Project 4.1: Reimagining the canvas

Art practitioners did re-visit the canvas as a stretched and framed picture since Modernism, e.g Barnett Newman, and especially in the evolvement of Minimal Art with Donald Judd or Richard Serra. The canvas as a surface dictated by it’s relationship to the stretcher was perceived as contrived, also at a wider visual cultural discourse. A key question could be what we would expect a painting to be located, and how we encounter it physically and embodied b moving towards, and around.

I looked at some aspects during my earlier coursework, e.g. Walk through Painting and my object-box (#Paint4OCA) – besides those earlier works that I made ‘on a side’ as reflected on in my current coursework.

Some time ago, I discovered during my visit to the Bern Kunsthalle (2018) the work Untitled Chair, 2015 of Nicole Wermers (b. 1971). Interestingly, that the work reproduced on the Art Basel webpage shows ‘just’ a chair with a fur coat. The Bern installation expanded this single viewpoint into a dialogue with a heater from the building, turning the latter into a piece of art work as well. In my visit reflection, I described my physical encounter as ‘my embodied perspective: distant, looking at it, looking down at it, sitting down and look in the direction’ (Schaffeld, 2018).  All together, installation of work can raise questions but also engage the viewer to look ‘beyond’ and to move into a physical dialogue.

Wermer’s work is not a painting, as apparently no paint was used, but it relates to the work Mundanza (green), 2015 or Mudanza (green), 2016 of Angela de la Cruz (b. 1965). The gallery’s artist description highlights how she embraces ‘deconstructing and reconstructing paintings into recyclable “Commodity Paintings” in a wider art historical discourse (Wetterling Gallery, 2016).  Here, she takes the canvas completely away from the stretcher;  compared to her earlier work Vacant, 2013, a canvas too small to fit the stretcher frame. The canvas as a glossy, shiny surface, emphasised with paint to make it a sculptural work, and even more, an installation.

I start to get a sense of how a sculpture could be seen differently from a sculptural painting. It seems, as the latter need to be installed. A sculpture as well, but the painting invites more for a relationship engagement, a sculpture possibly more for a face-to-face engagement. Possibly, that sculptural paintings like the ones of Angela de la Cruz do embrace much more a Minimal Art, a Gestalt approach as would be seen just at a first glance (or by looking at online screen based images alone). In this context one could see Frank Stella’s painting of shapes and lines with its own life, eliminating the support, letting the shapes and lines be the support in an open space. Similarly,  works by Richard Tuttle – or others.

I feel that Sarah Crowner‘s (b. 1974) paintings (as seen at Simon Lee Gallery) do relate strongly to an art historical moment of geometric abstraction, with large shapes painted with a limited palette but with high saturation that do extend the limits of the top surface and extend around the edges. I can certainly see some reference to Barnett Newman or Piet Mondrian and others. 

However, I am fascinated by her work ‘Garden Blue’ (2018) for the American Ballet Theater, New York (Morris, 2018). She made the customs and the props for the performance, reminding me of Robert Rauschenberg’s engagement (his series of ealier ‘Combines’ with Merce Cunningham’s Dance Theater (Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, 2019) or of Jean Dubuffet’s Coucou Bazar (1973, Foundation Jean Dubuffet). Both, painterly, sculptural and relational compositions to be engaged with (the actors) in a performative act.

Differently to de la Cruz, Dianna Molzan (b. 1972) engages at an intimate level with the stretcher. The stretcher functions beyond keeping a canvas tight and flat, e.g. untitled, 2014 (empty stretcher with suspended ‘cans’ inside the ‘picture plane’, or other works with suspended ‘pictures’ that build on art history and language to seek meaning from it. But not all works are embracing the stretcher frame, others look like side tables at the wall, with objects as pictures on the small shelf, e.g. untitled, 2015. I feel reminded of Nicole Wermers’ Moodboard #5, 2016 – as seen at the same Bern exhibition mentioned above (Schaffeld,2018). As stated on another site, Wermers  creates:

sculptures, collages and installations, whose humor and deep psychological resonance derive from their diverse subversions. They sabotage their objects’ original function, radically rethink unusual combinations of materials, and destabilize expected spatial and social hierarchies. – about Nicole Wermers (Art Viewer, 2017)

And her later work the conscientious objector, 2018 reminds me of Jutta Koether’s installation series ‘Seasons and Sacraments’ but also of Barnet Newman’s The Wild, 1950.

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld - Presence and Absence, 2017

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld – Presence and Absence, 2017 – an early approach to artefacts and releasing the frame. Re-staged as folded fabric on the stretcher (apparently new ones)

 

I can see other artists who work at the liminal space between painting and sculpture. With Sarah Crowner an example on the rather painting side and Nicole Wermers rather on the sculpture side. Somehow, all are in between, trying to get a physical demanding piece of work installed where the viewer can not relate merely on a dead-pan gaze of a flat surface, but need to put her/himself into a physical but also cultural and art historical relationship:

  • Alex Roberts (b. 1975) uses silk as a translucent supporting material, letting the stretcher shine through (Midpoint II, 2019) alongside an intriguing installation with fragmented painted parts on steel bars. Examples: Reds to blues, 2015 (Acrylic on wood, 23.5 x 17.5cm) as part of the installation The Room is the Resonator together with  Paul Abbott & Alex Roberts in an Old Police Station in Deptford, London (2016). The colored tiles resonating with the monochrome painting, questioning not only a White-Cube ideal but also the agency of a painting. 
  • Simon Callery (b. 1960) who embraces the textile materiality of the canvas to make sculptural paintings, e.g Undercut Yellow Wallspine, 2017.. Installed to advance from the wall into the open space. They remind me of large pocket filter units used in industrial air filter environments. These works seem to be a re-interpretation of the stretcher and the canvas as visible in Symmetrical Aluminium Wallspine, 2017. Fascinating to see how he even re-interprets the thread. In other works, e.g. Blue Horizontal Wall Pit Painting, 2014 the stretcher becomes a different shape and the viewer feels reminded of other cultural artefacts, e.g a toilette cover. An interesting approach can be seen in his work Flat Painting Bodfari 14/15 Ferrous, 2014 – 2015, painted on canvas with distemper and use of  thread, wood, and aluminium. (Distemper an interesting cheap material made from hide glue and wetted whitening chalk, with added colored pigments  – see here). Callery interrogates the material of the canvas as a fabric in all it spots and flaws, though installed as a flat wall based work.
  • Alexis Harding (b. ) looks at surface phenomena of paint on a canvas, e.g. Substance and Accident, 2012. The paint rather as a skin, peeling off the surface and extending the edges. Materiality of paint from a rheological perspective.
  • Sarah Sze (b ) is looking more at fragments of pictures in space through fragmented materiality of supports, turning the entire room into a colorful and painterly installation. She extends the dimension of painting <-> sculpture with the element of photography. Her installation are full immersive spaces of images leaving possibly the viewer uncertain whether to be an observer or an integrative part of the work.
  • Ally McGinn (b. ) defines herself on her webpage as a ‘conceptually representational painter and installation artist, working within a narrative that questions perceptions of art and the conditions of painting’. For her, paintings are paintings because of the materiality of it, not because they are painted. A very interesting shift in perspective on what is painting. The materiality of objects, used for work, are re-presented in a painterly manner. Perception of what material objects tell us. Her recent works after her MA (2017-2018) shows how the stretcher becomes embedded as an material object inside the picture plane of a painting.

Learnings:

  • The stretcher and the canvas, deconstructed in its structural elements (wooden frame, fabric, threads) are becoming materials for new interpretations and appropriations. Often applied, to raise questions in a wider cultural discourse – of rejected objects or commodities.
  • Materiality as such are combined with the visual energy of color. Paint as a mediator for new meaning.
  • It seems that a reduction on material  properties alongside linguistic signs (e.g. through shapes or cultural use) do open up new perspectives not only of meaning but mostly of creating, an exploration of material behavior.
  • Installation of such ‘sculptural paintings’  do question perception and can raise narratives beyond representational functions.
  • Re-staging painting as material performance, as Ally McGinn addresses a shifting perspective of what painting can be, as a very perceptual encounter.

Reference:

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Project 4.1 – Ex.4.1: Stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap

  • Project 4.1 – Ex.4.1: Stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap
  • Project 4.1 – Ex.4.1: Stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap
  • Project 4.1 – Ex.4.1: Stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap

From my pre-reflection , I got a sense that the ‘stretcher’ in any form or material does act as a holder, ‘container’ for the ‘canvas’, whatever this could be. The opposite would be a ‘canvas’ turning into a container, the holder for the stretcher, like wrapping paper or a table of objects (see combines and Georges Perec’s notes on the work-table), an approach I looked at with my object fragments in part 2. Certainly, one could always consider the canvas as a container, as what appears on the surface is often a perceptual illusion of an image. It seemed, I already ‘made’ some re-imagined canvases. However, those works can be seen only as sketches for something that need deeper investigation.
 

Re-Imagined Canvas

My motivation in relationship to my parallel project as subject matter (brain, MRI, medical gaze; ‘under the skin’ as transparency – inspired by the Wegenstein’s book) informed my exploration of the re-imagined canvas. Canvas as skin, as tissue – a material concealing though protecting: 

skin – fold – incision – fragment – transparency

So far, I have chosen in the previous part plastic sheets or perspex as transparent materials (canvas) and oil paint or acrylic paint washes for transparent images. I am wondering if these are the only materials to be used to explore transparency, especially in context of skin. I can relate to my subject matter also in a way of incision, dissection (more metaphorically) and slicing (into fragments), but also as mapping. Words to play with.

Exploration

Chosen materials: tissue paper (two different kind of cellulose fibers), plastic sheet, mylar, paper, canvas – an exploration of studio artefacts in my sketchbook (Fig 1):

Fig. 1: exploration materiality

Fig. 1: exploration materiality

To get started I played around with the new paint: Lascaux Aquacryl, a very intense liquid watercolor that is supposed to have magnificent performance in washes as well as combined with impasto gel: plastic sheet as flexible surface, and rigid (Fig 2)

Fig.2 : canvas as plastic no1

Fig. 2 : canvas as plastic no1; the stretcher to hold, contain; reverse view, enforcing transparency

 

=> not very convincing as a re-imagination, more a warming-up; still a framed, contained surface; though a transparency is visible with backlit. Continuing to be more exploratory and to keep surface material visible (to avoid covering it all), trying to install (Fig.3), using a found object:

 

FOLDING, ENROLLING

 

Fig. 3: plastic no2

Fig. 3: plastic no2; bullclamps left has temporary holding device, the stretcher to frame and contain

 

=> a step towards overcoming the stretcher’s containment; becoming a sculptural surface, containing in itself an object, a holding device. The intermediate ‘final’ stage (Fig 3 right) conveys some features of the material (plastic sheet) as well as implying marking that follow those features. The water flow markings, left in flow direction by gravity, right at right angle view, more intriguing, reminds of writing, code? Here, the canvas is enhanced through paint or, the painted marks enhance the materiality of the canvas. To keep in mind for following explorations.

Moving from plastic to paper, looking at paper feature of fragmenting when very wet (learnings from assignment 1)

SPATIAL DRAWING

Fig. 4: paper no 2

Fig. 4: paper no 1: upper half wetted with water, bottom half kept dry; packaging plastic band to hold and to be hold

 

=> being inspired by the ‘holding device’: a packaging plastic band; how can it hold a paper? dry and wet? When the surface performs without containment. The dark thin object acts as a line crossing the surface, though spatial independent of the surface. A contrasting element.  I liked the markings on the dry paper from the water flow downwards, kind of incisions (mirroring the cut openings), looking like seams. Those markings are absent in the upper, wet part.

To build on this ‘drawing’ element and the folding and en-rolling aspect, I explored it further (Fig, 5):

EN-CAPSULATION 

 

Fig. 5: paper no2

Fig. 5: paper no2 – paper, painted, rolled, folded, and contained

 

=> turning paper as flat surface into a folded stick, drawn around to encapsulate, to contain. The canvas turned into a sculptural object, independent of holding or containing.

 

Breaking away

Through the unconscious rolling, folding of surface materials (Fig. 3 and Fig 4),  I felt reminded of a description by N. Holtzmann-Kevles, a book I was reading for my parallel project: 

‘physicians gradually pushed back the veil in front of the internal organs, revealing first the living skeleton, then the stomach, intestines, gall bladder, lungs, heart, and brain’ (Holtzmann Kevles, 1997:3 – highlight by me)

resulting in a performative approach with tissue (chemically modified cellulose) 

VEILING

 

Fig. 6: tissue no1

Fig. 6: tissue no1 – work in progress

 

… with a resulting veiled image: : 

Fig. 7: tissue as veil

Fig. 7: tissue as veil; with adhesive – ‘stretched ‘on background paper

 

=> This is not yet sculpture, nor painting. However, the ghost image of the imprint on the background paper (the ‘stretcher’ in this case) could convey a narrative through visual depth. An idea, to explore further? It brought up questions around how the ‘canvas’ can act not only as a surface to paint on (example see FIg. 3-5), but also a skin and a matter concealing, though protecting (like human skin as tissue). The applied adhesive made the soft tissue more rigid, but might be considered also as an act of conservation.

Some of my ideas  developed through making above works: conservation (reminding me of my works for assignment 2, e.g Preservation Box, inspired by Candice Lin), folding (see Fig.2, 4, 5, 6), incision (cutting open or writing marks, a scalpel approach related to the medical gaze, seeing and touching). Another trial, still on a ‘stretcher’ background paper to hold (Fig. 8), veiling becomes sculptural (not yet):

 

CONSERVATION

 

Fig. 8: tissue no2

Fig. 8: tissue no2: with shellac to conserve – ‘stretched’ on background paper

=> the canvas as sculptural expression of gesture (weaving, folding), not yet released from its ‘stretcher’ (background paper), a different view on veiling, and using of shellac as preservation technique. Interesting that manual labor, weaving, reduced the outer shape. The added yellowish shellac solution added kind of tainted appeal.  Although quite obvious, it also means that the accumulation of mass through weaving, turns a flat surface into a sculptural surface. This led me to think about more rigid materials, materials that solidify, and are also used in a medical environment: plaster bandage. A material applied to skin, acting as a second skin, malleable when dry and wetted, rigid when hardened. Incision can be done through tearing (initial stage) or with scalpel (knife) when hard. 

Appropriating a postmodern theme, the stretcher as painting, the blank and monochrome canvas, the empty canvas. I wrote an essay on it (assignment 2 UVC), looking at Plaster Surrogates (1982-84) of Allan McCollum (Fig. 9)

Fig. 9: canvas a container no2

Fig. 9: canvas a container no2 (plaster cast), verso view; a skin of absence – suspended (invisible thread)

=> a plaster cast from of an empty stretcher, reverse view: a container becoming the surface. Reminding me not only of Allan McCollum but also of Rachel Whiteread’s House (1993): the cast as a skin transfer process revealing traces of the interior walls. I find two aspects intriguing: the porosity, slight transparency, openness of the plaster fabric (reminding me of the permeable skin) and the single threads at the bottom. Both giving the rather minimalistic work a sense of intimacy.  And the single threads reminded me also of line drawing. Single threads are playing an important role in Simon Callery’s works, e.g. Symmetrical Aluminium Wallspine, 2017.  And the cast shadow at the top could be seen as a linguistic word play: to cast an object, to cast shadows.

Nevertheless, one idea sparked during this exploration (Fig. 3) and embedded in above cast:  the container. Typically, the stretcher acting as the containing part, I was wondering whether the surface can not contain as well (Fig. 10).

CONTAINING

 

Fig. 10: canvas a container no1

Fig. 10: canvas a container no1: tissue, folded and contained – left: with black reflective background board; right: suspended (white thread)

=> turning the canvas into a container, a gifting, a sweet. An idea for uncanny moments when filled with unfamiliar things, e.g. organs, brain matter? This brings me once again in relationship with Helen Chadwick and her exploration of aesthetics of medical matters, e.g. Self-Portrait, 1991 or Monstrance, 1996 (Chadwick, 2004:114, 142-3).

Conclusion

My aim: to overcome the stretcher’s containment (even the holding background paper as in Fig. 7 and Fig. 8)

Key element to explore further: 

un-stretching

The first thing, to release the woven, now solidified, tissue (Fig. 8 left) from it’s ‘stretcher’:

Fig. 11: un-stretching (from Fig. 8)

Fig. 11: un-stretching (from Fig. 8) – suspended (invisible thread)

 

=> I photographed this suspended in front of my studio wall (with white paper backing) and coincidentally a black line mark came onto the photo (right). I felt intrigued by it without knowing why, and decided to leave it in the reproduction in this blog. Perhaps, it reminded me of the ‘line-drawings’ above (see Fig. 4)? The shadows casted, a notion I reflected on my plaster cast (Fig. 9), gives depth, and the line to the right adds context, a dialogue, a direction.

transparency

Second thing, to see how opaqueness and transparency could work with tissue and plastic sheet, can it be done without plastic sheet? Trying to start with a combination of Fig. 3 and Fig. 11: 

Fig. 12: transparency no1

Fig. 12: transparency no1; plaster bondage, cut into stripes and plastic sheet, watercolor infused

 

=> perhaps not very successful execution of interwoven plastic-plaster stripes, as if both do not like each other. The touch of it felt also awkward, kind of opposing elements

I was wondering whether I could combine this in a more interwoven surface as I did before (see Fig.11). Also, to see whether I could ‘re-construct’ the canvas inspired by the casted stretchers (see Fig. 9).

Fig. 15: line and fragment -  plaster bondage, infused with watercolor, in stripes, suspended

Fig. 15: line and fragment –  plaster bondage, infused with watercolor, in stripes, suspended

 

=> here, I was facing a ‘stubbornness’ of plaster bondage, cut into stripes, woven and sprayed with water . but apparently not sufficient to get the woven pieces stuck together (Fig, 15. left top). While looking for alternative ‘wetting’ devices, I filled a bucket with water added some drops of blue and red watercolor to it, and placed the strands completely under water (Fig, 15. left bottom). Drying made to color fade (Fig, 15. center), and resulting in a interwoven, combined fragmented plaster canvas (Fig. 15, right).

I decided to move away from the plastic and to look at

skin – line – veiling – incision

While thinking of skin, I wanted to test latex as my tutor suggested, as well as seen in some of the works of Lynda Benglis.

Fig. 13: - skin

Fig. 13: skin; tissue paper (cellulose) and latex, watercolor and marker pen

 

=> a similar shape as Fig 13, surprisingly unconsciously. I felt inspired to add some line markings. Perhaps too much too illustrate skin incisions as one can experience during surgery? The marks left behind, closing the opening with thread  – also kind of stretcher, a pull together. The combined texture, tissues and latex felt strange, quite elastic and rubbery. Compared to plaster bandage and tissue, this one is not porous any longer, quite opaque surface.

I wanted to make line markings with a similar way as before (see Fig. 4) and decided to work with tissue and the found plastic band alone – embracing more the porosity and permeability of the surface. To make it more robust, I decided to go for adhesive (not rubbery as latex, and not as solid as shellac solution). 

 

Fig. 14: drawing through space (tissue and found wrapper)

Fig. 14: drawing through space (tissue and found plastic band)

 

=> This resulted in a more expressive canvas with embedded stretchers. I found it more successful, as the band (‘stretcher’) works in a dialogue with the tissue (‘canvas’). The ‘line’ extends the surface and all together it became a sculptural surface.

 


Reflection

  • This exercise allowed me to look more into the materiality of a surface, that traditionally acts as a mere flat support for a painting to become. Here, the surface tuns sculptural and the materiality tells what lines or shapes are possible. The imagination is not painted onto , it is woven in the materiality itself.
  • I was facing the question of three aspect, the canvas, the stretcher, and the context. E.g. in Fig 8. the works are built on a holding surface, a working table. Is this ‘table’ part of the work or not? Is this another kind of stretcher, similar to what one is doing when stretching wetted watercolor paper on a board, to tape the edges? My ambition let this work be ‘un-stretched’ from this context (see Fig. 11), only to realize that the background of the suspended piece also adds context, illustrated clearly by the black mark on the right side of the reproduction (Fig. 11 right hand)
  • Throughout this execise, I developed new ideas derived from visual cues discovers in a previous steps. I found as if the ‘canvas’ through its materiality and response to actions, e.g. the ‘stubborness’ of plaster bondage stripes to stick together (see Fig. 15) does ‘tell’ me what could be done next. 
  • The canvas can be enhanced through paint or: painted marks enhance the materiality of the canvas (see Fig 3). Building on features of the canvas’ materiality with markings responding to it. 
  • Using a found objects, e.g. the plastic wrapper, to draw in space. The line becomes independent of the surface, though in dialogue with it (see Fig. 4)
  • I do feel that I possibly could have looked even deeper in one material only. Certainly, an aspect to consider more in my following works (deeper not wider, not the first time I reflect on this).
  • I do think that the more successful pieces are those that I interacted closer with, with more intimacy to the material orders, partly Fig. 3 right, Fig. 4 and Fig, 11, more Fig, 5 right, and even more FIg. 13 and Fig. 14 The least successful ones: Fig. 2, Fig 7, Fig, 8 right, and Fig. 9.
  • Overall, I find plaster bandage and tissue do have some quality of canvas, a porosity and permeability. Bandage as long it is not completely plastered into a solid mass, tissue and canvas similarly, to have a certain openness exposed. Something to work deeper with.
  • An overall question would be whether this ‘canvas-stretcher’ interaction is a mere experimental approach or whether t could be seen in a wider context (see Fig. 13.)

 


Reference:

  • Chadwick, H. (2004) Helen Chadwick / edited by Mark Sladen ; with a preface by Marina Warner and essays by Mark Sladen, Mary Horlock and Eva Martischnig. Edited by Sladen, M. and Barbican Art, G. London : Ostfildern-Ruit: Barbican Art Gallery ; Hatje Cantz.
  • Holtzmann Kevles, B. (1997) Naked to the Bone : Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
  • Wegenstein, B. and Hansen, M. B. N. (2006) Getting under the Skin : The Body and Media Theory. Cambridge, MA; London: MIT Press.
  • Wetterling Gallery (2016) Angela de la Cruz, At: https://www.wetterlinggallery.com/artists/angela-de-la-cruz#artist-description(Accessed 02 May 2019).
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Project 4.1: Pre-Reflections

Background and reflection

This part of the course explores the surface of painting, the canvas as considered traditionally the support for painting, especially oil painting. Today, I do see ‘canvas’ bifold: as material and metaphorically as a conventional flat base giving space for perceptual pictures.

I thought it would be good to look back and see if some of my previous works would suit this context. I discovered that some could be even be revisited in this part of the course (Fig. 1). At that times, both works were rather a side product, a leftover of my subject matters, and a result of serendipity. Both are painterly artefacts. Now the question: how to build on that? if at all…

Fig. 1 – Fig. 4: Artefacts of performative painting (click on an image to see in lightbox view and captions)

 

Also during part 1, I made a performative painting Washboard (laundry), and wondering how this could be considered as a canvas-stretcher relationship. The support (the ‘canvas’): a paper. The tool: not a brush, but a plastic foil. The paint:  a mix of shellac and gum solution.

The final work possibly a reverse: the tool became the canvas (Fig. 3)

What I do take away from my previous works:

  • stretcher gives context (Fig. 1)
  • stretcher does contain, but can also trigger deferred to narratives in a wider context (agency of viewer)
  • canvas as medium, rather than just support (Fig. 2)
  • installation: looking back I am more concerned now with way of installation and how the viewer is placed into relationship with the work. In that sense, Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 less successful due to a not so well considered background
  • deconstructing further might lead to new outcomes (Fig. 4)

 

 

stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap

 

These words brings me back to my museum visits of the works of Sam Gilliam, but also the large scale suspended and spray painted canvas of Katharina Grosse. The canvas released from its containment, and being free to play its own spatial role. At times, I am wondering when the canvas turns into a textile. Either from material point of view, or from a metaphorical point of view as well. And while looking deeper at Angela de la Cruz work in this context, I can see some relationship of above work (Fig. 1, left) with e.g  her work Vacant, 2013 (Wetterling Gallery, 2016) – that has quite a formal appeal for me.

Structural quality of the surface

Alongside my research on artists practising a deconstructing of the canvas and its stretcher, I did feel inspired to develop further some of my previous works in relationship to: 

folding, transparent, fragmentation, vulnerability, disruption

However, I think the question of canvas and stretcher a bit Modernistic, or as critique of Modernism by embracing the wider social context. I am wondering whether I could not find a more personal meaningful way…. With more ideas coming from previous works on relationship ‘canvas’ and ‘stretcher’ (Fig. 4) – with quite a few artists using a ‘stretcher bar’ as pole for canvas: Phyillda Barlow untitled : canvasracks, 2018-19, as seen at RA, or Robert Rauschenberg’s Pilot (Jammer), 1975

Fig. 4: revisiting ideas from part 2 - project 3

Fig. 4: revisiting ideas from part 2 – project 3, exploring canvas-stretcher relationships and meaning of stretching / folded paper as medium, as tool on paper/ installed fragments on transparent layers / timber  as dysfunctional stretcher – as poles to suspend from.

 

Perhaps one way to brainstorm on some ideas around canvas and stretcher (Fig. 5):

Fig. 5: sketchbook - ideation

Fig. 5: sketchbook – ideation / with some mockup artefacts from previous works (plastic ‘canvas’)

 

I got a sense that the ‘stretcher’ in any form or material acts as a holder, ‘container’ for the ‘canvas’, whatever this could be. The opposite would be a ‘canvas’ turning into a container, the holder for the stretcher, like wrapping paper or a table of objects (see combines and Georges Perec’s notes on the work-table), an approach I looked at with my object fragments in part 2. Certainly, one could always consider the canvas as a container, as what appears on the surface is often a perceptual illusion of an image. It seemed, I already ‘made’ some re-imagined canvases. However, those works can be seen only as sketches for something that need deeper investigation.
 
Reference:

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Thinking Through Art

We’ve met at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London with all being present. Emma Drye led us through what research in art and what research through art could be, what critical engagement and what research& information skills requirements are there. As research in and through art in academic setting, Emma highlighted that reading texts need to consider the source as trustworthy or not. Text written in academics, being peer reviewed is an important facts. However, it doesn’t mean to restrict one’s research either to academic writing neither to be encapsulated in academics: ‘To get the juice out of it’ (Emma). Key is certainly a critical stance to sources, regardless who has written the text.

Questions to answer for ourselves:

The questions Emma asked us and my response to them

  • What does research mean to me? (The means of the word? The function of research?)
    => Re-search, a search in iteration, a quest, getting background and context, opening up to new and/or different viewpoints, extending my own viewing field, discerning my position in a critical manner
  • Why did I sign up to a degree?
    What did I want when I started?
    => To learn what art is, my skills, and my direction. To get a degree as additional support for my art therapy practice, possibly to leverage both into one direction
    What do I want now?
    => To build a stronger competence as an artist in expressing through materials and mediums by succeeding with quality a degree, what will be the evidence of achievement. To be able to communicate ideas and sensible explorations compellingly by opening up and raising questions through visual interrogations

 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - Research what and why?

Fig. 1: Research: What and Why? //  My emotional response of getting out of the ‘ivory tower’ – turning the tower into a lighthouse, to shine on and to give guidance 

We were split in four groups, each one getting to read and to discuss a text on research from various perspective, a practical exercise of collaborative research and reflection. The chosen texts were (the first one the text I looked at together with Mike and Alison):

  • Rachel Jones ‘On the Value of not knowing’ (Fortnum, 2013:16-31)
  • Phylida Barlow ‘Unidentified Foreign Objects’  (Fortnum, 2013:98-109)
  • Nicolas Davey ‘Art and Theoria’ (Macleod, Davey, 2009:20-39)
  • Siùn Hanrahan ‘Poesis’ (Macleod, Davey, 2009:143-155)

I was quite happy to notice that one of my coursebook reading text (Fortnum) were selected by Emma (Schaffeld 2018)

From Rachel Jones’ text that I got the chance to read deeply, I take the following aspects out:

‘Wonder is the ‘first of all passions’. In order for it to affect us, it is necessary and sufficient for it to surprise, to be new, not yet assimilated or disassimilated as known.’ – Rachel Jones (Fortnum, 2013:19)

  • Wonder as ‘the first passion’, a ‘vital openness’ through ‘floating, dancing, mocking’ (p.18). According to the author this might even inherit an ethical element through an openness to others without assimilating them (with a political dimension as well).
  • In the not-knowing a sense of becoming (e.g. material becoming) that reminds me strongly of Deleuze. Relating the not-knowing, the uncertainty to the conception of the sublime, as something deeply human and not to be grasped
  • According to Hannah Arendt dialogue between ‘promising’ (creating in continuity, as ‘isolated islands of certainty in an ocean of uncertainty’, p.25) and forgiveness’ (to allow oneself to make it again) 
  • Heterotopias: discursive spaces where something is occurring in an abnormal place, alongside disturbing but also transforming felt sense. Example from text:  Saraah Cole’s photograph Birthplace Heterotopia (the cover image on Fortnum’s book). The term was coined by Michel Foucault (1984) and I will have a closer look at his text as I find it compelling.
  • An open question for me of how much assimilation of skills could be a barrier, e.g technical skills, mastery, political message

From the other group who looked at Davey’s text, I took away as a key message:

  • Me as artist can only look at one part of a whole. But I also only need to look at one part of it. As a sharing responsibility. be part and to invite others to add their part. A mutual approach to questions through visual and material based art.

Emma  invited us to write for 15 min in one steady flow about our project (my parallel project). This turned up to be a fascinating exercise as my intial thought that I would write kind of introduction to my project in a reflective and research guided way, was transformed in me talking out to myself of why this project is relevant to me and my struggle with it and my personal resonance. It felt a bit like writing out a draft idea for an artist statement (that had to be cut down to less words of course). Afterwards, Emma invited us to mark words that could be associated with either visual, material, process or idea. The visual image (Fig 2) showed in my case a rather uniform distribution. I would like to repeat this somehow, or at least to discern in a more critical way what aspects to stand out more for, as it could inform my preferred approach to work: performative, painterly, sculptural etc. Overall, an excellent approach as it allowed me to do two things:

  • to be restrictive in time (not time to procrastinate)
  • to not-overthink (by just following the line of writing) 

Last not least, it made me aware of how close writing is with drawing, though syntactically more one directional versus my ‘visual thinking’ maps are more multi-dimensional in space. 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - writing out

Fig. 2: Writing out- writing about project // a 15 min constant flow of ink, pouring myself out onto paper // discerning 4 aspects: visual, material, process, idea

 

The second part of the day we went around and each talked about their project and got some hints from fellow students and Emma. For my project, Emma mentioned Guattari and his relation to psychiatry. 

I found this day inspirational and do thank Emma for guiding and supporting us and Arlene for getting once again the venue and day organized.

 

(Comments re venue: the second part of the day became quite noisy due to a party downstairs (?). Also our ordered lunch didn’t turn up in the break time, so we went back to the room without meal.)


Reference:

  • Foucault, M. (1984) ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias ((“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967)’, in: Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité. [online].  At: http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf (Accessed on 06 May 2019).
  • Fortnum, R. (2013) ‘Creative Accounting; Not Knowing in Talking and Making’, in: Fortnum, R. and Fisher, E. (eds.) On Not Knowing: How Artists think, London: Black Dog Publshing,  pp. 70 – 96.
  • Macleod, K. and Davey, N. (2009) Thinking through Art : Reflections on Art as Research, Innovations in Art and Design, Reprint ed. Edited by Beardon, C. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Schaffeld, S.J. (2018) ‘Project 1.3: Visual Reflection’ [Blog post] At: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?p=829 
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A3 – Reflection on Tutorial

This time quite a different experience, having a tutorial with my tutor in London who also lives in London. I captured notes of our tutorial and she acknowledged my ‘thorough and detailed notes’ with adding only a few comments and references to art practitioners.

We went through the coursework and assignment works that I submitted all digitally, what certainly was a challenge regarding discerning materiality of thick Perspex with layers of painting on various levels through a digital reproduction as a flat picture. What brings up the question of presenting works in a convincing way and certainly to learn more from photographing sculpture and installation. Of the assignment series my tutor found no.6 Human and no. 2 Reaching, and possibly no. 2 Breaking Through the more successful ones (Fig. 1).

Stefan513593 - A3 - Reflection

Fig. 1: more successful pieces from assignment

 

I am not surprised that my sketchbooks and some more experimental works embracing more serendipity came out stronger. Overall, I do think that my wish to conclude and finish this assignment with a finished touch informed my work resulting in its containment. My struggle that resulted in my decision to continue with the figurative painted gesture was perceived as a bit too direct. However, I still think that especially human faces and hands could be portals to invite and engage the viewer.

I do think that the word ‚vulnerability‘ describes well my approach and attitude, although not so clearly verbalised by me. We discussed how I could trust more my instinct and put aside other thoughts coming from peer feedback. I could trust my discernment and to write this out more clearly , at least to myself when making iterations of work. It is good that my tutor noticed that all parts are there, to do more sketchbook works that would turn into larger scale work. What makes sense to me, as the dimension of my assignment work (40x30cm), dictated by what was at my disposal, felt restrictive. Restrictive not in a creative, opening up sense, but in a constraining, closing sense. Interesting for me to reflect more on what size is doing to my work.

Stefan513593 - A3 - Reflection - Ex3.1

Fig. 2: Paintings no 12 and no. 14 from Ex 3.1

 

Inspiring aspects my tutor suggested:

  • How gesture, mark making and materiality can relate to idea or subject matter (e.g abandoned patient gown maquette in Ex 3.1, perspex as material not fully explored?). Do think more about this relationship (would that mean a figurative oil painting on stretched canvas is less successful?)
    => Something I haven’t so much considered yet, but what feels exciting.
  • How fluidity and dissolution of boundaries appear to be more successful than ‘heavily framed’ imagery (e.g. Ex 3.3) of video work. (Fig. 3)
    => Can relate to this fully, as during the work I looked at Amy Sillman’s still images of her animated video work. While wondering about the motivation to print out stills of a video when there ‘apparently’ is not more visual information, I eventually discovered that a physical space the viewer can engage with, a physical and bodily approach to a narrative as one need to look and turn and move to see all, gives indeed much more further ‘information’. Last not least, I felt it was quite fun, and I would consider the exploration and construction as such even as a visual research process ! Definitely , an aspect I will explore more!

 

Stefan513593 - A3 - Reflection - Ex3.3

Fig. 3: Physical construction of narrative as installation , from Ex. 3.3

 

Points my tutor found important for me to keep in mind: 

  • To think about getting close-up and looking at areas or detail/pattern/texture and to avoid generalising (although, I don’t feel that my assignment work is generalized, perhaps abstracted from observation).
    => quite a valid point, a question how an idea or the material guides my exploration
  • To make more quick studies with paint, exploring the qualities of the painted surface/ edges, and using more transparency and layering (good examples: Fig. 1 and Fig. 2)
    => One more point where I found intuitively a more exciting expression of paint, but somehow as I did relate those to some of my earlier approaches I thought to make something different. Perhaps, this is a becoming of a voice, intuitively expressed strokes, marks, patterns, approaches that have a certain fluidity in it, alongside a sense of ‘being in my zone’

Elements that stand out for my tutor :

  • Paintings no 12 and no. 14 from Ex 3.1: my exploration of ambiguity through edges and fragments with a sense of vulnerability (Fig 1)
    => I agree that my sketches and studies that explored more the surface or the support and paint versus a rather observational ‘gaze’ turn out to be more successful, and for me also more engaging
  • Video flipbook narrative: my video work from Ex.3.4 was perceived as more successful and less confined, dissolution of boundaries.
    => This is another example of trusting more my intuition as resulting from peer feedback I decided to go for my other video with a closer look at , but perhaps more contained, as the first one picked by my tutor was certainly more about dissolving boundaries
  • Cast shadow of hand hand in video work with intriguing depth perception.
    => Something I would want to develop further.
  • Digital composite intriguing (Ex.3.4) as an intriguing and ambiguous set of surfaces and edges
    =>  I can relate this to my assignment 1 work of folded unfolded tissue with a fluidity of boundaries and borders. (Fig. 4). An approach I am still struggling with to find a meaningful development, is is digital? is it physical? how and what would I show in a galllery? a screen showing it or a ‘painting object’?
Stefan513593 - A3 -Reflection - Ex3.4

Fig. 4: Digital composite of painted surfaces from Ex. 3.4

 

On the technical side she suggested, considering my preference for oil paint and washes , to test Lascaux Aquacryl as apparently on can make transparent washes but also make thick pasty layers by adding impasto gel (closer to oil paint performance). I will give it a try in the next part and see whether it would work for me. Another material my tutor suggested is Latex, a material I do have first to find an entry into it to (unique properties?)

We discussed my parallel project, my intention to include my ongoing collaborative work music on same subject with Vicky Downey, and how my critical review will relate to my parallel project (thus, writing in first person is very appropriate, depending on what I have to say). I mentioned the deadline cumulating with a live performance of the collaborative project and was excited to hear that she would like to attend. This kind of excitement in such moments is what propels me forward. 

One main topic is certainly materiality and its relation to process and idea. The other ambiguity in my visual language alongside fragmented and disrupted space. To look at my work and my next steps from just these angles might results in more intimate approach.

With some more distance between me and my assignment work, and with a few study visits and workshops I attended in London that supported my reflection, a question to ask myself is what is my practice approach and what is my final work and message (if at all). I tend to move away now from conveying my embodied experience to the viewer (did I intend that they would feel, see similar things?), to consider this more as my own attitude in approaching and processing things, and to create works that would be more open ended and disruptive. Main aspects I want to avoid it being didactic, illustrative, or direct in that same sense.


Contextual suggestions of art practitioners:

  • Ally McGinn – Performative painting
  • Andrew Bick – Incorporates Wax, Perspex, acrylic
  • Alex Roberts – Use of transparent supports in her paintings.
  • Justin Mortimer – viscosity of paint.
  • Tania Kovats – Water 
    => Her book on ‘Drawing Water’ was suggested by my D1 tutor after I finished the course, as I was exploring mud and river through performative full body drawing
  • Hannah Maybank – latex/acrylic/watercolour
    => I already looked at her work in previous parts, intriguided by her muted color palette and sense of ambiguity
  • Alberto Burri
    => burlap and other materials used to overcome the conventional notion of painting on a canvas
  • Will Kendrick
  • Jason Martin,
  • Frank Stella 
  • Eva Hesse ( and here)

I will look at those artists more in detail during my next works and researches.

 


The full formative feedback (my notes amended by my tutor) is available at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-4OnH0ZP1ZejKWFJjqAOUVyAttBakhNb

  

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Drawing from the past – British Museum

How it feels when one gets into the sanctuary  the British Museum, the drawing and print room on the 4th floor, behind doors, accessible only by appointment, with a collection of around 2.5 Mio items.

Drawing is research,

Drawing is thinking,

Drawing is seeking,

Drawing is exploring.

We were guided by the British Museum Project Officer for the Bridget Riley Art Foundation Sarah Jaffray. She mentioned how Bridget Riley found the collection during her time at Goldsmith tremendously helpful in material experiemtation. She selected a few drawings and prints from a wide range of period incl a limited of 10 book of loose sheets of etchings by Henry Moore (some of his later works) that showed how Moore was discovering and responding to an elephant skull through drawing, with a variety of line markings.

I used the hairline fineness of line to suggest space and mystery – Henry Moore

She also showed drawings from Michelangelo himself and from an unknown artist ‘after Michelangelo’, copying his ‘style’. Interesting to hear about the term ‚pentiment‘ (from Italian pentimento, or english ‘to repent / to regret’): the visible trace of the artist‘s search through drawing, an evidence, an index. Absent when someone is copying a work (as the line would be more intentional, conscious, less searching). I  guess that what at assessment would be rather looked at.

At the early times of paper, paper was precious, making artist to use both sides of a sheet (recto and verso). Also to use any sheet to the very limits, making e.g. Michelangelo to add (to collage) another piece of paper to a pre-drawn one that was not large enough, the drawing extends and crosses the edges of paper in that case (see 1860,0616.2.3)

The second part of the visit was drawing and be inspired by the selected works. Here, my drawings that were informed by more than the maker of the drawing. Why am I reluctant ‘just’ to copy things? Always want to have my own twist on it. Not sure, if this supports or restricts my learning.

After Michelangelo / informed by Moore’s line approach i

Looked at: no. 1998,0214.6

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After 'unknown after Michelangelo'

 

=> trying to apply the drawing ‚technique‘ of Henry Moore from his limited etching book. 

After Deacon / informed by my MRI project

Looked at: no 2006,0930.9

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Richard Deacon

After Dürer / gestural response

Looked at: no. SL,5218.29

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Albrecht Dürer

 

Thanks to Joanne and the rest of the group for getting together, and also to spend some time afterwards to reflect and talk.

I went back in the afternoon to look at the current exhibition “Rembrandt – thinking on paper” ( a marvellous title) and “The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard artists’ postcards from 1960 to now“. The first one showing Rembrandt quite experimental approach to etching with a back and force approach  by adding and amending the plates (see featured image), the second showing the way smaller pieces can act as artwork, as a series, a collection, or an archive. Reminding me also of the small ‘paper slides’ we used at the SLBI for microscoping plant species. And also the use of text is more pronounced in artist cards that e.g. in paintings.

Reflection

  • Overall, it was a short but excellent time and place to be, to connect to, and to response. The fact that one sees physical works made by the maker in its final and tactile stage is certainly impacting how I approach things. I don’t feel so inspired to draw for a longer time after a screen image. Compared to online to book viewing it adds a certain aura that made me to slow down, to focus more, and to be more present.
  • It was fun just to draw and to respond, to take the time to play with different 
  • The versatility and diversity of drawn ideas and things through pencil, chalk, etching, engraving, collaging is quite impressive, and it opens up more focused, close up explorations of material its that often doesn’t requires lot of space.
  • I find it a good to have study visits to study rooms as this one. As mentioned in my study weekend, it is the set of conditions that can propel creativity and visual research. 
  • Compared to the afternoon visit to the exhibition, I liked the intimacy and proximity in the study room.

 

 


Reference:

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A trip to environment – a human perspective ?!

Having booked me onto the ‘Art & Environment’ weekend April 28th/29th with Melissa and Dan, I was not really sure what to expel or what to get out if it. I guess one thought was to get after my digital-material-screen paintings a fresh and different perspective on things. We do have have a larger size garden where we live, that actually inspired me for the first exercise with OCA / drawing 1 / temporary drawings: to draw with dry fallen tree leaves.

Anyhow, first day was quite South of London, at Charles Darwin, and I felt after a rail trip of 3 hours quite impressed for being in such a historical place. I do think it has to do with how I relate to things, more phenomenological and kinesthetically. With a felt sense of place where I can ‘organically absorb’ it alongside my mental images of a deceased person who made a big impact on humanities, and the way we relate to ‘nature’ (put the word in brackets as humans beings are nature as well, despite some conceptions of not). I liked the idea that Darwin set out at the age of 21 on the Beagle by suggestion and to company the captain, certainly not to find and discover new theories (not-knowing but being curious).

The second day closer to London at the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI). Another marvellous historical site, building with character. And with an impressive Herbarium collection (47511 species in 175 strong metal archive boxes). Another felt sense, and a sense of belonging as a group in a place of creative conditions as research place: a kitchen, a library, a study room, a garden. We talked about space and place, and that setting good conditions can be inspirational and open up. In that sense, I liked Darwin’s ‘sand walk’ or ‘thinking walk’: a path at the periphery of the property, protected from the outside, to walk, every day, to think, five days a week, an iteration that is important in art practice as an iterative cycle of inspiration, making, and reflection (as also shared by Matt White by his research cycle during our last RG Europe virtual talk).

The venue was excellent to have an entire house at our disposal (Sundays the institute is closed) feels very luxurious. Nevertheless, to move and discover, to sit down and talk and reflect (or to have lunch together), and to repeat all of this.

Impressions:

Dan and Melissa provided us not only with a doc package that one could do in any place of the world and in one’s close environment. They also gave us short 5min exercises (see also Instagram @startercultureuk) to respond in any way that resonates. 

  1. Find and use an alternative tool
  2. Observe growth
  3. Observe and record edges
  4. From a plant’s point of view— What does the plant see, feel, think?
  5. Find a way to attune yourself to that which wants to reveal itself (in what you’ve done)

Some of my outcome of these exercises and further exploration, some useful for my project (guess that one is a tuned to a personal meaningful project all things gravitate towards this and are seen in that context)

=> Found plants, colors, patches, mud for edges, small varities (we were encouraged and allowed to pick small specimens from the garden). To think of using the colors, Melissa mentioned chromotography to extract the colorant.

.. and interaction with a plant from the herbarium – a daisy from 1835. A verbal response

 

 ‘To attune myself to that which wants to reveal itself’ – a slow motion recorded performance with soil (thanks to Dan for being the camera-man):

Video (0:59 min, with audio)

Last not least we had time to look deeper at what interested us. To  look at the collected small specimens through the microscope, and to record this viewing with my phone cam:

=> shape reminds of the human eye, close view and still a remote sense of space. At times a sense of cosmic scale, planets. A juxtaposition of both extremes. I feel it could inform my parallel project on MRI and the medical gaze. A different device, but the same gaze. The microscope images of nature do have an aesthetic appeal, same as MRI images?

Learnings and take-always:

  • Walking as practice, a routine as iteration
  • Setting of ‘good’ conditions for creativity and as art practice: to fertilize, to plant a seed, to let it grow
  • Cross semination of ideas, one doesn’t know what might trigger work
  • Short time exercises help to avoid overthinking and just make, reflection afterwards
  • Color from plants, a source of inspiration
  • Microscope : another view in medical gaze informing my parallel project
  • Text: a verbal response, a title? embedded in a painting?
  • Edge and color, fragments and dislocation, not only in nature but also quite relevant for my coursework
  • Feeling inspired and re-energised to move on

Reference:

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Vilem Flusser – Objects, Bottles and painting – ‘Aufgehoben’

After assignment submission, I do feel reliefed with new energy to discover new things and reading some of my short listed items. In this case Flusser’s exploration, at times spiced up with humor, and description of mundane objects in our life (Flusser, 1993:7-32). It resonates strongly with my ongoing interest in objects as fetishes (Schaffeld, 2018), the object-subject relationship, and how we make sense out of and relate to objects or things around us.

First, he puts objects into three categories (‘apparate‘ / machines, ‘dummes zeug‘ / nonsense, and ‘werte‘ / values). Only to acknowledge a bit later that a taxonomy of things is not going to work, either some objects do not fit or fit into multiple categories.

He also distinguishes between nature and culture, with humankind as culture in itself. One might argue with that distinction, as all humans are part of nature and born through nature (even if supported by fertilisation techniques). For me, not to dig so much into that dichotomy but more to look what Flusser says about the human conditions of life.

With the example of bottles, specifically sparkling wine bottles, Flusser develops a philosophical enquiry that makes one wonder whether the wine or the bottle is more important. He discusses the difference between form and content, and develops an evolutionary or perhaps more an anthropological line of thought that the bottle as cultural object can be either kept in culture or put back to nature, both ways a failure. He compares it with metabolic processes and the entropic structure of nature:

‘ Culture is a process that cumulatively transforms nature into waste, basically a negative entropic epicycle on a process of entropy.’ (P. 22)

As mentioned above, I do feel Flusser is thinking too much in binary opposites, as also nature, e.g. cells, are negative entropic structures re-building themselves as organised systems. Nevertheless, he argues that there would be just three positions to the question of the bottle as form (empty bottle):

  • a ‘platonic’ one: ‘aufgehoben‘ in a sense of ‘to elevate’ , the form (empty bottle) as transcendent, non-human object to collect, to display (what resembles very much a fetish, and artworks in a gallery as well; Flusser also refers to smaller maquette bottles as collectibles), a future orientation
  • a ‘modern’ one: ‘aufgehoben‘ in a sense of ‘to suspend’, and being transformed into something else, e.g modified, metabolised as an ‘ashtray’
  • a ‘critical’ one: ‘aufgehoben‘, in a sense of ‘to abolish’, discarded as waste, as broken glass, unused, with no value, piled up as memory of the human past

Interestingly, under consideration and knowledge of the last position, often the predominant destiny of bottles, Flusser concludes that the first contemplative position would be hard to maintain, a moral case of conscience? Flusser finishes his bottle-talk with a sense that the content (sparkling wine) might end up to be the important thing overall, to drink it. What reminds me of the topic that overthinking is not helping at all. Where to draw the line?

Fig. 1: Sketchbook – Bottles ‘aufgehoben’: to transcend, to suspend/transform, to abolish/discard – nature and culture

Walls (pp. 27-32) are another condition, a metaphor, for a double dilemma: to protect and to encapsulate, to look out and to look inside of oneself. The wall as surface for projections and illusions.

From my visit to Sean Cully’s current exhibition at the National Gallery I found the following quote by Cully (talking about his four piece work Human 3, 2018) very appropriate in this context, though with a different viewpoint than Flusser:

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

I noticed how Flusser looks and uses language, the German language, similar to how French post-structuralists as Derrida or Lyotard deconstructed the French language. Example: ‘ding‘ / thing and ‘bedingen‘ / be condition for. Semantics hard to translate, as above ‘aufgehoben’,

What has this to do with my work and my past and future explorations?

To recognise that simple things and mundane objects can be much more than value or trash. It reflects the human conditions of existence and behaviour. I could take one object, like the screen or the human brain, both material objects with a loaded meaning often far beyond the material nature itself. And considering paintings, there I can see clearly the three positions describe by Flusser. But besides the material nature it also has a transcendent aspect, a deferred meaning with it. It seems that applying paint is more than paint, color or illusion. And what, if the material nature of paint is gone? Is it nature or culture? And what if the painting is released from its material constraints, i.e. the stretchers, the frame? Like the wall that might feel constrained but also acts as a surface for vision.

This is a good start into part 4 of this course, addressing and dissolving, ‘aufheben‘ of conventional constraints (considering the German multiplicity of meaning of this word, it might even end up with keeping constraints in order to subvert). And my open question form part 3: can a painting be a painting without paint? Or, what material conditions are minimum required ? And what need to be there in order to consider a painting still as such?


Reference:

  • Flusser, V. (1993) Dinge und Undinge – Phänomenologische Skizzen, Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag
  • Schaffeld, S.J. (2018) ‘Objects and Fetishism – The Handle and the Box’ [blog post] at: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?p=3006
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Gesture and hands – Louise Bourgeois

While playing and painting with gestures and masking stencils alongside striations, I also post some images on Instagram and yesterday it happened that one work (see featured image of this post) triggered a response by fellow student Sarah who felt reminded of Louise Bourgeois. This didn’t crossed my mind at all. I looked up works by her related to gesture and hands and was quite surprised to find a strong resonance with some of my works (The Museum of Modern Art). Bourgeois’ starting point was a different one than mine, her series of 10 repetitive prints from 2007 (at the age of 96!) was informed by the daily visit of her assistant Jerry Gorovoy, and her bpth hands were traced on music stave paper. The works consists of 10 installation sets, each made from the same compositions with hand additions, each set consisting of 20-40 sheets.

The combination of music staves and gestures reminds me of my current music collaborative work with Vicky.. Music staves and painting does remind me of notation and scores, of graphic scores (some examples here

My sketchbook pages:

 

Stefan513593- sketchbook - Louise Bourgeois -gesture

Fig. 1: Louise Bourgeois – sketchbook pages (source: https://www.moma.org/

I felt inspired, and possibly obliged to Bourgeois, to respond non-verbally/visually in the way I explored my dissociated gesture

My response to Louise Bourgeois:

 

Stefan513593 - Gesture and dissociation - acrylic paint on paper and ,mylar

Fig. 2: Gesture,  dissociation and ‘reading beyond’ – acrylic paint on paper and ,mylar (approx. 35.5 x 51 cm)

 

(This one goes to IG as well – here)

 


Reference:

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A3 – Self-Evaluation

How am I doing against the criteria?

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I explored new materials resonating with my sensibility of screen-based images: Perspex, Rhenalon, Mylar, and last not least moving images through recording and projecting. These materials are quite challenging from a technical perspective (how to paint, transfer paint onto, very long drying times) as well as from viewing perspective (front view, back view, illumination). I would not say that I master those materials, but I felt more at ease to take on these challenges and my assignment selection shows a more fluid approach with barriers, i.e. through layering and playing with layers to find meaningful compositions, and through repetitive cycles of doing making it nearly a habit. I applied some ‘printing’ aspects in my work, e.g. transfer, decalcomania, that felt meaningful to use. I struggled with the question of figurative versus abstract versus gestural painting, eventually found the layered ‘hand-gesture’ a balanced compromise in between that even triggered deeper responses from peers.

Quality of Outcome

Throughout this course and previous parts I went wilder and more experimental in my works that resulted in rather raw pieces, more sketches of work. For my current assignment that took quite some life no time due to above mentioned technical challenges (but not only) I was more concerned with quality of outcome. Informed by my public exposure since A2 with three exhibitions (!) I was seeking for more balanced compositions, quality of painting, aesthetic appeal of work and looking at settings that could be carried on to a gallery space. Therefore, I worked also with pictures frames to see whether the work would be supported by it – or not. In my six assignment works, this discernment comes through.

Still, considering the paintings challenges with Perspex and oil paint (that I prefer to acrylic for its body and more luminous colors especially in washes, but went mostly for acrylic at the end due to time constraints) I do not feel comfortable yet with the outcome. To get some technical advice would be helpful.

Demonstration of Creativity

With my constant curiosity and looking beyond paint in a conventional sense, I embraced moving images, and the performative aspect of light through projecting previous recorded painting images. I chose to work with transparent materials (Perspex, Rhenalon) to push my boundaries and to embed the ‘screen’ idea through its materialization. I engaged myself with performative painting by appropriating Richard Serra’s ‘Hand Catching’ video that informed my further engagement with my bodily representation of viewing and perceiving.

Overall, I did find resonance of my current work with my previous work from part 1 and 2.. Ideas and approaches through masking, transfer, folding, concealing, and disruption of picture plane and possible readings. However, I found it difficult to find a way to paint more gesturally.

I got new ideas (called spin-offs) for my parallel project where I started also a collaboration with a music student. In that sense a fruitful part of my course. Though, I need to move much faster now.

Context

I started with my parallel project idea with my MRI experience and eventually settled in with an appropriation of Richard Serra’s video work through a staged painterly enactment of the gesture of catching – and failing to do so. The theme of failure continued since my assignment 1 work, now with the addition of my bodily sensation of dissociation while staging the hand. My assignment work was not only informed by my previous works (e.g. folding, concealing, performing) but also by new works especially inspired by Jaqueline Humphries from a technical-painterly approach and Helen Chadwick and partly Mona Hatoum for their conceptual but also embodied expression of ideas in creating composites. I tried to be more focused on artists and those mentioned will certainly continue to accompany my journey.

Eventually, peer feedback on my moving images and my paintings informed my continuation with the ‘hand gesture’ as an entry portal for the viewer to engage with the work, versus pure abstraction. Through this approach, I found a more stimulating and meaningful way to narrative through painting and a viewer’s agency.  I struggled with the notion of narrative as storytelling as a rather didactic approach.

 


Questions to my tutor:

  • I am still intrigued by my video recording of reflective projection (Performance – Unframed #01) I am struggling once again with the question on medium: moving images or painting. Whether and how moving images could be considered as an expanded field of painting. Where to look for artists?
  • The performative painting: context and artists working in this field? 
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