Painting Diversion January 2019

On Friday (26th January) I went to view a potential new studio through Axisweb. It’s a town centre shop with four floors that would be ideal for a studio/gallery. The last occupant was a charity, the Doncaster branch of The Real Junk Food Project, and the place is a bit of a mess. Lot’s of tidying up to do and rubbish to dispose of, but I was so taken with it that I asked when I could move in and was given the keys.

Subsequently Axisweb contacted me and told me the Landlord had not yet given permission for the shop to be rented to them so I’m holding keys for a place I can’t access. Fingers crossed that agreements are reached as I envisage some really interesting projects coming through the space.

As I have no reason to go to the sculpture studio until I shift my gear I’ve been finishing off some paintings I’ve been working on in my attic on the days I’m not at the studio. My working practice has been to spend some time painting on each day I’m not building and I have nothing else to do.

I made a series of paintings on a small scale, a mixture of 10cm square and some 13cm x 10cm or 12cm. I also have some A4 ish canvases and off cuts of MDF that I’m painting on.

The paintings tend to be landscape based, drawing on imagery I’ve been using from the garden series and the views through the window, treated abstractly, working on colour balance and dynamism.

balbylandscape_jan19_003

balbylandscape_jan19_003

I’ve also experimented with coloured backgrounds painted directly onto unprimed, and primed, hardboard.

balbylandscape_jan19_001

balbylandscape_jan19_001

Toying with formats, so the first pairing is presented on a background cut to the golden ratio and the one above is cut square, as is the one below.

balbylandscape_jan19_004

balbylandscape_jan19_004

There is occasionally some pencil work in them as well, to pick up textures implied by the painting and glazing.

balbylandscape_jan19_006

balbylandscape_jan19_006

There are also a series cut to landscape format like the one below.

balbylandscape_jan19_005

balbylandscape_jan19_005

Paintings on MDF off cuts like the one below

balbylandscape_jan19_007

balbylandscape_jan19_007

and paintings on small canvases, about A4, like these two.

balbytreescape_jan19_001

balbytreescape_jan19_001

plantstudy_jan19

plantstudy_jan19

These are some examples from a total of around forty small paintings.

Studio Build NINE

Week Eight in the Studio

A bit of a slow week so far. Found myself contemplating whether the entire process of creating is a progressive obscuring of cliché. The environment is on another cusp and after deliberating I’ve ordered the material for the ceiling – a fingers crossed moment.

Today I tidied and then painted the facing wall and the door wall, there is more to do on the garden wall but I need to see the projection to gauge how much I can do that will be visible.

3 small sculptures

Three small sculptures

have these three small sculptures now, and ideas for a larger one.

splashcover160119

splash cloth 160119

I was also quite taken by the pattern on my splash cloth.

The facing wall when you enter the space now looks like this…

facing wall 16/01/2019

facing wall 16/01/2019

and the wall with the door looks like this…

door wall 16/01/2019

door wall 16/01/2019

It feels as if they are much more coherent now. (16/01/19).

As I’m awaiting the material for the roof I decided to work on the larger sculpture I was planning. (18/01/2019).

View of large sculpture

View of large sculpture

View of large sculpture

View of large sculpture

View of large sculpture

View of large sculpture

I managed to build the frame and prime it on the day – I left at 3:00 pm as the primer needs to dry.

I also got word today that I have 21 days to quit the Unit. So from next week I’ll be packing up and sorting alternative accommodation through Axisweb, even if it’s only storage. I’ll hopefully be able to put the roof on and check the projector before I have to dismantle everything.

I thought I’d include this photograph of working detritus just to show the kind of mess I make, and a shot of the table returned to it’s normal status afterwards.

Equipment and materials during the build

Equipment and materials during the build

Evidence that I do, regardless of any comments, tidy up!

Evidence that I do, regardless of any comments, tidy up!

Studio Build SEVEN

Week Six in the Studio:

Missed a week as we went to Edinburgh for a short break. Then delayed coming back to the studio as I had to be here on a Tuesday to have the door fixed. After much toing and froing the time was set as 8:00 am. They wanted to come at 5:00 pm or later but without lights that was out of the question. I took this video to show how dark it was first thing in the morning.

I’m at the stage where I need to begin the interactive part of the project and I’m sorting the computer for that in my home studio. It’s also nearly Christmas so I’ll be here less frequently until the new year when I can bring the tech down.

I spent some time sorting the mess I’d left before I went away and then worked on sketches and the small sculptures.

Garden Sculpture One

Garden Sculpture One

All of these are based on the sketches I made in the garden in the summer and have been developing in the sketchbooks here.

Garden Sculpture Two

Garden Sculpture Two

Garden Sculpture Three

Garden Sculpture Three

The last of these is only just started and the second may well have a pierced screen suspended in the large gap.

The sketches are below, and the worktable which is becoming the place I spend most of my time.

Today's Large Sketch

Today’s Large Sketch

Today's Small Sketch

Today’s Small Sketch

Studio Worktable

Studio Worktable

Normally I’ve posted a whole week but as it’s nearly Christmas I’m posting when I can.

Studio Build SIX

Week five in the studio:

Very mild this week but absolutely throwing it down, I arrived wet and my coat was still wet when I left in the afternoon. I’m writing another post on the Doncaster Art Fair that interrupted my building. Today I wanted to treat the leaves so they can retain colour and paint out more of the big drawing.

First I painted in the leaves in the big drawing with Indian ink, then I treated the leaves with PVA and then painted over the big drawing with more white. I only took photographs at the end for reference so these go around the space.

right wall one

right wall one

right wall two

right wall two

garden wall

garden wall

left wall one

left wall one

left wall two

left wall two

projection wall

projection wall

The very light wall taken down further to facilitate projection.

Wednesday started badly, it was chucking it down and the walk to the studio was very unpleasant. I didn’t really know where to start so I set up the light and put the heater on to dry my shoes.

first I turned the leaves which were dry on top but still wet underneath.

Then I dug out the sketch books and did some work on the garden sculptures.

These are sketches towards stand alone sculptures but also inform the look and feel of the space, particularly the right hand wall, opposite the projection wall.

I then cut the wood I prepared last week, or the week before, to build small sculptures exploring the garden in Balby.

The second picture taken with flash to emphasise how dark it was at that point.

I rounded the day off by painting the projection wall out more and resolving to purchase small stepladders.

Friday was a better day weather wise and therefore lighter.

The leaves were dry so I set out to put fishing line across the space and then hang sets of them.

fishing line as ceiling

fishing line as ceiling

Putting the line in and then stringing the leaves took me most of the day and I ended up with this

I did some work on the sketchbooks and thought about the effect I wanted for the leaves in the space, is it getting too busy?

I won’t be here next week so that will give me time to think about what I want from the space and also to work on the projection – in sketchbooks and mentally. I still need stepladders and I need to get the computer and webcams down to the site.

 

 

Studio Build FIVE

Week Four in the Studio:

The start of this week was very cold. This has caused me to think very clearly about the things I want to do and work quickly when I’ve decided. Ten minutes of inactivity can mean my hands are too cold to hold a hammer and a paintbrush has no chance. So there is a cup of tea on the go almost continually. Today my biggest expense will have been boiling the kettle.

back wall with text, charcoal

back wall with text, charcoal

I first wrote out the text I wanted on the piece using charcoal and white conté. The words are from TS Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, where he contemplates time and the loss engendered by presence, this is the closest I have got so far to the ghosts I’m exorcising in the work as a whole. The insistence of the birds drawing you into the garden resonates.

corner outlined lettering

corner outlined lettering

I managed to paint in the letters in black, white and grey, before working over them with the paint thinned down and tearing some of the collaged paper. Then I had to stop to allow the work to dry and the cold drove me home!

Wednesday visit from Axis Web and DMBC rates assessment, they check to see the space is being used for the purpose stated and confirm the rebate/exemption. Apparently councils vary in their interpretations.

I opened the fire door for the first time to look at the back of the unit and so I could collect some leaves.

looking right out the back

looking right out the back

looking left out the back

looking left out the back

The river is a few metres away.

I have an idea for a curtain of leaves towards one of the corners of the space, not enough to create a barrier but enough to provide a visual disturbance. I can’t decide between this and a scattering, in the air, of leaves throughout the space. To facilitate this I set out to stretch some fishing line, I have no idea if this will work, but the straighter it is the more it disappears.

stretching fishing line

stretching fishing line

I also collected some leaves and set them out to dry.

120 birch leaves

120 birch leaves

I’ll paint them with PVA when they’re dry to preserve the colour as much as possible.

After this I mixed some white emulsion down with PVA and water to paint out some areas of the drawing, I feel the text needs to disappear to a large extent, and the space needs to become whiter. I then worked back into some areas with Indian ink thus negating the work I’d done to lighten the space. It’s in that flux state now where it will either coalesce into a convincing whole or collapse into a horrible mess.

corner painted in

corner painted in

end of Wednesday

end of Wednesday

This week has been shortened as I am also preparing for the Doncaster Art Fair on Sunday, so this video shows the work at the end of Wednesday.

 

Studio Build FOUR

Week Three in the Studio.

Worked on stabilising the big table for the 10” saw. Bought fishing line and tried a leaf to see hoe it worked in the space. I’ll need to stretch the line out so it hangs straighter.

Collaged elements onto the big drawing using PVA diluted 50/50 with water. The idea is that the bubbles will be split and torn when the glue is dry and text has been applied over the top.

Decided I needed the extra panel filling in and a small door added, I’ve made it 60” so you have to stoop to get inside.

Construction involved breaking down the easel I made as I needed the wood and I can’t stretch paper here until the weather is better. Once completed and fitted I painted the new panel and door.

The large drawing looks like this as a whole

Whole drawing flattened

Whole drawing flattened

Studio Build THREE

Week Two in the new studio.

Monday 12th November, built a step and a 80mm platform to allow me to work up high, stretched forty metres of nylon cord across the space just off centre, to the right of the entrance. Tightened some of the hardboard with extra screws.

Wednesday14th November, started the drawing in the big space, outline first and then charcoal.

The charcoal sections treated differently for each one.

Also put the heating on in the little office to dry out the stretched paper. The electricity usage went from 283 KWh to 299 KWh and the board was still not fully stretched after that. That’s £3.20 worth of heat, it was like a sauna in there. It means I won’t be doing any drawing on stretched paper here.

Friday I worked with blackboard paint and white emulsion to build up the interior. I also made a light fitting for the space as it gets dark early.

whole drawing expanded

whole drawing expanded

The whole drawing, as near as I can replicate it, looks like this. In progress, there is a long way to go, collage elements next.

This last video has the emulsion sections added with the light on. There is still a long way to go before I begin to add the interactive elements.

 

Drawing Towards Sculpture [THREE]

[ONE] talked about the development of collage drawings from site specific drawings and notes, [TWO] took a diversion to discuss drawing as an act of translation and touched upon the drawing dictating its own ends, [THREE] examines the transition of the drawings to two new forms, stand alone 3d entities and an environment.

To start this post I have to step back to before the first post and talk about the reasons for addressing the thing that has sat at the back of my mind for years and is now asking to be experienced. I have always found gardens important. I can track my life through these outdoor spaces where I first experienced a simulacrum of freedom. Where I first daydreamed, projecting myself into a smaller world, that was at once battlefield, farmyard, football pitch. Where I buried hamsters, birds and cats. A space that has remained a place for play while the nature of playing has changed. Where the past is always drifting just out of sight bar the shadows in the corner of your eye. I have continually created gardens, or parts of gardens, since the 1980’s.

BA Final Show Installation 1982

This view of my BA final show in 1982 shows a selection of sculptures built from the observational drawings of storms and landscapes that are displayed behind them. Response to nature has always been there in my work. I was introduced to art in the late ’70’s as a way to explain rather describe, but increasingly I have come to see it as a way to suggest. To render an implication rather to only evidence an event or place.

Continuing with the translation of drawing into sculpture it is relatively easy to see the change from these collage/drawings

Collage Drawings 2018

Collage Drawings 2018

To this sculpture

Ptolemy's Garden 1

Ptolemy’s Garden 1

Or this one

Ptolemy's Garden 4

Ptolemy’s Garden 4

There is a clear line of, for want of a better word, progress between these small sculptures and the earlier ones.

The process through drawing to sculpture is led through the development of a repertoire of marks that are refined as the pieces develop. The pieces are stand alone but are always placed to accentuate their edges and to articulate empty space through their proximity.

The work also develops into environmental pieces – the installation of the exhibition illustrated above as an obvious example – or the piece I made for my MA at www.veilworld.co.uk
This particular range of work is growing into this environment. http://www.ian-latham.com/geranium/geranium.html

3D model view of proposed geranium project installation

3D model view of proposed geranium project installation

 

Drawing Towards Sculpture [TWO]

How a drawing progresses through thought and action is what I thought I wanted to discuss but as I began to write I found that what concerned me was how the thing made is understood, what expectations I had of an audience and how and whether my intentions could or should be communicated by that thing. In continuing to think about the act of drawing as a symptom, or as a consequence or corollary of sculpture in part one of this post, I brushed against the idea of making a drawing being the subject of the drawing. This is too simple an explanation of process. The two drawings below for instance were made before the collage drawings in the first post but survived the cut, as it were, as they help explain the spaces I’m interested in. There are changes of viewpoint across the picture plane, working to no particular plan, disrupting the perspective to reflect the way that memory disrupts experience. Isolating objects in instances that refer to other things.


The creative act is perhaps best described as an act of translation. The ‘change or conversion to another form, appearance, etc.; transformation:’i Translation is notoriously difficult because of changes to understanding between one state and another. Linguistically this is demonstrated by obvious loss of sense or meaning with literal change, just try google translate to explore it. In artistic terms the same things apply, the nature of a mark implying three dimensional space is different to that of a mark occupying a space and that may imply a different meaning. I have often seen maquettes that fail to translate an appropriate sense of scale for instance. In Greek Poetry Translations M. Byron Raizis discusses these difficulties in translation and steps the translator needs to take to overcome them. In particular he cites anaplasis, transposition,padding, omission, inversion, correction and adjustment, and says ‘by anaplasis we mean a remoulding, a recasting of the words, expressions imagery etc., of the original into new and different but more naturally corresponding lexical features in the target tongue’ (Byron Raizis, 1981)ii This seems to me apposite in describing the act of drawing.

The drawing below (I say drawing advisedly, I have never really thought of myself as a painter and I can’t see a difference in the activities other than their existence as an end in themselves.) illustrates this recasting for me. The scene is the garden of a house on Coronation Crescent in Preston, Lancashire in 1991. The garden is viewed from the front door in the centre of the end wall of a two up two down end terrace property. It had been emptied of plants the previous winter and planted up in the spring. It’s now the end of summer and the garden feels like the whole of the world at this point. The intention is not facsimile, photographic or even technical, it’s not an illustration. The garden is deliberately sparse and the shadow heightened. The desire is to present visual analogies to memories that are always questionable. iii

Today I read an article about an art class in Sydney in which Professor of Fine Art Paul Thomas invited 14 participants from UNSW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) to examine Bell’s theorem (1964) via their still life drawing of a simple wooden chair.

‘Irene Fernandez, who is doing a PhD in Quantum Computing at the School of Electrical Engineering, said the workshop inspired two ideas.
“The idea that when you make a trace, you statistically determine the reality of the object that you are trying to measure,” she said.
“I could see the chair as the reality that [Albert] Einstein believed in, and my hand as the tool of quantum mechanics.”
“[Secondly] the idea that the material memory makes this interesting effect where you no longer control your drawing, but it is the drawing that starts driving your decisions.” ‘iv

The second point neatly sums up what I have been trying to get at.

 

i. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/translation

ii. Byron Raizis, M (1981). Greek Poetry Translations. Greece: Efstathiadis Group. In the introduction – The Nature of Literary Translation. I am indebted to Mary Jacobus’ book Reading Cy Twombly about the artists use of poetry in his paintings and in particular the Introduction that discusses translation as part of the creative process. Jacobus, M (2016). Reading Cy Twombly. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

iii. There is a good article about this idea on The Conversation blog, “Research shows that we don’t actually access and use all available memories when creating personal narratives. It is becoming increasingly clear that, at any given moment, we unawarely tend to choose and pick what to remember.” Mazzoni, G. 2018. The ‘real you’ is a myth – we constantly create false memories to achieve the identity we want. 19th September. The Conversation. [Online]. [27 September 2018]. Available from: https://theconversation.com/the-real-you-is-a-myth-we-constantly-create-false-memories-to-achieve-the-identity-we-want-103253

iv. Nazaroff, D. 2018. UNSW Newsroom. [Online]. [24 September 2018]. Available from: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/quantum-physicists-take-art-class-rethink-their-view-reality

 

Drawing Towards Sculpture [ONE]

Establishing a repertoire of marks to explore an imagined space. That’s what I imagined myself articulating when I set out to write a blog post about a set of collage-drawings I made in June. These drawings are a transitional stage between sketches made in the garden and an imagined/virtual space. I make sketches and take photographs in the location, make bigger drawings from these in the studio, tear these up and use them as the base for the collage-drawings which are then transferred to virtual spaces as a preliminary to being recreated, and thus further altered in a manufactured physical space.

Drawing is about looking. Looking at the object or scene and looking at the paper or ground (or should that be support?) and looking at both simultaneously. Drawing is translating your feelings in the presence of the object/scene into a surface that communicates. Henri Matisse stated that his ‘…line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion’ and Picasso that ‘To draw, you must close your eyes and sing’ (Worsdale et al, 2007)1. Something beyond draughtsmanship creates a drawing that makes connections with an audience.

These drawings are a means to an end, or rather a step on a meandering journey, the end is vague like the horizon, affect not effect. The translation of feeling is semi-conscious in that occasionally a further use for the mark you make occurs and in doing so conditions the next mark you make, sometimes to its detriment. Sometimes the things you imagine as you copy become the things you copy and sometimes you don’t want this. This is why I make drawings to destroy or recreate in three dimensions. Even where a drawing is an accurate enough depiction to be recognised, either generally or specifically, this is not the whole of its intention. I note to myself at this point that if this were drawing as a cure for cancer it would be homeopathy.

Cézanne writes to Emile Bernard on the 23rd October 1905 “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you”.(Derrida, 1978) 2. Derrida uses this as a departure for a series of musings on the nature of truth in painting. Here are four interpretations of the meaning of ‘the truth in painting’ I found in a breakdown online at Kent State University. 3. They address the questions I’m trying to ask, albeit considering painting.

(1) the thing itself (truth as unhiddenness, disclosure, presentation; unveiled with no disguise whatever).
(2) an adequate, accurate representation of the thing itself—Heidegger’s secondary sense of truth.  These two concepts of truth enable one to generate four possibilities: a presentation of a representation (see, look at this photograph, here); a presentation of a presentation (“Behold, the man!”); a representation of the presentation (a painting of the situation in which the presentation just mentioned occurred); and representation of the representation (a slide of the painting).
(3) the truth in the sense proper to a picture (whatever that may be—a play of possibilities opens up here), as opposed to truth in the sense proper to an essay, for example.
(4) the truth about painting.

These potential revelations are always present in an encounter with an artwork, what it presents itself as being, what it copies, the context in which you encounter it, the truth it tells as you interpret it, what is open to you from your contribution and what is closed to you through your ignorance. They apply equally on all occasions to the artist as much as the audience especially if you follow Picasso’s instruction.

So these drawings are made to be a staging post, a base camp, before the assault on a greater challenge. They explore the nature of the spaces between the branches and twigs of the trees, the sky and the ground, the garden and the gardener, the now and the remembered. The space between the intention to make a mark and the making of that mark.

This is one of the drawings the others were made from, in this set there are 41 A1 collage/drawings. They can all be seen in this gallery

NOTES:
1. Worsdale, G et al (2007). DRAW Conversations around the legacy of drawing. England: MIMA. These are quoted by Gordon Burn and Jennifer Higgie in short essays in the catalogue to mima’s (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) inaugural exhibition. They are unattributed there and I have been unable to find a source so may be apocryphal.
2. Derrida, J (1987). The Truth in Painting. (Translation Bennington G, McLeod I). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
3. The Truth in Painting. 2007. Aesthetics Notes for Students. [Online]. [19 September 2018]. Available from: http://www.personal.kent.edu/~jdrake3/JeffreyWattles/Aesthetics/Aesthetics10.html