Sunday, February 26, 2006

Black Lines (Do It)...(More Road Art)

My fascination with the previously-posted double black lines grows with each passing glimpse of them & their endless visual complexities. This latest set of photos has incorporated more self-consciously compositional elements such as patches of mended road, other more subtle changes in road surface texture & variations of colour (not unlike Ad Reinhardt’s ‘black’ paintings, for instance) in addition to incidental features such as drawn chalk markings which themselves add another layer of attraction. Whilst the images themselves offer plenty of visual interest, they inspire too, both in terms of the numerous art references they display &, especially, as it’s not such a leap of the imagination to see them rendered as a form of (apparently) ‘geometric abstractions’ with variously textured, sensuous, painterly surfaces, these latter in the manner of two of my great modern painter heroes, Jasper Johns (& perhaps the double black lines also share the readymade, mundane quality of much of Johns’ ‘iconic’ subject matter such as flags, targets, maps & numbers) & Robert Ryman – also echoing his project of attempting to ‘paint the paint’ (quite literally so, in fact, when one considers representing the black-over-yellow lines which are, of course, themselves painted, obviously so, onto the road surface) - & also, in suitably contemporary vein, those of Gillian Carnegie’s textured black paintings of tree trunks as seen in her Turner Prize 2005 exhibit, with which they particularly share real subject matter. These images seem to offer great potential in terms of engaging in a profound painterly enterprise, which promises hope & represents a goal for the future.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Visual Grids: Marion Manning’s ‘Tracking Dawn’ Project

It may have become apparent that the series of images serving to illustrate the previous 2 posts have been arranged in a grid format: this has largely been nothing more than addressing the practicalities of composing a number of related images in a visually manageable manner. However, the subject of grids seems to be a recurring one at present, & here is the pretext for bringing attention & linking to a series of images similarly arranged thus.

I’d been doing a little research recently into the use of grids in painting & other visual art as a sideline related to a current topic of debate & theoretical exploration (the relation between is very likely to prove fruitless, alas), &, in the course of this, chanced whilst Googling upon something I found rather interesting & very aesthetically inspiring. The something in question is a website featuring the Canadian artist Marion Manning’s Tracking Dawn’ pictorial project, which, all in all, was a fascinating undertaking & produced some wonderful visual results - some, indeed, quite spectacular, sumptuous, gorgeous & ravishing: a veritable aesthetic feast.

Essentially, Manning took a photograph of the dawn each morning over the course of the year straddling the turn of the millennia, June 1999 to June 2000, & her website presents a record of this process. It’s particularly interesting how this project relates to another inspiring one I’d mentioned in an earlier post, that featured in the film ‘Smoke’, fictional in this instance, of course, of a series of photographs, taken on a daily basis, same time, same place, of the same prospect yet, by virtue of their incidental details, all in fact unique. Although, in order to accommodate the change in position of the actual point-in-time of the sun’s rising over the course of the seasons & year, the artist has in fact had to shift the object of focus to a certain degree, fundamentally the photographs are taken from the same vantage point even if the view is slightly different & changing over time before returning to its original focus. However, each dawn reveals this (essentially the) same typically North American subject in a different light & produces a unique result – in terms of light & colour, prevailing weather conditions, vehicular (/human) activity, etc - arranged in weekly, seasonal & ‘best of’ formats on the website, which is well worth a visit: it’s a lovely idea, creatively worthwhile & a beautifully realised documentary enterprise.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Returning to the subject of the pears of previous recentish posts, I noticed with aesthetic interest how, with the passage of time, their skins were developing a network of lines, mostly fine but some broader & more deeply scored - the pears in effect creating ‘drawings’ over their own surfaces, naturally, ‘automatically’ of their own accord in combination with environmental factors. Having recently watched Peter Greenaway’s film ‘The Pillow Book’, an aesthetically ravishing visual feast in itself, my attention was particularly heightened to this phenomenon, which seemed worthy of photographic record: below are presented 2 composite views of a series of sequential points around the circumference of the pears to illustrate the nature of these ‘drawings’.

By way of digression, the essential narrative of ‘The Pillow Book’ revolves around a young Japanese woman’s particular, idiosyncratic interest in calligraphy, which manifests itself in a somewhat fetishistic obsession with writing on the body, on human skin, an interest awakened by her calligrapher father’s habit of writing on her face and neck as a form of birthday greeting, and then developing into her adolescence and adulthood as a desire to have her body written upon and, subsequently, of doing the same to others, lovers, etc, herself, this latter being the device by which she contrives to achieve publication of her own previously rejected ‘pillow book’. It’s very sensual to see human skin, male and female, being used as the ground onto which text is applied, especially by gorgeous Japanese calligraphy brushes, and beautiful to appreciate the art itself. There’s a beauty too, I think, to the interplay of the combination of the delicate tracery of marks or more thickly 'carved' ones inscribed on the pears’ skins & a certain wonder in the process of their occurrence, a natural aesthetic ‘happening’.

(click on the images to access the full-sized versions)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Road Art

Indulging in a spot of shoegazing – old habits, literally & musically, dying hard & all that – resulted in a wonderful aesthetic find at the roadside, in the form of these quite possibly unique local ‘double black line’ road markings. They are in fact the result of a cover up operation to correct the problem of erroneously painted double yellow (vehicle parking prohibited) lines, liberally applied over extensive areas to which they shouldn’t have been. Although the black lines obviously, under such circumstances, serve a functional purpose, still I believe they deserve to be viewed as art, &, indeed, primarily so. To me, the photographs are like reproductions of a series of paintings - relating to the work of, e.g. Robert Ryman (in effect, the black images could be regarded as being 'negatives' of Ryman's white paintings), Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, rather than the obvious initial ‘red herring’ reference to the work of the Boyle family & their physically modelled replicas of areas of the earth’s surface, including, specifically, sections of Tarmacked urban road - simple, modernist-minimalist compositions, yet incorporating a wealth of subtle detail in terms of:

1. colour & tonal variations on the basic ‘black’ theme (provided by both the essential distinction between the lines and the road surfaces they overlay &, in some instances, between the various patches of the repaired roads which, on occasion, can be numerous and quite varied);
2. drawing, both obviously in the lines (& their wonderful wavy, ‘uncertain’, ‘exploratory’ edges) themselves but also in the networks of cracks upon the paint surface & fissures in the underlying road surface, & furthermore in the strips of the leading edges of yellow paint left untouched by the cover up process;
3. a tangible materiality to both figure & ground - textured, ‘tactile’ space as can be found in painting;
4. a physical memory of the cumulative traces of the process of their creation & revisions (which applies to both the over-painted lines – obviously so where the underlying yellow paint shows-through - & the repaired road surfaces);
5. incidental elements, e.g. cigarette butts that neatly ‘art-reference’ the detritus embedded in the surface of some of Jackson Pollock’s paintings, paint splatters that also reference Pollock most obviously, or an engrained sprinkling of builders’ sand that adds another colour to the composition;
6. other road markings deliberately left untouched by the cover up process that again expand the compositional range.

For whatever reason – perhaps most obviously because a greater range of line detail is possible in such a format – it seems a horizontal composition is most effective, at least at this initial stage of exploration, but, displayed vertically, the markings more closely relate to, for instance, Barnett Newman’s ‘zips’, which again is fun for playful ‘referencing’ purposes, & curved areas of line provide another dynamic to the compositions altogether & suggest further possibilities.

Click on the images to access full-sized versions (this, indeed, applies to all the images posted on the blog).