Sunday, January 25, 2009

Distanced Past...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
source: 6th generation p/copy of original B&W image from University of Gloucestershire 'Pittville Studios 07' brochure

Another example of a drawing processed from an immediate source ‘degraded’ through numerous stages of photocopying from its original state, in this instance not a newspaper reproduction but rather an image chosen from an academic prospectus.
Again, each subsequent generation of the process of mechanical reproduction loses something in the way of detail & tonal subtlety, establishing increasing aesthetic distance from the source, as then, further, does the act of drawing.

The appeal of the image resided in both its delightful & always compelling ‘retro’ style, its obvious ‘archival’ nature, & also its relation to examples (such as 'Folding Dryer' of 1962) of Gerhard Richter’s painting from the early to mid 1960s, based, in best ‘Pop’ art tradition similar to those contemporaneous works of Andy Warhol, upon product advertisements from newspapers. In this instance, both the product & stylings might be of a more glamorous nature than those typical of either Richter or Warhol, but the vintage places it firmly within such a context. Although the details may change over time – obviously, with new product, the ‘latest thing’, always to market in the interests of the economy – still the essential language of selling (lifestyles & aspirations attached to the goods themselves) remains constant, & there’s something irresistible about the visual aspect of advertising campaigns, however awful the fascination might be. Interesting to note the scale of the television in relation to today’s drive into the gigantism of widescreen & wall-sized ‘home cinema’ systems...


The Beatles homemade compilation of tracks dating 1964-66
Portishead 'Third'

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Further into the Process of Degradation...

Today the opposite of tomato is No Country for Old Men

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
source: 6th generation B&W p/copy from original newspaper photograph 'The Guardian' G2 16/01/09

Being the second in the nascent series of drawings processed from ‘degraded’ photocopies (in this instance the 6th copy-of-the-copy) taken from newspaper photographs. Taken out of its original context of advertising expensive underwear (at the same time, of course, shamelessly, relentlessly self-promoting the garments’ model), the accompanying Guardian article amusingly reads the image in terms of a still from an example of nouvelle vague cinema, at which its chic manufactured glamour & atmosphere of a certain edgy, politely-transgressive cool surely aims. Degraded through the various stages of photocopy (‘de-photographized’, at least from its original state, albeit through another photographic process), the image emerges from this & subsequently the drawing process in a suitably distressed state that subverts its original intention into something altogether more distressed & perhaps abject, anonymous, that suggests a certain seediness more representative of cheap pornography, & relates to something like the work of Gerhard Richter derived & 'unpainted' from such sources, examples of which might be found on the artist’s website here.


PJ Harvey ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ‘The Boatman’s Call’
Laura Veirs ‘Year of Meteors’
Portishead ‘Dummy’, ‘Portishead’ & ‘Third’
The Associates ‘Fourth Drawer Down’

As ever slightly out of step with & just behind the times (the preferred location), the most recent musical investment has been, at last, in the mighty Portishead’s third album, ‘difficult’ not only perhaps in its 10-year gestation (again, an admirable pace at which to work) but also in its sonic aesthetic; harsher than previously, electro-industrial & somewhat ‘post-apocalyptic’ in a manner that recalls nothing so much as the sound of the immediately post-punk late 1970s-early 80s (when, coincidentally or not, we ‘enjoyed’ similar socio-economic conditions, the spectre of mass-unemployment, the fearful uncertainty of the future, etc), particularly with the use of vintage-sounding, Kraftwerky synthesizers – ‘Third’ indeed might reasonably be regarded as a sister to & peer of, for instance, Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’, with which it shares a palpable sense of claustrophobia (one might suggest it best be listened to, at least for a fuller effect, through headphones or otherwise in a small, enclosed & darkened room). The monochrome photograph of Portishead radio station that illustrates the CD’s booklet provides a fitting visual analogue, having about it a certain quality of dystopian bleakness, but the sound nonetheless is exhilarating, humanized by Beth Gibbon’s expressive, often haunted, vulnerable, fragile voice, the softness & femininity of which complements the generally stark brutalism of the instrumentation, clashing guitar & alternately pounding, snapping, rattling, echoing robotic percussive rhythms (a title such as ‘Machine Gun’ offers a fair representation of the sound of the song to which it puts its name). There’s a satisfying air of experimentation abroad, too, in addition to the overall development of the band’s sound: songs change direction discordantly &/or end unexpectedly, the unrelenting urban machinery of electronica is suddenly leavened by an acoustic lull or brief, folky, pastoral interlude such as 'Deep Water' that recalls Beth Gibbon’s other work ‘Out of Season’ (& PJ Harvey, too) only to be followed immediately, ironically, by the aforementioned blazing ‘Machine Gun’, or a free-form saxophone, otherworldly, adds another layer of texture. As a musical departure (although certain aspects were signposted during the course of its predecessor, on a song such as 'Over', for example), it’s undoubtedly a brave one, an intriguing & rewarding artistic development, & a compelling experience, one that rather seems to fit, essentially, the recent aesthetic direction the drawing has taken.

In similar vein, this week saw the initial viewing - again at last, after much procrastination - of the Coen Brothers' modern-day existentialist Western 'No Country for Old Men', another unrelenting experience, minimalist, harsh & brutal in any number of ways, but compelling in its lean-scripted narrative &, as ever courtesy of Roger Deakins' cinematography, visually ravishing even in its dry desert landscapes. Another landmark in the Coens' canon, although undoubtedly their bleakest view yet, with fine performances from Javier Bardem (in the menacing, pneumatic gun-wielding presence of whose character, the malevolent Anton Chigurh, one becomes transfixed, horribly), Josh Brolin & Tommy Lee Jones, the film also ends unexpectedly & thought-provokingly, with a non-traditional resolution (of sorts) that provides no moral answers or sense of justice or feel-good factor (as, for instance, 'Fargo' & 'Blood Simple' do, eventually, to varying degrees) yet seems to embody, to personify its title.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Recent Discoveries

Featuring today a couple of recent discoveries via the wonderful world of art periodicals, access to a small selection of which being one of the few perks of the day job.

Firstly, the exquisite pencil drawings of Marie Harnett, as featured in the Alan Cristea gallery’s ‘Young Contemporaries’ exhibition & trailed in the February edition of Artists & Illustrators magazine.
The artist’s website offers a generous selection of various series of drawings, all of which are based upon film stills, finely detailed & having very much their own atmosphere distinct & existing independently from the source. It’s only when one takes note of the dimensions of the drawings that it occurs just how remarkably miniature they are, smaller even than they appear on the website, which makes them all the more compelling, as ever the handmade nature of the drawing process working its magic.

On a related matter, the revamped Artists & Illustrators website offers a portfolio feature, where anyone who might care to register – for free – is then able to exhibit up to 9 examples of work: I’ve recently done so & uploaded a representative selection of work from last year’s photographically-derived Project.

Also the beautiful, seductive painting-object hybrids of Shane Bradford, as featured in the February issue of Art of England (which website offers generous access to the publications back issues). The work on show illustrates examples of that included in the artist’s exhibition ‘Hermetic Seel’, whereby copies of the various volumes of an edition of Chambers Encyclopedias have been subjected to a process of dipping in emulsion paint, the excess of which not absorbed by the pages of the books dries into wonderful stalactite forms, forever poised, transforming the original books into painted objects that relate to & reference the work of other artists in the place they either are or would be located in the encyclopaedias - in the examples here, in turn Frank Auerbach (with the physically worked-back-into broken surface which suggests nature of Auerbach’s heavily-impastoed, lava-like painterly surfaces & further emphasizes the object quality of the work), Turner & Rothko.

Shane Bradford 'Volume 1:AAB-AUT'

Shane Bradford 'Volume 14:TSU-ZYG'

Shane Bradford 'Volume 12:ROS-SPA'

There's theory attached to the work that, as ever, one can either take or leave (I always post my own contextualizing, justificatory ramblings with this very much in mind), but still the paintings stand independently of this & can be appreciated in & for themselves.
Bradford, of course, is not the first or only artist to have worked with the idea of the dipped painting/object, but I find them endlessly compelling & seductive things, perfect illustrations of one of the possibilities of paint as a medium.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Today the opposite of tomato is the bottle of love

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
source: B&W p/copy of 4th generation colour p/copy of original newspaper photograph from 'The Guardian' 27/11/08

At last, over 2 weeks into the new year, a new-old drawing, being, in the absence of any great illuminating flashes of inspiration, a development of last year’s photographically-derived Project rather than anything radically different, this in keeping with the overarching concern with process as subject.

In the interests of creating a degree of aesthetic distance from the outset, the original newspaper image (such still providing the source, from last year’s archive-backlog) in this instance has been subject initially to a degree of surface erasure & then to various stages of photocopied reproduction, with each copy subsequently serving as the ‘original’ for the next, thus resulting in a process of degradation of the quality of the image from step to step, creating (through this act of partial, cumulative destruction), ultimately, a somewhat ‘distressed’ new ‘original’ from which to draw.

With the drawing attempting to remain faithful to the tonal appearance of its model, the result takes on a faded, indistinct appearance, where particular detail & any sense of clarity are lost, similar, perhaps, to the paintings of Luc Tuymans, an artist who also allows himself to become in some way distanced from the photographic sources from which he works, through various processes both technical – e.g. making watercolour sketches as a transitional object - & temporal (the point at which an image becomes so familiar, so banal, as to lose its meaning & thus liberated for purposes of transcription & representation).
These reproductions from the exhibition catalogue ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ (of photographically-derived work & as previously mentioned at the very beginning of last year’s drawing Project) illustrate the familiar appearance of Tuyman’s paintings, with the first also serving as a coincidental reference to late-last-year’s drawing of the Mumbai terror atrocity suspects, an example of a number of drawings processed from originals of less-than-perfect quality (cf. also the Baader-Meinhof one).

Luc Tuymans 'Prisoners of War'
oil on canvas/2001

Luc Tuymans 'Passenger'
oil on canvas/2001

It’s also possible, of course, to alter the quality of the reproduction of the finished drawing itself through the application of a different, less subtle, higher contrast scan setting (in fact the software programme’s default option)...

Whilst on the subject of photography (as always-being-the-basis-of, of course), The Guardian last week published this wonderful image, considered by Michael Nyman to be his 'best shot': the main attraction being, naturally, the grid format of the composite image, itself featuring a selection of a larger sequence.

Michael Nyman


The Triffids 'Born Sandy Devotional'
& 'The Black Swan'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'The Boatman's Call'
Cocteau Twins
homemade compilation of 'bric-a-brac'
Neil Young 'After the Gold Rush'
The Associates 'Fourth Drawer Down'
& 'Sulk'

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Drawing & Photography...

digital juxtaposition of newspaper images

In the wake of last year's Project, a pair of recent newspaper reproductions of archive fashion images, made topical by certain circumstances (the demise of a long-established business - Viyella - in the former instance, & the passing of the designer Ted Lapidus in the latter), inspired this playful juxtaposition of drawing & photography. Both images are so redolent of their times, visual signifiers of particular periods that one recognises instantly as being not one's own, with such clarity & directness, & perhaps all the more intriguing & entertaining for that: aren't the 'His 'n' Hers' tweed complete outfits in particular quite simply fabulous (& surely due for a revival, as are such wonderful poses in fashion shoots), just the sort of attire, indeed, that might be sported by the idiosyncratic dandies who populate the fictitious village of Clinksell & the creative hub of the Blank Workshop therein. The economy of line in the drawing of the ladies' tennnis outfits is also most admirable for the manner in which it communicates.

Without wishing to intrude upon territory most interestingly mined by miss milki, this post as illustrated at least allows the coincidental opportunity to offer congratulations upon the first anniversary of her delightful blog 'A Spoonful of Sugar' (one of my favourites to visit) & wish a Happy Birthday & sincere hopes for another year's eruditely informative cultural commentating, on all manner of interests, notably also architecture & photography, a visual medium in which she produces & exhibits.


The Triffids 'In the Pines', 'Born Sandy Devotional' & 'Calenture'
Neil Young 'After the Gold Rush'

Being the fruits of the immediate post-Xmas music purchasing, not exactly new but essential additions to the collection all the same.
It felt time to invest in proper CD versions of the 3 albums that comprise the pinnacle of The Triffids' achievements (these having been devotedly owned on vinyl, back in the day), compiled in expanded form & beautifully presented by Domino.
Although the sonic aesthetic of the production of each of these albums is radically different, bestowing upon them a singular quality, from the informal, intimate stripped-down basics of the remote sheep-shearing shed recorded 'In the Pines', a sketchbook in nature (with the lovely personal essay & lyric booklets accompanying each disc, & particularly the facsimile handwritten notebook, a veritable treasure-trove of references, ideas & works-in-progress, included in the 'Born Sandy Devotional' package providing a visual analogue to such), to the glossy sheen of 'Calenture', with the dusty, gothic-romantic grandeur of 'Born Sandy Devotional' - at once full of images & evocations of both vast, parched, scorched empty landscapes & storm-tossed skies, & yet claustrophobic in its brooding, humid intensity - occupying some form of middle ground between, still they are unified through the quality of (the sadly late) David McComb's songwriting - of love, loss, longing, alienation & salvation, deeply personal yet universal - & the band's performances, epic in scope & realisation or restrained & tender as required, which resonate with no loss of breathtaking wonder or emotional charge across the 20+ years since their original releases (coinciding with the period of the greatest triumphs of Australian fellows The Go-Betweens & also the astonishing early series of releases by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: squaring the circle encompassing, of course, is The Triffids' bassist Martyn P Casey, subsequently to become an enduring Bad Seed, powering their mighty rhythmic engine).

Similarly with Neil Young: 'After the Gold Rush' retains the complexity of its alternately rustic charm & emotional power, & the integrity of its vision, still, timeless.

Works of art all.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Illuminating Times

Today the opposite of tomato is 'a secret in the shape of a song'

graphite & putty eraser/diptych 20x60cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 10/12/08

In what might be the last official act of The Project (at least that being the intention), a coincidence occurs, neatly, forming something of a circle. In the very first drawing of the year & The Project as it was to become, the original source from which it was processed featured an illuminating burst of white light, as does this example, albeit on a more dramatic scale: whatever the circumstances depicted (always, of course, being of no particular importance, form over content being the guiding principal in the choice of images to transcribe, to 'de-photographize') the photographic effect is the same, with sharp contrasts of light & dark prevailing.

Again one muses upon the presentation of imagery as mediated: the drawing as processed, of course, becomes one more step removed (which distance, as ever, increases to this present point, through the subsequent scanning & blogging procedures), but the dramatic action as depicted, a classic 'frozen moment in time' as captured in quintessentially photographic fashion, is already aestheticized for consumption, for considered analysis, in comfort & safety, by the time it appears in the newspaper.

Regarding the image content of the drawing, there's a certain something about the attitudes of the human forms, the figures' 'choreographed' movements - however instinctive these may be under the actual circumstances of real time & space as photographed - that vaguely suggests Matisse's 'The Dance': coincidental to the processing of this drawing, I've been reading a most interesting & lavishly-illustrated monograph of the work of Allen Jones, often featuring figures engaged in the act of dancing.
In terms of the subject matter of active social protest, the survey volume 'Vitamin D: New Perspective in Drawing' features this drawing by Sam Durant.

Sam Durant 'Boys Throw Objects at British Forces, Belfast 1976'
graphite on paper/2004

By way of further coincidence, the theme of incendiary civil unrest might also be found depicted in the artwork accompanying Lambchop's recent 'OH (Ohio)' CD (mentioned previously here),

which brings us rather neatly to...


Lambchop 'OH (Ohio)'
Cocteau Twins 'Lullabies to Violaine' vol. 1
(CD 2)
DJ Shadow 'Endtroducing'
Moon Wiring Club 'Shoes Off and Chairs Away'
Belle & Sebastian 'The Life Pursuit'
Low 'Trust'
Sparklehorse 'It's a Wonderful Life'
Lambchop 'Is a Woman'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Abattoir Blues'/'The Lyre of Orpheus'

As the processing of the drawing straddled the cusp of old & new years, so, inevitably, did its accompanying soundtrack, resulting in 2008's listening being rounded off by two enduringly stonking albums, Sparklehorse's beautiful, brittle 'It's a Wonderful Life' & the masterpiece that is Lambchop's 'Is a Woman', as perfect as it's possible to imagine a suite of music to be, where every note as written & performed, & the intervals between, & the warmth of the underlying electronic burblings, are so exquisite in form & so subtly weighted as to seem effortless in conception & realisation: this is unquestionably art of the highest order & most certainly 'the opposite of tomato', the research into which continues, however, into another year...