GSA Degree Show 2018 – Rosie Galloway-Smith

In September I visited the Glasgow School of Art 2018 Degree Show. There was a lot to see but the work of Rosie Galloway-Smith resonated with me in relation to the themes of landscape, memory and loss that I have been working on. I haven’t categorised this under Becoming Aware – Research rather than Exhibitions as I felt that so much of the work was relevant to my ongoing research into memory practice.

Her Artist’s Statement notes that her current work

‘explores emotionality through materiality, physical processes of disintegration, and indexing of materials. I create my own artefacts with construction/decorating materials and clothes, looking at their shared connotations of shelter/skin and as ciphers for the physical human body, and the processes of dereliction taking place over time’

The particular exhibits mentioned can be viewed on Rosie Galloway-Smith’s website.

Rosie Galloway-Smith’s work struck me because of the breadth of materials and ideas in her degree show presentation. Within a small space there was a series of paintings depicting seed potatoes, shoes of all shapes and sizes caked in mud, two old-fashioned chairs with distressed surfaces, a wall where the wallpaper had been torn and left hanging and, as you rounded the corner, an elongated dress, covered in mud, suspended above a circular mirror placed on the floor.

Waiting (2018) (Dining chairs, gloss paint, mould sealant)

Individual elements evoked different emotions. As a family we are currently clearing the family home after mum’s death. The two chairs are similar to ones in the house and it was poignant to see them, with their cracked surfaces and the absence of anyone sitting on them, making me think of what we have lost. I got to thinking about the presence of someone being as strongly portrayed by their absence as by their physical embodiment. Another layer of this is not just the absence of someone but the anticipation of their presence such as the empty rooms and chairs painted by Van Gogh and Gwen John.

Siblings (2018) (Cement, shoes)
Wall Installation, various dimensions

This idea is carried through in other elements of the exhibition. The materials used subtlety embody the themes of the work, such as the rows of shoes embalmed in what appears to be mud. The shoes are unsettling enough at first glance, displayed as they are on the wall rather than the floor. Then you realise it is not mud but cement which they are encased in. Among the shoes neither pair quite matches but they are bound together by their laces and casing of dried cement, mismatched and not easily parted. Like the chairs the shoes conjure the presence of their owners through their absence. It reminded me of the work of Miyako Ishiuichi, particularly Mother’s (2000 – 2005) when she photographed her late mother’s possessions, including her shoes. Both works embody the idea of indexicality and the traces of individuals lives being a part of the artwork.

The Whole of It (2018) (Acrylic, ink, woodchip wallpaper)
Wall Installation, 13ft x 8ft

Sometimes the traces of other lives are not items specifically related to an individual but to a point in time. It was the woodchip wallpaper that caught my attention as, like the chairs, that type of wallpaper was part of the family home for many years. I wondered if this exhibit would resonate with a younger age group for different reasons but, if you are a little older, that woodchip and those chairs, add to the experience. I was interested in the idea of revealing the underlying layers and the way this relates to our memories as I had played with this idea, on a limited scale, for one of the practical exercises.

Two Dresses (2018) (Cotton, cement, latex, LED lighting, mirror)
Sculpture, 11ft x 4ft x 4ft

The subtle layers to Galloway-Smith’s communication can also be seen in the startling ‘figure’ of the dress that catches you by surprise. Again, there is the idea of presence being defined by absence. Given the height and elongation of the sculpture, there is a macabre quality which reminded me of Shani Rhys James’ Automata. Here, what at first appears to be one dress is actually two. The second can only be seen by looking in the mirror giving the unsettling feeling of looking up someone’s skirt.

There was a lot I liked in this exhibition, not all of it easy to articulate and, perhaps, there is less requirement for that, as it seemed to me to almost jump over language and speak directly to your emotions. As part of the coursework I have been doing research into the work of artists whose work, in different ways, deals with memory. These include Louise Bourgeois, Shani Rhys James and Miyako Ishiuchi. Bourgeois and Ishiuchi have used their mothers’ possessions and clothes while Rhys James takes elements from her childhood such as wallpaper, dresses and cots and repeats these in various forms.

Despite the differences in approach and mediums used there is a thread here in the work of Galloway-Smith in terms of the use and treatment of particular objects to create a response in the viewer.  Amongst other elements in the exhibition the chairs, shoes and wallpaper create small tableaus which are the trigger for the bigger stories of anyone who views them.

Notes for studio practice

  • Think about individual objects, possessions from the family home
  • Consider scaling-up/layering

Related Posts

Outside the Box – Practical Exercise 6 – Texture – Scraps –https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/outside-the-box/practical-exercise-6-texture-scraps/

Gwen John – Research Notes – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/gwen-john-research-notes/

Louise Bourgeois – Memories – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/

Shani Rhys James – Research Notes – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/shani-rhys-james-research-notes/

References

Gibbons, J. (2007) Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

Images

Ishiuchi, M. (2000 – 2005) Mother Series. [Photographs] At: http://www.sepiaeye.com/miyako-ishiuchi (Accessed on 01.11.18)

John, G. (1907-1909) A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris [Painting] At http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/a-corner-of-the-artists-room-in-paris-116863/search/keyword:gwen-john-11896/page/2 (Accessed on 01.11.18)

Rosie Galloway-Smith. Postgraduate Degree Show 2018 At: http://www.rosiegallowaysmith.co.uk/d-e-g-r-e-e-s-h-o-w/4594413763 (Accessed on 28.10.18)

Rhys James, S. (s.d) Automata. [Sculpture] http://www.shanirhysjames.com/photography/5xnyjn56fe61ki9t2thz2kijr91tg4 (Accessed on 01.11.18)

Van Gogh, V. (1888) Gauguin’s Chair. [Painting] At: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0048V1962?v=1 (Accessed on 01.11.18)

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Louise Bourgeois – Memories

For Assignment 4 I have submitted a piece of work, Anxieties and Fears – Mechanical Doll, which explores the anxieties and fears that accompany growing old. This was a development of work undertaken in Part 2 of the course, Honing In.  Shortly after working on test pieces for Honing In I visited an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’ work and realised the relevance it had to this area of work, in terms of the exploration of fear, and also to another theme that I was beginning to explore, that of childhood memories.

I am still in the process of considering how to develop this area and the direction it will take but have started researching artists whose work is informed by memories. This post highlights notes from research into the work of Louise Bourgeois.

For Bourgeois anxiety and fear was very much a part of her childhood memories. From the mid- 1970s Bourgeois’ work focused on her own personal experience. Her first work with reference to childhood memories was ‘The Destruction of the Father’ (1974).

An example of her work that explores her childhood feelings is the Cells series. The cells are comprised of ‘rooms’ that Bourgeois created using a range of material including old doors, wood, and wire mesh. The cells are not rooms but box-like structures which the viewer can see into but not enter. Often the viewpoint is partially obscured, perhaps representing how our memories can be skewed, or an attempt to protect the adult self from fully revisiting these memories.

Within the cells Bourgeois placed items from her childhood or objects that represented that period in time. In Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance, Joan Gibbons suggests that this invokes a memory technique of ancient scholars in which memories are linked to imaginary objects and placed in imaginary rooms as a way to help remember information or events.

Gibbons also notes that Bourgeois’ ‘rooms’ are not representations of places, real or imaginary but reflections of the subconscious mind. While the inspiration for them may have been based in childhood homes they represent not the physical places but the emotions associated with them.

Bourgeois uses found objects or objects of a similar time period to bring these emotions to the fore. These include spindles and skeins of thread, related to her mother’s work, as well as possessions of her own such as clothes or perfume bottles.

This can be related to the concept of Nachttraglichkeit, a process mentioned by Freud where an experience is rearranged in the light of current experiences. This is not just to relive the experience but a way to rethink it and give it new meaning. It offers a way to both manage the memories of the past and the impact they may have on the present. Bourgeois’ work demonstrates this when she uses her own possessions alongside objects that contrast with them. In doing so the differing associations allow private memories to be revisited and also publicly displayed. The result is that while her work is intensely personal a visitor to a gallery can relate it to their own emotions.

Notes for Studio Practice

  • Revisit work on childhood memories and consider how to develop this area of work.
  • Think about specific memories, related objects and possessions. What emotions do they evoke?
  • Consider how to communicate these memories – through painting or using other materials?

Related Posts

Artist Rooms: Louise Bourgeois – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2017/11/22/artist-rooms-louise-bourgeois/

Anxieties and Fears – Mechanical Doll – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/finding-your-place/anxieties-and-fears-mechanical-doll/

References

Gibbons, J. (2007) Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

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Haiga Art – Research Notes

These research notes relate to haiga art which often accompanies haiku poetry. I started to research this after a comment from my tutor in feedback about Practical Exercise 1.1 – Artwork- Bees. Feeling that the image was overworked she suggested approaching it more as haiku rather than an extended poem. The idea intrigued me and I began to read more about haiku, in the process coming across haiga art.

The aim of this post is to consider the characteristics of haiga and haiku and how I can apply these to the development of one of my test pieces.

Haiga paintings are created to accompany haiku poetry. A haiku is a form of Japanese verse. When adapted into English they are often made up of three lines of verse composed of five, seven and five syllables. Generally, they contain two images on the first two lines and the third line helps to contrast these images.

The haiku and haiga may appear in the same space, on paper, in a scroll or fan although they may be separate. If they appear together calligraphy defines the way the poem will look on the page.

Characteristics

Haiga paintings have a number of characteristics including:

  • Restrained, minimal brush strokes and light colours
  • Free flowing lines
  • No unnecessary detail
  • A light, ironic touch even when dealing with serious subjects
  • A focus on day-to-day subjects and objects.

Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)

Some of the best-known haiku poetry was written by Matsuo Bashō in the 17th century.  Bashō was a Buddhist monk and poet and saw his work as something that would induce in his readers the calm mental states of Zen Buddhism. His poetry encapsulates two significant Zen ideals, wabi, being satisfied with simplicity and sabi, being content with solitude.

His aim was to get readers to focus on what was around them and look for the positive in their everyday lives. The poems are not, therefore, concerned with high drama but consider the detail of daily life. Nature was also a recurring theme; the changing seasons and impermanence of life being used to remind readers to focus on the here and now.

Yellow Rose Petals by Matsuo Bashō [External link – opens in a new tab]

Bashō was also a painter and created haiga images to complement his words. Yellow Petals picks up on the key elements of a related haiku about yellow rose petals and a waterfall. In the top left-hand corner, against a pale ochre background, a waterfall cascades over rocks. Diagonally opposite this, in the bottom right-hand corner, the delicate branches of a rose bush are outlined, bowing under the weight of the yellow rose petals.

The simplest of outlines conjure up a wider narrative for the viewer. There is a hint of blue above the rocks. The viewer, below the waterfall, can glimpse this wider world. They may yearn to explore it or be content at being where they are beside the water and yellow roses.

Yosa Buson (1716 – 1783)

Yosa Buson, a painter and poet, was influenced by Bashō.

Autumn Landscape (c. 1780) by Yosa Buson [External link – opens in a new tab]

Haiga was produced in various formats including hanging scrolls, hand scrolls, fans and folding screens. This example shows a hanging scroll. The painting, ink on satin, exhibits all the characteristics associated with haiga art. With minimal brushwork Buson conjures up a mountain scene with trees, a path leading up the steep hillside towards a small building and distant hills. There is minimal mark-making but all the essential elements of the scene are there.

A Little Cuckoo Across a Hydrangea by Yosa Buson

In this image I like the simplicity and the idea of focusing on the day-to-day as a way to move beyond your problems and circumstances. In this painting hydrangea blossom is shown in the bottom left-hand corner. Diagonally opposite, in the top tight-hand corner, a cuckoo is in flight. Both the flower and the bird are treated with a light touch, barely sketched in, but there is enough mark-making to convey the essential shapes and emotion.

The balance of the composition and simplicity of the mark-making sum up a particular point in time but also suggest that it is just that. Nature, like our lives, is constantly changing.

Despite the differences in approach many of these traits can be seen in the work of Agnes Martin. As a follower of Buddhism her work, while non-representational, was inspired by nature and designed to make the viewer aware of, and to consider, their inner responses.

Notes for studio practice

  • Consider these ideas in development of Memories – Irises and Bees for Assignment 4. Try to work in a looser, more gestural way. Think about individual elements and leave space for the image to breathe.
  • Ongoing – experiment with using scroll format? Thinking of work of aboriginal artists, working on unstretched canvases, idea of being portable.
  • Relate to work done in Outside the Box? Idea of the picnic cloth – a way to develop additional scene from childhood sketchbook?

Images [External links open in new tabs]

Bashō, M. (s.d.) Yellow Rose Petals [Painting] At: http://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/the-great-eastern-philosophers-matsuo-basho/ (Accessed on 17.09.18)

Buson, Y. (c. 1780) Autumn Landscape [Painting] At: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/45352 (Accessed on 12.09.18)

Buson, Y. (s.d) A Little Cuckoo Across a Hydrangea [Painting] http://www.wikiart.org/en/yosa-buson/a-little-cuckoo-across-a-hydrangea-haiga (Accessed on 11.09.18)

Related Posts

Practical Exercise 1.1 – Artwork – Bees – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/outside-the-box/practical-exercise-1-1-artwork-bees/

Memories – Irises and Bees – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/finding-your-place/memories-irises-and-bees/

Agnes Martin – Research Notes – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/agnes-martin-research-notes/

References [External links open in new tab]

Poetry Foundation (s.d.) ‘Haiku (or hokku)’ definition [online] At: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/haiku-or-hokku (Accessed on 17.09.18)

School of Life (s.d.) ‘Matsuo Bashō’. At: http://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/the-great-eastern-philosophers-matsuo-basho/ (Accessed on 12.09.18)

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Agnes Martin – Research Notes

Agnes Martin (1912-2004) was born in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. As a teenager she was an accomplished swimmer, trying out for the Olympic team. In the 1930s she moved to the United States and taught for a number of years before moving to New York in 1941 to study art.

In her 40s she was working in Manhattan in a studio alongside Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Rauschenberg. Her work began to be associated with minimalism though she saw herself as an abstract expressionist. Her focus was not on representation but on the responses that she could invoke in those who viewed her work. During this time, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

In the early 1960s she began working on canvases based on a grid structure, a pattern that would become a significant element of her work. Later in the 60s she stopped painting and moved to New Mexico. It was not until the early 1970s that she began painting again using horizontal or vertical lines and using a palette of blues and pinks.

Themes

  • Works are non-representational though the titles of paintings, The Tree, Mid-Winter, Stars, Water, show that she was influenced by nature.
  • In the early 1960s developed the grid pattern which became a significant element in her work.
  • She considered painting as a map of your inner responses to life.

Influences

  • Martin was influenced by Zen Buddhism and relied on what was around her for subject matter though she did not attempt to be representational but tried to capture abstract qualities of joy, beauty and innocence.
  • During the early 1950s associated with Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg and Barnett Newman while living in New York.

Creative practice

  • In earlier works she would scratch into the paint and pencil lines onto the canvas. Sometimes she added colour or gold leaf over the marks.
  • Worked with a range of materials including watercolour, ink, gouache, acrylic and gold leaf.
  • Based on small ‘visions’ of her work she created large scale versions – six feet by six feet – by scaling up the grid and painstakingly drawing the lines of the grid with pencil. At that point she applied colour.

Use of colour

  • While understated, colour is a key part of Martin’s work.
  • In earlier works used black and white and variations of grey, especially with geometric shapes.
  • There are influences of Mexican landscape in the browns, tans, yellows and earth tones.
  • Martin was an accomplished swimmer and sailor and this is reflected in her use of a wide range of blues. In later years used more faded blues alongside pinks, peach, salmon and yellow.

Examples of work

Falling Blue (1963) [External link – opens in a new window]

Painted in the 1960s, this is from the period when Martin was beginning to experiment with the grid system. Viewing images online is not ideal but this image demonstrates the contrast that would emerge between her earlier works and the grid paintings. The colours are darker, a layer of copper brown over a mid-blue, any texture of the surface created by the paint itself. Like other paintings by Martin the title gives away nothing. To really appreciate the images you need, as Martin herself advocated, to stand in front of them and see how you respond.

This reminds me of work by Mark Rothko which I have seen at Tate Modern. The scale of some of Rothko’s work draws you in to the canvas. Falling Blue is not on the same scale (182.56 cm x 182.88 cm) but if seen I can imagine that it would have the same ability to make you feel calm, almost absorbed into the surface of the canvas.

Untitled #9 (1995) [External link – opens in a new window]

This is a later work, at a time when Martin worked less with the grid pattern and was experimenting with horizontal and vertical lines and a lighter palette. This has no title though an obvious reading would be horizontal blinds with blue sky or the sea beyond. Regardless of any potential reference the pale blues, baby pinks and white are colours that suggest positive emotions and associations.

Notes for studio practice

  • Looking at images online I find it hard to appreciate Martin’s work. This is not because I dislike it but I think any true appreciation of it requires seeing the work itself. This may relate to the scale or to a closer view of the colours and textures.
  • It has been suggested that the repetitive nature of her work was something that helped Martin to deal with her fragile mental health. You could argue that meticulously creating the grid pattern with pencil would be a frustrating practice but, in demanding your attention, it also eliminates distraction…something to think about on those days when my attention is scattered.

Images [External links open in new tabs]

Martin, A. (1963) Falling Blue. [Painting] At: http://www.wikiart.org/en/agnes-martin/falling-blue-1963 (Accessed on 16.09.18)

Martin, A. (1963) Untitled #9. [Painting] At: http://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/FC.549 (Accessed on 16.09.18)

Related Posts

Ellen Gallagher – Research Notes – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/ellen-gallagher-research-notes/

References [External links open in new tabs]

Eiseman, L. (2015) ‘Agnes Martin’s Palette’ In: tate.org.uk 24.08.15 [online] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/agnes-martins-palette-by-leatrice-eiseman (Accessed on 17.09.18)

Laing, O. (2015) ‘Agnes Martin: the Artist Mystic Who Disappeared into the Desert’ In: theguardian.com 22.05.15 [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/22/agnes-martin-the-artist-mystic-who-disappeared-into-the-desert (Accessed on 15.09.18)

Tateshots: Agnes Martin Pres. Dryden. Tate (2015) 7.37 mins At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/agnes-martin-1583/who-agnes-martin (Accessed 17.09.18)

The Art Story (s.d.) Agnes Martin. At http://www.theartstory.org/artist-martin-agnes.htm  (Accessed on 17.09.18)

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Ellen Gallagher – Research Notes

These notes relate to a suggestion by my tutor to look at the work of Ellen Gallagher, particularly the range of materials that she uses.

Ellen Gallagher was born in Providence in 1965 studying writing before attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to study art.

Themes

  • Repetition and revision play a central part in Gallagher’s approach to her work. From a distance works can appear abstract and minimal but on closer inspection are made up of a wide range of details and techniques.
  • Likens the use of repetition to music where a phrase is repeated and there is a call and response between the musician and conductor.
  • Collects archival material from black photo journals such as Ebony, Our World and Sepia. Adverts for wigs in these magazines originally attracted her because of the grid-pattern underlying them. This led on to an interest in the adverts themselves and the suggestion of stories behind them.
  • Modification and transformation of raw materials, such as magazine images, is a key characteristic of her work and one used to explore race and identity.

Influences

  • Gallagher has cited the work of Agnes Martin as having considerable influence on her work.
  • She is also influenced by the writings of Gertrude Stein.

Creative practice

  • Has described her works as “built paintings” saying that there is very little paint in them but they feel as if she has built them.
  • Known for her use of found materials and ephemera such as lined penmanship paper, magazine pages, journals and advertising.
  • Her process is one of transformation, subjecting a piece of work from, say, advertising and changing it using a wide variety of techniques.
  • Techniques include smudging, staining, perforations, spills, abrasions, lettering and marking.
  • She is known for her innovative use of paper and has created a variation of scrimshaw, the carving that sailors did into bone in the whaling era. Gallagher uses thick sheets of watercolour paper and carves into this, drawing with watercolour, ink and pencil.

Examples of work

Watery Ecstatic (2001) [External link – opens in a new window]

This image was part of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art where artists explored the materiality of paper. I like the simplicity of this. Ed Ruscha also exhibited one of his Stains papers at the same exhibition, something I researched in an earlier part of the course.

In this Gallagher uses ink, oil, watercolour pencil and cut paper to create a watery scene, something that you could see in everyday life, in the puddles under your feet or doing the dishes. It is very simple and, perhaps because of that, makes you focus on it. Closer inspection belies the simplicity as the intricacy of the cut-out papers and markings reveal a watery underworld. Since 2001, Gallagher has added additional images to the ‘Watery Ecstatic’ series which consists of drawings of marine life.

DeLuxe (2004-5) [External link – opens in a new window]

DeLuxe is comprised of sixty individually framed prints displayed in a rectangular grid of five rows by twelve. The works are based on adverts, mainly for beauty products, from magazines of the 1930s to the 1970s aimed at African American consumers.

Gallagher uses a wide range of techniques to transform the advertisements including etching, lithography and digital technology. Areas of colour have been added. In addition, she adds decorative elements to the surfaces including glitter, gold leaf and coconut oil. Three dimensional elements such as toy eyeballs and coloured plasticine have also been added often over the faces and hair of the models.

She also uses interventions where the faces are covered up or eyes are cut out. Collage is also used to create new hairstyles and parody the claims of the advertising companies. While her work is often seen as political in it’s questioning of image Gallagher sees the process of her work as significant in that it brings her into a close relationship with the people in the advertisements and makes us, as viewers of the piece, consider their stories.

Notes for studio practice

  • For some of the exercises in the course I have found myself working with thick layers of acrylic paint and adding thin washes of colour over these, working almost in relief. I have also been thinking about ideas related to scraps and scrapbooking without, as yet, a clear sense of direction as to how this would develop.
  • Experimenting with the carving and painting of paper could help inform this as could thinking about the addition of elements to the surface as a way of working in relief or in a more sculptural way.

Images [External links open in new tabs]

Gallagher, E. (2001) Watery Ecstatic [Mixed Media] At: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2009/paper/deploy/index.html (Accessed on 10.09.18)

Gallagher, E. (2004-5) DeLuxe [Mixed Media] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gallagher-deluxe-t12301 (Accessed on 10.09.18)

Related Posts

Agnes Martin – Research Notes – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/agnes-martin-research-notes/

References [External links open in new tabs]

Cutting: Ellen Gallagher (2014) 3.14 mins At: http://art21.org/watch/extended-play/ellen-gallagher-cutting-short/ (Accessed on 10.09.18)

Gagosian (s.d.) Ellen Gallagher. At: http://gagosian.com/artists/ellen-gallagher/ (Accessed on 10.09.18)

MOMA (2009) ‘Paper, Pressed, Stained, Slashed, Folded’ New York: Museum of Modern Art At: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2009/paper/deploy/index.html(Accessed on 10.09.18)

School Arts (2006) ‘Artists Speak: Ellen Gallagher’ In: School Arts March 2006 pp. 14-15

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Luc Tuymans – Research Notes

In relation to test pieces that I created in Part 3 of the course, Outside the Box, my tutor suggested looking at the work of Luc Tuymans, particularly in his use of colour as he tends to work with a limited palette and with muted colours. These notes relate to this, selected examples of his work and to ideas for experimentation in my own work.

Luc Tuymans was born in Belgium in 1958. After studying fine art in Brussels, he stopped painting for a number of years focusing instead on making films. His earlier works, before he decided to focus more on the meaning of the content and less on aesthetics, were more colourful and gestural. This change of focus affected his approach to colour resulting in a significantly reduced palette of muted colours.

Subjects

  • His work is characterised by images that appear banal, faces or empty rooms, but the context makes them unsettling as often they relate to historical events, many associated with violence. Seemingly bland objects like a lampshade or teacup are seen in a new light when their association with the Holocaust or Belgian colonialism is revealed.
  • In paintings showing domestic interiors there is often an absence of people. Tuymans, however, sees still life and portraits as interchangeable and believes that a painting of objects can convey as much of a story as if it included individuals. The narrative is left to the associations of the viewer.

Approach to painting

  • Tuymans admits to having a short concentration span and aims to finish a painting within a day. Paintings tend to be onto unstretched, primed canvas or board. He sees contrast, outline and shadow as being significant in his work.
  • Earlier works tended to measure less than one metre in length, the impact of the subject matter brought about by its historical associations, experiments with scale, his use of colour and tone.
  • He uses photographs as references often copying the image directly.
  • Compositions are simple. Often a single figure or object facing the viewer.
    When a painting is finished he paints a band of white around it. This is the last thing that he does allowing him to alter the image with unexpected cropping of the main composition.
  • Compositions are influenced by his interest in films. His work includes enlargements of a subject, close-ups and blow-ups as well as cropping.
  • He tends to paint with short brushstrokes that often follow the outline of the subject.

Use of colour

  • His paintings could be described as monochromatic but Tuymans disputes this saying that his focus on temperature and tonality ensure that paintings are not just about colour. Temperature within a painting is important to him. Earlier works, like Gas Chamber (1986) are warmer in temperature than later works where the colours have become cooler.
  • Colours have a faded, bleached-out quality and tend to have a muddied quality.
  • Colours used are mainly whites, ochres, blues, greens, browns and reds but applied in such a way that they appear muddied.
  • In an interview he said that he didn’t use black. In the past has used a lot of van Dyck Brown to get the depth of tone required.

Examples of work

Fingers (1995) [External link – opens in new tab]

Techniques from film-making can be seen in this painting. By enlarging the scale and cropping in on the image of two fingers this work assumes an impact greater than its 37.5 cm x 33 cm size. Cropping in this way leaves the viewer with no choice but to examine the subject matter and, if you are this close to anything, the surrounding environment is shut off to you. Suddenly, there is an awareness of what you can’t see around you, what is outside your field of vision. The pale wash of ochre indicates light but being so close means, you don’t know where the source of the light is. The palette, of blues, greys, whites and a hint of ochre add to this unsettled quality.

The photographic technique here of blowing up the image and the use of a limited palette are simple ideas but are something to think about with my own work.

Silent Music (1992) [External link – opens in new tab]

Another device that Tuyman uses to create ambiguity in his work is that of the title. This painting has elements that jar even before you know it. The subject is a bedroom with peach walls. In it there is a tall cupboard, a bed, bedside cabinet, a chair and a low table. The palette is comprised of pale blues, white, peach and dark brown. At first glance the colours seem soothing. The size of the chair suggests a child’s bedroom. Then you notice the rail on the bed and you are less clear if this is a child’s bedroom or a room in a hospital. The emptiness of the room becomes tangible, as if the room is waiting for an occupant or has just dispensed with one. In using the title Tuyman is, in effect, depicting something which is not there, an absence of music.

The absence of something can, perhaps, say more than its presence. This is something to consider in relation to work I have been doing about memories. When someone is no longer with us their absence can at times feel indistinguishable from their presence, how can this be conveyed?

Notes for studio practice

  • The idea that images of people or objects can tell the same story reminds me of ideas that I have considered in previous parts of the course. In Exploring the Field, the use of attributes to identify people in medieval paintings and sculpture and, in work for Outside the Box, about memories and the possessions we keep that are meaningful to us.
  • Relate this to work done on memories – about the idea of objects that define us. Experiment with a limited palette – play with idea of memories fading or changing over time.
  • Consider what isn’t shown. Does leaving something out convey its presence more? Think about this in relation to ongoing work on memories.
  • Sketchbook – think about composition – cropping, close-ups.
  • In the studio – try test pieces on unstretched canvas.
  • Play with cropping once piece completed.
  • Try to produce a painting within a day. What effect does the imposed timescale have on the work?

Images [External links open in new tab]

Tuymans, L. (1986) Gas Chamber [Painting] http://www.wikiart.org/en/luc-tuymans/gas-chamber-1986 (Accessed on 16.09.18)

Tuymans, L. (1992) Silent Music [Painting] At: http://www.wikiart.org/en/luc-tuymans/silent-music-1992 (Accessed on 16.09.18)

Tuymans, L. (1992) Fingers [Painting] At: http://www.wikiart.org/en/luc-tuymans/fingers-1995  (Accessed on 16.09.18)

References [External links open in new tab]

Aliaga, J. V. (2003) ‘In conversation with Luc Tuymans’ In Loock and Aliaga. Luc Tuymans. London: Phaidon Press. 2nd rev. ed. pp. 8-31

Earnest, J. (2016) ‘In Conversation with Luc Tuymans’ In: Brooklynrail.org 11.07.16 [online] At: http://brooklynrail.org/2016/07/art/luc-tuymans-with-jarrett-earnest (Accessed 24.08.18)

Gayford, M. (2004) ‘Banal on Top, Toxic Underneath’ In: telegraph.co.uk 07.06.04 [online] At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3618482/Banal-on-top-toxic-underneath.html (Accessed on 24.08.18)

Spector, N. (2003) ‘The Unforgiving Trace’ In: Loock and Aliaga. Luc Tuymans. London: Phaidon Press. 2nd rev. ed. pp. 94-101

Posted in 4. Finding your Place - Research | Leave a comment

Judy Watson – Research Notes

During my research into aboriginal art I came across an article about Judy Watson and a description of the way that she works. A number of areas of her work resonated with me as they seemed to mirror some of the thoughts I had been having in relation to my work for Outside the Box, Part 3 of the course. These included:

  • The use of layers
  • Mapping of both an external and internal landscape
  • Using canvas in a way that is more akin to textiles

Watson is influenced by the experiences of her great-grandmother in north-west Queensland and, more widely, the life of indigenous people and the effect of colonialism on their lives. Often, she uses impressions from the actual landscape such as rubbings and incisions and includes these in her work. She also uses natural materials found in a place and colours the canvas while it is laid wet on the ground allowing this to help shape the initial layers on the canvas. Her paintings are not framed but either hung on the wall or laid on the floor.

Internal Landscape (1993) [External link – opens in a new tab]

There are a number of things that appeal to me in this painting. The gold powder in the centre is like an aerial view of a landscape. There appears to be a wash of a dark earth colour beneath this. Beside the gold, to the left, is a ghostly image of a spear associated with the Riversleigh Station where Watson’s grandmother was born. Layered across the canvas is a pattern of white ripples dotted with black. As you look more closely the idea of an aerial view fades a little and it is more like seeing objects submerged in water. The ripples become fish, or are they? Button-like circles seems to pin down the vertical edges of the canvas.

I like the subtleness of the painting and the way that Watson uses techniques from more traditional aboriginal art but in a very individual and reflective way. The different layers, of colour and objects, mean that the image seems to offer something new to consider the more that you look at it.

Deadly Bloom (1997) [External link – opens in a new tab]

This is another unframed canvas using pigment and pastel on canvas. What I like here is the free form use of the pigment and pastel and the vibrancy of the colours. This is something I would like to explore particularly in relation to work that I did for Part 2 of the course regarding stains. I have been considering how to move this forward and the ways in which Watson uses different mediums is something that I intend to explore further and experiment with.

Notes for Studio Practice

  • Consider ways to create/use layers
  • Think more about idea of external/internal landscape
  • External landscape – ways to bring this into the painting – rubbings (Dada?), using site-specific materials
  • Work with canvas more experimentally – think of it as a textile
  • Experiment with pigments, pastels and staining

Related Posts

Aboriginal Art – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/aboriginal-art-research-notes/

Practical Exercise 4 – Artwork – Picnic – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/outside-the-box/practical-exercise-4-artwork-picnic/

Practical Exercise 1 – Stains – Initial Exploration – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/honing-in/practical-exercise-1-stains-initial-exploration/

Images

Watson, J. (1993) Internal Landscape. [Painting] At: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/216.1994/ (Accessed on 06.06.18)

Watson, J. (1997) Deadly Bloom. [Painting] At: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/209.2011/ (Accessed on 06.06.18)

References

Willsteed, T. (ed.) (2004). Tradition Today: Indigenous Art in Australia. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales

Posted in 3. Outside the Box - Research | Leave a comment