Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reflective Process (ongoing)

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Times' 20/06/08

The source photograph from which this drawing was transcribed was chosen for its essential visual attractiveness (the colours, chiefly reflected blue sky & golden-green foliage, are quite beautiful), although it is also possible in this instance, through the technique applied to its process, to once again make specific reference to the photo-based painting of Gerhard Richter.

Richard Estes 'Double Self'
acrylic/canvas 1976

Gerhard Richter 'Nurses'
oil/canvas 1965

Although such an image might superficially suggest a close affinity with such a photorealist work as Richard Estes's 'Double Self', the original, with reflected imagery overlaying that of the figure, or ‘portrait’, enabled the transcription of the drawing to involve a process of two distinct elements: the underdrawing of a ground subsequently worked back into with an eraser to create a degree of form through tonal subtleties, & then further scored into, swiping across the picture plane with the eraser – negative creating positive – being analogous to Richter’s technique of horizontally brushing across the still-wet surface of his photographically-based paintings to blur the image &, so doing, bring together figurative & abstract painting in one combined image, creating an analogy between them to dissolve the usual binary opposition of these artforms. This method then serves to foreground the act of painting itself, creating visual texture &, as the image thus loses a degree of detail & definition through the blurring process, drawing attention away from the ostensible subject matter in order to allow the act of painting to communicate itself.

This, essentially, is the intention informing the transcribed drawing too, to, reflexively, communicate most directly & primarily the process of its creation & realisation, & the 'abstract' nature of the work over & above any ostensible subject matter, image content, that might result.

Interesting to note that, sharing the cover of 'The Painting of Modern Life' exhibition catalogue (with reference being made to Kaja Silverman's essay 'Photography By Other Means' which features Richter in particular, the painter Johannes Kahrs states that 'the photographic image (which remains a document to some kind of reality other than painting) becomes more physical, more personal, when translated into painting', something I feel also applies to drawing, the act of, the process of the making of marks, & the series of drawings constituting this current Project.


The Smiths
homemade compilation including 'The Smiths', 'Meat is Murder' &, in essence, 'Hatful of Hollow'; 'The Queen is Dead', 'Strangeways, Here We Come' & 'Louder Than Bombs'
'Test Match Special' denouement of Eng/NZ ODI, 25/06/08

As it so happened that Morrissey featured amongst the series of Guardian booklets featuring 'Great Lyricists' & Tim Lott's introductory essay suggested that the words should be heard, in conjunction with the music, rather than merely appreciated as poetry, so a listen to The Smiths became necessary. For all their humour, their bathos, their oft sublime depictions of the passions & quiet desperations of the mundanities of provincial lives less-than-perfect, still Mozzer's lyrics are made better still accomapnied by Johnny Marr's musical genius: the music The Smiths left behind in the wake of their short, brilliant, comet-like burst through the mid-1980s remains uniquely wonderful, 'Meat is Murder' as an album particularly so but so very many of the songs, emotionally involving, sonically arresting in their sheer strangeness, otherness, a quality of their time & still now. Fabulous.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Change = Rest

graphite & watercolour/30x20cm

Having invested in a punnet of cherries, a selection provided the models for a return to still life, this being the first deviation from The Project since it began in the new year: the glossy skins proved irresistible subject matter.


Cat Power 'You Are Free'
Goldfrapp 'Black Cherry'

Monday, June 23, 2008


graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: ‘The Guardian’ 16/06/08

The original image from which this drawing was transcribed was chosen, as always, for a specific, ‘essentially’ photographic quality, namely the capturing of a frozen moment of movement, & also the contrast between this & the stillness of the standing figure who acts as the fulcrum around which the arrested action revolves. Technically, the working-back-into the mark-made ground of the drawing assists the sense of dynamism communicated by the image, relating it, spiritually, to Boccioni’s Futurist painting of soccer players used to illustrate the previous post ‘Art & Sport’.

Subconsciously, Euro 2008 is still exerting a significant influence over the content of the current choice of imagery, but undeniably the tournament is producing some compelling photographs to accompany & document the on-pitch action: on an aesthetic note, Holland’s decision to forego the wearing of the ‘magic’ sky blue socks that had seen them prevail over both Italy & then France in such thrilling fashion obviously sapped them of the means to prevent their demise at the hands of Russia…


Lambchop 'Damaged' & 'How I Quit Smoking'
The Delgados 'The Great Eastern'
Belle & Sebastian 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress'
Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man 'Out of Season'
Portishead 'Dummy' & 'Portishead'

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Art & Sport

Today the opposite of tomato is 'stabbing a sorry heart with your favourite finger'

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: The Times ‘The Game’ 09/06/08

The original newspaper image from which this drawing was transcribed was chosen for displaying a couple of familiar photographic traits, namely that ‘frozen moment in time’, movement & action being arrested, & also the manner in which the image is cropped for maximum effect: the figure diving to the right, in the opposite direction to that in which the ball is travelling, a futile, hopeless gesture, needs not be described in full in order to communicate what the image has to & does, with perfect economy – the punning title ‘Two Feet the Wrong Way’, although perfectly descriptive, was in fact superfluous.

Keen observers may have spotted the presence once again of our old favourite & faithful Modernist grid as the main compositional structure underlying & informing the image, in the form of the goal net, & its making, with the drawing being processed on a cell-by-cell basis.

As ever, I was struck, in the process of making this drawing, just how little football &, indeed, sport in general, seems to feature in a fine art context, as subject matter. As in the case of my earlier ‘Renaissance Men’ drawing & related post, where The Times' art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston drew parallels between the pose assumed, naturally, by a group of footballers acknowledging the scoring of a goal & classic, archetypal compositional methods of historical painting, this might at first seem strange, especially considering the ubiquity of sport, football in particular, in the general contemporary cultural & social landscape, but then, perhaps, photography & the moving image best serve the picturing of sport & the capture of its essential nature, action & drama. Still, sport, especially football, which one associates with being performed in colourful outfits, might because of this be thought to provide suitable scope for artistic endeavour, particularly painting, but this is rarely the case. Racking my brains to think of any suitable images from the history of art, I was sure that Futurism had addressed such omissions & eventually a little light research uncovered one such rare example:

Umberto Boccioni ‘Dynamism of a Soccer Player’
oil/canvas, 1913

Interesting to note that whilst photography captures the frozen moment, at least in the great majority of sporting images, this painting, as Futurism habitually attempted to do, strives to suggest movement, reinforced by its title, which again makes it seem strange that more painting largely failed to follow in its wake, especially when considering the fluidity of a medium such as oil paint.

Michael Browne 'The Art of the Game'
oil/canvas, 1997

Another much more recent example, which yet harks back to a considerably earlier time, tradition & style of painting, is Michael Browne's thought-provoking, challenging Renaissance-idiom portrait of the French former footballer Eric Cantona depicted as, perhaps rather controversially, contentiously, the Christ figure, surrounded by other contemporaneous, recognizable figures from the world of football (in fact, a selection of his then-club team-mates & manager): Cantona was, perhaps, through the force of his idiosyncratic personality - cod-philosophical, self-consciously 'arty' & 'serious', distanced from the normal breed of 'laddish', uncomplicated (English) footballer - & iconic status, a fitting subject for such unusual artistic treatment (& also, perhaps, on occasion a suitable case for treatment!).

Piero della Francesca 'Resurrection' 1463

As can be seen, Michael Browne's representation is based very closely on & refers to Piero della Francesca's 'Resurrection', taking as its template the tight, precise, mathematical composition of the original painting, which sets up an interesting dialogue with, again, Rachel Campbell-Johnston's already referred-to analysis of the photograph from which I transcribed the 'Renaissance Men' drawing.

Leo Fitzmaurice

An interesting body of work, that creatively & skilfully makes use of discarded cardboard packaging & succinctly draws attention to the links between sport & sponsorship - often by purveyors of tobacco-based & alcoholic products - has been produced by Leo Fitzmaurice, who transforms cigarette packets, folded & torn, into models of the football shirts sported (no pun intended) by players &, in replica form, supporters alike: these are exquisite little objects, so convincingly reminding one of the logo-liveried shirts of contemporary football teams, the marriage of corporate identities. Fitzmaurice's cardboard 'shirts' might also be a subtle critical comment on the disposable nature of the replica versions of teams' jerseys, 'must-have' items of high fashion sold to the captive, willing market of supporters at (seemingly) expensive prices & changed in design - often on but the very finest points of detail - on a regular, sometimes annual basis, to be discarded in favour of the purchase of the update, essential to the sense of true 'belonging'.

In terms of football & the broader spectrum of the visual arts, another recent & striking 'collaboration' between the two has been the film directed by Turner Prize-winning artist-film maker Douglas Gordon & Phillipe Parreno, featuring the elegant artistic genius (along with the necessary physical presence & aggression) of arguably the game's greatest then-current player, Zinedine Zidane (another Frenchman, of course), throughout the course of a single match, for his Spanish club Real Madrid versus domestic rivals Villarreal: more a conceptual piece of cinema than 'mere' football documentary, this is arguably the closest coicidence of the game & art yet, located still further in the realm of 'the artistic' courtesy of its accompanying musical score (no pun intended, but an interesting contextual double meaning & coincidence there) being provided by the band Mogwai, who are regarded as inhabiting the more 'avant garde' fringes of their particular artform.

But not a remarkably great deal else: perhaps the subject matter, generally, as perceived, remains too ‘low’ to engage serious artists…it does actually seem to be difficult to reconcile art & sport & the worlds they inhabit & needs they address – the closest I get is listening to the cricket commentary on the radio whilst drawing, but then again, the lack of visuals perhaps lends suitable distance from the cricket to facilitate proper engagement with the drawing, & I also consider cricket, like art - & seemingly being of a more similarly contemplative nature than most other sports - to be a branch of philosophy anyway, thus neatly avoiding any conflict of interests!

The most topical confluence of art & sport probably occurred with the recent ‘Sport Relief’ portraits of various sporting personalities by a selection of artists - not all necessarily of the 'fine' ilk - including Peter Blake (of the boxer Ricky Hatton), Gerald Scarfe (Didier Drogba), Jack Vettriano (Zara Phillips) & Stella Vine (Drogba again & Fabio Cappello): actually, if one considers wrestling to be a sport – rather than, perhaps, entertainment of a pantomimic sort – Blake might be considered to have produced one of the most sustained bodies of sporting art, having long made work based on such subject matter & characters amongst his exploration of popular culture in general as suitable subject matter for the ‘high’ art of painting. Picasso's bullfight images might also be classed within the realm of 'sporting' fine art.

Peter Blake ‘Ricky Hatton’


Charlotte Gainsbourg ‘5:55’
Echo & the Bunnymen ‘Ocean Rain’
Cocteau Twins 'Lullabies to Violaine’ vol. 1, ‘Blue Bell Knoll’, ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’
Rachel Unthank & the Winterset ‘The Bairns’
My Bloody Valentine ‘Loveless’

Making various sonic equivalents & crossovers between the latter 3 bands in particular…also, drawing ‘Ocean Rain’ into the fold, considering how perfectly some albums create their own worlds. Whilst the 2 proper Cocteau Twins’ albums seemed somewhat insubstantial on the whole, the collection of EPs from the earlier part of their history to the mid-80s contains much music that endures & sounds, still, like no other, powerful & astonishing. Likewise, little before or since makes quite such a blissful racket as 'Loveless'...peerless.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Yves Saint Laurent

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 03/06/08

Amongst the photographs illustrating the newspaper obituaries of Yves Saint Laurent last week appeared the particular one from which this latest drawing was transcribed: quite possibly it’s my favourite of the source material used so far, having a compelling appearance so redolent of the Sixties amongst its attractions which also include the basic composition & the expression in the model’s eyes – as befitting the subject, perhaps, it’s such a stylish image in every way.

The drawing itself is the second made from the original inverted, as in the recent example similarly inspired by Malcolm Morley's habitual method of doing so - again, the process of transcription becomes a more abstract one, resolving itself into a figurative whole upon completion & re-invertion the right way up again.

Obviously being aware of YSL’s iconic status but not necessarily of all the subtleties as to why exactly – I’m no great follower of fashion or its history, whilst attempting to remain stylish at all times, of course, at least in one’s own idiosyncratic manner! - something struck me as being perfect aesthetically, fashionably, yet unusually, whilst keeping an eye on the Euro 2008 football match between Holland & Italy. Traditionally, the Dutch players sport orange socks to match their always vivid shirts but the latest, current incarnation of their strip featured a delightfully surprising variation in the form of sky blue socks: somehow, this just looks so absolutely ‘right’ – my favourites for the tournament, certainly for these aesthetic reasons, which are the only ones that matter…although the breathtaking speed & precision with which the team broke & scored 2 of their goals in the match are perhaps another & footballing reason to be attracted to them. On a related point, it should be noted that the Italian shirts were, unfortunately, a shade or 2 darker than their usual perfect, beautiful, deep azure ‘Azzurri’ blue – a reason perhaps for their less-than-perfect defensive frailities that enabled the Dutch to so ruthlessly defeat them.


PJ Harvey 'White Chalk'

Thursday, June 05, 2008

More Obsessions...

The very first proper post on this blog featured a reference to an ongoing photographic project that figures within the narrative of the film ‘Smoke’, wherein one of the characters has daily taken an early morning picture from the same spot of the crossroads scene opposite his tobacconist store: ostensibly, the photos – which number 4000 – are all the same, but of course each is different in an infinite variety of details – e.g. weather & light conditions, the presence & passage or absence of human & vehicular traffic.

In a circular coming-up-to-date & similar vein, I’ve recently acquired & read a most interesting little publication, being aware of its existence for some time: Harland Miller’s ‘First I Was Afraid, I was Petrified’. Essentially a short story on the subject & nature of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it is illustrated, delightfully, fascinatingly, by a series of photographs of the same subject – an ordinary, domestic gas cooker with all points switched to & showing their ‘off’ position, in order to allay the owner-sufferer’s fears of their house being consumed by fire during their absence at work – all ostensibly the same, again, but all showing slight variations on the theme, through light conditions, focus & incidental details, as illustrated.

There's also an amusing little twist at the end. A fine work of art to have, refer to & enjoy.

I’m very aware of the obsessive, compulsive nature of, for instance, drawing &, perhaps, particularly the current Project. There also seems to be a very strong sense of such in my other current reading matter - as previously mentioned, Georges Perec’s ‘Life a User’s Manual’ & the tendency of its narrative to obsessively list, for example, the contents of rooms & apartments in minute detail: it’s a curious read but deeply rewarding in its idiosyncrasies.

Maxximum Emotion

Today the opposite of tomato is "a little down with a lifetime to go"...

graphite & watercolour/20x30cm
original source: ‘The Guardian’ 22/05/08

Contemporaneous with photographic images in the daily newspapers of the anguished faces of surviving victims of the Chinese earthquake, & uncontrollably blubbing incompetent footballers (you know who), appeared the source from which this drawing was transcribed, illustrating an advertisement for the store TK Maxx urging potential customers not to be left upset at missing the bargains available through their latest designer promotion. Scanning through the pages of the newspaper, the images obviously occupy similar weight at a purely visual level, & indeed this one was chosen as raw material because it displayed the most aesthetic appeal to me (accusations of superficiality would be, of course, entirely warranted). However, removed, liberated from its original context, & drawn in monochrome from a vividly coloured source, the image has the potential to take on new meaning for any spectator, dependent on their subjectivity & perhaps assuming no prior knowledge of the source. Interesting to remark, then, upon the recourse to signs to signify such as emotion: here, in an entirely artificial construct, the wildly dishevelled hair, mascara-streaked cheeks, set of the mouth on the cusp of tremulousness & look in the eyes suggest, express a ‘significant’ degree of distress at odds with the everyday reality of the situation – this, of course, is also what acting, theatre, cinema does, in common with this image in both its original form & drawn representation, to varying degrees of convincing believability.

Perhaps the most iconic image of a weeping woman would be Picasso’s 1937 painting of that title, produced subsequent to his masterpiece of the Spanish Civil War, ‘Guernica’, which itself features a grieving female figure amongst its cast, & of which the image below is a related drawing. Aware of the historical, contextual references informing the paintings, one can be utterly convinced of the emotional charge they convey & the resonance they have, however stylized, aestheticized the representation.

Picasso 'Woman Weeping' drawing


Elvis Costello & the Attractions 'Girls Girls Girls'
Scott Walker 'Sings Jacques Brel'