous ‘skating’ experiment I shifted between my intention (simulated gestural movements) and my realized strokes.

I installed three sheets of paper in the corner, noticing at the end that mostl the middle section was painted, the left and right segment were only partly exposed, thus pretty much ‘unpainted’. I also noticed a difference between floor section (incl. lower part of the vertical area) and the upper wall section. The latter one more spattered, the first one much more covered with dense paint.

Compared to the first two experiments, I applied much less force. Handling the ‘wand’ was easy, dipping into paint and the water bucket in between became a smooth operation, routine.



  • Associations: Some actions came up through working on other pieces and association with some meaningful activitities. Not knowing what I would experience, and not knowing how to select, made for me the process easier, to flow with. I truly appreciated those triggering moments that lead me to experiment with tools and media. Only in #3 I felt that my planning was too consciously done, and felt it was the least successful one (inspite of creation of my own ‘wand’)
  • Actions: All three actions involved some body movement and transitive actions of working with paint
  • Forces: The forces applied varied from my own body weight (#2), forces applied through my body extension (#1), or through external forces e.g. gravity (#3). Either my body weight or my body strenght were some limiting factors (#1, #2). In #2, my body movements was a response to the forces I experienced (e.g. slippery), in #1 it was the solidification process of shellac and gum that placed some counterforce to my action. In #3 I felt somehow restricted by my memories and my conscious decision to simulate the play with our cat.
  • Chance: Chance played more or less in all three a major role. However, in #1 my repetitive body movement was the dominant agent, whereas in #2 and #3 I did response somehow to what I some during the process of making.
  • Sustainment: In #1 I sustained my action through four daily sequences on same support and same tools. This allowed an incremental development of patterns, and structure, an index of my activity as such. In #2 I could envision that the work either would go muddy grey through multiple layers, or similar to #1, a repetitive cycle (like in ice skating rings with regular cleaning up cycles) could allow generation of process art, where the repetition is the main scope.
  • Painting versus action: I all three examples I do find that the process was more important than a final image. Although, the result of the process could lead to further elaboration i.e. the work as the ground for extension, e.g. #2. In #1 I found eventually that even the tool (plastic sheet) could act as an artwork, or all together: painted support, tool, process. Overall, I found that documentation of the process in itself can be a key aspect in painting as this would possibly provide more meaning to the viewer (similar to Janine Antoni Loving Care)

How to build on that?

  • To combine actions and tools in a wider context, e.g. #1, seems for me to be more meaningful. Perhaps, that’s a reason, why I struggled at the beginning with the expansive ‘verb list’ of Richard Serra and to select out of the blue sky something. Nevertheless, a very structured, quite scientific approach in setting up an experimental scheme could possibly lead to new, surprising results. But I believe, that I am not that discplined person to go through that systematic work.
  • Example #2 showed me that the work when viewed under different viewpoints, e.g. hanging at the wall instead of laying on the floor as during the making, could lead or trigger new ideas, even to become a ground for more elaborated and perhaps figurative paintings.

Amendment / 05 Feb 2018:

presentation of Cat Wand, hanging in translucent light

Stefan513593 - part1 - project2 - catwand - hanging

another option – suspended from ceiling to get a walk-through sensation for the viewer


  • Richard Serra (1967–68). Verb List  [Graphite on paper, 2 sheets], each 10 x 8″ (25.4 x 20.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist in honor of Wynn Kramarsky. © 2011 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York At: (accessed 19 Dec 2017)
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