Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Two Sides to a Story...

graphite/60x30cm (3 parts, each 20x30cm)
original sources: 'Daily Telegraph' & 'Daily Mirror' 20/05/08

This image in three parts was transcribed from two original sources, showing an opposite view of the same event, the former appearing in one of the more demure 'quality' broadsheets, the latter from one of the brasher tabloids...interesting to note, however, that both pictures were captioned with punning headlines.


'Test Match Special' (England v NZ)

and another of those holiday-time trawls through the dusty corners of the CD collection...

Luna 'Best of'
The Birthday Party - homemade compilation from 'Prayers on Fire', 'Junkyard' & EPs
Bjork 'Homogenic'
Super Furry Animals 'Phantom Power'
Lambchop 'I Hope You're Sitting Down'
Beth Orton 'Central Reservation'
Dandy Warhols 'Come Down'
Sigur Ros 'Takk'
PJ Harvey 'Is This Desire?'
Chris Whitley 'Living With the Law'
Morrissey 'Suedehead' (best of)
Cowboy Junkies 'Whites Off Earth Now!!'

Monday, May 19, 2008

The World Turned Upside Down

Today the opposite of tomato is ‘dance, dance, dance, dance, dancing to the radio’ (& singing along to ‘Transmission’ & other of the songs of Joy Division)

original source: ‘The Guardian’ 13/05/09

Featuring another drawing transcribed from a newspaper photograph compositionally featuring a distinct grid format (see numerous previous posts referring to the personal addiction to this icon of artistic Modernism), done so on a deliberate, resolved square-by-square basis as much as possible.

The drawing was actually made in the manner illustrated below, i.e. from the original source inverted.

The inspiration for this technique was that of the painter Malcolm Morley, observed doing so in a recently-watched DVD featuring the artist discussing his work in a most interesting, engaging & entertaining manner whilst painting.

The film itself is one of a whole series of interviews with individual contemporary artists produced by Illuminations, going under the umbrella title of ‘theEYE’. The films are most informative, being of a format that allows the artists themselves to talk – at about 25 minutes length – about their work whilst in its company or otherwise illustrated by specific examples of taken from across the individual’s career: the access this allows to the creative process, influences, techniques, etc, expressed in someone’s own words, builds up a fascinating portrait of a particular artist – with instant ‘influential’ results, as can be seen!

Returning specifically to Morley, the technique he currently employs is to take a newspaper photograph, divide it into squares (measuring & then cutting, rather than leaving it in one piece), squaring-up a canvas accordingly, & then attaching the inverted sections of the photo next to the square on which he will transcribe it, enlarged, faithfully, meticulously, in paint, physically working from the top left of the canvas across & down but of course transcribing the photo from its bottom right, upside down. In this manner, the image is only resolved when the finished canvas is inverted to reproduce the photo in its original state, & the working process is thus an accretion of small finished sections at a time – all, in themselves, individual abstract paintings that only exist in relation to their immediate neighbours as the process unfolds.

In this manner, working from the inverted photographic original & from, as habitually, top left to lower right, was the drawing made, being an abstract process disconnected from any figurative considerations, an interesting variation on the usual process of transcription.

Further to ‘theEYE’ films, I intended during the previous post to make mention of Gary Hume’s in the series, which had reminded me of his ‘Water Paintings’ & provided the direct inspiration for the related ‘overlaid images’ composite drawing from the tabloid ‘girlie’ original sources.


Scritti Politti ‘White Bread Black Beer’
PJ Harvey ‘Uh Huh Her’
Bjork – homemade compilation from ‘Debut’, ‘Post’ & remixed tracks
Wire ‘A Bell is a Cup Until it is Struck’
Low ‘Trust’
Luna ‘Best of’

and, in memory of Ian Curtis & the anniversary of his death on 18th May (1980),

Joy Division ‘Unknown Pleasures’, ‘Closer’ & ‘Substance’
still magnificent after all these years.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Seeing Double

original source(s): ‘The Sun’ 01/05/08 & the ‘Daily Star’ 14/05/08

As an attempt at something a little different, this transcription features a composition combining the images from two separate photographic originals.
Tidying up at work one day, I retrieved a discarded or forgotten copy of the tabloid newspaper ‘The Sun’. This publication in particular is renowned for its tradition of the ‘Page 3 girl’, in the best pin-up tradition, a topless pose of a young woman, of a so-called ‘glamorous’ nature, & I wondered if it might be possible to incorporate such an image into The Project, given its archetypal standing within the newspaper photo canon, & if such unambiguously titillating subject matter might be reclaimed in some way for art, if rendering such as a drawing, through the process of, might alter its reception & meaning in any way. Given that such examples from the history of art as many of the typical ‘Salon’ paintings of the 19th century as referenced & indeed transcribed recently could reasonably be claimed as & criticized for being made for similar purposes – although perhaps appealing to a more bourgeois audience than the British tabloid press’s target audience – I was concerned that such a drawing might merely fall into the same trap &, whilst a solution was intermittently contemplated, remained on hold as a ‘possibility’, but, then, subsequently retrieving a copy of another such newspaper, the ‘Daily Star’, containing a similar image, I was presented with an opportunity to attempt a different approach than what might otherwise be a more or less straight transcription. Another more recent example from the history of art more obviously displaying such 'glamorous' subject matter might be the work, in general, of the Pop artist Mel Ramos, which often references, in seemingly celebratory fashion, the world of advertising's use of naked young women's bodies to sell products of almost any nature, especially those that might appeal to men's sense of their own masculinity.

Hence the inspiration for this drawing – although itself being done on a considerably reduced scale & thus lacking much complexity - was an example of Gary Hume’s 'Water Paintings', which I saw as part of his exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1999, large-scale works of multiple, overlapping line drawings of nudes, based on magazine photos, punctuated by flat areas of colour (the lines in fact being the bare aluminium surface of the support), where the multiplicity of facial features, breasts, nipples, etc, renders their being read as belonging to any specific figure ambiguous.

Gary Hume ‘Water Painting’
household gloss on aluminium/1999

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


original source: 'The Guardian' G2, 12/03/08

The source image of this transcription is a ‘photograph’ – convincingly real enough in appearance - of something that doesn’t actually exist, at least yet, the subject being, rather, a proposal by the Chinese architect Zhang Ke for the ‘Book Tower’, two blocks of urban dwellings. The appeal of such a subject, such an architectural idea, at least aesthetically, should be obvious to a bibliophile, although I entertain serious reservations as to whether you’d ever get me up in one of those things, were it ever to be realised. There’s something obviously Cubist about the look of such structures, the forms, planes, appearing fractured, suggesting perhaps the shifting of plates over each other, as though one occupies the privileged position of being able to view the towers from a variety of angles at once - viewing them in the round, in motion, when one considers how architecture is usually experienced, especially in pictorial form, from a fixed perspective - which is at the same time unsettling, somehow potentially vertigo-inducing, through unfamiliarity & the sense of movement, of slippage, of the whole(s) being on the point of collapsing over, into each other. As indeed a stack of books might do, something I’m constantly aware of, given the stacks of books existing on the floor here due to limited proper storage space…

On the subject of books, I’m currently consulting ‘Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing’ a great deal. A broad survey of contemporary drawing practice in all its many guises, the book contains a fine introductory essay by Emma Dexter, locating the place of drawing as a fundamental human activity, how it communicates, an overview of its history, its development & the variety of roles it occupies in contemporary creative practice, all most informative & thought-provoking. I’m particularly interested in the distinctive nature of drawing as an artistic activity & the process of doing so – I love the notion proposed within the essay of the incomplete nature of drawing(s), how it/they are always in a state of becoming & remain so, as opposed to painting which might be expected to strive for & arrive at some sense of completion, although I do subscribe to the idea of Andrew Benjamin of ‘the work of art’, something along the lines where any artwork remains in a constant & enduring state of ‘becoming’, its sense of closure forever deferred due to art’s dependence on the viewer to complete the circle of the work it performs.

Of the featured artists, I’m engaged in aesthetic terms not least by the work of D-L Alvarez, producing ‘pixellated’, grid-format drawings based on archive media photographs of, for instance, aspects of the history of such culturally familiar & significant subjects as the so-called ‘Manson family’ that of course formally reference Modernist pictorial concerns through the explicit statement of the grid, thus recalling the failure of the project of artistic Modernism, occurring at around the same time many of the romantic cultural ideals of the period were turning sour, embodied by such events as those surrounding the Manson clan.

D-L Alvarez '\\\' 2003

D-L Alvarez 'Mary Mary' 2004
graphite/(in two parts) 21.5x15.375" each

D-L Alvarez 'Rise' 2005

In a related manner, an artist such as Paul Noble has long been engaged with similar subject matter through his construction of his intricately-detailed, meticulously drawn ‘Nobson Newtown’, an idealistic, utopian social project that has become instead something of a doomed, dystopian nightmare as such are wont to do. Through this, we might link back to the drawing of Zhang Ke’s proposed ‘Book Tower’ if considering the trend in the UK in the 1960s & 70s to replace whole streets, networks of dwellings, communities, with high-rise developments that ultimately seemed to create more social problems than they solved.

Paul Noble 'Nobson Central' 2000

Again, it’s interesting, in such a context, that Emma Dexter’s essay foregrounds the romantic, subjective nature of a significant amount of drawing practice & how such are regaining a degree of currency in artists’ practice, an aspect particularly facilitated by drawing, & not least the immediacy of its nature, as a means of communication & expression, & its ability to explore & propose any manner of alternative, imaginative realities, how, following Paul Klee’s lead, ‘taking a line for a walk’ can lead just about anywhere one wishes or dreams.

Also, for some fictional relief, but nonetheless requiring equally close reading & concentration, Georges Perec’s ‘Life a User’s Manual’, coincidentally discovered in Oxfam shortly after having encountered a mention, recommendation, of it, ‘somewhere’. Although only a short way in thus far, it has engaged my attention from the beginning, itself describing the nature & form of a jigsaw puzzle which the subsequent narrative then takes, being divided into sections containing a series of short chapters, short stories each, which overlap, interlace & interlock in the manner of a jigsaw. The story is set in a building, divided into apartments (pieces of the whole), which, in a grid form (wouldn’t you just know it - note also the cover design of the edition in question, of grids within a grid...there's no escape!), the narrative describes in a seemingly random fashion, cataloguing the contents of these rooms which in their turn tell stories of the lives of their owners, the inhabitants, which overlap each other in the service of a grander, related narrative: for example, one of the (apparently major) characters is a watercolour artist who, over a period of many years, has sent a series of paintings made on his global travels (in the company of his factotum, another of the building’s residents) to another of the building’s residents assigned the task of converting these into jigsaw puzzles for, upon his return, the artist to reassemble.


Rachel Unthank & the Winterset ‘The Bairns’
Belle & Sebastian ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ & ‘The Life Pursuit’

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Renaissance Men

original source: 'The Times' 2, 02/05/08

This image, actually not featured, as might be expected, within the sports pages of the newspaper but rather as its 'Image of the Day' elsewhere, was chosen for transcription for the 'art-historical' reasons described within the text accompanying the photograph, presented here in the author's own words as originally printed.


Scritti Politti 'White Bread Black Beer'

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Looking Up...

Today the opposite of tomato is the enduring melancholy beauty of the music of The Go-Betweens

graphite & putty eraser/30x60cm (3 parts, each 30x20cm)
original source: ‘The Guardian’ 28/04/08

This image was chosen for transcription primarily for the juxtaposition of the contemporary figure with those fauns in the painting, of a European academic, ‘Salon’, clichéd, bourgeois style popular particularly during the first half of the 19th century & of a type that pioneer realists & Modernists such as Courbet & Manet sought to challenge & render redundant through their art. The art-historical combination of clothed male & naked female figures was a familiar one, & perpetuated by Courbet & Manet in, for example, ‘The Painter’s Studio’ & ‘Dejeuner sur l’Herbe’ respectively & again here in the source photograph, of Russia’s wealthiest oligarch at the Irkutsk Oblast Museum of Art (accessing the institution’s website has alas not yielded the artist & title of the painting in question). The photo’s composition might also be said to follow a clichéd convention in picturing all concerned united in their heavenward gazes.


Sigur Ros ‘Takk’
Lambchop ‘Aw C’mon’ & ‘No, You C’mon’


In fond remembrance of the work of the late Grant McLennan, on the 2nd anniversary of his untimely death (upon which I posted at the time), The Go-Betweens in all their glory:

‘Before Hollywood’, ‘Spring Hill Fair’, ‘Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond Express’, ‘Tallulah’, ‘16 Lover’s Lane’, ‘The Friends of Rachel Worth’ & ‘Bright Yellow, Bright Orange’