A4 – Painting through Skin

  • A4 – Painting through Skin
  • A4 – Painting through Skin
  • A4 – Painting through Skin
  • A4 – Painting through Skin
  • A4 – Painting through Skin

In my prior reflections, I articulated my aim for this assignment:

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


Departure

I started to work first time with latex, considered it either as material for disposable gloves, as latex paint for wall painting, or as fetish material with erotic connotation. The first connotation was my first one, the third one that of a few other people.

Point of departure: using latex as conservation, surface coating – see  project 1  (Fig. 1).

Continuation: to understand that latex can be vulnerable when seen as material without support (as it stuck together, Fig. 2), that it doesn’t work as intended with all materials (failing to blend with plaster, Fig. 3), and that it can go sculptural when joined with supporting material (eg. wire, Fig. 4) – see project 2 

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 1 – 5):

My most exciting experience was to explore the literal stretching performance of latex as paint material (Fig. 5):  Stretching as a unique feature of the material, and not just acting as a prep to  support a painting, but to become the painting in itself.

I decided to look at two main aspects:

  • sculptural versus surface
  • stretching

Going sculptural

From project 4 I was interested to explore paper chips more, and to see whether they could give latex more sculptural features (Fig. 6-14)

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 6 – 14) – sizes each between around 12-15 x 8-10 x 7-11 cm

=> those small scale wire-latex sculpture do have some fascinating aspects. Especially the last one (sculpture no4, Fig. 12-14) do convince more through a combination of transparent and opaque;  patterns, lines and shapes; concealing and revealing;  play with color. In a similar way sculpture no2 has a sense of opening.

The drawback with these small sculptures build around wire is  instability: the wire doesn’t hold the latex-skin enough, both are rather a playful interaction, moving around without stabilising themselves. This might be an aspect to follow through, but I was more interested in other ways, more robust and stable approaches – more stretched ones.

Another, quite experimental approach I looked at was pouring latex over paper chips (those chips I used to paint with in project 4) resulting in quite unique scuptural object (Fig. 15). But it seemed to rather a dead-end – or one off.  No stretching ‘allowed’ here.

Fig, 15: latex-chips-sculpture

Fig, 15: latex-chips-sculpture; pouring – stretching – breaking – arranging; a flower bouquet?

 

At that moment, I decided to revisit a work from project 2 (Fig. 16, left). The stretched latex became after some time less tight, the tension diminished, reminding me of guitar strings that had to be re-tuned through adding more tension, to stay atuned. What led me to ‘unstretch’ it, following the motion of ‘hanging’ and installed it that way (Fig. 16, right). Leaving wide open space inside, space to breathe, to relax.

Fig. 16: revisiting from project 2- stretching the skin

Fig. 16: revisiting from project 2- stretching the skin

 

=> also this approach, through fascinating and intriguing to follow through (relax, breathing), it still did work the way I was looking for. No ‘stretching’ here.

Being complicit with latex – feeling resistance

Therefore, I decided to re-start with new latex-skin paintings, now on paper as a variation towards an unknown. My previous latex works where more about the surface aspect of the material (coating, sticking, folding). I wanted to explore its painterly qualities by layering various colored latex (Fig. 16 – 19). Without knowing the outcome, I was curious to see how it will turn out – and to work from there.

I applied the three colored latex (kind of primaries) rather abstractly and intuitively, in a way that I found intriguing.

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 17 – 20) – sizes approx. 32 x 45 cm

Exploring peeling, face lifting, and how the material will perform.  But it happened that some part of the latex didn’t got of the paper. Although, as learned from previous sticky results (Fig. 2), I used baby powder to protect the latex surface of just doing that.

Apparently, the latex mixed with phtalo blue was the one that kept sticking to the paper (the other colors with inorganic pigments (cd red, cd yellow, titan white) behaved differently. I started to think on how this could be an opportunity – and playing with an empty stretcher (Fig. 21)

Fig. 21: latex color skin - failure as opportunity

Fig. 21: latex color skin – failure as opportunity; paper as support and picture plane – stretcher as pictorial element – latex skin as paint and picture; do I need the bull clamps? 

 

=> Would this ‘failure as opportunity’ give me some new directions? 

Stretching

Exploring further, lifted paint-skin, informed by a pictorial use of an empty stretcher.  Extending the stretching aspect of the resulting latex picture.

First attempt, small stretcher (40 x 30  cm)

Fig. 22: latex stretch no1

Fig. 22: latex stretch no1; stretching a released latex picture onto a stretcher, opening negative space; do I really need the bull clamps ?

 

=> this seemed to work quite well. I was wondering whether I could stretch more, using larger stretcher. The color areas turned out to be important pictorial elements in the stretched composition.

Second attempt – larger stretcher (70x50cm)

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 23 – 26)- sizes approx 80 x 50 cm

=> I used bull clamps to fix one part of the latex skin on one side and pulled with my hands another part towards the opposite side. Trying what can be pulled towards where. At times, the latex skin became vulnerable and – broke. I worked further with the fragments, resulting in a diminishing picture plane, and increasing negative space. At the end it was not any longer a complete paint layer as in Fig. 16-19, but rather strings been held. The color areas flattened out and transformed into spatial lines.

Following up with these efforts, I decided to revisit the partly stuck-to-paper latex picture (Fig. 21) and to see how I could develop it further, trying to be more in relationship with the materiality performance and to see what the material wants to tell me.

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 27 – 30) – sizes approx 24 x 18 cm

=> an evolution of keeping inside the frame, contained, and white areas of paper stuck to the latex (backside) turned into a pictorial element. I found it really fascinating how things can turn around into an abstract composition by considering all sides, and features of the material, playing and revisiting possible constellations till it results into a somehow meaningful work – void of any representational framework or external connotations – just paint material composed and mediated.

I started to sense a familiarity with the latex material, a complicity? I wanted to make thicker layers of paint, and to go back to two colors in order to explore more the spatial performance of areas and lines, how the first can turn into the second.

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 31 – 34) – sizes around 24×18+ cm 

=> Because of the thickness of the paint-skin, it material was rather rigid, and the relationship between the shapes stayed pretty much stable. I thought that using the wire could make it more sculptural, not stretching but bonding. As done before (Fig. 23-26), I wanted to explore the shape relationship through stretching deeper and went back to the found object, the wine rack stretcher from Fig. 15.

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 35 – 38) – sizes approx 80 x 22 cm

 

=> stretching downwards (Fig. 35 & 36), demanding quite some strength, turning upside down (Fig. 37) and finding a more dynamic form and relationship. Here, I had to use bull-clamps again, the tension was too strong and the  strips the narrow.  The colors wavelike moving upwards, up-lifting. The paint-skin not completely covering the stretcher’s rectangular shape, but following its own dynamic and leaving enough negative space open to resonate with. I was curious to see whether the addition of a different texture (latex skin pattern made with the help of bubble wrap) could work (Fig. 38) –  but I found the result a bit too contrived, too dense, and leaving not enough open space .

However, I found the paint-mesh fascinating, adding certainly contrast, as also explored in project 4.5.  As my stretched works done earlier (Fig. 23- 26) were very open with not a balanced relationship between positive and negative space, I wanted to see whether the mesh could add more meaning to it. I could not undo the stretching and fragmentation of the latex-paint-skin, thus adding could work better. 

I was curious to play along this pattern and the stretched colored bands, placing, stretching as well the mesh-skin.

grid view – click on an image to open in lightbox view (Fig. 39 – 42) – sizes approx. 80 x 50 cm

=> an evolving process of increasing the tension of the skin-mesh, becoming more a net (reminding me of sea and fishing). It appeared to me that the two varieties of solid and meshed paint-skin do stand in a dialogue with each other. It occurred to me that I had to apply much less force to stretch the mesh than the solid paint-skin. An interesting aspect as it could inform future options of ‘stretching’. 

Reflection and possible next steps 

One of my concerns or interest in making the works for the assignment was to see whether I could get rid of the bull-clamps. I considered them rather a temporary fixings, but wanted to see how the paint-skin and the stretched could be more autonomous, being self-sufficient and the only partners in this relationship. I started to create variations since my second attempt on stretching (Fig. 22-25), replacing bull clamps by stretching the paint-skin mostly around the corners so that could be hold in place by its own tension. Only, in the thick latex skin stretched across the wine rack required me to use bull-clamps again.

My initial work (Fig. 15) was still with bull-clamps, but hidden at the backside of the stretcher. And my small scale sculptural works (Fig. 6-14) were hold by the wire net, but the tension was absent due to the fact that both materials (paint skin and wire) were both rather flexible.

The used stretcher (Fig. 39-42) seems now a bit too contained, too much frame like. Whereas, the one with the found stretcher (Fig. 35-38) does work better for me. The smaller one in Fig 34 also appears more successful as the stretcher appears rather as an embedded object than a frame, more than the one in Fig. 30. I would like to ‘un-stretch/un-frame’ , but do not quite know yet how else to fix the material, the edges. And some fixture is needed, otherwise there will not be ‘stretching’. One option could be to put nails in a wall as fixing points. Another option could be, to combine the idea from my small sculptures but instead of the quite flexible wire to use rigid bars. Or too look out for found objects, that could hold the strength of stretching latex paint-skin. Here, I could embrace my experience more that mesh are easier to stretch and hold that solid paint-skin. 

The most successful pieces are those that embrace the material unique features (stretchable, double faces) and have besides a material tension also a tension inside the pictorial elements, e.g. Fig. 36 or Fig. 42. The drawback of these are that they are pretty vulnerable as they are under tension (not good for physical shipments, rather a site-specific installation). And this would be also a key question to my tutor: how to work and present works like that for assessment.

Options to stretch – future extension or application of assignment work

static:

  • nails in the wall
  • rigid metal bars
  • anything ready-made: handrails, trees, hangers, 

dynamic:

  • between doors: open and closing doors kept under tension as performance
  • live performance: audience invited to apply forces, to stretch supplied paint-skins (or to think further, to search even for any material to explore stretching as such)

Options of paint-skin:

  • mesh 
  • solid
  • area or line 
  • different thicknesses for different tension
  • combinations of above

Amendment

inspired by the music-art collaboration and our event in London, I was wondering whether a painting can not also actually make music aka sounds. Here the sound of stretched paint (Fig. 36)

 


A spin off from working with latex mesh and trying to find objects that can hold tension – a failure due to structural collapse. Nevertheless, it became a wall object for itself (Fig. 43)

Fig. 43: Wall object; latex mesh and honeycomb board

Fig. 43: Wall object; latex mesh and honeycomb board

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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 4.5 – Ex. 4.5: 3D colour chart

  • Project 4.5 – Ex. 4.5:  3D colour chart
  • Project 4.5 – Ex. 4.5:  3D colour chart
  • Project 4.5 – Ex. 4.5:  3D colour chart

Color – Mapping a Space

My chosen location was the garden of the South London Botanical Institute, that I visited as part of the ‘Art & Environment’ study weekend with OCA tutors Melissa and Dan (see my reflective account)

Two aspects fascinated me:

  1. The varieties of color of plants and flowers (Fig. 1), with a selection of it embedded in a slide (Fig. 2)
  2. The botanist gaze embodied in the microscopic view (Fig. 3)
Fig. 1: SLBI garden impression

Fig. 1: SLBI garden impression

and my collection (with some ethical concern, feeling myself as a Victorian naturalist, and with an awe for the powerful colors of the specimen)

Fig. 3: SLBI -Plant collection

Fig. 3: SLBI -Plant collection

..specimen to look at, to gaze through the human prosthesis: the microscope. Triggering associations of far away (planets?) and very close (‘inside the body’)

Fig. 3: SLBI - the botanist gaze

Fig. 3: SLBI – the botanist gaze

I wanted to comhine both somehow, with some preliminary experiments informed by project 1 of part 4. My fascination became even more intriguing as I could relate this to my parallel project on medical imaging, the microscope as perhaps the first human prosthesis to look deeper, to discipline the body, to slice, to flatten. My reading of Lisa Cartwright’s ‘Screening the Body’ (1995) supported my interest. 

My aim for this exercise:

  • to match the various colors found,  with my naked eyes in the garden, through the microscope, and through photographic reproductions after my return to my studio space. 
  • to build on, but also to free up from my initial thoughts, and to response more directly to the process of making

 

Preliminary experiments

How to capture color with the idea of microscope? I eventually found that circular shapes would be more suitable than rectangular as advised in the coursematerial. 

Considering the aims of this part of the course, I found that to isolate color as paint from its support might be also an idea to look at. 

Materials used:

  • circular shapes: found plastic lids from yoghurt products. Those lids did remind me of petri dishes (made from glass or plastic( that are typically used in microbiology 
  • paint: acrylic paint and/or Aquacryl paint plus impasto gel or arcrylic adhesive to be able to peel the paint skin from the plastic lids

Some experimental tests (Fig. 4):

Fig. 4: preliminary testing // peelable paint and plastic lids

Fig. 4: preliminary testing // peel-able paint and plastic lids

=> quite satisfied with the performance of the paint (though it took some days till completely dry and peel-able). The obtained paint-disks to work with, not so rigid, with some flexibility. More to see. This triggered some childhood memories: ‘melting crystals’ to create colorful melted, normally round shaped,  stained window pictures (they melt at around 180 C, and we used a kiln for that). Anything to take from this autobiographic experience? Quite astonished by this connotation. Would this trigger in other viewer’s mind childhood memories as well? Perhaps just a side effect, one of many narratives. 

Surface and supporting material: my main reasons are the disk shape resonating with the ocular botanist gaze, and the plastic material (acrylic paint easy to peel of) as found object (found as linguistic gesture of what I found in the garden, at the study visit, when looking through the microscope). Using other surfaces would alter that connotation. 

Next steps: to color match observed garden and microscope colors, and to discern difference between impasto gel and acrylic adhesive as well between acrylic paint (opaque) and aquacryl (transparent). Would it be possible to obtain transparent or translucent disks with light able to shine through? Like the light from a microscope? 

Matching colors

(slider view, click on one image to open Lightbox view – Fig. 5 & 6)

Fig. 5: matching botanic color

Image 1 of 2

matching botanic color

 

=> as envisioned, the plates with acrylic adhesive turned out to be glossy, compared to the mat impasto gel plates. Also, acrylic adhesive itself is transparent compared to impasto gel being rather opaque (surprised me). Further, I noticed that the color adhesive plates are much less transparent, wondering how this could be. Nevertheless, I decided to move on with what I have (and not trying to repeat till I get what I intended to get) and to see how things would work out in space, and under the performative impact of light.

Anatomy of Color

Question: to peel the paint skin of the plate? Or to keep it inside? I decided to peel – not knowing whether this was to best decision  

{xx color disks} in space 

together – alone – flat – in relation – activating the background – being activated by light – mapping

(slider view, click on one image to open Lightbox view – Fig. 7 – 10)

Fig. 7: color in space no1

Image 1 of 4

color in space no1: placing as collection

 

After my various ‘installations’ , still kind of flat though, I sketched down two ideas for more spatial installation: kinetic and negative space (Fig  11)

Fig. 11: color in space no5 - sketchbook ideas

Fig. 11: color in space no5 – sketchbook ideas; kinetic mobile and negative installed space with looking through circles

 

All in all, I am not so satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps, I was too busy with my parallel project and the rather flexible disks seemed to be rather restrictive. Nevertheless, there is something in that I cannot grasp at this point of time.

Naming my colors

Why to name them? For me or for the audience? As title for the work? As list of names as title? A poem? As contextual reference? Or as intentional meaning to guide the viewer? Perhaps, an invitation to connect linguistic and visual cues?

I could name them after the botanical origin, or after some colorant used in microscopic (eg. astra blue, sudan red or safranin). I didn’t find that those name who add to new knowledge, seemed to be rather too illustrative.

My thoughts for names:

  • yellow: ocular round
  • blue: botanist gaze
  • yellow green: nature’s skin
  • blue-green: water of life
  • transparent: transparent body

=> Here I can see how names, playing with connotations, can bridge somehow the gap between context, idea, and aesthetic perception, beyond the functional realm of paint tubes in stores or to nostalgia


Reflection

  • Overall, I was intrigued by my initial response to the idea from garden and microscope. Although, the technical execution of the color-plates was not as intended, I found some spatial arrangements, that went beyond that initial idea. Especially, I was intrigued by the light performance through a projected test-pattern onto the plates. Giving it all together a spatial appeal in a flat environment. Nevertheless, I felt that my direction went a dead end, and will therefore continue in a different direction.
  • The test pattern, laid over the physical paint-skin, adds a sense of artificiality, scientific, or medical appeal to it. I am wondering whether this could work in context of my parallel project.
  • By chance, I was struck reading about Percival Lowell and seeing his sketches and photographs of the Mars, 1905 in context of ‘objectivity’. The images reminded me strongly of my microscope images (see Fig. 3, especially right bottom) His drawings after photographs challenging the question of whether it is ‘objective fact’ (in Lowell’s case the appearance of channels on Mars) or whether to ‘say that the results were from the brain of the retoucher’ (Galison and Jones, 2013:331). I can relate this visual images as mapping (drawings and photographs), mapping similar as MRI works as a mapping device.

Reference:

  • Cartwright, L. (1995) Screening the Body : Tracing Medicine’s Visual Culture. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Galison, P. and Jones, C. A. (2013) Picturing Science, Producing Art. London, New York: Routledge.
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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 4.4 – Ex. 4.4: Exploring unconventional painting materials

  • Project 4.4 – Ex. 4.4: Exploring unconventional painting materials
  • Project 4.4 – Ex. 4.4: Exploring unconventional painting materials
  • Project 4.4 – Ex. 4.4: Exploring unconventional painting materials
  • Project 4.4 – Ex. 4.4: Exploring unconventional painting materials

Building up the surface of a painting using unconventional art materials. Creating and extending a material surface of texture, tone and/or colour, to transform the canvas. – Course material

Selection of materials

I feel that I should stay focus and not to browse wide openly in an experimental manner all sort of things around me:

This is visual mapping of materials (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1: mapping materials and relevance

Fig. 1: mapping materials and relevance

 

Form my mapping, I looked for commonalities Eventually I decided to go for three varieties:

  1. mud / clay: with much water to paint with, the final work will dry on its own
  2. cardboard chips: with less and more water, the final work will dry but separate; possibly to use with addition of paste to solidify
  3. plaster / latex: as I felt inspired by the moment of failure / chance from project2 -both resisting each other, the final work will dry on its own; possibly to use with (baby-)powder (talc*)

My aim would be to see how those materials can build up a skin, and how opaque, transparent, permeable these will get.

a) Mud

For the sake of simplicity,  I used for this exercise a surrogate for mud:  clay (would still love to work with the mud from the coast). Mud aka clay has an earthy connotation. It relates to the sense of touch, and I use it in my art therapy as a low barrier material to stay connected and to raise awareness of one’s body sensation., also it provides resistance to touch.

My aim was to see whether clay can be more than a modelling material, i.e. how clay can be used to flatten out. Typical features of clay (aka mud)

  • clay: solid mass for modelling, though flat squares. 
  • mud: rather associated with flat areas, e.g. river beds, sea coast (like the Waddensee at North sea coast)
  • already ‘painted’ brown
  • transformative through wetting and building up, usually without much water (what would makes it brittle during drying in the oven)
  • openness for new ideas….

Flattening out clay aka mud. Some beginnings – (Slider view: click on the image to open in lightbox view  – Fig. 2-4)

Fig. 2: Mud / clay 1

Image 1 of 3

painting with mud

=> a warming up, I’ve done these at the beginning of part 4 before my other works. A fun way to paint with wet clay aka mud on paper, and to feel how it starts to dry. On black paper a more dramatic visual effect. I couldn’t resist to paint directly on wet clay (usually one paints onto dry clay), resulting in a double-skin sculpture, a fold unfolded (relating to my interest in the Baroque, see post here)

How could mud be seen in context? Certainly, it reminds me of Richard Long’s mud paintings, the Avon River mud paintings, 2011. Also of my own mud drawing Mud Falls, 2016 for Drawing 1 unit. The materials resonates for it very tactile character. I decided to stop here with this material and to see whether another material could have a similar tactility and potentiality to build up.

b) Paper chips

I chose Kraft-paper chips, used as filling materials for shipping boxes, as they are made from paper, typically a support for painting, and they are structured, with extension into 3D (see Fig. 5). Paper is made from natural fibers or cellulose with chemical modifications, and it is considered as a ‘natural’ material. Paper chips are a more environmental alternative to styrofoam chips or bubble wrap as filler. 

I was wondering,  considering the previous coursework, how not only paint, stripped of the support, can transform itself into a sculptural painting, but whether equally also paper, a typical flat ‘canvas’ support, could turn into a painting. Considering my works with paper-mache in part 1 for the ‘combines’ – What is Below and Beyond), I wanted to explore the unique features of that material:

  • spatial, though flat squares. 
  • multiple pieces
  • already ‘painted’ brown
  • transformative through wetting and mixing with wallpaper paste.
  • openness for new ideas….

(slider view: click on the image to open in lightbox view – Fig. 5-11)

Fig. 5: painting with paper chips 1

Image 1 of 7

paper chips, building and constructing a picture plane

=> starting with piles of chips, spray painted on-site with acrylic paint spray (could envision an entire gallery room filled with this ‘filling’ material; Fig. 5). This way it works only with gravity, a bulk of materials, spreaded out on the floor. I was wondering whether I could bring this ‘back’ to the wall, the traditional place of the canvas, using paste to stick those chips to the canvas. Paste made them flattening out (Fig. 6). Developing, building it further, being more careful to the amount of paste added, modulating surfaces and space, attention to inner and outer relationships => resulting in two canvas (Fig. 7 & 8), the second one more figurative?

Considering the idea of slides from my visit to Environment as well as to the exhibition on artist cards in the British Museum, I felt intrigued by smaller scale works, and decided to work on card size scale (10 x 15 cm). A more intimated approach to work, more closer view, and I felt I put more attention to graphic and line (Fig. 9 & 10)

Overall, I was positively impressed about the potentiality of this material. It cultural use as packaging material, and as a more environmental one compared to plastic fillers, could possibly be used to inform works using this material. Packing, filling, discarding – a useful, though dysfunctional material at its final destination.

c) Plaster / Latex

My third material, I was eager to explore happened by chance: finding out what doesn’t work, and what doesn’t work well together. How to make a good solid mass in an instant, made from semi-liquid plaster and liquid latex (Fig. 12). A resistance, and yet, not separable. Could this be developed into something else?  Could I explore those resisting and cohesive forces? 

I continued with the smaller scale approach, as I found it might even work better with those ‘precious’ painting-constructions (slider, click on the image to open in lightbox view – Fig. 13 – 17) 

Fig. 12: a solid block of plaster and latex

Image 1 of 6

plaster and latex - failure as creation

=> first I couldn’t repeat my previous ‘chance’ result (Fig. 13), afterwards it ‘found’ it again (Fig 14). But I was not very satisfied with that block thing, although it might have some aesthetic appeal. I was looking for different, more considered ways to work with, and added both components not all together, but layered one above the other (Fig. 15) – a temporal, unstable composition, as the dry latex layers peels of the plaster (as I’ve notice before in project 2).  I concluded, that it might be better to work with latex separately, let it dry and to build up a painterly sculpture with plaster afterwards (Fig. 16). Here, I used bubble wrap to texture the latex skin. Fig. 17 shows the side views on the four attempts. 

Overall, considering my initial enthusiasm, I found the subsequent result less convincing. The separate approach (Fig. 16) more informative for further work. Latex can be easily textured, and to use fragments of it alongside other materials might be the better move forward.

 


Reflection

  • Do the resulting ‘painting objects’ suggest particular ideas or subject matter?  
    Mud: scratch marks, reminding me of the sea-coast, the wetlands
    Chips: no1 (Fig 7): a spatial map, like Bruce Nauman’s studio mapping (Two Messes on the Studio Floor,  1967), extraterrestrial mapping no 2 (Fig 8): – rose (intentionally done), rough construction
    Plaster / Latex: like pebbles, gems, found objects; or trash
  • Do they operate more like sculpture now than painting? 
    => a good question of what is difference between painting and sculpture. Karla Black considers her spatial works as sculptures, less a painting. I tend to see them in between, the mud and the chips wall pieces rather a painting with sculptural material, the plaster/latex attempts rather sculptures. How would I differentiate for myself? Sculptures when it comes to relationship between the object and the viewer, painting when it focuses more on relationships between surfaces and color inside the work. Although, the latter also take the viewer’s relationship with the work into account.
  • How would I present them in an exhibition? 
    Mud: Site-specific, on location installation; a frieze across the wall?
    Chips: I could envision an entire gallery room filled with the paper chips as packaging filler material, with paint partly covering it and the material itself as spatial paint (Fig. 5). Site-specific, on location installation. Alternatively, covering partly all room surfaces, an extension of surfaces in space, an interior view (or also exterior?) . This could build on the idea of interior-exterior / inside-outside dichotomy and a postmodern notion of multiple intensities (Wegenstein explores this in her book at more extend (2006, chapter 4)
    Plaster / Latex: Besides exciting ‘gems’ through a quick transformative process, I don’t consider the results as something to move forward. Having said, the quick transformative process might be an idea for on-site installation, though I don’t know whether this will work on larger scale as well.
  • How could I develop them further, larger scale? 
    Two key aspects seem to be important for me at this stage: skin and stretching.
    – I like the spatial expansion approach with the paper chips and could envision to use them for larger works, possibly more to paint with and onto. Pieces that make a whole, like body parts that constitute the body. 
    – I very much enjoyed working with latex and to discover its unique properties through modulation with addition of acrylic paint, thickener, applying texture and patterns. It seems to be the skin material par excellence (for what I found out so far): it peels off easily, is flexible, can be cut, can be colored, can be stretched and works with other materials when well chosen. I do think there is more potential (my project 2 work, see there Fig. 11 & 12). I don’t think that the chosen combination with plaster works best the way I worked with. Better to see both as two materials in dialogue.
  • I didn’t looked at two materials specifically in this exercise: peat and mud. I felt those would need much more attention and could be a parallel project in itself. Secondly, I felt it would divert me from my focus on my current parallel project as the coursework is to some extend closely informing it.  Both projects would be quite site-specific.
    Peat – for its cultural heritage and environmental impact 
    Mud – or as called in German ‘Schlick’ – relates to the natural reserve at the Northsea cost, a material full of life.
    I am wondering whether these materials are more to draw upon, or to paint around with.

 

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Project 4.3 – Ex. 4.3: Reflective exercise

Relationships with materiality (contextual focus)

‘What does it mean to give agency to the material, to follow the material and to act with the material?’ – Lange-Berndt, 2015:13

Why do I choose what I choose for painting? What are the qualities I explored and perhaps could explore deeper?

  • My favourite ‘traditional’ painting material tend to be oil paint, on the one hand with a full bodily texture, long to modify, resisting a fast drying. On the other hand diluted down to a dripping liquid For the same reason that I like to paint with ink, specifically to let it ‘drip down’. Especially on Perspex or rhenalon oil paint dries very slowly, what appeared to be a great hurdle in developing and exploring those materials, thus often I moved to acrylic paint although with weaker performance of transparent layers.
  • My favourite material approach tend to be transfer processes, acrylic transfer. This goes often alongside a more ‘skin-peel’ approach as dry acrylic paint gets of the ground with a shiny smooth surface on one side.
  • My favourite artist attitude to material is that of bodily exploration, in proximity, a tactile approach, feeling material, a kinaesthetic experience. To notice how painting media is covering and interacting with a surface (liquid oil, ink). Also to work with ‘non-traditional’ media, as mud-dispersion or liquid shellac supporting a performative aspect of painting.
  • My favourite supporting material tend to be paper, what moved over time to transparent, translucent materials, e.g. perspex, mylar but also un-stretched canvas, rather textile. A flexibility of material, with a breathe of their versatile features.
  • Then there are two other media that I like but not sure how this can be played with:
    – Water: a medium I like for its versatility, and that I consider rather as paint than as solvent. On the other hand it is a tool, more versatile than a brush through spraying and flowing around. But it also as this feature of reactive, opposing, not wanting being absorbed e.g. by oil paint.
    – Light: light is performative, reflections are non-substance pictures performed by light. 

At times, those get mixed, and my fingers touch the oil paint and the transfer is embedded with my body traces.

My verbal response to characteristics :

  • Oil paint: the touching eye, the seeing skin
  • Water: versatile, existential, life
  • Transfer: multiplicity, difference
  • Paper: absorbing, fragile, versatile
  • Transparent : a mindset? multiplicity
  • Body: my kinaesthetic preference and sensing of the world? Being and feeling alive
  • Light: without, the eye is blind

What it tells about my material approach?

A versatile, experimental attitude toward discovery of unnoticed traces and evidence. A kinaesthetic approach that is missing in a digital, screen based realm. A phenomenological approach, embracing the Gestaltung through materials. Figure and ground, just a viewpoint, both to look at, both to explore.

In summary

The paint and the surface, an equal relationship. Paint as material embeds, but also absorbs. The surface absorbs, but also entangles.

Me and material, an equal relationship. Performative gestures on both sides. Control and chance as well. A dialogue of listening and response.

Reflecting this way on what I did and why, makes me aware that there could be a common pattern. A unique approach perhaps, that can be informed by those specific characteristics? Something to see how to do, a quest.

How to Be Complicit with Materials? (Lange-Berndt)

The text looks at agency of materials from a post-human perspective. On the one hand material that is informed by social constructed notions, e.g. gendered materials (?), and on the other hand autonomous acting materials beyond matter with a life in itself. How to bring these together? From the reading I felt as if the author tries to argue for approaching materials innocently, quite in context of Ruskin’s notion of the ‘innocent eye’, a footnote to ignore or put aside the world we are growing up in. Nonetheless, there is certainly something in it that resonates: material versus a thing, a thing is made out of material, substance and is through a production process exposed to thought. What relates to Serra’s ‘Verb list’ as acting on material with the artist being the subject. The author relates the process of change to a Marxist notion of alienated production as well as to the Platonic idea of transcendent ideas (material turns into matter) that exceed the material world, a position she links to Modernism. Both viewpoints are anthropocentric perspectives and the author votes for an expansion beyond this central focus. She notes that material culture in that sense relates to anthropology, human made-things out of material.

An interesting shift happens when the author refers beyond material and matter to contemporary view of ‘materiality’ where physicality is not any longer a condition, e.g. sound, language. This approach resonates wrongly due to my interest in sound (through my collaborative project with music student Vicky) and light (partly explored in assignment 3 as the material that allows appearance of reflections) as materials. However, it is hard to grasp, reminds me of the cause and effect dilemma. To take sound as an example, it relates to our senses and to a subject, e.g. a piano, that makes the sound through time-frequency patterns. In other words, it is a sender-relationship transmitted through a medium, eg. air. Language, spoken or written would be similar. In comparison to paint, where the light is the transmitting medium between the materiality of paint and the receiving eye. It seems to me sound is more similar to color than to paint as material.

The author refers to ‘mono-ha’ as an approach to look at material as a passage, a performance and structure through which things reveal their existence. Viewpoint that I also came across in the recent art&environment at SBLJ. I take from this that a material in itself, that includes any non-human substance, can be attended to, listened to. However, it will go through a process of sensing and cognition, conception and abstraction to derive meaning from this attentive moment. The author puts this into context of the ‘Eigenleben’ (life in itself) and the post-human new realism conception of ‘vibrant matter’ as described by Karen Barad (p.17).

The author refers to Elizabeth Grosz who herself refers to Deleuze who took ‘sensation as that which subject and object share, yet is not reducible to either subject or object or their relation. Sensation is what art forms from chaos through the extraction of qualities’ (Grosz, 2008:19). In that sense, I can relate to material process and acting on: a dialogue between me and the material, once I make e.g. a stroke and the material responds, resists, performs, depending on structure and surrounding conditions. A ‘materiality-effect’ or a phenomenon of materiality (p.17). Something the author relates to the ‘Materialästhetik’ by stating:

Possibilities of materials should be set free without turning them into commodities – p.15

This description can be certainly argued with when talking about art in the form of objects, e.g paintings, sculptures, installations.

to follow the material means not to discuss aesthetic issues .. but to investigate transpersonal societal problems and matters of concern – p. 16

This notion seems to me a bit too restrictive as it puts an anthropocentric view on material that the author a few pages before criticised. I am wondering what it means to paint in oil paint from a material perspective?

However, what I find intriguing is the ‘follow the material’ pathway through crossing boundaries of discipline and to look beyond the circle of art, it means to go to places where a specific material is of concern.

If one want to to be complicit with materials, it is not enough to point to the fact that some objects are made out of …. The point is to understand the history of the material used, to research other context in which they were applied, to follow their traces, … to embrace the carnevalesque, the popular, the excessive. – p.20

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld, 2019: latex paint skin - stretching - displining - performing

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld, 2019: latex paint skin – stretching – displining – performing

 

Conclusion:

  • Material and attention to materiality opens up new views and sensations. To stay a tuned with materiality means to stay in a dialogue with the material.
  • The embrace the history of a material means to put it into a human perspective of reality and cultural conceptions (what includes all political, racial, and gender issues)
  • To look beyond the art-realm means to interrogate with material in a wider cultural and environmental sense.
  • It seems as to leverage a material through art practice would automatically address political and cultural issues, e.g hair is not innocent when placed in art space.
  • For my practice it means to be aware and to make conscious decisions, and to look at relationship between subject matter and material. An aspect my tutor highlighted in our last tutorial.
  • I am intrigued by sound as ‘material’ or medium as it will be a large part of my collaborative and parallel project. How to paint with sound, or rather how sound can transform spaces.

Images:

  • featured image and Fig. 1 works by SJSchaffeld, 2019 (from P4P2)

Reference:

  • Grosz, E. (2008) Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. [Scribd]. At: https://www.scribd.com/book/338697448 (accessed 05 May 2019)
  • Lange-Berndt, P. (2015). ‘Introduction / How to Be Complicit with Materials’. In: Lange-Berndt, P., ed. Materiality, Documents of Contemporary Art. London: Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press, pp. 12 – 23.

 

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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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Project 4.2 – Ex 4.2: Exploring Form

  • Project 4.2 – Ex 4.2:  Exploring Form
  • Project 4.2 – Ex 4.2:  Exploring Form
  • Project 4.2 – Ex 4.2:  Exploring Form
  • Project 4.2 – Ex 4.2:  Exploring Form
  • Project 4.2 – Ex 4.2:  Exploring Form
  • Project 4.2 – Ex 4.2:  Exploring Form

Traditionally, paint is considered a material to be used to create illusive shapes onto flat surfaces – as a surface application even when applied to sculptural object. Paint, especially through its characteristics of color and tone, creates perceptual forms and spaces. Good example for space creation are the works of Katharina Grosse. She considered earlier on that paint had to be solid with a material density before she moved on towards very thin, spray painted, rather translucent color application (Art21, 2015). This conception challenges the distinction between surface and corporeality, 2d and 3D objects. It reminds me similar to the dilemma of whether a point has a spatial extension or not, and whether a line would not also has an extension into the second dimension, making the line rather a flat extending surface.

However one wants to see it (mathematically or visually), it relates to human perception of color in space. One way to free paint from this perceptual constraint, is to make it a solid structure unconstrained from y supporting surface. A question I looked at in previous exercise on canvas. Nevertheless, also that structure will have an outer surface we perceive and an inner core that is concealed and provides structure. 

Approaches:

I decided to explore various painting materials:

  • acrylic paint: the material I had most previous experience with 
  • plaster: a material I discovered in previous exercise (quite experimental)
  • latex: a material I didn’t have any experience with yet and suggested by my tutor

1) Acrylic Paint

a) automatic application:

While pondering how to apply the paint on a temporary surface, I decided to check out a rather automatic approach of skin application (Fig. 1): a spinning found plastic cup with some holes at the bottom (already there) , suspended from the ceiling, adding two colored acrylic paint inside, and manually spinning

Fig. 1: Acrylic paint - an automatic application // WIP

Fig. 1: Acrylic paint – an automatic application // WIP – when gravity is not in favor of making

 

=> This didn’t went well at all. Thus, quite a failure: Either the paint didn’t come out or too much. Nevertheless, I kept the painted surface to dry and to peel it off , with a more interesting result as thin layer (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2: Acrylic auto paint A // a picture

Fig. 2: Acrylic auto paint A // a picture

 

=> A thin layer, but stable enough to separate from the plastic sheet underneath. It reminded me of Rorschach blots and partly of a distorted image of a brain. Although, I might be biased through my parallel project to see ‘brain-images’ all over the place .

Next step was to move away from ‘automatic’ paint application to manual one. In order to keep some elements of chance and with the hope of creating interesting patterns, I was searching for different plastic materials that I could use as temporary support: plastic packaging materials as bubble wrap (Fig. 2)

B) manual application:

Inspired by my parallel project work and some MRI images of the blood vessels in the brain (so called angiography) , I decided to use a red-color mix of acrylic paint.

Fig. 3: Acrylic paint - manual application using found plastic materials as support - WIP

Fig. 3: Acrylic paint – manual application using found plastic materials as support – WIP; used support: top and bottom left – flat plastic sheet, top and bottom right – thick and thin bubble wrap

 

=> I was curious to see how the material could be separated from the support. I was unpatient, and thus spoiled partly some areas. Had to wait longer, till results became clearer. Too precious works , protected and conserved as an archive (Fig. 4). Am I a fetish collector? 

Fig. 4: Acrylic paint B // archive

Fig. 4: Acrylic paint B // archive

 

The interwoven mesh of flexible acrylic paint, more flexible than opaque solid acrylic paint layer, made me wonder how it could be used, bended, applied differently than just laying onto another flat surface. I I got reminded of my veil ideas from previous exercise: unveiling to reveal the interior objects as expressed by Holtzmann Kevles (1997:3). In this case to veil in order to conceal, but failing to do so (Fig. 5) – or just another fetish object, installed to be looked at (Fig. 5 – center)

Fig. 5: Acrylic paint B // installation

Fig. 5: Acrylic paint B // installation; triggering narratives and cultural connotations

 

Excited by the varieties of visual material expression,, especially informed by my open mesh strands (Fig. 5 center) I decided to move further away from the one flat and solid opaque paint-skin towards reduction of dimensions: making a flat area into line. 

c) paint as line

How could paint as material be used as a painted line? (Fig. 6)

Fig. 6: Acrylic paint C // as line

Fig. 6: Acrylic paint C // as line; drawing , installation, and containing

=> the acrylic paint, not any longer a flat skin, a solid line. Not easy to bend, with some resistance, but still: a line painting with dry paint, drying not after painting, but before painting. Found this transformation intriguing. Color and paint resembling more of drawing in space. I tried to install it on an empty stretcher, just suspending and expanding. This reminded me afterwards of the puddle paintings of Ian Davenport.  I placed the strand across an empty jar, and lastly out them in and closed the lid. Containing and conserving, another approach of archive. An previous object. Does it remind me of those medical jars with preserved, dissected organs and other at times morbid curiosities that one could have see in various medical museums, e.g. here? Catherine told me during our visit at British Museum that those jars are not disclosed openly to the public any longer. It also reminds me of Helen Chadwick’s late and unfinished project ‘Cameo’, 1995. And in different, more homely context, it could relate to preserves (of fresh produce).

Some cultural take-aways at this stage:

A relationship: paint as a material with a surface, a skin, like human skin, a material with body, like a human body, fragmented, distorted, disciplined through my interactions and exposed to the gaze of the viewer (incl my own) , like medical gaze and the idea of fluent boundaries between medical imaging, the medical gaze, and media technologies and visual culture at large.

Interestingly, my experiments with paint skin did also show that paint is not only a surface, it is also a density. Although one can not look beyond the opaque surface, one could envision that it would look similar: uniform paint. Paint is pigment and binder (besides other minor additives). The binder makes it solid and stable. Therefore, I was wondering how the binder can not also be a paint, a material as such. 

I decided to work with plaster, stripped of the fabric as used in previous exercise in the form as plaster bandage, and to see how it can be colored and used.

2) Plaster

To make a solid form, a sculptural form, one uses plaster. A fast drying material, mixed with water, and why now with acrylic paint. I wanted to make the skin from previous acrylic paint application thicker, more solid (Fig 7)

Fig. 7: plaster paint D // failure or a fragment?

Fig. 7: plaster paint D // failure or a fragment? – inspired by brain images, slices of a flattened disciplinary interaction

 

=> It turned out to be less simple as expected. I could have foreseen the brittleness of plaster, although trying to mix with with acrylic paint and even with some liquid hide glue didn’t help much: a failure as the ‘plaster skin’ resisted to be taken off. My drawing with paint onto the still wet plaster surface was inspired by MRI images of my brain and a drawing I did at the Drawing Room at the British Museum (see blog post): ‘After Deacon / informed by my MRI project‘. I had to transfer carefully from one to another surface and eventually decided to place it between to perspex plates (Fig. 7 right). This kind of installation was a reference to the way the Visual Human Project was created and established: the MRI imagery had to be mapped against a physical point of reference – cryogen slicing of a dead human body (National Library of Medicine, 2019).

Fig. 8a - a solid block of plaster and latex - failure as creation

Fig. 8a – a solid block of plaster and latex – failure as creation

I felt inspired by those disc images, sliced disks as sliced matter, and considering the vulnerable features of plaster. And  informed by a preliminary failing test to add latex into plaster: resulting into an immediate solidification and creation of a solid block – Fig 8a.

What to do with that? To make a more careful ‘arrangement’ of material matter on a support, to see how both material possibly could work together in a different way, resulting in a process of transformation (Fig. 8) .

What started out as uniform wet painted shape, changed during the drying process: latex turned yellowish, plaster dries and contracted, the materials separated from each other  – fragmentation as result. It became brittle and the latex parts started to separate even more. Fig. 8 right shows the ‘installed’ fragmented disk – partly with kind of playdough appeal 

 

Fig. 8: plaster paint D2 // fragmentation of matter

Fig. 8: plaster paint D2 // fragmentation of matter

 

I concluded my plaster experiments and decided to explore latex as material alone. Latex as the most flexible, stretchable material, loaded with various cultural connotations: latex gloves as medical protection (what is replaced more to nitrile gloves currently due to latex allergic reactions), and mostly (when I asked others what the relate with latex) latex as erotic fetish material. A second skin, applied to the human body (I can’t imagine how people can stand the unique dry latex smell) . It seems, that material as skin has various connotations, and I am wondering how the latex skin in a double sense could work further for my project.

 
3) Latex

Starting with some simple colored latex applcation (Fig. 9)

Fig. 9: latex paint // another kind of fragmentation - vulnerable to touch

Fig. 9: latex paint // another kind of fragmentation – vulnerable to touch; right: recto and verso

 

=> just to see that after peeling of, latex turns into a sticky material, collapsing, sticking together, nearly impossible to get it flat again. I took the form the material had chosen, to install it fix on a paper, with the idea of making at the backside a small window, to peak through – on the one hand a stripping of context of the full form, one the other hand it could be referred to the erotic material connotation: a peak-show. In context of my medical imaging project, I could see the backside view also kind of medical gaze, and stripping of the subject (the patient) as a living human being. Like at surgery, when a blanket is concealing the patient and revealing only a sterile entrance into the body’s interior.

Latex can be disciplined as well – applying baby powder when peeling of from the support. The paint-skin turned into a ‘carpet’ (Fig. 10)

Fig. 10: latex paint no2

Fig. 10: latex paint no2; recto and verso

 

I wanted to play more with the skin idea and to see what else I could do with the ‘freed’ material: installing, modulating, manipulating.
 

4) Beyond skin-peeling

I was trying to create something new with the most flexible skin-paint approach: latex (Fig. 11)

Fig. 11: latex goes sculptural

Fig. 11: latex goes sculptural – a dialogue with mesh wire – adaptation and disciplining

 

=> by using a metal wire, I was able to form the skin . or to quote Lisa Cartwright (1995): to ‘discipline’ the skin – into a flat image. Latex is an opaque material and I was trying to get a sense of ‘transparency’ through the use of the thin wire (the one used to stabilise plaster sculptures)

I got even more reminded of the notion of ‘disciplining’ when I was exploring latex paint skin to the limits, by stretching. Here the traditional canvas stretcher came handy, though I used another found wooden rack (Fig. 12)

Fig. 12: stretching the skin

Fig. 12: stretching the skin

 

=> With this approach I started to think how this could be pushed further for my assignment work: stretching the skin in reference to the human transparent skin exposed to the medical gaze. The dividing line as a focal point. Can this line be further stretched?

 


Reflection

  • Big challenge: drying time of thicker paint, with or without binder, especially at current ambient weather conditions. Would like to get something drying quickly like plaster but keeping a flexibility. I can appreciate why Benglis used a strong, solid mesh construction for her pour painting, e.g. For Carl Andre, 1970. 
  • How to free the paint from its support?  That is the challenge – my curiosity, unpatience, and deadlines are challenging my approach. Should I wait longer or cleaner results, or should I embrace the fragility and vulnerability of half-wet paint as a learning in itself? Perhaps, new aspects could come up. My above experiments are reflecting this process of failure.
  • Key phenomena or actions explored and ‘discovered’: 
    – Vulnerability: unstable materials, e.g. plaster or partly also acrylic paint, resisting a peeling-of, breaking as intrinsic feature, creating new ideas?
    – Fragmenting: through breaking, incoherence, non-suitable material combinations (e.g. plaster plus latex)
    – Stretching: acrylic paint skin less , latex paint skin more, a stretching to flatten and distort the picture plane
    – Disciplining: Stretching and framing, installing on wire, or other objects – a disguise and a distortion
  • Material alongside the way I manipulate, discipline, and install it, can trigger various narratives and cultural connotations inside the viewer’s mind (see Fig. 5).
  • On a wider level, I can see a relationship between paint as material with a surface, a skin and the human body with the skin.  It can be fragmented, distorted, disciplined through my interactions and exposed to the gaze of the viewer (incl my own) , like medical gaze and the idea of fluent boundaries between medical imaging, the medical gaze, and media technologies and visual culture at large.
  • Latex as material for second skin: a double sense meaning towards human skin, and towards paint as skin.
  • Next steps: to explore deeper stretching and disciplining of paint skin. metaphor for human body, human skin as surface? Can possibly see some relationship with my parallel project: under the skin – transparent and permeable skin

 

 

 


Reference:

  • Art21 (2015) Katharina Grosse: Painting with Color | Art21 “Extended Play”,[online], At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBfPMGS7XPo(Accessed on 29 Aug 2018).
  • Cartwright, L. (1995) Screening the Body : Tracing Medicine’s Visual Culture. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Holtzmann Kevles, B. (1997) Naked to the Bone : Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
  • National Library of Medicine (2019) The Visible Human Project®, At: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/visible/visible_human.html  (Accessed  02 May 2019).
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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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