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)
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
- Hauser & Wirth Gallery (n.D.) Anj Smith: Paintings,At: https://www.hauserwirth.com/publications/9387-anj-smith-paintings (Accessed 25 April 2019).
- Newman, B. (2003) ‘The First Man was an Artist’, in:Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Malden, MA; Oxford, UK; Victoria, AUS: Blackwell Publishing,pp. 566 – 569. V
- Schaffeld, S. J. (2015) ‘Visual research: Frank Auerbach (b.1931) – a physical approach in charcoal & Exhibition’ [blog post] At: https://ocalog.stefanschaffeld.com/?p=2486(Accessed 07 May 2019)
- Tate Shots (2012) Lynda Benglis: ‘Form and texture create the magic’,At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/lynda-benglis-7290/lynda-benglis-form-and-texture-create-magic (Accessed 26 April 2019). London: Tate.
- Thomas Dane Gallery (2019) Lynda Benglis, At: https://www.thomasdanegallery.com/artists/30/ (Accessed 04 May 2019). Thomas Dane Gallery, .
- Walker Art Center (2015) Lynda Benglis Discusses Adhesive Products,[online video], At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7igJ08xWH-8 (Accessed on 26 April 2019).