Saturday, August 30, 2008

Art & Photography

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source; 'The Guardian' G2 26/08/08

The source of this latest drawing in The Project - resuming after a brief hiatus most importantly (& hopefully) spent pursuing a rather intriguing research opportunity - being an introduction to the work of the artist Slinkachu, here most succinctly presented as in its original newspaper article form:

The original image from which the drawing was processed seen in juxtaposition with a broader view gives a sense of the fragile magic of Slinkachu's delightful work, transient interventions into the urban landscape, & also the fascinating tension between the photographs themselves & the manner in which they explore scale, the different & contrasting truths they reveal.


Belle & Sebastian 'The Life Pursuit' & 'Push Barman to Open Old Wounds'

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Drawing & Photography

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'Daily Mirror' 08/08/08

The appeal of this particular source image resides mostly in it featuring drawings as photographed, representations reproduced, in relation to the portrait itself, thus enabling the Project to again engage in the process of various levels of representation (&, on this occasion, styles too), the musing-upon of which has occurred in the past, & notably here.

Jasper Johns 'untitled'
charcoal & pastel on paper/1986

Such a work as this untitled one by Jasper Johns features the notion of drawings within the drawing itself, the individual 'sheets' pinned to the 'ground' with illusionistic nails that reference certain Cubist & trompe l'oeil paintings. The central drawing of the three is of an image appropriated by Johns from Picasso's painting 'Woman With a Straw Hat' of 1936 which, if one wishes to play postmodernist games, raises questions of authorship & the nature of, as does, I suppose, my own drawing, in which another artist's style is 'appropriated'. In relation to the theme of the previous post, Johns' work presents particularly fertile ground for semiotic exploration - as in, for example, Fred Orton's book 'Figuring Jasper Johns' - being symbolically allusive in addition to playing with various codes & methods of representation.

The painting-within-a-painting or film-within-a-film are quite familiar aspects of the history of those particular visual arts, &, indeed, I was struck by such a coincidence whilst processing this drawing after having recently enjoyed, once again, Almodovar's 'Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down', which features films-within-the-film both in the production of a fictional movie as an element of the narrative & the appearance of an existing one - Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead' - as viewed on TV, in addition to other cinematic references such as the inclusion in a director's cutting room of a poster advertising the film 'Invasion of the Bodysnatchers'.

Interesting to note that such 'police artist' representations as those featured in the drawing(s-within-the-drawing) follow what appear to be strict stylistic conventions, almost to the extent that each example of the genre could be the work of the very same artist.


'Test Match Special' Eng v SA
4th Test, 5th day

White Stripes 'Elephant' & 'De Stijl'
Charlotte Gainsbourg '5:55'

Friday, August 08, 2008

Fun With Semiotics

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'Daily Mirror' 07/08/08

The primary motivation behind the transcription of this original newspaper photograph was not, as more usual, its connection to the work of other artists & art history, & the opportunity thus afforded to reference such, but rather the fascinating example it provides of the semiotics of media images.

The subject has been an ubiquitous presence in the print media over the course of the summer, where a non-story concerning his professional intentions & aspects of his personal life has played out daily, unavoidably, encroaching upon the general popular culture from outside its particular context. Finally (?), some form of resolution - or perhaps point of exhaustion - appears to have been reached, as presented here in its original form:

'Daily Mirror' 07/08/08

Given the volume of the available image stock of the protagonist, the particular choice seems telling, especially as presented in juxtaposition with a group of smiling team-mates. Our hero, rather, appears with his face - generally, one understands, regarded as being handsome in nature - contorted in fury, neck veins bulging, confrontational in aspect, an unnattractive subversion of his image (as mediated): implying, perhaps, an oppositional reaction & attitude to the unsatisfactory compromise 'mutually-agreed' with his employer, his ambitions to experience pastures & challenges new - & greater riches yet - thwarted in denial of his desires, his dreams, at least as endlessly reported.

Or perhaps the picture tells another story, as postulated here: that of the newspaper's revenge upon the personage in question for the exposure of their non-story for what it was, perhaps all along.

Whatever, it's all good, thought-provoking stuff. Interestingly, this would not be the first time this character has been (re)presented as a pantomime villain in the media, as originally occurred two summers ago, there thus being a history already...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Black & White World

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

And another new Japanese tea set picked up in a sale (this one a fiver: bargain), something of the opposite to the last one in that it's glazed predominantly black, the teapot having a white lid & a bold grey & white floral design. The shape of the pot, too, is different from any other in the collection, so, pleasing as such is, it was something of a must-have.
The colour scheme thus suggested being set up against a black ground, with my rediscovered old studio notebook (dating from immediately post-graduation onwards, the fundamental ideas & theoretical influences as they developed still mostly valid even though the form of the work has changed) with its glossy black cover serving perfectly for the horizontal plane & a satin-finish plastic folder providing the vertical one behind, the teapot & cup thus 'losing edges' & merging with the setting in the process & presenting the challenge of realising their forms in tonal terms, with highlights & reflections offering guidance to so doing. It's the sort of challenge I particularly enjoy working at, the dialogue between looking at what one sees (rather than knows, or thinks one sees) & mark making, transcribing the experience of one's empirical engagement with an object in space, reassessing this evidence all the while whilst the play of light shifts shapes.

Listening to:

Test Match Special Eng v SA
4th test, day 1

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Light & Dark & Vice Versa

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm

Another little divergence from 'The Project' in the form of an 'accidental' still-life arrangement.
The kitsch white porcelain cat is not something I would necessarily have considered for drawing but, when appraised in the company of the dark bowl which had been randomly placed beside it (put there filled with water having added the finishing touches of colour to the 8th Euro football crowd drawing) & also noticing, in the particular late afternoon light, how one edge of its high glaze picked up the reflection of the red wood-stained door outside, it & the whole became a worthy object of contemplation-for-transcription, also with the bowl losing its edge where it reflected the white paper to its other side. Notable also just how white white sometimes isn't, in a contre-jour circumstance such as the one described.


The Fall '50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong' (disc 1)
Low 'The Great Destroyer'

Monday, August 04, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...(8)

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

Presenting - after a brief hiatus (a half-time interval, perhaps) - another in the series of drawings (please refer to numbers 1 - 7 & the composite of the first 6) transcribed in synechdocical part-for-the-whole fashion from the large scale broadsheet double-spread original photograph of the Euro 2008 football crowd: again, the range of the facial expressions - some more obviously revealing of emotion than others, although inscrutablity can also speak volumes in such a context - is a delight.


Test Match Special Eng v SA, 3rd test (4th day)


Tunng 'Good Arrows'
Robert Wyatt 'His Greatest Misses'

Sunday, August 03, 2008

'Everyday' Concerns...

Today the opposite of tomato is the aesthetic of Vilhelm Hammershoi

Recently invested in a too-good-a-bargain-to-miss Japanese tea set (£6 down from £20) that, once home, I came to realise & calculate was actually the seventh tea pot to take up residence (one for every day of the week - perhaps a subconscious dream come true!): although not a collector in the assiduous sense, such objects are very difficult to resist if they should accord to 'the aesthetic', as was the case with this particular example, of a colour & design not previously owned...

graphite & watercolour, on watercolour paper/30x20cm

As very possibly stated during previous posts referencing the work of Robert Ryman & Jasper Johns, I'm particularly partial to the aesthetic of 'the white painting', with this subject - & beautiful object - thus providing suitable material for exploration when set upon & before white horizontal & vertical planes: the & act & ongoing process of looking is all with such an endeavour, attempting the transcription of what one sees - being surprised & challenged by 'lost' edges, where the tones of figure & ground merge, & reflections upon & by the glazed surface of the teapot - rather than what (one thinks) one knows.

Coincidentally, another recent acquistion has been the catalogue of the exhibition of work by Vilhelm Hammershoi currently showing at the Royal Academy in London.

I was introduced, with great fascination, to the work of this artist - active over the cusp of the 19th & 20th centuries - almost 10 years ago, when a previous publication to extensively feature reproductions of his paintings came to my attention whilst working in the arts campus library of the institution (then Cheltenham & Gloucester College of HE) from which I'd recently graduated in Fine Art.
Instantly, I was captivated by Hammershoi's aesthetic: his quiet, still paintings of interiors either empty or otherwise peopled (without being at all 'inhabited') by a single female figure, often faceless, viewed from the rear, & the small, recurring selection of furniture & objects contained, mute, therein, the spaces admitting light from large, tall windows but - giving them an insular, somewhat hermetic quality - rarely offering a glimpse beyond, at least to the world outside their confines - utterly compelling.

I was then reminded, some years later, of the artist courtesy of a BBC TV programme made by Michael Palin, himself an admirer of Hammershoi, seeking to locate more of his paintings & also to uncover the mystery of the man which so atmospherically pervades his oeuvre. A related search for books on the artist revealed little in the way of obtainable items - said book being by now out of print, obviously very rare & thus prohibitively expensive - much to my disappointment, interest being awakened by reacquaintance with the work of such a singular aesthetic.

This programme then made a pleasantly surprising reappearance recently (in fact on the evening of the Euro 2008 football Final, the first half of which I thus had to forego), after which, struck once again by the essential-to-one's-own aesthetic of Hammershoi's work, the book search resumed - without, of course, any real hope of 'affordable' success.
However, delightfully, the repeat broadcast transpired to have been made, obviously although without the statement of such, in relation to the occurence of the then-upcoming exhibition at the RA, itself accompanied by a lavish catalogue: oh, joy unconfined & a hardback copy straight in the Amazon shopping basket thank you very much.

The catalogue indeed is a most handsome volume, a worthy & essential (but aren't they all?) addition to the library: a selection of intriguing, informative essays accompany the illustrations, which themselves are in the process of being pored-over avidly, for inspiration, clues & all-round fascination. Strange how Hammershoi's paintings, including a few fine portraits, landscapes & architectural subjects, have such a timeless quality: their stillness & quietude - often unsettling, always compelling - obviously contributes to this, as does their aesthetic of a predominantly grey palette, beautifully modulated in its tonal range, which, as it frequently lends the paintings' appearance a certain chalky, misty, dusty quality, recalls both Gwen John & Morandi & the similarly still, quiet, interior-domestic, hermetic worlds of their paintings.
Also adding to this sense of Hammershoi's work transcending time (if not space & certain confines of) are the influences discernible, adapted to the artist's own unique sensibility, which largely eschews contemporaneous developments in modern painting in favour of a harking back to a certain classicism of earlier Danish & Dutch art (especially the familiar genre interiors of the latter & artists such as Vermeer & de Hooch) in particular. Any modernity they might display - subtly - is perhaps the Kierkegaardian existential sense of enigmatic unease one comes to feel upon prolonged study of their suggested but unresolved 'narratives' of person, things & very specific place.

One such recurring object to be found within Hammershoi's painterly lexicon is a white & blue-patterned punchbowl, the direct reference for the above watercolour around which this post is composed, the challenge being to suggest the object's form through the necessarily subtle range of available tones as perceived.

Another painting features a white Royal Copenhagen coffee pot, with a blue pattern, its top half placed before a white ground, the subtleties of its form a challenge to communicate, a subject I've found, in the process of oil painting, in the past, to be a compelling, irresistible one.

Vilhelm Hammershoi detail of Interior, Strandgade 30, 1899
oil on canvas/61x54.3cm

In a further instance, Hammershoi places more white porcelain ware against, this time, a horizontal white plane, again subtly conjuring the solid forms & their glazed surfaces from the flat tablecloth.

Fine inspiration indeed.

Listening to:

Test Match Special Eng v SA, 3rd Test (3rd day)

(Test match cricket being, of course, a game played in white kit!)