Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beside Oneself

Today the opposite of tomato is 'your mud-crusted altar'

graphite & putty eraser
original sources: 'The Guardian' G2 20/11/08

This particular drawing is, unusually, a composite, being processed from a combination of two newspaper source photographs, the original images juxtaposed across adjacent pages of the newspaper, where such an arrangement – with its significant changes of scale, of a human subject positioned beside an enlarged detail - suggested such a previously-mentioned example as the photograph of Chuck Close standing before one his large-scale monochrome photorealist ‘heads’ that in turn proved the catalyst & reference point for such drawings as ‘The Next Drawing’, ‘Scaling-Up’ & ‘Cinematic Scale’ as have occurred earlier in the course of this year’s Project.


Cowboy Junkies 'Whites Off Earth Now!!'
The Delgados 'The Great Eastern'
Laura Veirs 'Year of Meteors'
Rufus Wainwright 'Want'
& 'Want 2'
Snooze 'Going Mobile'
John Cale 'Close Watch (an Introduction to)'

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Moving in Mysterious Ways...

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 18/11/08

This drawing being processed from an original newspaper source again exhibiting such quintessentially ‘photographic’ qualities as the capture of a split-second of swift movement & displaying a consequent formal contrast between sharp-focussed near-to-middle-distance stillness & nearer & far blur, this being represented by a swiping motion of the eraser in a manner that once more references the ‘unpainting’ technique applied by Gerhard Richter to his photographically derived oil paintings, thus ‘unfocussing’ their highly-realised imagery into another aesthetic & distinctly painterly dimension.

One particular aspect of the drawings that is impossible to communicate virtually is the physical nature of the surface: the heavily-worked dark tonal areas of this example, for instance, have a glossy, light-reflective sheen that is completely lost in the process of reproduction.


Moon Wiring Club ‘Shoes Off and Chairs Away’
‘Rufus Wainwright’
Public Image Ltd ‘Metal Box’
Rachel Unthank & the Winterset ‘The Bairns’
Throwing Muses ‘In a Doghouse’
(CD1 + ‘Fish’)

And, commemorating the anniversary today of the death of Nick Drake, the 3 wonderful albums released during his brief lifetime, their fragile beauty & magic enduring still, a fitting epitaph:

‘Five Leaves Left’, Bryter Layter’ & ‘Pink Moon’

Today’s date is also significant for the opening, at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, of ‘Traces’, an exhibition of paintings & drawings by Paul Rosenbloom. Having their inspirational origins in the study of graptolite fossils & also the overlaid images of Aboriginal rock art, the drawings & paintings display the evidence of the process of their making, allowing the viewer an archaeological reading & appreciation of the formal vocabulary of various layers of marks, textures & pigment, the alternately partially-revealed & -hidden traces of which are suspended in exquisite tension. There is too a wonderful all-over surface activity & beautiful, subtly glowing light emanating from the images: work to be seen & experienced, just like the landscape from which it derives.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Card Sharp...

Today the opposite of tomato is 'an English lady of a certain age'

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 14/11/08

Another newspaper reproduction chosen for the specific ‘photographic’ quality of its tension between focussed & blurred elements, the capturing of a split-second of the movement of a body across the picture plane. Note too the grid-like arrangement of the background (that again), a display of postcard-sized artworks that, through the drawing process (& the subsequent scanning & blogging-of), become representations of representations, reproductions of reproductions, taken to another level (& beyond).
At a superficial level, the blurring references, again, the photographically-derived ‘un-paintings’ of Gerhard Richter, currently haunting this resource on a regular basis.

Returning to the recently-posited notion of ‘de-photography’, ‘dis-photography’, & the various processes of ‘de-photographication’ or ‘de-photographization’, Richter suggests himself as an exemplar of such not only through his painting from photographic sources, & the painterly results of such, but also with his series of overpainted photographs, itself a significant, discrete body of work, where oil paint is applied to the physical photographs themselves, transforming them into another more formally & aesthetically complex, multi-media, ‘painterly’, material object altogether, coloured & textured - & altered in terms of ostensible subject matter & image content - by the application of the paint upon their surface, thus ‘de-photographized’.

Another example that might illustrate the nascent concept is that work of Matt Bryans, as previously mentioned, whereby the artist alters the appearance of selected newspaper reproductions of photographic images by the physical process of erasure of particular areas, creating another, different image in so doing.

Matt Bryans
installation view of erased newspaper photographs

As might be observed, the resulting image retains pale traces of that content which has been erased - the process of which can only be of a partial nature & never physically complete given the fragile nature of the newsprint itself, its surface & substance rendered more so by the action of erasure, making the ephemeral source object more ephemeral still, as the image itself appears – giving a ghostly, haunting quality to the new artwork, the ‘de-photographized’ image-object, that, given an eraser’s role as a drawing tool, could be said, perhaps, to exist as a form of drawing, ‘re-worked’ from printed source (on paper, traditionally the base material of drawing).


Lambchop 'OH(Ohio)'
Cabaret Voltaire 'Living Legends'
Divine Comedy 'Victory for the Comic Muse'
Galaxie 500 'Today'
, 'On Fire' & 'This is Our Music'

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Group Portraiture

Today the opposite of tomato is an innocent taxidermist

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 2 12/11/08

The newspaper source of the image from which this drawing was processed referred to a number of similar elements in the recent developments of The Project: the ‘Polaroid’, snapshot nature of the component photographs; their degraded, high-contrast appearance; their existence as historical documents of a particular age; their multiplicity, & the photographs themselves photographed to form a composite arrangement (grid-like, of course), with the further level of representation-reproduction consequently mined, all of which factors have occurred in the choice of image & subsequent drawings of late.
Added to this is the knowledge that, in terms of human subjects, these particular photographs feature certain criminal persons – as was the recently-drawn ‘man of 1,000 faces', master of disguise Jacques Mesrine - & that, most specifically, said individuals, members of the popularly-known Baader-Meinhof group, the self-styled Red Army Faction, who waged a terrorist campaign against the West German state from within in the 1970s, featured in the work of Gerhard Richter (himself oft-referenced within the course of this photographically-derived project) in his sequence of paintings entitled ‘18th October, 1977’, the significance of this date being that of the death in captivity of three of their number, although the paintings as a series (of 15) actually cover a wider period of time of the group's existence.

The particular reason for the Baader-Meinhofs’ current ubiquitous presence in the media is the release of a film detailing their exploits, which reason also applied to Mesrine: both films necessarily court controversy & accusations of glamourizing violent crime, as such ‘aestheticizations’ are wont to do, however unintentionally in a stated context of dispassionate, factual balance.
The poster advertising the film is notable for the grid format arrangement of its individual photo-portraits & overall particularly ‘Warholesque’ appearance, down to its saturated monochrome ground (cf. again Warhol's series of images of 'America's Most Wanted'), being closely modelled on published posters of the group in their day, a formal device also habitually used by Richter for his ‘Atlas’ collections of visual source material.

Richter's paintings of the '18th October, 1977' cycle are subject to his technique of 'unpainting' the resolved underlying image, either wholly or in part, dragging his brush across the still-wet oil paint, blurring the ostensible 'subject matter', thus creating through this surface quality an aesthetic distance, where painting might exist in & for itself, independently of the source material & its photographic origins, more immediate & sensational as they are: although a purely formal device, this might be regarded by critics as conferring a type of (literally) misty romanticism to the subject matter, similar to the charges levelled against the cinematic equivalent. In addition to portraits such as those illustrated, the series also includes scenes of the arrest & deaths of members of the Baader-Meinhof group, the latter officially by suicide in their prison cells although all the available photographic evidence could not prove this particular circumstance or 'reality' conclusively, illustrating the inherent ambiguity present in the story any photograph might tell.

Gerhard Richter 'Youth Portrait'
oil on canvas/1988

Gerhard Richter 'Confrontation 1'
oil on canvas/1988

Gerhard Richter 'Confrontation 2'
oil on canvas/1988

The concept of Richter's 'unpainting', the musing upon, then inspired in me the related one that both the painting & drawing from photographs, transforming them from the latter realm into another, different aesthetic space (& slower, more contemplative pace, of both making & viewing), could be said, perhaps, to be a process of 'de-photography', 'de-photographization' or 'dis-photography', of gradually dismantling the reality of the photographic image to that point where it becomes & exists as a completely different entity: a subject to be pursued theoretically..(there being a wealth of visual evidence to study, of course, including now this current body of personal creative practice & related contextualizing)?

Interesting to note by way of another coincidence that an early-ish example of the music of Cabaret Voltaire - who seem to be haunting this blog on a regular basis recently - is entitled 'Baader-Meinhof'.


Lambchop 'OH(Ohio)'
Moon Wiring Club 'Shoes Off and Chairs Away'
Boards of Canada 'Hi Scores'
, 'In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country' & 'Geogaddi'
Belle & Sebastian 'Push Barman to Open Old Wounds'

Ah, a new Lambchop album, its sound familiar & comforting, perfect for the onset of the dark, damp autumn-winter months, an extra cultural layer to wrap oneself in to combat the melancholy chill, its subtleties destined to reveal themselves gradually over time, at their own relaxed pace. For the moment, one can take additional delight in the paintings of Michael Peed gracing the CD’s packaging, wittily depicting a loving couple seemingly blissfully oblivious of the scenes of escalating urban unrest taking place almost immediately beyond their windows. Also to be enjoyed is the prevailing cool, white, minimalist aesthetic of the packaging in general, including the discs themselves, presented here in the unfolding formal narrative of the design:

A similar appreciation also seems worthy of being accorded the visual aesthetic accompanying Boards of Canada’s ‘In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country’, the sequence of image-shapes of the design being repeated, continued across the disc, in perfect harmony, with the child-like nature of a selection of the images complementing the sound clips of children’s voices often embedded within the music as an element of its form & texture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back to the Future

Today the opposite of tomato is 'too many stars & not enough sky'

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Times' 06/11/08

This drawing being processed from another newspaper image displaying the particularly ‘photographic’ characteristic of blurring associated with the capturing of a subject in motion, the mark-making technique in this instance aiding the representation of such a surface appearance in the drawing itself.

Perhaps one of the more consistent, concentrated projects in the history of art to wrestle with the problem of the representation of the appearance of movement (difficult even using a fluid medium such as oil paint) was that of various of the artists associated with Futurism, engaging with the increased mechanisation of modern life in the early 20th century, & endeavouring to communicate the action, speed & violence of such, with which they became obsessed. The following two examples each adopt a different technical approach: firstly Boccioni with small, stippled, ‘dynamic’ strokes of the brush, developed from Seurat’s pointillism, that create a blurring effect of the figures in the foreground of the composition, suggesting the urgency of the subject, of the rapid growth of the contemporary metropolis & its sometimes attendant industrial actions &/or popular riots;

Umberto Boccioni 'The City Rises'
oil on canvas/1910

and Balla, who develops a Cubist idiom to suggest a body in motion experienced as a sequence of fleeting, fractured fragments, something in the manner of multiple-exposure photography, used as source material, or successive film stills, referencing another popular modern cultural phenomenon & art-form.

Giacomo Balla 'Speeding Auto'
oil on card/1913


Scritti Politti 'White Bread Black Beer'
Boards of Canada 'Geogaddi'
Tori Amos 'Under the Pink'

Monday, November 10, 2008

'Play' for Today

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 07/11/08

And so, once again, to games of various levels of reproduction & representation, & the time-honoured tradition of pictures-within-pictures, as engaged with now on numerous occasions during the curse of The Project, & an additional coincidental reference in this instance to the recent series of drawings processed from examples of Warhol’s Polaroid photographs.

The nature of the image in the photo-within-the-photo, with its subtle(ish) change of scale down from the facial feature it serves to conceal, put me in mind, as another vague point of reference, of David Hockney’s fascinating photo collages, composed of various close-up details of the overall image (also including landscapes, interiors & still lifes in addition to such an example of his portraiture) which replicate, in Cubist fashion, more immediately the act of seeing, in edited sequence of related fragments of detail, in the three-dimensional space of the empirical world.

David Hockney 'Mother 1, Yorkshire Moors, August 1985'
photo collage


Moon Wiring Club 'Shoes Off and Chairs Away'
Boards of Canada 'Twoism'
& 'Hi Scores'
Sigur Ros 'Takk'
Tori Amos 'Boys For Pele'

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Breaking the Surface...

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 25/09/08

The fourth & final example of drawings transcribed from an original newspaper photographic source of a birch forest, the subject as ever being the mark-making process itself, distinct from image content (which occurs as an eventual product of the process, working across the surface of the support), although on this occasion the greater variation between areas of dark & light tone aids also a more obvious figurative reading of the image in terms of depth & spatial recession.

Presenting also a composite of the complete panorama.

graphite & putty eraser/digital composite


Love 'Forever Changes'
Joy Division 'Closer'
New Order 'Power, Corruption & Lies'
Echo & the Bunnymen 'Ocean Rain'
Jesus & Mary Chain 'Psychocandy'

This particular choice of accompanying music being that of the Times' ‘Seminal’ collection of free, token-collectable CDs, with which designation one can but only concur: its good to have back-up copies of such essential listening material, considering the enduring excellence of the albums in question themselves & the influence they’ve had (not least upon each other, or the former over the latter, rather, in the case of the string-swept aesthetic of ‘Forever Changes’ & ‘Ocean Rain’), individually & collectively, over much of the music to which I’m attracted, although this in general has branched out from the admittedly relatively narrow range these albums – works of art (each considered as a whole, including their visual packaging too, which in every instance seems perfectly appropriate) – cover in themselves.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Acknowledging an Anniversary

Today being a year ago to the day that the first such example was presented, it thus seems an appropriate occasion to celebrate again artist-illustrator Lauren Nassef's 'Drawing a Day' (excepting weekends & holidays, of course) feature on her website, one of a number of previously-mentioned sources of inspiration & motivation for my own (almost) daily drawing practice & discipline.

Lauren's delightfully idiosyncratic, original & beautiful drawings, her divine way with line, are always a pleasure to behold, one of the day's sources of enjoyment & visual stimulation, & her talent one to regard & consider with suitable awe: happy anniversary!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Access Denied

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 25/09/08

Being the third drawing processed from the newspaper photographic source of a birch forest, again the mark-making technique of addition & subtraction, in tandem with the nature of the appearance of the source, serves to negate any real sense of spatial depth or recession & compresses attention towards the surface & its pattern of ‘all-over’ activity.

As previously, combining the existing drawings, as the sequence progresses, into a panoramic view relating to the original source.

graphite & putty eraser/digital composite


Boards of Canada 'Music Has the Right to Children'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Abattoir Blues'
& 'The Lyre of Orpheus'
Moon Wiring Club 'Shoes Off and Chairs Away'
DJ Shadow 'Endtroducing'

Also on a musical note (ahem), a mention for BBC4’s excellent documentary ‘Neil Young: Don’t Be Denied’, the man in his own fascinating words & those of his closest cohorts, from the beginning, & a fine selection of music, from The Squires, through Buffalo Springfield to the work under his own name, with & without Crazy Horse, much of it, from the 60s & on, ahead of its time, timeless, contemporary still; the pulverising rocky, riffy stuff, great monolithic slabs of electric noise of such astonishing, mesmerizing power (& that, in its earliest, nascent form, with the Squires, predates even the legendary Stooges, the godfathers of the minimalist sonic aesthetic) to the ‘sensitive’ acoustic songs (of which he opined that only a limited number could be truly written before lapsing into meaningless formula) that characterise his most popular output over 40+ years. A true artist, driven by his muse, to which everything else must by necessity remain secondary, & a wonderful portrait in words, music & (archive) images.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Doing 'The Moores'

And so to Liverpool, on Thursday, & more specifically to the Walker Art Gallery, one of the city's treasures, to do, as is the biennial custom, 'The Moores' & indulge oneself in admiring an exhibition of, simply, painting in various of its current manifestations & trends, & by a selection of, one trusts, its foremost practitioners, some well-established & familiar to the show, others up-&-coming.

The official John Moores 25 website features images of all the selected works, by the prizewinners & other exhibitors, & artist's statements & biographies for all concerned, as indeed does the exhibition catalogue, itself as ever a handsome object & 'must-have' for the library & archives.

This being the 25th such John Moores exhibition of contemporary UK-based painting, a related show of past winners of the prize can also be enjoyed in another of the Walker's first floor galleries & the catalogue too features a nice historical survey of the competition: again, it's a pleasure to revisit some old familiars & favourites, notably something like Dan Hays's 'Harmony in Green' from the 1997 show, which had, in general through a number of its exhibitors' work, the quality of an epiphany on a personal level (to a then final-year undergraduate), such an enduring influence did it come to have on my own thinking & practice.

The current exhibition is not necessarily a great Moores, an especially significant one, but any Moores is a good Moores, of interest & enjoyment, to one who enjoys painting & paint itself: here it is, from traditional oils to modern household stuff, applied in any manner, from the obsessively meticulous (such as Julian Brain's Magrittian take on the English domestic interior, with its significantly oversized objects & paintings-within-the painting 'Special Relativity' - the carpet especially is spookily realistic - & Geraint Evans's slyly amusing comment on English suburban bourgeois aspirationalism, pretension & acquisitiveness, whilst referencing too an historical quirky tradition of the gentry, the incongruous figure of 'An Ornamental Hermit') to coolly impassive to more sketchy, scumbled, washy, tentative, uncertain styles of sometimes varying apparent crudity, to outright bold splashiness - it's all fascinating to observe & study, on a purely material level, a tribute to the medium's endless versatility & adaptabilty to the personal aesthetic, a reason, no doubt, for its enduring utility &, for all that painting's demise has been regularly predicted & announced, vitality & significance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given that 2 of the jurors were Jake & Dinos Chapman, there's a sense of the macabre in some of the selected work, & a fair smattering of humour too, sometimes allied to a certain abjection, which itself is something of a staple concern, an aesthetic approach & identifiable strand in contemporary painting practice, along with a referencing-of art historical styles: nowadays, for example, there's no real conflict between the 'abstract' & 'figurative' traditions (all painting is, essentially, 'representational' in some way, anyway, & that is its purpose), anything goes & mixes-&-matches freely occur, often within the same painting. A case in point (of all these factors) might be found in the winning painting, Peter MacDonald's 'Fontana', which in bold, simplified, 'abstract' forms of colour, depicts in highly stylized, cartoonish manner, a narrative of the late Italian artist Lucio Fontana (incidentally whose retrospective at the Hayward Gallery around the turn of the millenia was a wonder to behold) at work upon one of his signature oval canvases, not with brush poised but rather the sharp implement with which he punctured their surfaces to realise his 'spatial concepts', creating through an act of apparent sabotage & destruction: 'Fontana' itself has its surface lightly pierced in similar fashion. Coincidentally, Ian Homerston's 'Four' has, perhaps, at a stretch, something of the appearance of a painted detail of one of Fontana's canvases, an interesting little dialogue.

The Romantic is in evidence: in gothic, humorous form referencing both the mythological & contemporary soft-porn horror cinema in Stuart Pearson Wright's 'Woman Surprised by a Werewolf'; as stated by Neal Jones in his abject-humorous Lakeland camping holiday gone typically rainy & wrong, 'Breughel Camp' (turning the experience from a leisure break into the grotesque ordeal such frequently become); & also the classical landscape of Ged Quinn's 'There's a House in My Ghost', where a sense of ruin (of more modern ideals, too) & bathos predominates the dark foreground, which also include a little art hist ref/joke in the form of a decapitated head being that, in fact, of one of Philip Guston's caricatured self portraits - the tent canvas, too, is of course itself a painting.
Also referencing art history, in a very direct manner, Michelle McKeown's 'Cunt' displaces a Rorschach butterfly onto the genitalia of Coubet's 'L'Origine du Monde', creating a powerful visual analogy.

Another landscape, Tom Bull's 'Black Flag', subtly Japanese in its pale, watery washiness, although small in dimension is given a greater sense of scale through the placement in its midst of a miniature, rickety hut upon stilts, of which Mie Olise Kjaergaard's delapidated, abject (again) 'Watchtower With Green Stick' could be an enlarged detail, now viewed not from above but below, at ground level, situating the viewer more immediately within the landscape.
Also painted, as the latter, with a bold, splashy informality is another man-made structure, the ducking machine of Neil Rumming's 'The Baptism', a striking design of a simply effective mechanism, both somehow abject in both appearance & its harsh functionality, & certainly humorous to the point of hilarity.

A sense of dialogue is also established between of a pair of paintings referencing more domesticated settings, through the use of the floral patterned vinyl collaged onto Jake Clark's 'Cornerways' suburban bungalow - serving a number of surface & spatial purposes, whilst also echoing the painted flowers in the immediate foreground of - & the grid-pattern overlaying the retro interior of Stephanie Kingston's '252 Solitude': both these works inspire a sense of nostalgia, of & for the somehow faded & the failed project of the Modernism they suggest.

I particularly liked that which is absent in Matthew Usmar Lauder's quiet, subtle 'Untitled (Hole)' & the unsettling blankness of Sista Pratesi's 'Black Farm II', which has something of an analogue in Alex Gene Morrison's 'Black Bile', where intense blue eyes stare from a shroud of lusciously textured jet-black paint, combed like hair or fur, becoming active as one moves across its surface, changing in the light, which in turn is juxtaposed with another prizewinning entry, Grant Foster's 'Hero Worship', where the paint is mixed with actual human hair to create a clotted, matted surface that might initially inspire revulsion & horror through its grotesque appearance but whose subject, poignantly abject as it is shocking, also may elicit a more empathetic reaction: this painting in its turn then establishes some relation with Tim Bailey's similarly military-jacketed portrait 'Cadet Congo Ganja' - certainly it's a neatly chosen & curated show.

Enjoyable too for more purely formal reasons are the colourful Modernist arrangement of Marta Marce's 'Flowing 2', & the all-over surface activity, strong, architectural design & vivid colour scheme of Richard Kirwan's 'As Above, So Below'. The empty studio space of Matthew Wood's 'S-CAT LRABI' in its muted way has a poignancy for any who might have shared such communal spaces, with works-in-progress, the beginnings of art, on display.

The highly-defined photorealism of recent Moores is largely absent on this occasion, although it was good to see Roland Hicks's 'Sometimes We Sense the Doubt Together', delicately balancing the beautiful & abject with its enlarged image of discarded chewing gum suspended between ground & sole, not least because it established a 'Cheltenham connection', the artist being a particular year's Research Fellow at the college during my undergraduate studies there. Last time, my old personal tutor Paul Thomas was represented, it's always a pleasure to see something of those one knows in some way.
Further to this, later, in town, I picked up a bargain copy of 'The Drawing Book' by Sarah Simblet, who visited us frequently in Cheltenham from the Ruskin School at Oxford, treating one to the most wonderful, generous, supportive tutorials & taking workshops in anatomical drawing, at which she herself is quite fantastically talented: the book itself is a delight, informative & an inspiration, to keep drawing, learning, developing.

A couple of other little things, observed during the course of the journeys traversing the Wirral: the tanning salon, in the New Ferry area, wonderfully-wittily named 'Sunjunk-e' (at least to one with leanings towards things Japanese); &, the delightful anachronism, related to recent comments on English nostalgia & retro, of the charity shop in Bromborough still bearing the legend 'War on Want' - the Wirral, indeed, being one of those places where such suburban 'timelessness' endures & is oft in evidence.