Monday, 14 August 2017

Orla Barry Artist and shepherd

In Cork last month, I saw part of this performance piece by Orla Barry, "reflecting on the primal, poetic and unpredictable bond we have with the natural world."

I was only there briefly, but there was time to watch her video about the imagined experience of one her lambs being taken to market and sold on .  Really moving.  The above link will give more information about this interesting artist.

Siobhan Davies, dance and body artist

Article here from January Guardian about the work of Siobhan Davies, the dancer and choreographer.  I personally really agree with her words:

"I think the mind is bloody wonderful, but the whole of us lives in the world and the whole of us communciates, the whole of us can fantasise and imagine.  I'd like us to turn the world around... We still hugely privilege the mind over everything else"

Davies collaborates with artists and scientists.  Her recent work, Material/rearranged/to/be refers to the idea of physical gesture: where it might come from and what it might mean"

As a source in this work, she used the extraordinary Mnemosyne Atlas (1924-1929) by Aby Warburg which shows how symbolic images and gestures reappear in different times and places throughout history... Warburg was curious about how the artists used the behaviour of the body to hold a thought"

Wellcome Collection - new views of the human body

Here are some experimental works from the Wellcome Trust space near Kings Cross, in London. I like the skeleton by William Cobbing, which shows are the skull and the pelvis (in the human anyway but probably in other species too) are possibly derived from the same form.

Martin Campos and the human in space

"He move always in relation to things, beside walls, raised terrace hedges.  He scans the periphery.  When he looks at Hana he sees a fragment of her lean cheek in relation to the landscape behind it.  The way he watches the arc of a linnet in terms of the space it gathers away from the surface of the earth.  He has walked up Italy with eyes that tried to see everything except what was temporary and human.

The one thing he will never consider is himself.  Not his twilit shadow or his arm reaching for the back of a chair or the reflection of himself in a window or how they watch him.  In the years of war he has learned that the only thing safe is himself"

Description of Sikh sapper Kip in "The English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje p. 218 (Picador paperback edition)

This quote reminds me of Martin Campos and his approach to art.  I am exploring it, but it seems to be about anchoring the figure in a spatial context.  Combining his exquisite figure drawing and painting with a looser abstract approach.  Above are some of my early attempts from his Ireland class in July.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Willam Dalrymple and the creative process

With many thanks to Alan Vest for this image

I like this remark by William Dalrymple in "My working day" series.

He is describing the final year of the four to five year project of writing a book:

"One year in four or five years you have to be completely eaten up by the book.  If it is working, you are really dreaming your book, not as a figure of speech, but in a very literal sense.  You are harnessing the power of your subconscious"

This perfectly describes the creative process, or one stage of it, and explains why it can be so draining.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Horse drawings

These drawings and oil sketches are about the volume of the horse and how the light falls on its body.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Self portrait

Diana Hand self portrait 2017    
I am working on self portrait studies at the moment, slowly, very slowly beginning to grasp the construction of the head and face and translating that structure into colour.  It is better for me to begin a drawing as a base from which to venture into the complexities of colour.

I hope sometime to make drawings of other people and will bear in the ideas of Wolfgang Tillmans.

"For him, it is a collaborative act and a good "a good levelling instrument".  No matter who the sitter -.. even the artist himself - the process is chracterized by the same dynamics of vulnerability, exposure, honesty and always, to some extent, self consciousness... highlighting the relationship between appearance and identity."   

 Notes from the catalogue to Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition in Tate Modern (February to June 2017).

Adrian Searle on paint and Peter Doig

This is Adrian Searle's fine tribute to Peter Doig and his use of paint.

"What Doig discovered .. is that paint is like mud and can be drawn out in to trails and strokes like dangling vines, tendrils or branches.  It can make a clean white shape, like a canoe, or a broken inchoate mess of spatters, like a sudden cough or wind-whipped sleet. Paint can be like air or light, or solid as a bronze fire hydrant or a man's head or a truck.  It can trickle like water on a windowpane.  It can be inchoate and formless, or lain on to the canvas like rows of bricks or blind windows puncturing the side of a house, or a series of pictures hung on a wall.

Paint can be as emphatic as fence posts crossing a field, and can also be the boy in the field half-seen in the gloom.  It can be as explosive as a snowball hitting a kid in the face.  It can blur like a mirage of a couple on a hot b each.  It can dry like cement trowelled into the cracks in a wall.  It can be a headlight approaching or a canopy of stars reflected in heaving black water or lights on a distant shore seen through a translucent curtain covering a plate-glass windows, as sharp as long grass or a tangle of thorny bushes.  It can be as heavy and sodden as wet hair, or as immatrial as a reflection in ice, or fog on the breath.

It can be a slab of light hitting a building or the concrete itself or the foliage that's obscuring the view of the building and a smear of sun richocheting off a shadowed tree trunk. It can be diaphanous as the material stretched over an old parasol, scraped across the painting in a translucent veil.  It can be shiny as a truck and as fleeting as smoke blowing away from a chimney in a gale.  It can be something seen or half seen, or the implication of something not visible at all.  It can be both a parody and homage to another  painter's touch.  It can say many things at once.

Painting, in short, is  language through which painters discover their subjects and also both lose and find themselves.  This is why it is as much an act of recovery as it is one of discovering the unknown.  As words themselves frequently tell the writer what to write, so the substance of a painting dictates where nuance lies and where meaning might be found, and where figures might lurk.  There's always someone there if you look long enough.  If painting is  mirror it cannot avoid reflecting the one who made it."

Peter Doig    Adrian Searle, Kitty Scott and Catherine Grenier  Phaidon 2007 p. 79

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Wolfgang Tillmans

Tracing light directly onto paper

The dismantled photocopierr

The folded sheet of paper

Wolfgang Tillmans (born 1968) is a fascinating artist. Known originally for his avant-garde work in fashion and other magazines, he is also now more engaged in wider social issues. 

In his practice he is very engaged with process and materials -  in his case this means photographic media such as film, chemicals and paper, and often his images reflect this interest.  He creates abstract images on photosensitive paper without using the camera, tracing light directly onto the paper.  He sees his tools as artworks.  For example, he dismantled a broken colour photocopies by undoing every screw is it and photographed it as a piece of sculpture. A folded sheet of paper also makes an ambiguous abstract shape.

He is interested in the "coexistence of chance and control - finding ways of resisting the idea that the photograph is a representation of reality"  He does not distinguish between abstraction and representation, is rather more interested in what they have in common.

Printed material of all kinds central to his work, “the printed page is as valid a venue for artistic creation as the walls of a museum” , he says.

Although Tillmans' approach is highly conceptual, he is also very socially aware of how space is shaped and experienced by society, and also how new technology is affecting our worldview and culture.  At the same time, he notices how urban nightlife (places where people might express their personal identities) is becoming more restricted.

His empathy for people is apparent from his photographs in the Neue Welt project (started in 2009).  He travelled to five continents to look at new places and familiar places, both as if for the first time.  Some of photographs from this period form a separate video work "Book for Architects 2014".  This consists of 450 photos taken in 37 countries, emphasizing both the adaptability and fragility of human beings.  

There is so much more to see and learn in this exhibition at Tate Modern (15 February to 11th June, 2017)

I particularly like the way his acknowledgement of shared humanity and vulnerabilty is combined with an enquiring technical and creative mind that takes nothing for granted and sees the world and his art in such a new way.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Abstracting the horse

Really pleased with this total chance one which popped out today   Blurred movement is probably a good way for my horses right now.

Now (10th May) working on a photo composition from Newmarket a few years ago.  Experimenting, moving from a fairly exact version via a playful experimental sketch version through to version 2.
It is hard to see from the photograph what the paintings are like because texture and movement are quite important.  I am trying to work out what is interesting and important, it has to be the stripes and the pink jacket and the denim legs, plus the horse's body and legs.  Version 2 was enjoyable to do (it is unfinished as yet) because I felt much freer and more involved with it and it seemed that the subject was essentially the horse and rider relationship.  But I don't think I have the proportions quite right. Version 1 appealed to my more logical side.  I like the watery sketch too, it is probably the best!  In all cases, I worked out the main colours first and prepared my palette, but was prepared to play with that (see the sketch version)

Next stage - I did another version with more paint and energy and eventually started to see beyond the surface (stripes and pattern) to the basic composition, rhythm and shapes.  Huge moment.  Having established the key shapes I then did a free drawing playing with the basic shapes, then moved into that with the main colours, which I know by now.  This may turn back into a figure of a rider.


Version 1 painting  acrylic on canvas
Version 1 +

Having a play  acrylic on card
Version 2 unfinished   acrylic on canvas
Version 2 blurred out a bit

Shapes and rhythms
Abstract version :)

Wolfgang Tillmans "Book for Architects"

"The Book for Architects" is a video installation of 450 images, reflecting Tillmans' fascination with architecture and "the contrast between the rationality and utopianism that inform design and the reality of how buildings and streets come to be constructed and inhabited".  Tillmans "hones in on the resourceful .. ways in which people adapt to their surroundings to fit their needs.  These are individual and uncoordinated decisions that were not anticipated in architects' plans but still impact on the build the environment"
  (quote from the accompanying leaflet published by Tate)

Tillmans' statement:

Over the past ten years, I have photographed buildings in ordinary and extraordinary contexts in thrirty-seven countries on five continents.  Displaying the complexity and the irrationality – sometimes madness – and at other times beauty of architecture, these pircutres in their totality seem to me a little daunting, but have always been taken with a kind eye.  I’m aware that architecture is an expression of desires, hopes and ambitions, s well myriad practical needs and limitations that shape a structure’s design.  I’m fascinated by the infinite number of formal and structural solutions, seen en masse and the world over, that human logic found for similar problems.

Book for Architects is not a book design but a video installation, presented as a looped projection of still images on  two walls.  My interest is not a typological examination but to show a dequence and an arrangement of images that echo what examples of the built environment look and feel like to me.  I don’t use wide-angle or shift lenses but a standard lens that most closely approximates to the perspective of the human eye.  The various elements of architecture appear here at times clearly and cleanly, while at other times in a layered and convolurted way.  As such, the installation represents an d emulates the randomness, beauty and imperfection that characterises built reality, both past and present.

Wolfgang Tillmans  2014


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Abstracting the figure more

Figure on yellow    Acrylic on board

Exploring the new sensations of colour and drawing together

Nude in progress
Further on with this one

Monday, 24 April 2017

Peter Doig on Bonnard

Peter Doig   White Canoe

Peter Doig  The Architect's Home in the Ravine

Peter Doig writes of Bonnard:
"Somehow he is painting the space that is behind the eyes.  It is as if you were lying in bed trying hard to remember what something looked like.  And Bonnard managed to paint that strange state.  It is not a photographic space at all.  It is a memory space, but one which is based on reality."

Pierre Bonnard  2005 in    Peter Doig, Phaidon.

Pierre Bonnard  The Intimiste

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The abstract trip

Angel of the North (work in progress)

Life study (work in progress)

I am experimenting with a more abstract approach, here are a couple of pieces in progress, made with a limited palette and over a build-up of marks and coloured shapes.  This is a free way of working which I love, but I maintain a precis study and exploration as well.  Here is a preliminary profile drawing of me.

Here is the latest version of the life study

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Freedom and analysis

 I want to explore more of the free approach to painting that I experienced in Pauline Agnew's e-course.  I worked for months on this garden subject and know its colours and compositions well, so I did a colour sample of the colours, then went "free" with the resulting selection. I thoroughly enjoyed this moment of spontaneity and  freedom, and yet felt a bit lost because although it feels natural to me it is so different from the analytic and slow process of learning to paint.  The latter often produces good results.. eventually.  And I learn a lot, particularly the necessity of really engaging with a painting with all the despair that can entail.

So today I returned again to observational work, currently a self portrait (more struggle here!), but then suddenly saw a figure in the one of the little free pieces I did yesterday.
So I started to introduce it into the painting.  This is good because the energy is already there.  Also I think I realise what Pauline Agnew means by the background and the figure being one.

So what works for me at present is to stick with the painstaking observational work and studies of anatomy, but also to have some joyous playtime which brings together the figure and elements of colour.  These different processes can mesh, and provide a way of taking my painting into a new place.....
Dunblane painting

Colour sample from above
Free version 1

Free version 2

Starting to "find" a figure in version 2