Categoría: Research & Reflection

Visit to Bogota Colombia

Visit to Bogota Colombia

During my recent business trip to Bogota Colombia, I was able to take time out to sketch a small part of the City and to visit two excellent Art Museums:

Art Museum of the Banco de la Republica and the Botero Museum:

I was fortunate to see an excellent collection of Latin America art and Colonial art as well as European Art.

Among the artworks my highlights were as follows:

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Guillermo Wiedemann, Retrato fondo rojo, 1950, Oil on cardboard

In this painting, I sensed a sadness in this portrait of a Mulato native of Colombia. I was also intriqued by the effects of the apparently simple line on a multicoloured background. The uncovering of the breast and phallic simbols on the RH side –  to me suggest rape or submission, even persecution.

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Fernando Botero, Venus, 1932 Coloured pencil on paper

This is perhaps a lovely portrayal of a volumptuous figure using coloured pencil on paper – that may help me in Part 4. Very light shading – modelling the figure to give a wonderful 3D effect. I also noted that there are no heavy lines in the figure – just enough to assist the shading/modelling.

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Alberto Giacommetti, Carolina with white background, 1961 (Detail), Oil on canvas

This drawing in oil could easily be a line drawing in ink – this is an artist that provides a constant source of inspiration for Part 4 of the course.

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Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot, The small valley, 1871, Oil on Canvas

Whilst studying in Part 4, I was impressed by the wonderful pencil sketches made by Corot – This a good example of foreground, middleground and background.

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Fernando Botero, Still life with basket of fruit, 1990, Pencil on paper

In this drawing I appreciated the modelling and textures in this drawing after my studies in Part 2. Botero’s skill at still life is also reflected in the modelling of his figures (and other subjects – such as trees). There is a deeper meaning within this drawing with the use of many symbols – such as the cross represented by the stalk of the apple, the peeled orange, the knife and the hammerhead of the bananas.

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Frank Auerbach, Mornington Crescent towards the South, 1996/7, Oil on canvas

After reading about Auerbach and his work, it was a treat to see a work up close.  Not a large painting. You can see eveidence of his technique of scraping off paint, repainting, struggling to find the a solution to the modelling, movement and atmostphere of the scene – a scene literally outside of his studio – a scene he walked past every day and made many studies of – both in oils and pencil.  This is particularly relevant to my current work on Townscapes.

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Marc Chagall, The flying clown, 1981, Oil on canvas

This painting was the most moving for me – I visited Chagall’s immense retrospective at the Royal Academy, London just before he died with my late father. This was a very special memory for me and I have never ceased to be amazed by the imagination, vibrant use of colour and sheer emotion within Chagalls paintings.  This painting made a few years before his death when he was a staggering 94 years old includes all the memories and motifs from his life and work – a self portrait? An inspration for me for Part 4 and the next course of POP.

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Alejandro Obregon, Violence, 1962, Oil on canvas

This is a key work by a Spanish artist who settled in Colombia and worked with other artists interested in figuration/abstraction  – using the nude, landscape and historical issues as a subject for their works. In this painting Obregon’s work is a visual metaphor linking  the nation in conflict with a pregnant woman, whose figure blends into the mountainous landscape. A relevant work to my current studies in Part 3 Expanse.

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Unfortunately I do not have details of this installation/sculpture – but it reminded me of the work of Julie Mehrethu in its explosive nature and effective use of pieces strategically placed to exagerrate the feeling of space and depth. An awesome piece of work and I am sure a Curators nightmare to install!

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Part 3 Expanse

Part 3 Expanse

Project 3 Research point

In this research point, we were asked to compare contemporary artists working with landscape with earlier artists.

The example given in the course text was interesting and linked up with my recent reading of Margaret Davison´s book on contemporary drawing.

I liked the idea of comparing the works of Tacita Dean with Seurat because it made clearer to me the idea of INTENTIONALITY. Seurat was the first artist to intentionally make a drawing based on the surface/mark relationship (see his drawing above).

Tacita Dean´s blackboard drawings are large and her choice of medium dictates this as chalk would be difficult to manipulate on a in the same way on a smaller scale. Her subject matter works well in black and white – with the smooth matt support in black. She is able to use a full range of tones – the feel of her work is cold and stark – equal to the subject of the glaciers depicted. Other works in the series include waves and heavy seas – also cold and bleak – life threatening even. As in life one has to step back to appreciate their awe.

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Tacita Dean, Chennie Huang – Chalk on blackboard (Detail)

In comparison the work of Seurat is more intimate, warm even and made on a smaller scale – one would have to inspect the drawing up close to appreciate it fully. Less detail, impressionistic but with full range of tones present. Surface of the paper used is rough and is used to assist in his impressionistic approach.

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Georges Seurat, Factories by moonlight – Conte crayon on paper (23.6 x 31.2 cm)

In moving forward with this part of the course, I will need to think more carefully about my approach to intentionality, use of surface, scale and selection of medium to support and enhance the subject matter.

Book reading

Contemporary Drawing – Key concepts and techniques by Margaret Davidson

During my business trip last week I found time to read the entire book on Contemporary Drawing by Margaret Davidson. The book was was readable and easy to follow and extremely inspiring.  The book was published in 2011 so is reasonably up to date.

As a lead in to Part 3, Project 3 Developing your studies, it was perfect and an excuse to reflect on my work so far and considerations that I would be wise to reflect upon during the final phases of Part 3 Expanse, and beyond.

I have tried not to copy out large chunks of the book and place them here, as I believe it will be more useful for me to provide myself with a kind of checklist/action plan to follow.

The book is broken up into interesting sections that I will use as the guide for my checklist:

SURFACE  Investigate surface textures and in particular the relationship between mark/tone and surface texture, and incorporate this experience into choice of paper/support /medium/s for my drawings.

The relationship between surface and mark is fundamental to contemporary drawing, and every kind of drawing artist today makes this decision deliberately

Options available are smooth paper, slightly textured paper, intensely textured paper, toned paper, transluscent paper, graph paper, book paper, phonebook, textbook, glass, wood and leaves, cloth among others!

Note to me: Smooth papers are quiet and textured papers are more assertive and chaotic.

MARK  It is important for me to appreciate that there are three ways to use marks:

  • The mark as a means to the end (the mark is secondary to the subject)
  • It can be the end itself (the mark/s is the subject), or
  • Both these things at the same time

Note to me: In contemporary drawing, all drawing is abstract.

Techniques available to me include: Line (outline, contour line etc), tone, other marks such as stippling, dots splashes etc etc, .

Note to me: Explore even more and regularly all types of mark making and tone including mixing line and tone!

Other techniques: Artist induced mark, nature induced mark, gravity, propulsion, surface tension, fire, culture induced mark (text based marks, machine generated marks, self governed but unforeseeable mark….)

Note to me: Additional considerations in relation to my mark making include:

  • Relation to surface (what response de I have to the surface when making the mark and what do I wish to express to the viewer)
  • Relation to space (around every mark there will be space – use this to advantage/effect)
  • Relation to composition
  • Relation to scale (Scale can change the entire nature of mark making – small and conscious to large and physical)

In contemporary drawing, intentionality has to do with personalizing the image, and arriving at a personal truth……contemporary drawing artists continue to work at finding new ways of arriving at it.

SPACE  A drawing is, most basically, some sort of surface that includes areas of marks and, usually but not always, areas of no marks. There are four main types of space:

  • Depicting illusion of 3 dimensional space
  • Promoting the truth of the flatness of the picture plane
  • A combination of the above
  • Making actual 3 dimensional drawings

Note to me: To depict the illusion of 3 dimensional space I need to explore the following: Overlap, size difference, value or contrast change, reflection.

Agnes Martin’s work is an example of an artist that fully explored and used the flatness of the surface in her drawings/paintings.

To focus on the mark and its relationship to the surface and to the space is something akin to meditation and focusing on one’s own breathing.

In Part 3 of the course I want to explore the combination of the flatness of the surface with 3 dimensional space using a translucent material – working on both sides and using collage if necessary – borrowing ideas/style from Julie Mehretu.

Contemporary drawing artists especially know that space in drawing is a touchable substance, one that must be worked with consciously, and deliberately moulded.

Note to me: Research Russell Crotty’s actual 3 dimensional drawings and try out some personal work in an actual 3 dimensional space.

COMPOSITION 

Balance creates a unity within the structure, and makes possible a relationship between the drawing and the viewer.

Note to me: Universal fundamentals of composition are a connection with the format and the significant use of eye level. Look for opportunities to use these fundamentals to best effect in my work.

Note to me: Eye level is an intriguing subject and needs to be carefully considered. Consider the ‘Why’ when choosing a particular eye level. Examples include:

  • Straight on position
  • Lower position
  • Higher position

Other considerations in composition include:

  • Balance – Symmetrical and asymmetrical, balance of cubical space where one uses the x,y and z axis
  • Eye pathways – Faces, vectors, high contrast points, power centres, focal points
  • The golden section/the golden rectangle
  • Overallness – overall evenness of mark making or tone…arriving at unity and balance
  • The grid

Agnes Martin writes about her grids:

My formats are square, but the grids never are absolutely square; they are rectangles, a little bit off the square, making a sort of contradiction, a dissonance, though I didn’t set out to do it that way. When I cover the square surface with rectangles, lightens the weight of the square, destroys its power.

SCALE Predominantly there are three sizes of drawing – large scale (big papers, rolls, canvases, large panels, walls, sidewalks etc), normal size (some thing that can be held in two hands and looked at easily) or small scale.

In big drawings I need to consider if that means working on a large roll, sheet or panel, or a series of panels/sheets. Other considerations for big drawings:

Relationship to me as the artist: Composition and spacial implications, in a series of tiled pieces – the space in between/joining is important, mark making and body movements, work alone or collaboratively.

Relationship to the mark: The size of the mark in relation to the whole drawing is a critically important decision. There is potential for a greater range of mark size than in  a smaller drawing, or the mark can be kept at a normal size but add more marks/layers of marks – this can create more depth.

Note to me: Large marks are taken in quickly, while smaller marks take more time to see.

Relationship to the viewer: Big drawings are imposing, and require the viewer to step back from them, but also look up close to view the details, they require ample space for viewing.

Small drawings for mean working close and tight, microscopically – something for that would be uncomfortable, unnatural even. Having said that I wish to experiment with small drawings exactly because they will be out of my comfort zone!

Contemporary drawing that is small also has that sense of preciousness, a quality that some artists like to work with, and some like to work against.

Relationship to the artist: These drawings require a tolerance for sitting and a patience for working closely with small movements/marks – sometimes magnification.

Relationship to the mark: There is restriction/limitation to the size of marks available.

Relationship to the viewer: The size means that only one person can view at a time, there is an intimacy (a connection with the intimacy of the artist), the work is usually framed in a much larger size frame inviting the viewer in and increasing the sense of preciousness.

INTENTIONALITY Every drawing artist MUST decide on what surface to use, with what materials, at what scale, involving what compositional structure, indicating what kind of space, and exhibiting what kind of marks – in other words intentionally making decisions to achieve the final drawing.

Checklist for making and looking at contemporary drawings:

  • Have I or the artist shown the relationship between the negative spaces and the forms?
  • Have I or the artist shown a relationship between the surface and the mark?
  • Is it clear why I or the artist has chosen certain materials and a particular surface?
  • Does the scale tell me or the viewer anything?
  • Have I or the artist been clear in how space is depicted?
  • What is the eye level?
  • What is the message, and is the message clear?
  • What helps, or hurts, the clarity of the message?

 

Part 3 Expanse

Project 2 Landscape

Exercise 1 Cloud formations and tone

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Early morning clouds, Santiago CHILE

After watching the videos and studying the work of Vija Celmins, I was intrigued by the way with certain of her works they were executed over a long period of time. The piece of work would evolve and grow over time, and the artist’s mind and thought process might also change over the same period. A process similar to oil painting which also evolves over a relatively long period of time – waiting for paint to dry etc. Whilst the paintings appear still they have a sense of depth and also one of infinity – time that does not stop. Stars appear and disappear, they grow brighter/duller, they move very fast but appear slow – there is so much to capture in just a simple (or seemingly so) subject matter. The universe is constantly moving like her waves another subject with a surface that defies capture, defies taming and suprises nature itself with its power that has a range from tranquillity to a force so destructive it can change our maps forever.

Clouds are constantly moving, forming, dissolving into space – they have a smell and form a damp humid atmostphere – for instance walking or driving on a mountain road in cloud you can experience the sense of capturing or living in the cloud.

This exercise was both frustrating and in a way thrilling – a chance to experiment and to really see if one understands the use of tone or line to represent a three dimensional object even as fleeting as a cloud!

Small sketchbook studies using line…

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Cloud mark-making using a twig with indian ink/water…

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Experimenting with mixed media/brush using tone…

These studies using a brush were quick but frustratingly unsuccessful.

Thinking about a bigger study and using John Virtue’s London paintings as a guide, I made a cloud study experimenting with a different support…gessoed brown wrapping paper which I had to stretch as it got wetter. This paper is extremely delicate when wet! I then made the cloud study using compressed charcoal:

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Evening cloud study. Compressed charcoal on gessoed brown paper (100 x 80 cm)

In this drawing I have captured movement, perspective and form whilst achieving a full tonal range (although this was a little dampened by the application of fixative after taking this photo).

The support is fragile and brittle – and I am now frightened of removing it from the board – it cannot be rolled up and will have to be mounted on card.

Exercise 2 Sketchbook Walk

This for me was a actually a bike ride not a walk. I used a small sketchbook and a fineline biro.

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This Polo Club is source of inspiration for me and I look forward to seeing/sketching the horses/riders in action soon. I sketched reasonably quickly trying to incorporate as much detail as possible but trying to create an atmosphere as well – the club house is a restaurant and is actually dwarfed by the mountains and polo fields – although this is not captured in my sketch.

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The horse paddocks with mountains in the background has great potential with horses in the foreground, stable blocks and trees in the middleground with mountains and clouds in the background.

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I was actually going to make a completely different sketch at this spot but liked the dead tree trunk to use as a frame for the fields, far off buildings and mountains.

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I have ridden past this spot many times and was interested in the wooden fruit tree supports that have been left to rot in this abandoned field. The pattern of the supports is repeated in the very large imposing pylons that cross the field. Not sure what the yellow plant is that has invaded this field – perhaps rape seed – it will not be there for long as the hot summer sun will destroy it until next year. This has a potential to develop further and with an architectural feel to the pylons is an opportunity for me to explore the style and methods of Julie Mehretu? Perhaps on Mylar if I can get some.

In the meantime I took lots of photos of the field from many angles and made a watercolour sketch (on a very overcast cold day):

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Exercise 3 360deg studies

It was difficult to find time to go out and draw in an expansive landscape but finally I found a location about 30 mins away looking towards the Andes mountains.

It was also difficult to find a safe location to park the car and set up my easel/gear to draw uninterrupted. The day was sunny, hot and cloudless but gave a clear view of the mountains and surrounding countryside.

My drawings were made in my new landscape size 6″ x 12″ 130lb sketchbook in pencil and ink markers:

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Looking east towards the mountains
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Looking south
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Looking west
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Looking north

Some of my direction notes on the drawings were actually incorrect.

The first two sketches captured large chunks of the landscape and the last two homed in on smaller areas. It was as anticipated difficult to capture everything and editing/simplifying was essential, especially in 15 min sketches.

Research Point

Upon researching historic and contemporary artists who work in series with the landscape, I was deeply impressed with the work of John Virtue who I wish to go back to in the next section on Townscapes/Cityscapes. The scale of his works and the way he works up quick small sketches into large scale works is an inspiration.  My recent work in indian ink is showing more confidence and I feel ready to go bolder – ever darker with a greater range of tonal contrast. Nicholas Herbert’s work on the Chiltern Hills is too poetic for me although I appreciated his influences from Turners work. Hockney is a favorite and I may use his influence to build an image of my road in the townscape section of this part of the course. In particular his road pictures where he makes a picture about his journeys: Mullholland Drive: The road to the studio, 1980  and The road to Malibu, 1988.

I have been researching the work of Julie Mehetru – an artist that, whilst she is not a landscape artist, she has used architectural drawings and urban spaces in her works on both modest and gigantic scales! Whilst I cannot move to her scale at present, I want to explore working on Mylar and creating similar spaces to her works such as the Untitled. 2000 works found in Drawing Now. Eight Propositions by Laura Hoptmann, 2002 – where she uses coloured pencil, ink and cut paper on Mylar. This will be a challenge for me also because it may mean more controlled use of line and a methodic form of working – well outside of my comfort zone and I could go to A2 maybe. In particular I want to explore her use of what she calls the 3rd space – a space outside of the picture plane swirling, deconstructing and exploding – a space that is also truly three dimensional.