Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gratuitous Post

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Mention of Jasper Johns (again) provides an opportunity to re-present one of last year's drawings - of someone drawing, quite literally, a line in the sand - in relation to the recent discovery, whilst re-browsing the 1996 MoMA Johns 'Retrospective' catalogue, of this particular image of the man himself engaged in similar activity:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On the Road to Johnsville Again

Today the opposite of tomato is Not the Red Baron

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Related to an earlier ‘roadkill’ can-double black lines drawing (posted here), which included the name of a colour amongst its compositional elements – occurring as a synecdochical fragment of a brand name - this example, utilizing similar subject matter (& stimulant products), perhaps more explicitly references the numerous works of Jasper Johns incorporating the stencilled names of colours onto-into their surfaces & compositions & especially, of course, those of a monochrome nature (paintings & drawings such as ‘Jubilee’, 'Periscope (Hart Crane)’, ‘Folly Beach’ & ‘False Start II’).
Although anchored to specific objects rather than freely-floating across the abstract formal structure as is mostly the case with those examples of Johns’ work, still the names of the colours in the drawing serve a similar function in suggesting a physical presence or property (& in these instances, identity) whilst – particularly drained of that colour to which they refer - drawing attention to the entirely abstract & arbitrary process of the linguistic naming of things & thus the discrepancy, the slippage, between the graphic signifier & that signified.

The intention with this drawing was to leave slightly less resolved the particular differentiation between figure & ground in order to suggest the coming closer together of each via the flattening process to which the ‘roadkill’ objects had been forcibly subjected, with the consequent loss of their specific, obviously different & separate three-dimensional quality.


The Smiths ‘Louder Than Bombs’
Tori Amos ‘Boys for Pele’
Pixies ‘Come On Pilgrim’, ‘Surfer Rosa’
& ‘Doolittle’
Pavement ‘Brighten the Corners’
Cat Power ‘You Are Free’
Lambchop ‘Damaged’

Monday, April 27, 2009

Misshapen Identity

Today the opposite of tomato is "a redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash"

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Being the latest entry in the aluminium drink cans 'roadkill' diptych series, this particular object's attraction lay primarily in the extreme folding & consequent reshaping to which it had been subject in the process of its flattening transformation, its rendering down from three dimensions into (almost) two.


New Order 'Low-life'
Pavement 'Brighten the Corners'
Underworld 'Second Toughest in the Infants'

Finally having invested in a CD copy of New Order's mighty & enduringly exhilarating 'Low-life' (yes, we tend to do things very slowly around these parts), it was comforting to find that the associated artwork at least echoes that of the original vinyl LP version (the sleeve of which was very much a desired object) in featuring a translucent, tracing paper-like outer covering containing individual photographic portraits of the four band members, here thus presented sequentially:

A rare pleasure too to be reacquainted - in archaic-format cassette-style - with the sly wit, singular wisdom & idiosyncratic sonic aesthetic of Pavement, indeed brightening the corners of a graphite-shrouded Saturday afternoon. Although grounded in the familiar slow-quiet/fast-loud musical dynamic that grew out of the Pixies & thereafter grunge generally, this tendency seems particularly pronounced with Pavement given the especially languid-to-meandering nature of the former passages which then erupt with & into surprisingly energetic bursts: corking stuff.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

No Respecter of Tradition...

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Continuing the series of 'roadkill' diptychs, this particular subject illustrates succinctly how even the noblest of names are freely & easily appropriated for branding purposes, to become just another consumer item, to be used, discarded & ground down...


Underworld 'Beaucoup Fish'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'The Boatman's Call'
Belle & Sebastian 'Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant'

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Self-Critical Practice..?

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

A further addition to the 'roadkill' aluminium cans diptych series, perhaps incorporating suitably self-critical comment!
A particular aspect of rendering the subject matter in graphite, purely tonally, is, of course, to drain them of their coloured, attention-seeking liveries, which endure for the most part even in their compressed, distressed condition as found objects by the roadside: the concentration consequently becomes upon the play of light & shadow & the flattened forms in & for themselves.


Cat Power 'The Covers Record'
Morrissey 'Vauxhall and I'
The Associates 'Fourth Drawer Down'/'Sulk'
Black Box Recorder 'England Made Me'
Underworld 'Second Toughest in the Infants'

And so to more musical reacquaintances, this time returning to the relatively recent past of the mid-90s & Underworld's 'Second Toughest...', a fine listen indeed. It seems appropriate in the context of a visually-oriented blog to open out the CD's booklet to appreciate the full scope of the drawing gracing its cover, the swipe of the inky brushmarks...

In similar manner, I've always admired the cool white minimalism on display when one opens the case of Cat Power's 'Covers Record' CD, the beauty of the wonderful photographic portrait of the artist & the simplicity of the design of the disc which suits well the stripped-down nature of the music contained within, a compelling collection of songs reinterpreted in a sequence of singular performances of quiet intensity.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recycling Art History

Today the opposite of tomato is Blue Soap

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Continuing with the process of 'roadkill' diptych drawings: one intends the dialogue between the two distinct halves to be apparent, in terms of the technique of mark-making & erasure common to both, the whole, despite the obvious difference in finished appearance. An interesting result of the particular drawing process of heavily applying graphite to the surface of the paper in order to achieve a suitably rich darkness of tone is that the resulting metallic, light-reflective sheen corresponds rather pleasingly in a direct physical manner to the nature of the surface finish of the aluminium can, thus creating a satisfying 'object dialogue' between the thing itself & its representation as a drawing (another thing).

The drawing of such an object as the crushed can, plucked, recovered & reclaimed from a contemporary context (where it unavoidably comments, eloquently despite its mute, abandoned status, upon the circumstances in which it exists, of the ubiquity of shiny, designed, branded products & the casual manner in which, consumed, such are wantonly discarded), nontheless seems to reference the history of art in the manner of its featuring in synthesized form multiple facets & views such as might typically occur in Cubism - this particular can, for instance, displaying, simultaneously, within the same flattened plane (actual & pictured), its top, side & bottom &, also Cubistically, a fragment of lettering & logo, a synecdoche of its (brand) name.
Furthermore, & reaching further back in art-historical time, the creases & folds in the buckled, flattened form of the can might also suggest the folds & creases in drapery & flowing, billowing garments, especially silks amongst an array of fabrics, either clothing or falling from the human form, representations of which are ubiquitous in the tradition of Western painting, the technical realization of which being a particular practical illustration of an artist's talents: indeed, such subject matter & resources provided the inspiration for the series of 'white' paintings, entitled 'Phantom', that Alison Watt produced during her 2006 - 8 residency at the National Gallery, illustrating the enduring fascination & challenge of such to artists.


Belle & Sebastian 'Push Barman to Open Old Wounds'
The Associates 'Fourth Drawer Down'/'Sulk'
Nirvana 'In Utero'
PJ Harvey 'To Bring You My Love'

And the post-punk obsession continues, largely unabated, finding its most recent expression in the work of The Associates, whose sonic aesthetic remains unique & astonishing still, a mighty & compelling combination of Billy Mackenzie's voice, stratospheric in range, his vocal gymnastics, his lyrical non-sequiturs & Alan Rankine's instrumental inventiveness & the ensuing unconventional, often jarring forms: anything goes, & mostly works, creating such magnificent atmospheres, the wonders of which endure. There really is, or has been, nothing quite like, for but a few examples, the mitteleuropean eerie starkness of 'A White Car in Germany'; the foreboding plod of 'Q Quarters', anxiously looking over its shoulder at what may lurk in the mist-shrouded, haunted, echoing shadows; the (especially) manic 'Kitchen Person' & 'Bap de la Bap'; the dislocated (Cubist?) funk of 'Message Oblique Speech'; the singing-in-the-shower/bath conceit of 'Blue Soap' (perfectly realised in textural terms, with 'Kitchen Person' playing on a background radio) - how could one not smile & sing along to a lyric & conjured image such as "rub-a-dub-dub, me & my dog in the tub" (?!); the grandiose drama of 'No'; the vocal lapse into a Sean Connery impersonation during 'Skipping'; or, of course, the soaring heights of 'Party Fears Two' (somewhat incredible to contemplate now, given its sheer otherness, but a hit single in its glorious day). And how prescient, indeed prophetic, regretfully, proved to be the lyrics of the appropriately reflective, melancholy 'Gloomy Sunday', a title & familiar sentiment within British musical & other culture which forms an interesting link with the post-punkesque aesthetic of Black Box Recorder's 'England Made Me' & its closing, similarly dismal, 'Hated Sunday' (with an honourable mention too for Morrissey, for whom, tragi-comically, every day was like Sunday, of course!)
There's a fascinating interview, anecdotally filling in many a background, with Alan Rankine in Simon Reynolds' essential companion volume to 'Rip It Up and Start Again', 'Totally Wired': the author, in his introduction to the latter, is indeed correct in stating that there is still much to be explored in the subject of post-punk, something I'm beginning to realise too as it looms ever larger, to the point of almost total immersion: how wonderful & revelatory it is to be returning to the music & its makers of the time, of one's youth, such a crucial, formative one culturally & creatively, & discovering so much unchartered depth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Victim...

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Another 'roadkill' victim, compositional concept & practical details as in the previous post...Wondering if it would be possible to claim the body of drawings featuring such subject (& object) matter as something of a recycling project, in the act of reclaiming the discarded packaging refuse - in its abject, abandoned, discarded & distressed state - for the purposes of art?


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Abattoir Blues'
Sparklehorse 'Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot'
New Order
singles compilation
Galaxie 500 'Today'
, 'On Fire' & 'This Is Our Music'

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stilled Life

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

A subtle change of focus within the current series of drawings, this diptych concentrating on the aluminium can 'roadkill' itself, the concept & composition inspired by the presence of chalked lines on the road surfaces of a small selection of the original photographs upon which the project is essentially based which, if one were so inclined, might suggest the traditional scene-of-crime practice of drawing an outline around a prone dead body, as, in effect, the flattened can is...The outline exists as a drawing in its own right in such circumstances, of course, &, in the above composition, forms half of a negative-positive formal dialogue. The drawing of the flattened can was processed from a properly two-dimensional 'aesthetically-distanced' source, a photocopy of the found object itself.


New Order singles complation
Boards of Canada 'Geogaddi'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'The Boatman's Call'
Badly Drawn Boy 'The Hour of Bewilderbeast'

Friday, April 10, 2009

On the Road Again

graphite, putty eraser & papier collé/30x20cm

Returning to graphite as the medium of choice to further explore the 'roadkill'-double black lines series, this drawing is another to incorporate the pasting of a torn piece of paper into the process of its realization & the formal composition, adding a distinct element of linear drawing through its irregular edges & also serving, as a shallow 3D object, to add actual texture to the picture plane & thus to instigate a dialogue with the depicted flattened can.


Mazzy Star 'So Tonight That I Might See'
PiL 'Metal Box'
Black Box Recorder 'England Made Me'
Charlotte Gainsbourg '5:55'

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Going to the Darklands...

Today the opposite of tomato is talking in rhyme with one's chaotic soul

charcoal, graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Returning to the aluminium can 'roadkill' besides double black line roadmarkings series, this drawing demanded to be processed primarily in charcoal due to the particularly dark nature of the photographic original on which its ground is based.
Although not a 'domestically-friendly' medium due to its black dusty nature, it proved a real pleasure to engage with charcoal once again, to be able to realise deep, velvety tones & textures appropriate to the subject matter.

The word 'Red' visible on the flattened can draws further reference to the early work of Jasper Johns, with stencilled names of colours appearing within both monochrome & coloured works such as 'Jubilee', 'False Start', 'Diver' & 'Periscope (Hart Crane)' for example.


Moon Wiring Club 'Shoes Off and Chairs Away'

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Used Graphite

Today the opposite of tomato is a 'signal of a symptom, soon to be exhausted'

And so, at last, the much-anticipated publication & arrival of Suzanne P Hudson's study of the work of Robert Ryman, titled after the artist's conception of painting, as an experimental activity, as 'used paint'. Having long been fascinated by Ryman's work, as objects & his process, the text is something to be avidly explored without much further ado, but my attention was initially arrested by the book as an aesthetic object in its own right. Linen-bound, this covering is itself ensleeved in a dust jacket of thick tracing-like paper, in the manner of New Order's exquisitely-packaged 'Low-life' LP from way back when (ahh, those really were the days, of the confluence of music & visual art & design...)

As is apparent, a window cut into the dust jacket reveals the linen beneath, & the particular properties of the material's texture & weave, the brickwork-like structure of which is subject to optical effects upon viewing.
A drawing was thus inspired by such a richly compelling aesthetic object, employing & consistent with the fundamental concerns of process & the realization of an allover surface, comprised of - obviously - used graphite, as each drawing, unspokenly, of necessity is. Referencing the model, a windowed sheet of tracing paper was then overlaid to create a drawing-object.

graphite with tracing paper overlay/20x30cm

The original drawing could exist as such, on its own terms, as an example of allover process, of marks made, horizontally & vertically, & the modernist grid...



Marvin Gaye 'What's Going On'
B52s 'Rock Lobster'
Tunng 'Good Arrows'
Chris Morris 'Blue Jam'
Young Marble Giants 'Colossal Youth'
Cabaret Voltaire 'Voice of America',
'Western Mantra' & 'Red Mecca'
Portishead 'Third'

Again trawling the collection & becoming pleaantly reacquainted with a couple of classics in the form of 'What's Going On', sublime as ever, & the mighty 'Rock Lobster', its energy, drama, fun & magnificence undimmed by time.
There seems something most appropriate, too, in hearing the Cabaret Voltaire albums of their Rough Trade period, & 'Western Mantra' (post-punk's very own 'Sister Ray') with its effect-laden somewhat degraded, crunchy 'scratched surface' sonic aesthetic, in particular, on cassette, taking one back to the 'C90' days of their release & the habitual, obsessive taping of obscure wonders (very much such as the Cabs) from the John Peel radio programme: the cassette itself (onto which the albums were transferred from their original vinyl incarnations, for the purposes of portability) is a profoundly 'Proustian' object, a relic from another (technological) age, a survivor from a past with which it maintains tangible contact & thus assists in becoming that much less distant.
By something of a coincidence, an initial browse-read of the most recent (essential) book acquisition, Simon Reynolds' 'Totally Wired' - a companion volume of interviews with those musicians featured in the author's earlier history of post-punk 'Rip It Up and Start Again' - has already revealed his thoughts on PiL's 'Metal Box' album, & the fascinating concept of how the physical embodiment of music is an essential component of its reception & fullest appreciation: I too owned the album in its original incarnation, very much an object of desire (at an RRP of £7.45, when most albums cost under £4.99 in its day, it had to be: I, like Simon, had to wait until Xmas to hear it, 'presented'!), the three 12" vinyl discs contained in a metal canister, which gave to the music a palpably metallic quality (not of the 'heavy' variety, although the vibrations of the bass embedded in the grooves of the records most certainly were) & its sense of otherness, that nothing quite sounded like it as nothing else had been presented in such a singular fashion. I concur absolutely with Reynolds when he states that subsequent incarnations of the album - first as a double LP in a gatefold sleeve (in which format a friend owned it) & the later "almost risible to behold" CD reissue (a single disc in appropriately miniaturized can, which really is a pathetic specimen in comparison to the physical, & psychological, dimensions of the original, further evidence of increasingly 'reduced circumstances') - have served only to diminish the nature of the music, & its significance & eerie, compelling power: 'Metal Box' really was music-as-object, & seemingly very much intended to be (the 3 12" discs themselves, with 12 tracks spread over the consequent 6 sides of vinyl, to be played in whatever order & quantity the listener saw fit on any particular occasion, were a deconstruction of the traditional album format & its fixed mode of sequencing the music, for instance).
And now, of course, so much music has no physical form, save, perhaps, for the technology via which it is experienced (which might well be taken for granted, unconsidered, anyway): what happened, where did the art go?!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Still 'Tyred-Out'...

graphite, putty eraser & pasted paper/30x20cm

Continuing the aluminium can 'roadkill' & double black lines series of drawings, this example - again a composite image processed from a photographic original of the roadside & a photocopy of the found discarded object - employs strips of torn paper to create its linear element, the lines of the tears being similar to the uneven edges of the painted & overpainted road markings. This obviously gives to the drawing an element of slightly three-dimensional texture which in turn creates a dialogue with the drawn texture of the tarmacked road surface & also the objects of flattened can & cigarette.


Lambchop 'Is a Woman' & 'OH (Ohio)'
Mazzy Star 'So Tonight That I Might See'
Laura Veirs 'Years of Meteors'