Tomatoes

Over the summer I planted tomatoes for the first time in years. I didn’t get them in until May so the fruit ripened in September and was so ugly that may wife declared they could not be eaten. So here’s what I did with them.

This is the first painting – I tend to find first versions are over involved, become fussy and subject to continual finessing, and make me wish there was someone there to tie my hands so that I stopped. These are placed on a drawing board on my turntable in my attic studio. Oil on Paper 90×90.

Two tomatoes Oil on board 46x81cm

Two tomatoes Oil on board 46x81cm

As I progressed I used a lot of red and yellow paint so I started other paintings so as not to waste any. This is the first, on hardboard that was lying around. I’m trying to establish their weight and get the right shininess onto the surface.

Two Tomatoes Two oil on board 46x81cm

Two Tomatoes Two oil on board 46x81cm

another Two tomatoes version done at the same time and with the same ends. I decided I wanted to paint all eight with a different background to concentrate their redness.

Tomatoes on Yellow oil on paper 115x90cm

Tomatoes on Yellow oil on paper 115x90cm

The photograph doesn’t do complete justice to the yellow, the two tones are a lot closer.

At the same time I made two sets of three tomatoes.

three tomatoes two oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

three tomatoes two oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

I did these as I had some watercolour paper stretched and I wanted to see how the absorbency affected the paint.

three tomatoes oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

three tomatoes oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

By this time the tomatoes were beginning to get soft so I disposed of them humanely! They are heirloom beefsteak tomatoes and the biggest of them was just over a pound in weight and about eight inches across.

The whole episode took about three weeks and is easily enough red for one project.

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

 

Some thoughts on art education

The International Society for Education Through Art (InSEA) has just published their 2018 Manifesto

Obviously it lists a set of beliefs, e.g. ‘Education through art inspires knowledge, appreciation and creation of culture’ or ‘Visual art education develops an understanding of creative practice through knowledge, understanding and production of art in contexts’ and some that are couched as instructions ‘All learners, regardless of age, nationality or background, should have entitlement and access to visual art education’ and ‘Educational programmes and curriculum models should prepare citizens with confident flexible intelligences, and creative verbal and non-verbal communication skills’ for example. All are apparently laudable, if open to interpretation, and may be true for some, most or all people but equally they may not. How do you define citizen, or for that matter culture?

In one statement the manifesto defines the nature of visual art education, saying that ‘Visual art education should be systematic and be provided over a number of years, as it is a developmental process. Learners should engage with ‘making’ alongside learning about art’. This statement raises questions for me. Is art a developmental process? Should it be systematic? What’s the system? And what about ‘making’? isn’t ‘making’ learning about art rather than, as is implied, a separate activity?

'Critical Studies?' 2018 WIP - Oil on Paper 120x90

‘Critical Studies?’ 2018 WIP – Oil on Paper 120×90 – underpainting

Further the manifesto suggests that ‘Visual art education opens possibilities and opportunities for learners to discover themselves, their creativity, values, ethics, societies and cultures.’ Isn’t that what education does, if we’re doing it right? The danger is that we identify visual arts as the place where learners develop all the skills linked to creative thinking and by doing so exclude creativity in other subjects. A good read on this is the recent article on the RSA website by Julian Astle which contrasts Sir Ken Robinson’s well known view on schools and creativity with that of Tim Leunig who, when working as Chief Scientific Advisor for the DfE, argued that “True creativity is based on knowledge which in turn is based on literacy”. I don’t think schools necessarily kill creativity, I think Ken Robinson’s argument is that the way we are educated stifles creativity. Tim Leung’s argument seems to be too specific to carry any weight and highlights that experiment means different things to scientists and artists. What schools do increasingly, and along with society as a whole, is hammer the individuality out of children, and only the strongest survive.

The manifesto is listed under ADVOCACY on the InSEA website, and in the UK at the moment, or at least in England, the arts lobby is beginning to gel around objections to successive governments’ marginalisation of creative subjects. In a capitalist society everything has to translate to a financial return, there is therefore no intrinsic value to an activity there is only value in trade, and ‘art’ activities are generally high risk in financial terms. Society (or if you like ‘culture’) therefore struggles to ascribe value to these activities, it is not easy to see where the ability to visually critique the actions of your local council, or paint a forget me not, is going to help you pay for the NHS. What has happened over the course of my career in education is that Visual art, and the arts in general, have become more and more the leisure activities of the well off.

So what? Does art education start with a notion of pedagogy or just with a gathering?

Art ought to be subversive, so the political situation is almost ideal now, and people almost invariably have an urge to transgress. Art should disrupt the status quo to highlight society and culture to itself as art is a mirror. The beauty of art education is that art is about failure. Through learning about art you develop resilience and we could all do with a bit more of that.

I would like to see an approach that isn’t certificated or examined except by portfolio or individual creation. It should be for everyone and take place in a forum where experience is shared, where you bring your knowledge and share it with a peer group who bring theirs. Where you identify what you want to learn and find people who have the skills or knowledge to share. Where you are challenged and can respond to that challenge without rancour.

More catching up

I’ve been making work around the area where I live for a while, in particular two new paintings in the last couple of months. So I thought it was worth gathering them together here.

Towards Tickhill Road from the bus stop.

Towards Tickhill Road from the bus stop.

This one is the reverse view of an earlier painting from a position down the road to the left of the above image.

Two trees Balby from Clayfields

Two trees Balby from Clayfields

I’ve also been working on a series of bus stop paintings, one painting straight to the surface without any drawing and the next drawn out to scale.

Wordsworth Avenue from the bus stop, 7:00 am

Wordsworth Avenue from the bus stop, 7:00 am

First Bus Stop painting. Wordsworth Avenue from Sandford Road at 7:12 am.

First Bus Stop painting. Wordsworth Avenue from Sandford Road at 7:12 am.

Finally a painting from my front window looking towards Byron Avenue.

View from the living room towards Byron Avenue.

View from the living room towards Byron Avenue.

These are beginning to build to a nice set of images, I’m thinking of painting pictures from all the bus stops leading into Doncaster.

A new first post!

It’s been a while, December 29th 2012 in fact, so here’s an early new years resolution. Post more regularly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The image was taken in my studio about a year(ish) ago and I may have posted it to Facebook at some point in 2013. The print is a Twombly ‘Protea’ and the paintings are developments. Another one, around the same time,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

continues my obsession with the bottom of my garden.

There are other images from the years since I last posted, and there are posts that I typed up somewhere but never published. I’ll get to them. For now this a pre resolution try out to make sure it all still works.

iPad paintings and drawings

February was an interesting month for me, I was effectively demoted at work through a re-structure, had my workload increased threefold and, due these changes, inherited an iPad.

Fruit Bowl

Fruit Bowl

Very soon afterwards I bought a copy of Brushes and downloaded the free version of Autodesk’s Sketchbook software. Like everyone else I’ve been interested by Hockney’s iPad and iPhone drawings and wanted to see what I could do. The ‘Fruit Bowl’ is my first Brushes drawing.

The drawback to Brushes, along with getting used to drawing with your finger, is that there is a complete absence of texture.

Daffodils

Daffodils

Layering is useful, a background in Illustrator or Photoshop helps, but fundamentally it’s a new medium. I have kept up with Brushes, but these limitations led me to look for other software. I bought ArtRage in March and had a go with that. Daffodils is my first ArtRage painting. I think I was still thinking in computer generated mode and didn’t exploit the variety of mark and texture available.

I had been playing around with Sketchbook Express for a while, but it seemed to be like a more precise version of Brushes, so I left it alone as far as image making went.

 

After a while I tried to look at what the programs appeared to be set up to do. Brushes is, to me, a traditional computer drawing program. Sketchbook is very much a designer’s program, ArtRage is a painting program. I went for shiny stuff!

Kitchen

Kitchen

Kettle

Kettle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The left hand image is a Brushes painting of my stainless steel kettle, the right hand image is a Sketchbook Express version of the same subject.

All of these images have been made since the end of February.  There are more, you can see them here. My favourite so far is this ArtRage painting, it combines watercolour wash with impasto in a way you’d never do on a canvas.

Tea Mug

Tea Mug

But really I think it’s simply because the iPad lends itself to sitting with a cup of tea, bored, when nothing is happening in T’art Club.
 

Garden painting 2009-2012(unfinished)

A painting I’ve been working on since 2009, one of those that got away. There is a value in continuing in the face of failure perhaps, even if only for the freedom you get when you step aside and do something else. Without this painting, perhaps this one
would not have been done.  It’s very easy to get very frustrated with failures, and to batter something into submission, but the end result is usually horribly prosaic when it’s overworked.  Without wishing to get carried away with myself I find I think of the film ‘A Bigger Splash’ and the production of a painting after, and partly as a result of, the destruction of another. I don’t do the destruction thing myself, I’ve got plan chests full of old work, rolled up canvasses, and an incredible range of opportunities to look back in embarrassment.