Jackdaws At Dusk

Jackdaws At Dusk

Friday, 29 October 2010

Landscape Painting.

During a recent holiday at the beginning of October to Tenby in West Wales I was struck by a cliff at the back of our caravan which seemed so out of place next to the rows of neat white caravans. So I took it upon myself to make some studies of it and to see if it could be developed into a painting. This A3 oil pastel sketch from my sketchbook shows the composition I wanted to use along with a more expressive rendering of the colours and plant forms. I was thinking about Peter Prendergasts' work at the time and the strong use of black contrasting with the light tonal areas shows his influence.

I filled a few pages of my sketch book with compositional studies and once I'd decided on the right angle I painted this A2 study. It contains a more accurate rendering of the colours in the rocks face and shows detail for the cracks and fissures and plant life, but I was hoping I could bring out more texture in the finished painting. The oil pastel sketch above contains much more dynamic marks that I was hoping to bring out too, rather than the flat smooth brush marks.

After having experimented with using lumps of old acrylic paint scraped off old palettes in my John Piper style painting I decided to try the technique again for this painting. This photo shows the painting viewed from the side showing where I've placed the textured areas in the middle, corresponding with the rock face. The vivid colours that I've used for the under painting will hopefully feed through into the top layers which will be slightly more "realistic." I'm still hoping to work somewhat in the style of Peter Prendergast.

Another layer of paint has been added here with areas scraped through into the bottom layer such as the plants on the bottom left corner and the rock face. The sky has had another layer added to it using a palette knife and thin layers of white, blue and red. Even though the photo doesn't show the colour of the sky very effectively I'm happy with the effect here and probably won't change it much in future alterations.

The colours for the rocks and plants are still not very life like as my main priority at the moment is still to achieve unusual texture in the undercoat. I'll work more at adapting the colour once I'm happy with the texture.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Brendan Stuart Burns


This link is to the paintings on the website of Brendan Stuart Burns, a contemporary Welsh artist who's won the gold medal in Fine Art twice in the National Eisteddfod of Wales, and who I knew as a tutor on the Fine Art section of the Foundation Course in the Glamorgan Centre of Art and Design Technology when I studied there in 1997. At the time I wasn't very aware of the paintings he created, there were two on display in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff at the time, but I didn't really understand them. They were so large and didn't seem to be depicting anything specifically that it was difficult for me to see what was going on in them, especially as I'd never studied anything in this style before.

I've since read about his work in more detail in the book "Welsh Artists Talking" by Tony Curtis which was published in the year 2000, which contains interviews with various artists about their work. I now see his paintings differently, the key reason being the piece of information relayed in the book that the paintings are depictions of the beach on the Pembrokeshire coast in West Wales seen from looking down at the ground. Many of the paintings are of rock pools, seen close up, and the use of perspex and wax along with oil paints recreates this gloopy, liquid world. The colours and forms are of the rocks, sand and plant life and once I read this I saw the paintings in a different way. It reminds me of the work of Peter Lanyon, who I've written about in my paper logbook, and the fact that he painted many of his images from the scenes he viewed when flying across the coast of Devon and Cornwall in his glider. Both artists are creating landscape paintings though seen from a very different angle.

I've recently seen more of his work at the National Eisteddfod of Wales this year in Ebbw Vale, where he had three large paintings on display, but not so typically depicting rock pools and the coast line. They were in a square format, quite dark, and used a lot of purple and unusually contained a fair amount of glitter which was visible when viewing the work from the side. Maybe this was meant to depict the sparkle of the water. They were very tactile and invited you in to view them both close up and from a distance. There was the hint at some kind of representation but it was as though seen through a veil.

The link here is for the paintings by Burns owned by the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, though they aren't on display at the moment. However I have seen two of his paintings, quite small ones, that were on display the last time I visited the museum a couple of months ago, but they were on loan from the artist. I remember them being slightly different to the rock pool paintings, and the use of paint seemed quite sparse, with more of an inclusion of blobs, maybe they were meant to be the rocks. I will make some studies of them next time I go to the museum, which will be quite soon.

(added info on 11/1/11) The paintings are not there anymore, they've moved a lot of things about, but more information on the web shows them to be part of " The Taste of Sight" collection of paintings. The small ones, 15cm by 15cm are in my price bracket and are very tempting. "These paintings strive to 'touch' you" he says in a statement on the 56groupwales website, where he is one of the artist members. "The constant struggle and dialogue with the abstract and the figurative, empathise with the process of nature found within both microcosm and macrocosm." I can remember his doing a session on synaesthesia in his art classes back in 1997 and he mentions synaesthesia in the website statement too. The tactile quality of paint must be such an integral part of the painting process for him.

This interview is related to an exhibition of his in Oriel Myrddin, featuring work that he completed on a residency in Oriel Y Parc in West Wales. When asked what he loves about painting he says "The smell, and the fact you can't master it and what it can do." Which is quite a humble and realistic standpoint really.

Here's list of artists who he mentions on the website for Oriel Y Parc in West Wales where he had a residency in 2009. He was able to select paintings by these artists from the collection of the National Museum of Wales to be exhibited next to his work when on display in the Oriel Y Parc; Frank Auerbach, Howard Hodgkins, Ceri Richards, Sean Scully, Ben Nicholson, Eugin Boudin and Thomas Jones.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Peter Prendergast

Peter Prendergast, "Autumn Evening Towards Penrhyn Castle" 1994. Acrylic on Canvas. 106.7 by 61 (website didn't say inches or centimeters but I'm assuming it's cm) Copyright the Bridgeman Education Site.

New project time; "Landscape."

This little beauty of a painting is by Welsh artist Peter Prendergast. He grew up in South Wales and then spent the majority of his career up in North Wales. The two landscapes of North and South being very different is interesting to note, South being more rolling valleys and North being more rugged mountains. This painting, even though painted "Up North" has all the rolling hills of the South (where I live) so I wonder if he was never quite able to shake off his roots.

I had a little chuckle to myself when I felt saw this image on the Bridgeman site yesterday because they'd displayed it the wrong way up. It was lying on it's side and needed to be rotated anti-clockwise. I contacted them and told them and within 24 they'd sorted the problem, very efficient. It just makes me wonder that with the expressive style on this painting that maybe at first glance it looked like it should have been displayed that way! (Try looking at it with you head bent to the left, it still looks like a good painting. Even Kandinsky didn't recognize one of his own paintings when he saw it displayed upside down.) However I knew it should be landscape format because of the hint of horizon, and the contrast of bluish colour for the sky and greenish colours for the ground.

I did an A3 version of one of his paintings very similar to this in my paper logbook. It was very satisfying to paint. Thick, gloppy acrylic paint and intense unreal colours with such strongly contrasting tonal areas. It only took my five minutes to paint it because I wanted to keep the expressive style. He always painted outside too, so the weather affected his paintings very strongly as can be seen from the stormy skies in the painting above. There are seven paintings of his owned by the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff so I'll be making an appointment to see them in the vaults, unfortunately they aren't on display in the galleries. Seeing his paintings in the flesh will be very interesting.

It's worth pointing out that he was taught by Frank Auerbach in the Slade in London, and has been accused of copying his tutors style with his use of thick black outlines, but seeing paintings that Prendergast created when he was a teenager (which I saw reproduced in the book on Prendergast's work "The Painters Quarry") shows very clearly that he had this thick and heavily outlined style before he'd even stepped foot in the city.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Paper Mosaic Collage

I'm feeling very honoured to have had comments on a few of my posts here from Ellen Golla herself after having found and joined her own blog site which she then followed the link back to my blog site. In honour of that I thought I'd include photo's of the paper mosaic collage I created inspired by her images.

I created this collage mosaic based on a sketch I did of the light patterns from a lamppost that had grown up into a tree. The image by Ellen Golla that fed into my version was "I'd Drown Looking for You" which I found on her website and did my own sketched version above. It was the flow of mosaic pieces that really caught my eye, along side the contrast of the vibrant and shinning colours in the centre surrounded by the darker shadowy areas. My own version tries to tie in these elements of flow and vibrant colour. The allusion to fire is something that I'm happy with because Ellen herself also uses a lot of fire images in her own work, which makes me wonder if it has symbolic meaning for her.

My comments in the previous post about her work mentioned how labour intensive I found doing this image. I took about four hours to do this small A3 size image, working for an hour each time for four different sessions, most of the time taken up with cutting the pieces. Towards the end of the piece, for the areas down the bottom, I tried to short cut the amount of time spent cutting by folding the paper a few times over and cutting through five or six layers at the same time. The saved on time but ended up with irregular shaped pieces and sometimes picked up on colours in the magazine scraps that weren't quite right. The pieces in the middle of the image were cut individually so it features little detailed pieces that I wanted to include such as the tiny little slice from a cello showing the f shaped sound hole. There's also sections in the darker areas with pieces from birds and animals, because the magazine that I used primarily was the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds magazine, but I quite like their inclusion, as it's a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.

When I featured Ellen Golla's piece "Tea Time With Gordy" a few posts back she was kind enough to comment that she had taken a few months to finish the piece, working on the piece for a little while each day, which is quite amazing. It was also really nice to find out from her that the foreground images, such as the tea set and the swans were indeed taken from photo's she'd taken and placed on top of the mosaic pieces, which is what I'd thought from studying it. Having her feedback has been invaluable and I'm very grateful.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

More about the Seeds

I've just watched half of an accompanying video that is featured on a link on the Tate site. Interesting that they show footage of the miners, considering the comments I made on the previous post. Dust is seen rising from the seeds at the very beginning of the footage when Weiwei is seen sweeping them smooth. Was he warned about that because of Health and safety?

Footage of the place where the seeds were made mentions the fact that it used to make porcelain for the king, but now most people have gone bankrupt. Seeing Weiwei walking around each one of the workers as they are painting away is like watching a king among his subjects. They view him with the same kind of adoration and respect, because he is the one bringing money into the area.

The sheer monumentally of the work just makes my head spin. The numbers of seeds involved, and the numbers of workers that go into making each seed, mining the rock, making the porcelain, making the moulds, painting each seed. And when they're all seen together they sink into their own vastness. Each one is the same, none of the workers would be able to pick one up and say"I painted this one". It's like a metaphor for our lives in a way. We are just like the seeds, that when seen from a distance we just blend into the vastness of the whole.

Just watched a little more of the footage and the sunflower seeds are indeed meant as a symbol for people. Chairman Mao was always depicted surrounded by Sunflowers, because he was seen as the sun and the followers were the sunflowers. The numbers and the fact that everyone is doing the same thing reminds me very strongly of footage from countries such as China and Korea where you have vast numbers of people that stick together as a unit and perform perfectly and in unison. The same sort of behaviour is not expected over here though. I remember the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics where London did a performance to signal them taking over in 2012 and it just looked like utter chaos with everyone running around doing random things, and all this next to the precision of the performances from China. Neither are perfect though, and we each have our own problems in our own way.

Ai Weiwei in the Tate Modern

I briefly saw a story on the telly about this installation and the angle of the article was ridicule towards it and the fact that it had been branded a health and safety hazard. Well there no such thing as bad publicity and the work by this artist has made it's way into more people's awareness because of the "hazard" than if it had been branded completely safe. So I decided to look it up and read into it in more detail.

What I, and probably every person who sees it, thought were real sunflower seeds turn out to be individually made out of porcelain by workers in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. This immediately brought to my mind the impossibility and the monumentality of the task. How on earth did they have the patience to create these millions of seeds? The work is meant to make us think about the issue of almost everything being "Made in China." As a child of the late seventies I can remember toys that were "Made in England" and then the cheep influx of imported goods. It's very rare to see anything with a "Made in England" stamp anymore.

Then the issue about health and safety is mentioned in more detail in the write up on the Tate site which refers to the dangers of inhaling dust from the porcelain which would have been ground up by the viewers to the exhibition, who seemingly would have been allowed to walk all over the seeds. But then it brings to my mind the fact that these workers who made the seeds would themselves have been exposed to the dust.

The recent activities in Chile with the rescued miners makes me realise the fact that until recently my home town was itself a mining colliery, now closed down, and maybe it is the wave of Health and Safety that helped to shut these dangerous places down. But the fact that we now refuse these jobs mean that other countries with different standards end up taking over jobs that still pose dangers. And now we're a country with very little industry and huge debts.

So what started off as a complex exhibition in the first place is now a place for even more thought.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Joseph Cornell

Soapbubble Variant c.1956 Mixed Media. From the Bridgeman Education Site.

Untitled c. 1960 Joseph Cornell. Collage on Masonite Board. From the Bridgeman Education site.

Although for some people the image of a naked woman lying on the grass would catch their attention, for me it's the image of Caerphilly Castle in the background! I'd know that castle anywhere, it's just down the road from me and I've stood underneath that precariously balanced section of wall - a Welsh Leaning Tower of Pizza. Not only is it surreal that a naked woman is outside having a picnic, but to me it's also surreal that an American artist would use an image of a building from Wales.

This link is to the papers written and compiled by Joseph Cornell throughout his entire career and it's really interesting. There's twenty five pages of stamps that he collected, as many of his Shadow Boxes included stamps in them. They must have had an important relevance for him. The website says there's twenty five linear feet of papers that the artist collected, either as business correspondence or artistic references. There's also 66 linear feet of artifacts that were directly related to the shadow boxes and collages that he created. Incredible. You could spend hours just on this one site alone, sifting through the reams of information.

He was obviously a man with a finely tuned visual sense, with nature and humans seeming to occupy the majority of his symbology. The image above for Saopbubble Variant refers to the interest he held in celestial affairs. One of the stamps used in the top left hand section, of the little girl, has also been used in another of his shadow boxes, Untitled 1950, which I saw in The Art Book by Phaiden, which just shows how much relevance he attaches to all these different images, and how deeply they've entered his visual language.

This link has a huge list of photos to look at. http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/cornell/