Category Archives: Part 2

Exhibition Visit – The Hepworth – Alina Szapocznikow: Human Landscape + Permanent collection of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth

I started my visit looking at the permanent collection of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. I had viewed most of this on previous visits, so concentrated on their drawings and its relationship to their sculptures.

Henry Moore

The drawings of his which were on display were his lithograph prints of Stonehenge and a couple of drawings of sculptures in a landscape.

Henry Moore Stonehenge 1 Henry Moore Stonehenge 2

I think his lithographs of Stonehenge are fantastic. They are very dark, but not in a brooding way, they have more of a mysterious feel to them. The lines and shading he uses describe the form of the rocks in great detail and really bring them to life.

The concentration on form and the smooth curves he describes in these rocks can be seen in his sculptural work. Whilst they are drawings of different objects to those which directly influenced his sculptures, the connection is clear.

Henry Moore Sculptures in landscape

This drawing was one of only two on display which show his drawings of sculptures – this time placed in an imaginary landscape. The background and shadows are very simple, but is effective in displaying these sculptures in-situ. This is something my tutor has just suggested I try doing with my own work in connecting my drawing more closely with my sculpture work. I can see how this could work well and I will try doing this.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth Drawing

There are many similarities between Hepworth’s and Moore’s sculptures, especially in their early work. However, when it comes to drawings, they are very different. Whereas Moore’s drawings are all about form, Hepworth’s seem to be all about line. She said herself (in an article for The Studio in 1946) that she rarely makes drawings for her sculptures, but her drawings are a search for forms, rhythms and curvatures. In the drawings on display, you could see their influence on the stringed sculptures she produced and the use of holes in her work, but there was no evidence of form being explored.

Alina Szapocznikow

Szapocznikow’s work was very odd. Her work concentrates on the human figure and is mostly distorted and disturbing work. Reading about her background of being a Polish Jew and spending over 10 months imprisoned in concentration camps during the second world war, the experiences she suffered there are clear to see in her work.

Szapocznikow hand

‘Hand, Monument to the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto II, 1957’

In this sculpture she has drawn on these experiences to propose a sculpture for a monument to the Holocaust and it is a powerful work which fits the brief well.

Szapocznikow exhumed

Similarly, her work ‘Exhumed, 1955’ is another powerful sculpture, an unofficial memorial to a politician falsely accused of espionage and murdered.

Szapocznikow other 1 Szapocznikow other 2 Szapocznikow other 3

Her other works, I found hard to connect to. Distorted figures or parts of figures were hard to interpret and her tumour works were very disturbing. She used materials which fitted in well with her work – resin and foam – these highlighted the disturbing nature of her sculptures.

Szapocznikow drawing 1 Szapocznikow drawing 2

Many of her drawings were also on display. These were often doodle like and used line with very little depiction of tone. It was also hard to see the link between these and her sculptural work, they all seems to be abstract shapes which bore no similarity with her sculptures.

 

Overall, it was not an exhibition I connected well with. I could see where the influences for her work came from and appreciate some of her work (the first two sculptures mentioned), but I didn’t like any of it. Is there anything I can take from the exhibition? That I’m not sure of at the moment. Maybe to be less precious of my drawings and not strive for a polished end product?

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Exhibition Visit – Truth and Fantasy, Skipton Town Hall

This was an exhibition of contemporary artist drawings, ranging from pencil/ink/charcoal drawings to objects and animation.

Paul Chiappe

Paul Chiappe

Responds to ‘found’ photographs and reproduces using pencil in incredible detail that makes it indistinguishable from a photograph. That shows great skill, but the interest comes from where he has altered them as if ‘photoshopping’ the images. ‘Untitled 2, 2005’ was particularly effective, a small image (maybe 50cm wide) akin to a black and white photograph of a school group, with the photographic like image for the front row, getting less detailed and down to a single outline at the back row of children.

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Henri Gaudier Brzeska

A very pared down image using just a few lines, but in those lines the expression of the people is captured perfectly.

Penny Davenport

Penny Davenport

Very detailed drawings from her imagination which must take a long time to complete. She had some nice use of line and stippling, although I didn’t find there to be enough variation in mark making to keep my interest.

Simon Woolham

Simon Woolham1 Simon Woolham 2

His drawings using just biro were very powerful. They use bold lines, or ruled lines fading out to produce graphic effects. They remind me a bit of Paul Nobel’s Nobtown drawings, but I prefer these ones as they leave more to the imagination.

Overall

A very interesting exhibition. Simon Woolham’s work made the biggest impression on me and I will try out some of his drawing methods.

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Project 1: Space, depth and volume

This project starts with a background covered in charcoal and starts by drawing into this with a rubber and then adding more charcoal to produce images without outlines.

This is my favoured way of doing life drawing, so I started doing some of these:

Arms raised Back ChestHalf Hand Hands on hips Leg

I want to see if I can apply this to my sculpture work though, so the next step was to draw a completed sculpture in this way:

Decaying pollen photo Decaying pollen

This kind of works (colour plays quite a part in the sculpture, so black and white doesn’t capture that), but it doesn’t help me to develop the work.

I then tried a sculpture I haven’t (fully) made yet:

Nerve Cells

Obviously the lighting is made up on this sculpture as it doesn’t exist yet. The sculpture will be a wall hung relief work, but this looks more like an aerial view of a large scale work in the landscape. I’m also not sure it helps me to develop my work. At this stage, the nerve cell pieces are made, but I need to decide how to arrange them on the background. This is going to be much easier to do by moving the pieces around once they are made.

Reflection:

I am a big fan of this way of drawing and think it offers the best method of capturing a sense of depth and form.

This method of drawing doesn’t help me work on my current relief sculptures, but would help when looking at more all-round 3D works. For instance, this was how I ended up with this sculpture. I have gone in for a lot of relief sculptures lately and want to move back into more 3D in the round works, so this method might be more useful to employ with these works.

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Research – Rebecca Chesney

I was fortunate to go on a ‘Greening Arts Practice’ session which featured a talk by this artist. The theme for the session was about how we perceive land and how politics, ownership, management and commercial value all shape and impact on it.

Rebecca’s work is all about discovering new information and sharing it with the public. The end product is a drawing, an exhibition, a leaflet, or a recording. She does not produce work to sell.

Her work is very much a crossover between art and science and it is interesting to see how closely these two can align. ‘map. volume 1, coniston: grizedale arts, cumbria 2005 / 06’ is a particularly interesting project for me as this was using the kind of information I work with in my day job as a GIS officer. It was interesting to look at this project and examine what makes this art in comparison to the maps I might produce as part of my work. I think that as an artist she is delving into science and looking at the information in a new way, keeping her sense of wonder in what she discovers and trying to pass that on to the public. She is effectively taking the public on a journey with her, she is one step ahead of them, but not an expert. She talks to the experts and interprets the science for the public. She picks out the bits she wants to do and makes sure she keeps in mind that she is an artist and not a scientist. Her involvement brings a fresh pair of eyes to a subject. She looks into the issues which bring tension into the landscape and the challenge for her is in getting the message she wants to convey across in the artwork. In this work she highlights issues, but also hides them. If I’d produced a map of this in my day job, the boundaries would be clearer as to what they mean. Her work can’t be interpreted.

It was fascinating to her Rebecca talk about her work and the discussions with her and the group afterwards were very interesting and thought provoking.

References:

Chesney, R. (2018). Rebecca Chesney. [online] Rebeccachesney.com. Available at: http://www.rebeccachesney.com/ [Accessed 22 May 2018].

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Mark Making Experiments

I stalled for a while at this point in a similar way to how I did when I hit an uninspiring section on the D1 course. I just need to remember that everything can be inspiring if you find the right angle!

For me this was playing with fire and rust:

Rust printing

Rust printing

Burning fuses

Burning fuses

Gunpowder drawings

Gunpowder drawings

Line of matches and hole burning

Line of matches and hole burning

Gunpowder drawings, some with ink backgrounds

Gunpowder drawings, some with ink backgrounds

I then did a project to draw 40 different lines, using a variety of media:

40 lines sml

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Research point

The course pointed me to look at three artists who make work which both creates and denies three dimensions at the same time and make notes on their work.

Angela Eames

Eames produces very interesting digital work.

The series ‘Fires over Western Africa’ look like satellite images of the area of Africa, manipulated into straight lines, with the fire locations overlaid on top – basically using GIS (which I use in my day job) to make art. In a similar way to Rebecca Chesney she is keeping her wonder at the technology and using it to produce artistic work. It looks like Eames is more focused on making a finished artistic ‘product’ than Chesney is though.

Interestingly, on her home page she explains that she is trying to capture the immediacy / messiness of drawing or doing, something that is usually lacking in digital drawing. However, the lack of ‘mess’ is what strikes me about her work and makes me not warm to her images, so I’m not sure she has achieved this yet. The images I like best in her portfolio are the ones that are not digital drawings:

‘Finalfusion_#1’ and ‘Ochestration_#3’. These drawings remind me of microscopic images of organisms, or cross sections of plants, imagery that interests me and I like the way she has produced these with interesting and varied mark-making. They use the layering of different images that she has also done with digital images, but the drawings work so much better for me. With the digital versions she has pixilated them heavily, perhaps to try to get some ‘mess’ into them, but they make them look out of focus and highlight their digital nature which puts me off (perhaps because I am trying to escape from computers in my art work?).

As for the 3D nature of her work, it is primarily through her use of line she represents this. There is shading also, but it looks quite crude (i.e. not believable) digital shading.

Michael Borremans

Very skilful paintings with intriguing subjects – floating people with no legs, or partially painted people such as a floating head in ‘Sleeper, 2008’. They appear to make no sense and so invite you to question what is happening and why they are depicted in this way. I like them, but I’m struggling to put my finger on why! Maybe it is because they appear traditional in the way they are painted, but not traditional in what they depict? Very interesting work.

Looking at his 3D depiction, he skilfully depicts shadows in his paintings to represent the 3D surface, giving the images a very lifelike appearance.

Jim Shaw

Jim Shaw’s images use a cartoon style of drawing/painting, and shading is often absent and the images very flat. When he does use shading, it is usually in blocks of colour and stylised. In general they leave me cold and I struggle to see any merit in them. The closest I can get to liking one would be ‘Four Men with Arms Raised #1, 2012’ in which I like the play on scale and the airbrushed lines. I don’t think I will be taking much from this artists work though.

References:

Artnet.com. (2018). Jim Shaw | artnet. [online] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/jim-shaw/ [Accessed 22 May 2018].

Eames, A. (2018). Angela Eames | Artist | Drawing and Technology. [online] Angela Eames | Artist | Drawing and Technology. Available at: https://www.angelaeames.com [Accessed 22 May 2018].

Zeno-x.com. (2018). Zeno X Gallery – Michaël Borremans – Selected Works. [online] Available at: http://www.zeno-x.com/artists/MB/michael_borremans.html [Accessed 22 May 2018].

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Project 2: Mark-making materials

The aim of this project was to use two differently coloured layers and make drawings by scratching through the top into the bottom layer.

I struggled to get inspired by this project. I tried a number of experiments, but not many of them were successful:

2 layers 1

Trying to get a layer of wax pastel on top of anything proved to be harder than I imagined it would be. Even when I managed it, it wasn’t doing anything for me as a drawing medium

2 layers 2

Acrylic over watercolour ended up removing the watercolour, but acrylic over acrylic worked better, as long as the top layer of acrylic was still wet when scratching into it.

2 layers 3

Drawing a brightly coloured landscape, covering in black acrylic and wiping or scratching through it worked quite well. The only issue was that I had applied the black in a very thin layer so it dried very quickly and didn’t give me long to work into it.

The above experiments had been done for the sake of the course and without inspiring me. However, I finally had an idea which sparked my imagination. I had recently been given some large steel sheets which used to be the covering of a fire door. These were painted white, but had damage on them where rust marks were coming through. I decided to draw onto these by scratching through into the paint to reveal the steel below. The subject I chose to draw was taken from Ernst Haekel’s ‘Art Forms from the ocean’ (Breidbach and Haeckel, 2005):

Steel drawing 1 Steel drawing 2

I liked the drawing back to the steel, but it improved as the steel rusted (helped along by spraying it with a rusting mixture) as it blended nicely into an aged look. I decided to try to get a rust print from this, so I soaked a piece of paper in rusting mixture, laid the steel steel on top of it and wrapped them both up in a plastic sheet to seal in the moisture and left it for a week. The results were better than I expected.

Steel drawing 4

I will be experimenting with this further as I enjoyed this method and it is a good fit with my sculpture work.

Reflection

Scratching through layers initially didn’t seem to be a drawing technique for me, until I discovered scratching through paint into steel. Also the possibilities of gunpowder drawing and other combustible material to give an interesting semi-random pattern was discovered. Both of these offer me an exciting opportunity to draw in a non-traditional way which seems to be a closer ‘fit’ to my current sculpture work. I will explore both of these options further as I progress through the course

References:

Breidbach, O. and Haeckel, E. (2005). Art forms from the ocean. Munich: Prestel.

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Project 3: Narrative

This project was one of those which caused a block for me in struggling to think of anything I could do to which would inspire me. Apart from friends and family, I generally don’t hold strong opinions about people. There are a few politicians which are the exception, but I don’t want to explore drawing people I despise, so friends or family it was. Translating that into an item of clothing was then very difficult. I toyed with drawing some purple clothing for my wife, but wasn’t overly inspired my this. I decided to bend the brief a bit and do a drawing of my father with an OS map background and him measuring a walk with a handkerchief, his favoured method of working out a walk length.

I decided to collage a map onto the paper to create the background. I tried as test piece at a life drawing session – it worked, but was more difficult to draw in charcoal over it than it was just on the paper. I decided it was worth carrying on with it though.

Map background test

So I prepared a piece of paper with a torn OS map over half of the page. I sketched in a handkerchief shape and painted in gesso, then covered the gesso and map in a pastel ground to enable it to take a charcoal drawing.

Dave drawing 01

This worked OK, although the hands are a little small (because they are drawn from my own, not my fathers!). The blending of the figure into the map could be better around the shadow of the head also.

I tried a second attempt:

Dave drawing 02

I was pleased with the drawing of the face, it was just a shame it looked nothing like my father! I think the issue is that the eyes are too high and the face too wide. The handkerchief and compass also look a little lost and don’t fit in with the rest of the drawing.

Reflection

My first attempt was the better drawing, both in composition and in looking like the subject I was drawing. The drawings are only loosely based on the project brief, but I have to modify to make them inspiring to me to get the most out of it. I’m not sure the two parts of the drawing blend well enough together, but the collaging of the maps onto the background worked well.

The course asks to reflect on the possibilities of juxtaposing apparently incongruous materials and subject, using the example of an enormous violently applied drawing, engine oil on sheet steel, of a newborn baby and how that would be read. In this example, I can see how the drawing materials and methods could be used to play with how you see a subject. However, this (and this project brief) is a good example of where I struggle with the course sometimes – getting emotion into an image when I am not a highly emotional person. I’ll keep trying, but I am more likely to introduce science than emotion into my drawings.

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Contextual focus point: Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker is very clearly a conceptual artist. Her work is all about the idea, with aesthetics often playing a part, but very much a secondary concern.

What do I think Parker is trying to do in her piece ‘Poison and Antidote Drawing, 2010’?

Parker’s work is mostly all about the conceptual message. The concept of mixing poison and antidote with black and white ink links two different opposites together and provide the subject for this work. Mixing the two inks together and using Rorschach blots introduces random results, so she is not in control of the outcome. Hidden meanings might be found in the phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, in using poisoned ink in these drawings.

I think this work is more of an extension of her earlier work ‘Pornographic Drawing 1996’ where she extracted the ferric oxide component from confiscated pornographic films and used these as the ink. With those drawings, her use of Rorschach drawings was more relevant to the subject as these drawings are used in psychoanalysis to reveal subconscious desires, providing additional layers of meaning to appreciate. Especially as the image produced was very phallic in appearance.

In ‘Poison and Antidote Drawing, 2010’, the Rorschach drawings show how the two inks react with each other, but I’m not sure they have a deeper meaning than that. What they do provide is interesting shapes and patterns and the resulting drawing is aesthetically pleasing.

Embracing the random element of working with materials fits with my recent experiments with gunpowder and rust, but in my work I feel I need more than just a concept and I associate ‘art’ with the skill of the artist.

Why do I think Parker uses bits of her subject to make her artwork?

The subject is Parker’s work. Without that link to the original item, the work doesn’t work, it wouldn’t resonate with the people viewing it and it would fail.

How do I think it feels to stand in the presence of artworks that are constructed from original objects of great cultural significance? How does that differ from, say, standing in front of a painting of the same object?

In our society, we value history highly. The use of original objects makes us feel a connection with the past time in which those objects were created or used. So their use in making artwork brings about a much stronger reaction in us than their representation in drawing/painting. Ai Weiwei’s ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995’ is a good example of this.

Ai Weiwei (cited in Guggenheim, 2018):

‘It’s powerful only because someone thinks it’s powerful and invests value in the object.’

References:

Artsy.net. (n.d.). Poison and Antidote Drawings. [online] Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/cornelia-parker-poison-and-antidote-drawings-8 [Accessed 23 Jul. 2018].

British Museum. (2018). Poison drawing. [online] Available at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=691360&partId=1&school=13279&page=5 [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].

Guggenheim. (2018). Ai Weiwei. [online] Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/ai-weiwei [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].

Wroe, N. (2018). Cornelia Parker: ‘I’ve always been happy to sleep with the enemy’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/may/18/cornelia-parker-interview [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].

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