Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Art of the Oscars

Today the opposite of tomato is Cold Dark Matter

Good to see recognition awarded at the Oscars to a (one-time) work of art in the shape of the actress Tilda Swinton, who collaborated some years ago with the artist Cornelia Parker in the realization of the work 'The Maybe', in which Tilda was publicly exhibited, at the Serpentine Gallery, asleep in a glass vitrine.

Cornelia Parker/Tilda Swinton 'The Maybe'

Cornelia Parker has long been an artist I much admire, from the time I first encountered her iconic work 'Cold Dark Matter: an Exploded View', a typical garden shed & its contents blown apart at the artist's request by the British Army & then reconfigured in a gallery setting, the pieces of charred wood & objects hung on wires from the ceiling around a central, single light bulb: experiencing the work at Tate Modern was wonderful, as one is both simultaneously able to walk around the arrangement, the physical object, the not-quite-still-life, & yet be enveloped within it, with dramatic shadows of the suspended objects being cast on the surrounding walls & also the distinctive smell of the charred matter lingering in the atmosphere.

Cornelia Parker 'Cold Dark Matter: an Exploded View'

I recall in particular visiting an exhibition at London's Frith Street Gallery in 1999 featuring 2 more such striking pieces of a similar nature to both Cold, Dark Matter’ & the following illustrations, what one may have, in effect, been able to regard as being charcoal & chalk ‘drawings’, in 3-dimensional form, utilising the materials themselves again suspended from lines of wire. Again, the smell of the charred wood was palpable, particularly confined within a smaller space, adding another aspect to the experience: how cool the chalk piece seemed in comparison.

Cornelia Parker 'Heart of Darkness'

Cornelia Parker 'Edge of England'


Another example of drawing in Cornelia Parker’s practice may be found, literally, in works such as ‘Bullet Drawing’, where the original object is transformed, physically drawn out, into a thin thread of wire & then composed in some manner. It occurs to me that such pieces, line drawings in 3-D, are related to such as the ‘accidental’ linear sculpture/broken-down fence I encountered & photographed a couple of summers ago now: it remains a fascinating subject as, indeed, does that of the art of Cornelia Parker.

Cornelia Parker 'Bullet Drawing'

Interesting too to encounter Tilda Swinton in another context recently, on TV, presenting – or at least being periodically present during & contributing her thoughts & words to – Isaac Julien’s compelling documentary on the life of Derek Jarman: the archive film footage of Jarman, such an engaging & erudite character, was fascinating, in keeping with the interesting nature of his art & the range of generally, be it film, painting or his garden at Prospect Cottage. I recall the experience of his ‘Evil Queen’ paintings, in Manchester some years ago, being a particularly visceral – the sheer physicality of the mass of paint on the canvases & the apparent frenzy of its application & the working-back-into-of, words & slogans gouged into the luscious surfaces, that represented a raging against the dying of the light as Jarman succumbed to Aids & its attendant blindness & physical waning - & profound one, such was the power the work communicated. Some of these paintings may be found here.
I recall also a moving TV documentary of the making of that work…it’s important that such figures, their work & general socio-cultural contributions should be remembered, it’s good that their art remains to remind us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Today the opposite of tomato is the music of Galaxie 500.

The purpose of this particular image as source material lies not in its ostensible subject matter - which is of no significance - but rather in its formal, ‘quintessentially photographic’ qualities: the obvious statement of discrete areas of focus within the whole image & the consequent dialogue between the clearly-defined & blurred areas of its composition. As previously mentioned, this also seems akin to human vision, where immediate, select(ed) details are focussed upon & properly ‘seen’, with much of the information entering through the lenses of the eyes remaining peripheral & undefined, indistinct, this particularly applying to things, objects, in very close proximity.

The subject of the drawing, as ever, is the ‘all-over’ process of transcribing the image through mark-making, each mark of equal significance, possessing equal ‘weight’, individually & collectively within the overall composition of the image, with no hierarchy of in/distinctness particular to the photographic original from which it is sourced.

original source: 'The Daily Telegraph' 19/02/08


Galaxie 500 ‘Today’, ‘On Fire’ & ‘This Is Our Music’
Low ‘Secret Name’ & ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’
Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man ‘Out of Season’
Rachel Unthank & the Winterset ‘The Bairns’

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Point of View

Today the opposite of tomato is
“Partly fish, partly porpoise, partly baby sperm whale”.

The appeal of this particular image as source material primarily resides in the angle from which the photograph is taken, one of those that seems specific to or to suggest obviously the presence of the camera in the production of either still or moving images. Again, the process of transcribing the range of tones, the progression from one to another as discrete areas across the surface of the page, proved entirely abstract in nature, the forms & subject matter gradually emerging as image content as the drawing resolved itself. The apparent resulting subject matter might be regarded as a still life, such is the composition of the component objects for all their animation by the associated human presence.

graphite, 30x20cm
original source: ’The Daily Telegraph’ 04/02/08

Monday, February 18, 2008

Aby’s Got a Brand New Hairdo

Today the opposite of tomato is ‘White Bread Black Beer’

The photograph of a snow-covered statue of Abraham Lincoln appealed as source material particularly for the opportunity it presented of transcribing a subtle range of gently modulated tones & its ‘minimalist’ white appearance, plus the fact that already there are few layers of representation going on…

graphite: 20x30cm
original source: ‘The Guardian’ 30/01/08


In particular listening for the first time since last year to Scritti Politti’s ‘White Bread Black Beer’, which on a beautiful, clear, crisp, sunny day (for which we’ve actually been quite spoilt this past week) sounded perfect, creating just the right ambience, with promises of spring & summer in its sound, mostly quite light & floaty without being insubstantial, lots of the songs sound almost like sketches or ideas for songs, with all sorts of little bits thrown into the mix & tacked on, & it‘s delightfully informal & intimate for such an approach. And above all, filled with irresistible tunes & the gorgeous, honeyed harmonies of Green Gartside‘s voice. Love the CD packaging too, really original, with a design appearing like a denim, felt & stitching effect, very tactile.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Today the opposite of tomato is ‘Nude as the News’

Another source image coincidentally chosen. Thursday evening brought the final instalment of Andrew Graham-Dixon’s ‘The Art of Spain’ TV series, most interestingly featuring Goya, Picasso, Miro & Gaudi: there‘s always more to learn, or a new angle to appreciate, particularly in the company of such an enthusiastic & erudite writer & presenter. One opinion that proved thought-provoking was that much of Spanish modern art has endured & seems fresh today because it incorporates & retains a quality of the mysterious, being spiritually underpinned as a product of its wider culture. Aside from the art, however, at one point of the programme, a rooftop linking shot featured city traffic below, observed at dusk, closely replicating the appearance of one of the ‘possible’ newspaper photographs from this year’s archive. Hence…

Again, there’s much working back into the layered tones with an eraser & an attempt to subvert the deliberate mark-making process with a suggestion of speeding forms, more abstract than figurative.

original source: The Guardian 21/01/08

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reflective Process...

Today the opposite of tomato is the ‘work’ of art.

A certain sense of achievement today in that, for the first time, The Project managed to do what it set out ideally intending to - complete in the day & on the day itself a drawing transcribed from an image culled from that day’s print media. Just goes to show what might be achieved when it’s possible to devote the day to the work of art uncompromised by other ‘work’ commitments & the necessary evil of paid employment. The fact that the image represented through the drawing process dates from 8th January is neither here nor there, chronology having long since been abandoned in favour of being ‘spoken to’ by an image - either serendipitously or whimsically - from the growing backlog archive.

original source: 'The Guardian' 08/01/08

The process of this drawing incorporated more working-back-into than has been the case thus far over the course of The Project, another form of mark-making, the eraser adding as it subtracts, &/or vice versa.

This particular image - of a reflection of a familiar high street store front & logo as photographed reflected in a rain-slicked pavement - references the work of such original 60s photorealists as, for example, Ralph Goings & Richard Estes & their penchant for utilising reflective surfaces such as glass & chrome in their compositions. A nod to Pop too in the form of the branded logo & one might also include Cubism, in the conundrum of the compressed space, ambiguous depths brought to the surface &, again, the use of the lettering of the logo: I wouldn’t ever wish there to be an escape from art history.

Ralph Goings 'Golden Dodge' oil on canvas 1971

Richard Estes 'Central Savings' oil on canvas

The original image recalled to mind reading a copy of Anthony Burgess’s novel ‘Beard’s Roman Women’, illustrated throughout with photographs of Rome seen in reflection, in glass, in chrome, in water, an interesting experience as I remember.
The Guardian’s online Books blog recently featured a welcome article on Burgess & the neglect his work seems to have suffered, a source of regret to someone such as myself to whom he’s long been a favourite author: good to read such an appraisal & the comments in response.

Currently reading Jeffrey Eugenides’s ‘Middlesex’, most enjoyable, compelling storytelling, fine & witty characterisation, warm & human, energetic use of language & a fascinating portrait of 20th century American socio-history from the viewpoint of an extended Greek immigrant family in Detroit. The hero/ine is, at this juncture, still a young girl, it should be interesting to see how s/he develops…


Given the nature & course of the working day, it’s been possible to properly measure out the drawing process in terms of its musical accompaniment, whimsically chosen. In chronological order:

Charlotte Gainsbourg ‘5.55’
Sol Seppy ‘The Bells of 1 2’
The Delgados ‘The Great Eastern’
Low ‘The Great Destroyer’
Rachel Unthank & the Winterset ‘The Bairns’
Lambchop ‘How I Quit Smoking’

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Still Life

Today the opposite of tomato is
"the dog that ate your birthday cake".
(It's a Wonderful Life)...

Consider then the chancing upon - by an artist habitually inclined towards the still life for creative inspiration but currently involved in a project drawing from images found in the daily print media - the newspaper reproduction of a still image from a new Chinese film entitled ‘Still Life’: serendipity strikes, like Bigmouth, again & presents an unavoidable opportunity.

I particularly like this image, quite breathtaking in its way, also for its high contrast between large areas of black & white, & the presence of the distant tightrope-walking figure.

original source: ‘The Guardian’ Film&Music 01/02/08

The word reproduction is nagging, & levels of are being mused upon thusly re. this particular image from ‘Still Life’ the movie:
The screenplay is a reproduction of events, either real or imagined, from life, of which the film is a reproduction, of which the still image is a reproduction, of which the newspaper print is a reproduction, of which the drawing is a reproduction, of which the scan is a reproduction, of which this internet posting is a reproduction. Considering also of course multiple prints of the film, probable DVD release, copies of the newspaper printed & we’re into the realm of reproduction overdrive: the ghost of Walter Benjamin stalks here…

Coincidental that the review of 'Still Life' makes reference to the film's meditative nature, which brings to mind another aspect of ‘the still life’: the course of a recent & most enjoyable conversation with one who practises yoga & meditation touched upon the meditative nature of drawing as the process of my own practice was described. This is something of which I’ve become more acutely aware than ever during the development of ‘The Project’ of drawing from photographic sources, from the point of long regarding the personal process of mark-making generally as being a profoundly contemplative one. Lo & behold, then, this recent post by artist & Daily Drawing Diarist Rob Pepper, promoting his very own 'drawing is meditation' classes. It should also be credited here that the example of Rob & others proved the inspiration & catalyst for this blog, although the endeavour obviously lacks the rigour & proper integrity of such journals in their true sense, even now when, in theory at least, its content is generated by the daily print media! Nonetheless, thanks are due.

It seems a still life indeed, of sketching in an A4 pad, closely studied from existing print media images, indulging in the process of limited physical activity of small, repetitive gestures whilst concentrating upon that source observed in close proximity. It’s such a necessary part of any day.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Close Encounter

Today the opposite of tomato is
“alright for someone who can hang the absurd on their wall”.

By one of life’s examples of serendipity, whilst working on the previous drawing of the pixellated, ‘gridded’ faces & being reminded, naturally, of Chuck Close’s portraiture, habitually employing such a device however much his style might have developed over his career through both intention & force of circumstance, there occurred in the print media a feature on photographic portraits, illustrated with, amongst other examples, one of Close’s daguerreotype images of Philip Glass.
This, obviously, with its direct reference to an artist who might be regarded as one of the masters of both photorealism & the practice of painting from photographic sources, proved an image too compelling not to feature as the immediate continuation of The Project, as this current body of work has now become, into its second month as it is.

The source photograph is a thing of great beauty, the daguerreotype having a wonderful appearance of antique, burnished metal - understandable given its base of a copper plate. The shallow depth of field is fascinating too, with near detail described with such intense clarity of focus yet, merely a few inches further back, the image blurs into hazy almost-abstraction, devoid of descriptive marks. A cursory glance in the mirror reveals this to be akin to the manner in which vision actually functions: studying one’s own face, little is observed in focus, much of the reflection is peripheral.

Thus the challenge was to transcribe by a process of discrete mark-making the daguerreotype as observed, as a wholly abstract process that, eventually, coalesces into all-over tonal resolution as a surface image, with a constant shift between vague formlessness & a degree of partial clarity.

original source: ‘The Guardian’ G2, 07/02/08

Also presented is an example of Chuck Close’s self portraiture in graphite, from a photographic original, employing a similar tension between sharpness & blur, relating closely to his early monochrome paintings.

Chuck Close ‘Self-Portrait’ 1968 pencil on paper, 23x29”

Working intensely on the drawing for 2 days, it’s interesting to consider the soundtrack to which it was produced, how the work involved in this particular instance can be measured out in terms of music.
Saturday was a day of Scott Walker, following the previous evening’s televised documentary, & a compilation of his first 4 solo albums from the late 60s & also his much-loved interpretation of the songs of Jacques Brel, camp as a row of pink tents & kitsch & over-the-top they might be but still they’re a fabulous, life-affirming experience.
The documentary itself featured quite surreal footage of a performance of ‘Jackie’ on, of all things, ‘The Frankie Howerd Show' - would that such televisual 'happenings’ were possible now…we live in such culturally-diminished times.
The first 2 Goldfrapp albums, the glorious cinematic atmospherics of ‘Felt Mountain’ & the sensual electro-pop throb of ‘Black Cherry’ along with assorted remixed tracks, stylistically & sonically different but similarly of an enduringly enjoyable quality were also given an airing on a whim after too long a hiatus, great to make an aural reacquaintance with such fine music.

On Sunday, & considering the coming week during which Valentine’s day occurs, it seemed appropriate to excavate The Magnetic Fields’ collection of ‘69 Love Songs’: a unclassifiable album in terms of description, covering every songwriting style it’s possible to imagine with, even amongst the pastiches, such an array of fine songs, irresistible tunes, witty & erudite lyrics, addressing the whole gamut of experience from infatuation & devotion to the contempt-turning-to-murder of ‘Yeah Oh Yeah'. It seemed quite an endeavour to attempt to listen to the 3 Cds all through in the one day but it proved such a pleasant experience to be reminded too of its enduring quality & to be excellent accompaniment to the drawing process.

Finally, the contemporary folk - very much of yet transcending the genre - of Rachel Unthank & the Winterset’s ‘The Bairns’, an accomplished achievement & a profoundly affecting experience, traditional & original songs, timeless, magnificently performed, the sister’s voices & the harmonies between are things of beauty indeed, one having the smoky, slightly parched undernote of Cat Power, as too are the instrumental interplay of piano, violin & cello: an album in which to immerse oneself, to surrender to the sonic & emotional depths of, completely. Paul Morley's description of the music as being both 'desolate & intimate' is spot-on, as is his reference both to the Gothic quality - the prevailing mood is often darkly, starkly romantic & evocative of mist-shrouded, lonely shores & bereft souls - &, perhaps surprisingly, the Cocteau Twins, whose presence I was reminded of particularly during the complex vocal harmonies of the closing piece, 'Newcastle Lullaby', which is quite astonishing, the snippets of which scattered throughout the course of the album give no clue as to this form of resolution, where space & time shift in a manner impossible to locate, infinite. Indeed, another of the music's qualities is the sense of space it conveys, both physically, compositionally, between the actual notes played & sung, & imaginatively, which brings to mind, comparably, the music & aesthetic of Low with their tendency towards a spacious minimalism of long, drawn out pieces - simple yet complex - slowly unfurling, & pure, beautiful close vocal harmonies, even though Low's employ a female-male dynamic. The leavening of the whole with the occasional briefer, lighter tune is another factor common to Low & 'The Bairns'. Whatever, it's music most conducive to accompanying & inspiring the meditative process of drawing, whether or not it's possible to communicate this through the work itself: ah, that old chestnut - can visual art aspire to the condition of music?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Today the opposite of tomato is 'The Drift' & other of the extraordinary, unclassifiable art of Scott Walker, as experienced during the viewing of the fascinating documentary '30 Century Man', just broadcast on BBC4.
It's music, Jim, but not as we know it...astonishing.

This image appealed as source material primarily as a challenge to transcribe tonally the pixellated faces of the original coloured photograph.

original source: The Guardian 01/02/08

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

One Step Ahead

Today the opposite of tomato 'looks like Ed Ruscha'...

Wouldn't you know it, but the day after The Opposite of Tomato references the work of Ed Ruscha, the Guardian features an article on the man himself, with images from his exhibition at the Gagosian gallery here.

To honour this coincidence, it seemed appropriate to listen to Lambchop's magnificent 'How I Quit Smoking' album, whose 'The Scary Caroler' namechecks Ruscha too.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pop Goes the Would-be President

Whilst currently studying Mark Francis & Hal Foster's 'Pop' from Phaidon's 'Themes & Movements' series, containing as it does Ed Ruscha's 'Standard Station' & numerous of his & others' photos of gas station signs & other such advertising signage, I coincidentally noticed this photograph, featuring as a major element of its composition a Texaco sign, accompanying a Times article on the US presidential candidates' race: thus it proved too enticing not to use as source material. Spread across two pages in the newspaper, divided down the centre, it also seemed to demand being drawn in similar fashion, as a diptych.

original source: 'The Times' 29/01/08