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Monthly Archives: November 2018
I struggled through this stage of the course as a lot of the projects held little appeal as they are very different to how I approach drawing. I worked through them, as often interesting work can result from unexpected directions, but the only project which directly clicked for me was the one on drawing machines. I am more scientific / technical and less inclined to draw from my emotions, which is what a lot of this stage of the course required. I probably didn’t push it as far as I could, but when my heart isn’t in it, it is hard to do that.
With the final drawings, the ones from the drawing machines project and the assignment piece hold the most appeal to me. Only the drawing from the first drawing machine feels like a complete and cohesive image though.
With rust printing, burning, ink and charcoal, and the combination of random and non-random mark making, I feel like I have found the materials and methods I enjoy working with. I think I need to experiment more with these though to achieve results I am happier with. I think it is the non-random mark making and the way of tying the two together which is where I need to focus my efforts. One issue which I think is holding me back is that I enjoy the results of rust printing, use expensive paper and only get a few copies. This means that I am far too precious about the drawings when they are only half complete and that is stifling what I then do with them. I plan to produce a large number of small works as part of my parallel project and spend time experimenting more with these without worrying about the final outcome.
The course calls for an emotional response to a piece of music and suggests drawing whilst listening to the music in an immediate response to it. I am going to do this differently and do a more lengthy, thought out response to a piece of music. This is more in keeping with the way I work and also it allows me to continue with my previous experiments with rust printing, which require time to complete.
Music chosen:- Peter Gunn (feat. Duanne Eddy) by Art of Noise.
I have no knowledge of the TV series this was a theme tune for, so my response comes from the music without this background. It obviously has a car driving influence, from the constant rhythm which brings to mind the noise of driving over sections of road. A screeching wheel spin sound is also used at one point which reinforces this. For me, I also have the background of listening to this tune whilst playing a car racing game called ‘Spy Hunter’ (En.wikipedia.org, n.d.) on the BBC in my childhood.
My plan was to combine rust printing, ink drawing and possibly watercolour to create my piece. I have been mulling over the design of this for many months and listening to the track on and off during this time. The main element of the drawing was going to be a car wheel, with musical elements running throughout it.
I devised a compass from a bit of metal tube and a magnet to allow me to work on a big scale and scribed on the design.
The resulting rust print:
I was aiming to add musical elements such as extracts from the music score, words, spectrograms or waveforms. However I decided that the first two looked contrived and I couldn’t get a clear spectrogram from any of the music. The waveform looked the most promising option. This was added to the first print, but more in a random way than replicating sections of the music. Another line which felt to me like a representation of the music (but I don’t think has any basis) was also added. Charcoal was used around the edge, smudged into the picture in a way which I felt to work with the music.
The music has some sharp forceful sections which felt to me like splats of bold colour. I experimented and ending up dropping ink from a height onto the paper. These were a bit smaller that the bold splats I had in mind, so maybe I should have experimented more before committing myself.
The resulting image:
En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Spy Hunter. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spy_Hunter [Accessed 19 Aug. 2018].
This work is an image of some faint lines and shading, in a simple frame with the following text added:
ERASED de KOONING DRAWING
On initial inspection the main feeling is of curiousness about the image which was erased, there is nothing else there to interest you. Without the title it is just a blank piece of paper.
Rauchenburg was seeking an answer to the question of whether a work of art could be made through erasure. Could a blank sheet of paper be considered a work of art? He had tried erasing one of his own drawings, but felt it was unsatisfactory. For it to be complete, he needed to erase a significant drawing. So Rauschenburg asked De Kooning’s for one of his drawings with the purpose of erasing it. At the time, De Kooning was greatly admired and his drawings had great value. De Kooning agreed and when choosing a drawing, picked one he thought he would care about losing, as well as one which would be difficult to erase as it was heavily drawn in grease pencil, ink, charcoal and graphite. The process took 2 months to complete and even then, some ghostly marks were still visible.
He insisted that the work wasn’t a negation, it was a celebration (Cain, A., 2017). I tend to agree as I can only imagine that you would spend that much time erasing an artist’s work who you admire if it was in a spirit of celebration.
At the time it did not cause much of a sensation, but this and his black and white canvases were “an end to art and a beginning” (Kaprow, A. and Kelley, J., 2003). Showing blank works challenged what was art and opened up the way for anything and everything being art.
Whilst I find it hard to process that a blank image can be art, opening the door to experimentation and the infinite possibilities we now have for creating art has been a great step forward. In this light I can see how such works are pivotal in the history of art.
Cain, A. (2017). No. 60: Why Robert Rauschenberg Erased a de Kooning. [podcast] The Artsy Podcast. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-artsy-podcast-60-robert-rauschenberg-erased-de-kooning [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
Kaprow, A. and Kelley, J. (2003). Essays on the blurring of art and life. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.
SFMOMA. (n.d.). Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.298 [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
Environmental issues are important to me, they have influenced my choice of job, my lifestyle, my way of thinking. These issues are starting to make an appearance in my art work and I suspect will feature more and more as time goes by.
So, the question I propose to answer with my critical essay is “Can artists have an influence in tackling environmental issues?”, or “Can art and environmental issues be combined in an effective way?”
The artists I propose to look at in this regard are:
Common Ground – Dorset-based arts and environmental charity – currently have an exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, enabling some primary research – https://www.commonground.org.uk/
Laney Birkhead – A printmaker who has combined her love of beekeeping and concerns about bee decline with her artwork in producing ‘Swarm’ – http://www.laneybirkhead.com/Swarm-Printmaking-Project – I was involved in the latest exhibition of this work, so can include primary research from this
John Sabraw – creates paint from iron oxide extracted from polluted streams – http://www.johnsabraw.com/
Giuseppe Penone – currently exhibiting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, enabling some primary research
This list will grow to start with and then be narrowed down to three for the essay.
Talk about some of these projects not being my cup of tea, this topped the rest! I’m not sure if I feature on the autistic spectrum or whether emotion just doesn’t really feature in my art. I appreciate that the course is getting us to try lots of different approaches, but I didn’t start this project having much hope of getting anything out of it. I decided to try the best I could though.
It took me a long while to even figure out the statements to work from until I started to raid the lyrics of my music collection. Once I had these ready, I prepared them at the top of a sketchbook page and took them to a life drawing session. I read the statements to myself and timed around 10 minutes for each drawing. I only managed to get 9 done in the time available.
Do any of these drawings convey the emotion of the statement I was reading? Some have an inkling of this, but I don’t think any strong emotions are evident. Part of that comes from myself not being an overtly emotional kind of person. However, the main issue I think I had was the drawing environment. It’s hard to keep a passionate statement in mind and allow it to influence you whilst listening to classical music, with a serene model pose in an environment I am used to being relaxed and calm in. This conflict meant that I also probably thought too much about how my marks might be associated with the emotion rather than feeling the emotion and letting that feeling influence my drawings.
I think ‘Pencil Mask, 1972’ was her first drawing machine. It looks like a bondage mask and I imagine is very uncomfortable to use. By having to use her head to make drawings, the ability to properly see what you are drawing has been taken away and so an element of unpredictability introduced. I’ve not seen the resulting images, so can’t comment on what the feel of the drawings were.
A later work which is pretty much impossible to find anything out about online is ‘The Little Painting School Performs a Waterfall, 1988’ (Walkerart.org, n.d.). For some reason the details of this are no longer on the main site and have to be accessed through a website archive site) and this is the only reference I can find online regarding this work. This article says that in this work she “mimic[s] the human act of painting” (archive.li, 2012) and that she herself says “The machine is a substitute for eternal life, because it lasts forever.”–Rebecca Horn, 1993 (archive.li, 2012). I’m not sure I agree with either of these statements, to me it seems clear that this is a machine painting which incorporates elements of randomness and as to her statement about the piece, nothing lasts forever. Despite disagreeing with her on these points, I think this is a strong piece which invites you to contemplate the endless cycle of the painting.
From the limited sources I have found, it appears that Horn focusses on the random marks made by machines. In my own work I would like to introduce this element of randomness, but combine it with controlled drawing also as I enjoy the contrast between the two elements.
archive.li. (2012). The Little Painting School Performs a Waterfall | Rebecca Horn | Walk…. [online] Available at: https://archive.li/YgNS [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
Tate. (2004). ‘Pencil Mask’, Rebecca Horn, 1972 | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/horn-pencil-mask-t07847 [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
Walkerart.org. (n.d.). The Little Painting School Performs a Waterfall. [online] Available at: https://walkerart.org/collections/artworks/the-little-painting-school-performs-a-waterfall [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
My favourite drawing machine I came across in my research was ‘ADA’, by Karina Smigla-Bobinski (Smigla-Bobinski, n.d.). It is incredibly simple and I can imagine getting immersed in mark making with it. The random marks it makes look fascinating and I love the confined nature determined by the ball’s size and the walls.
Another one I came across made by a local sculptor was a handheld drawing machine which adds motors to vibrate and rotate a pen at the end of a rod (Bond, n.d.). This mixes randomness from the motor with the control of the user in positioning the pen and possibly predicting the motion of the motor.
Smigla-Bobinski, K. (n.d.). ADA. [online] Smigla-bobinski.com. Available at: http://www.smigla-bobinski.com/english/works/ADA/index.html [Accessed 31 Oct. 2018].
Bond, J. (n.d.). Jim Bond. [online] Jimbond.co.uk. Available at: http://www.jimbond.co.uk/workshop2.htm [Accessed 31 Oct. 2018].
Drawing Machine 1
I decided to produce a drawing machine that recorded movement in a car. It took me a little while to perfect this, but this is what I ended up with:
Initially the movement was too unrestricted and the pens ended up off the paper after a short period of time.
Restricting it to stay on the paper was more successful
This was left in the car for a number of weeks and eventually resulted in this drawing
All these marks were produced by the movement of the car, I didn’t add any of my own. I decided to complete this drawing with some simple charcoal shading. This worked quite well, but I think suffers from not being properly circular. This needn’t be an issue, but because it is almost a perfect circle, I think it stands out more by being slightly off. Adding a considered line to define the outside of the pens reach would have improved this and I don’t think would have detracted from the random effect in any way.
Drawing Machine 2
In working on my parallel project, I have been surveying several grid squares for ash trees. Whilst doing this, I recorded the GPS tracks of my movement around those squares and the journey to and from them.
My phone was the drawing machine in this case. I decided to create a rust print of image and play around with some of the ideas I have for my parallel project using these prints.
I printed two images on rough and smooth paper to then work on.
In my parallel project, I want to combine rust printing with burning and ink or watercolour, so I used these in this drawings also.
I started with the rough paper print:
The burning worked fine when using a pyrography machine, but was too wide and didn’t go through the paper when a blow torch was used. The ink dots are too precise and stifled here.
On to the smooth paper print:
I stuck with the pyrography machine for the burning and this time wetted the paper first so the ink bloomed when dotted on the paper. This more random approach worked better.
I abandoned the rough paper print at this point and focussed on the smooth paper one. I was happy with what was there so far, but it had too big an area of white space and needed something more. I decided that a section of one of the surveyed maps would fit well in this space, so I drew this in with ink, charcoal and wash pencil.
I was quite pleased with the final image and this is getting closer to what I want to investigate in combining random and precision drawing. It is also helping me to clarify the drawings I want to carry out for my parallel project. As a completed image I think it still lacks something to bring it all together, but until I work out what might do that, I will leave it there for now.
The course notes ask for my response to the following comments:
The Abstract Expressionists’ use of gesture was caught up with notions of authenticity and even of purity of intent. The influential critic Clement Greenberg wrote in his article ‘Avant Garde and Kitsch’ in 1939 about the good artist painting ‘cause’ and the bad artist painting ‘effect’. He also talks about what he describes as ‘the inflections of the personal’ becoming a legitimate subject. For example, the artist Jackson Pollock talked about wanting to paint from his emotions, not to illustrate them.
I think a good artist could paint ’cause’ and also ‘effect’. Whichever chimes with the artist is going to be the one which produces good art. Similarly with painting from the emotions or illustrating them. I can see the distinction and for people for whom that is important, I can understand their passion for choosing one over the other, but either is valid in my book. Having a strict criteria for how things should be done sparks movements in art, but they inevitably get superseded by new thinking. Personally I struggle to draw from my emotions or illustrate them, so the distinction is a moot point for me.
Looking at the work of Jackson Pollock is interesting and seeing how over time he gradually gave up control over subject to embrace painting solely from his emotions. He embraced the happy accidents which come from working with paint splashes and, although he obviously had control over the broad sweep of the marks, he gave up control of the detail. Personally, I enjoy work which has an element of this lack of control, although I do like to see it mixed with more controlled work.
Namuth, H. (1951). Jackson Pollock by Hans Namuth. [online] YouTube. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cgBvpjwOGo [Accessed 4 Nov. 2018].
YouTube. (2017). The Case for Jackson Pollock. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U19VOF4qfs [Accessed 4 Nov. 2018].
Having given the subject a lot of thought over the last few months, I have now decided what I want to look at and some ideas of the work I want to produce.
Ash: A Celebration and a Lament
This is a difficult subject as unlike many environmental issues, there doesn’t appear to be much we can do about this one. Ash dieback has spread throughout the country and the impact on the landscape around me in the Yorkshire Dales is huge. Ash trees make up a very high percentage of the trees in the Dales which is already a sparsely tree covered landscape and pretty much every Ash tree I see in my local environment is showing the symptoms of Ash dieback. The latest thinking seems to be to wait and see if any genetic strain of Ash is resistant to the fungus. It looks like 5-10% of ash trees may be resistant to the disease (BBC, 2018), but even if that is the case, the impact on my local area will be enormous and a lot of tree planting will need to be done to replace the habitats which will soon be lost.
What can I do? Well, I doubt many other people realise the extent of this issue, so I can raise awareness of it. Hopefully there will be some plan to address the issue at some point, in which case I can also raise awareness of that as well. What I can also do is celebrate the trees we still have at this moment in time. Having investigated the issue and noticed the impact it is having, it is also an issue I cannot now ignore and so I have to make work about it now.
My current thoughts are detailed below.
- Charcoal (made from ash twigs) drawings of dead leaf stems with ash dieback fungus (in ink?)
- Maps (in ink / rust prints?) with trees drawn on, then the ash trees burnt out (using soldering iron / gunpowder / sun and magnifying glass?)
- Sketches of planned sculptures as rust prints
- Ash dieback fungus
- Cast ash twigs, leaving the charcoal of the twigs in the moulds to give holes in the casts
- Model landscapes cast to partially fail (could make them fail in required areas in similar way to map drawings described above?)
- Ash dieback fungus – photograph and try to preserve some (resin?) + try to see spores
- Ash twigs – to cast + turn into charcoal
- 5(?) 1km grid squares – survey trees in the square and which ones of them are ash
- Dense black charcoal twigs
- What medium goes with the above for drawing the fungi
- Adding ink / watercolour to rust prints
- Research ash dieback
My ideas so far are more focused on the ‘lament’. I need to think more about how I get the ‘celebration’ part into there.
BBC. (2018). BBC Radio 4 – Gardeners’ Question Time, The New Forest. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000sdq [Accessed 4 Nov. 2018].