Monday, 27 February 2017

Project 3 - A finer focus

There is something disturbing about Gwen Hardie's skin paintings (also here on Artsy) and I'm not quite sure what it is. I think it is the colours, the blues are reminiscent of bruises or distorted veins. The nipples are seen so closely I fear that they are being inspected by a malevolent stalker with a high definition telescope.

Turner Prizewinner Richard Wright says in The Tate's video "This work is not for the future this is work for now" Lots of images at the Gagosian website and he discusses an exhibition that he curated for the Tate here. I like the way that Wright responds to the environment around his work and his use of repeated pattern and shape. I am pondering on his statement in the Tateshot film that the exhibition was about slowing down the viewers engagement with the pieces. This has relevance to this project about time, but also the general relevance of artwork to the public, particularly work which addresses the ordinary and everyday.

I have enormous respect for Grayson Perry, his Reith Lectures were fascinating, but I was underwhelmed by his work Julie and Rob for the 2015 RA Summer exhibition was brash and kitchsy. I had never looked that closely at his pots and I find that they have lovely narrative drawings. I'm not sure that I agree with the course notes which describe them as detailed extended doodles  but I will look more closely next time I get a chance to see his work.

Jim Shaw makes work that is very busy. There are so many cultural references bursting to get out it's like being inside a 1970's American comic. He is incredibly eclectic in what he does ranging from drawings, paintings and installations to thrift store paintings. I found an essay in Frieze which is a good summary of his ideas and interests. His pencil Dream drawings are very detailed (I was in a Vegas show about a Viking farmer...) Also this study for Seven Deadly Sins and a study for Anal/Isis which I read as hair though I may be wrong?

Detailed Drawings is a Tumblr site with loads of artists collected together. I find that repeated exposure to these complex works does feel rather frenetic after a while. They aren't relaxing pieces, and part of me does worry about the mental health of someone who works this way on a large scale.

I have a jam jar of keys which I daren't throw away in case they unlock a forgotten door somewhere so to get going I drew them.
I think this project calls for something larger and more detailed.

Dawn Clements here and here does some very detailed drawings which take you through a scene. I remembered being very excited about them at an exhibition at the Saachi Gallery.   The Guggenheim Foundation says "She creates a sense of wholeness from fragments, piecing, editing, suturing multiple points of view to create a sense of moving through spaces, extending time. In her work images are fixed, but the vanishing point is usually in motion, and unstable." 

Inspired I sketched the desk in my studio/dining room.
It's an interesting idea but probably too derivative for me at the moment.

I'm not keen on hyper realism, I don't have the patience for masses of detail unless it's a subject which really inspires me so I need to choose something that will keep me fiddling to get this exercise done properly. Lynne Chapman did a residency with the University of Manchester which included a study of dormant things, (also here) stuff that doesn't have a current purpose but you can't throw away (like my jar of keys). I've downsized fairly recently so I don't have quite as much clutter as in the past, I considered the cutlery draw or my toolbox, maybe my pens and pencils, but Andrea Joseph has that covered.

Living things get me excited enough to fiddle. The course notes say that 'It’s not ‘cheating’ to use a projector or tracing paper here to create extra layers of complexity.' I don't have a projector but I read this as a go ahead to work closely from a photo. My dog is 14 so in a way he covers the underlying time factor of the project. I have drawn him regularly from life but for this level of detail I need a photo.
I used a propelling pencil so that I didn't have to keep stopping to sharpen it. My dad was a draughtsman so I have a pot of leads which are unlabelled but I suspect to be a bit harder than HB, maybe H? 
I grew up using cast off H pencils and I've never been a fan, they make a very weak line, but I found that with lots of layering I managed to get some depth of tone. I drew a very feint outline before I started to be sure that everything was in the right place before I added shading and this had to be erased in places to stop it giving conflicting information about the fur to the viewer. 

I learnt a lot doing this exercise. My aim was to render individual hairs - I didn't manage all of them. I found that if I was lazy and made longer marks I didn't properly represent his smooth coat. I wanted a minimal background, the pencil is so weak that anything behind the dog would make him disappear. This meant that I had to either choose to have a pencil outline around the white fur on his neck or draw in something a little darker but boring. I chose to extend the beanbag, however I've not managed to completely get rid of my earlier pencil marks. The detail makes this a very static picture and it was hard to decide when to stop fiddling. I am quite pleased with the result though I preferred it when I used the auto tone button in Photoshop and made it bolder.
Although the background is rather pixelated if you see the screen at an angle. On some level I think that I might quite like that.... 

If the darkened drawing works better maybe I should repeat the exercise working in ink. I chose a different subject,
and decided to draw in biro. I've never done much more than doodles in biro and there are some very detailed drawings made with ballpoint pens from artists such as Samuel Silva and James Mylne.
It's not as detailed as it should be. It takes a lot of concentration to copy so closely and I think that it was a mistake to attempt two very detailed drawings one after another.  The biro did tend to blob, it's not new, it may be best to use a fresh biro for a very detailed drawing. 

Moving away from representational, and for completeness, I did an extended doodle in ink.

Stephen Walter
I went to The Island exhibition in the crypt of St Pancras Church in 2008 and, spookily, walked past a gallery in London yesterday which was displaying a print of Subterranean.(video interview about it here) Also a video about the making of Nova Utopia. The Guardian has an interview. This weekend there seems to be something wrong with his website, remind me to go back to it.
Getting slightly distracted, there are some great animated maps here


I interpreted this brief literally and in making the finished drawings the use of detail made them very static. The pencil drawing lacked depth because it was done with a hard pencil which has a limited range of tone. We discussed the possibility of using a very fine tipped ink pen to give variety of tone but I have found that ink is too dominant when mixed pencil. I didn’t manage to find a way of extending this project beyond the brief in the text. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Assignment 4 revisited

Following my tutor feedback I knew that I hadn't really finished with this assignment. My conclusion with the bollard project was that the binoculars were too small and it was just cowardice that was stopping me from redrawing them bigger.
Here they are redrawn and ready to go. I've played with the colours to try and get more contrast against the black of the bollard.
They show up reasonably well against a black background in the dark.
 So here they are in place.

They still don't show up very well and I'm not convinced that the idea works. If you hadn't followed my thoughts as I designed them and prepared them would you understand what they are? I'm not sure.

The fire drawings were considered interesting but predictable in colour and too neatly contained within the paper edges.
I used different types of paper
I like the shapes that burning makes and the way that the edges are jagged and curved. I experimented with using the burnt sheets as stencils, spraying through to transfer the shapes to another sheet.
There was a bit of an incident with the airbrush here...

It worked better when I was more restrained with the colour.

But when the background was overlaid with the another burnt sheet the effect was a bit better.

I drew through the shapes and coloured them in.
I quite like these, they are like bats, or leaves blown in the wind. The arrangement of the shapes is completely random, maybe I should have been more deliberate with the arrangement.
Alternatively I coloured the burnt sheet and glued it to a coloured background. This is supposed to represent the feeling of looking through trees

Alternative version where I kept the poker marks at the same angle. This reminded me of bamboo

This is too regular to be interesting and the shapes are dull. It's a bit more interesting if the lines are vertical.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Part 5 Project 2 - Artists books

I didn't really understand what an artists book was so I looked at the description from the Victoria and Albert Museum which has a large collection.
The Smithsonian Institution also has a large collection of books including the lovely Gifts from our Elders by Kerry McAleer-Keeler which is like a miniature room of objects and ideas. They also have Negative Space by Mungo Thomson, a beautiful book made by inverting photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (Thompson is interested in time, relative to this module in other ways?)
The Book Arts Web has a selection of works made on the flag book format which was developed by Hedi Kyle is something of a guru in bookmaking, I found this set of detailed instructions to make covers and protects for books. Also, via Book Arts, The University of Brighton, this timeline of the development of books.
The Caseroom Press are a publisher working with artists to make innovative designs such as these train ticket books

This Guardian article gives a good background on the history of the modern artists book. Edward Ruscha is credited with setting things in motion when he published Twenty Six Gasoline Stations in which is listed everywhere as being published in 1963 including the Tate which goes on to offer an online version which very clearly has 1962 on the first page. It is an interesting document, the stations are very different, not at all like modern identikit petrol stations.
Hans Peter Feldman takes found images and lays them out in a book allowing the viewer to make their own interpretation. His exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries in 2012 Handbag as Museum is a beguiling collection of objects laid out and photographed together. They remind me of paintings of collections of objects by Lisa Milroy.
Wolfgang Tillmans is a photographer who has used books as one means of exhibiting his work. His images range across all subjects and are used as art photographs and for political expression. There is an exhibition at the Tate which starts next month and I think that I need to see the exhibition to find my way around his art but in the meantime I found a review in the Guardian of his Serpentine exhibition in 2010, and this discussion of his more recent images.
Sol de Witt was co founder of Printed Matter which was set up to promote and support the medium of artists books. Their website has this explanation the medium. The Smithsonian has some of De Witt's own books which appear to be focused on the ordinary and everyday. This seems to be a recurrent theme for the artists in this list.
Eileen Hogan is a more traditional painter who had produced a number of books either to showcase her own work or in collaboration with authors or poets. I like the way that many of them feel like sketchbooks, there is something very special about being granted access to someone else's sketchbook, a real privilege.
Arnaud Desjardins is a bit tricky to research because he shares his name with a noted French spiritual teacher I found a a link to an altered book which is a beautiful object and this abstract from his  PhD thesis. There is also a video of a lecture he gave to the Emily Carr University Library where he had a residency. He discusses the philosophy of artists books and some of the challenges associated with them.

Sandro Botticelli made a series of drawings to illustrate Dante's The Divine Comedy. The title is familiar but frustratingly I know nothing about the story. I found this summary of Inferno aimed at students and read through the Wikipedia entry and this essay in the Khan Academy websiteSadly I'm too late for this exhibition at the Courtald. From what I've managed to find I think that I could spend a whole degree studying the Divine Comedy and it's various illustrations, I have a better understanding of the pictures I saw at the Rauschenberg exhibition (the Rauschenberg Foundation shows them here). The World of Dante has all the illustrations here (although irritatingly they need adjustment to display on my computer) and I am indebted to Books and Boots who went to the Courtald  exhibition and writes eloquently about seeing them first hand. With this guidance I can see the way that the drawings change as the story progresses, the busyness of hell and the simpler drawings of purgatorio and paradiso. Books and Boots finds the drawings a bit clumsy and simplistic which may be more obvious in real life, I think that the figures are quite well executed considering the number that there are and the restrictions of the media available to Botticelli. They express the feelings of the characters so that I feel that I can understand the gist of the story without a written explanation, something that Rauschenberg failed to convey to me. Botticelli tells the story in a coherent way whilst managing to have Virgil and Dante appear more than once in the same illustration, and the two men are clearly recognisable and distinguishable from the other characters. 
Botticellis project was a massive undertaking and I do wonder whether he would have done better to finish a few pictures rather than sketch out all of them, but without all the illustrations we would not have had the opportunity to view his whole imagining of the story which is so significant because it was produced so long ago. His images, although they were done more than 100 years after Dante completed the poem, are from a world that is much closer to the mindset that told the original story.

Armed with all this information I set out to make my own book. First I was interested in non traditional book designs. I made these by sticking flaps of cardboard to a base layer. For some reason I can't get the videos that I took to work on my blog so I've uploaded them to Vimeo. This was my first attempt which is just a simple line of pages. I liked the idea of them not being linear so I put the second set on a curve like a rainbow here.

I made a fan which switches from grey 
to blue(skies) 
Its very difficult to video on a phone one handed whilst moving the pages so I apologise for the quality of the video here.

The major failure with this design is trying to add decoration and colour after it has been made. Using watercolour paper I made one side blue sky and the other dark clouds. I cut six wedges at a 30 degree angle, then drew a rainbow onto the card that I was using for the base before I glued the pages on.

The pages aren't glued on quite evenly to line up the major details of the pattern which have become separated by the the overlap and folding to attach the pages to the base card.
and open

There is a video here of the book in action. The blue skies side doesn't work as well because there are areas of white card visible through the pages. I have chosen not to trim the pages so that I have a reasonably big area of colour.

This needs more time, thought and work. There are lots of challenges in working in three dimensions with a moving object. I think, in trying to keep my options open, that I've over complicated it. I need to make lots and lots more prototypes and close down the options as I go along to take this forward. It has shown me the challenges of recording this sort of work for my blog, this is the first time ever that I have posted a video on Vimeo, which was a lot easier than I had expected it to be.

Part 5 Project 2 - Artists Books Part 2

I registered to receive the Edge Zine produced by OCA students and was sent 2 copies in error so it seemed like an invitation to use one as the base for a book. The theme was Change which also invited modification and is very appropriate in the light of recent political changes both in the UK and across the world. Keeping the theme I modified the pages in reaction to the content of the zine but with an eye to what was happening in the news. Some articles instantly inspired change whilst for others I had to think a bit deeper.

Millions of people...united by computers

Depending on how you look at it, Change isn't always an improvement

I had to think long and hard about this one. In the end I went for David Bowie (Labyrinth Era) as a down and out. (Taking my cues from the text)

I've covered up most of the text but it talks of Volution = a rolling or revolving motion....clockwork hands chart the movement of wilting and wabi-sabi

An obvious response to the current situation in America. The underlying text is about female equality

I'm not cheating (much) here. The original text runs to a second double paged spread with the banner holding protester

 This piece was about building decay. I couldn't think of a new image that worked with the original piece so I photocopied and inverted the dark picture which is based on a derelict station building. I made 2 cut out versions which I pasted over a tissue paper cut out, loosely based on St Pancras station (which is both a station and a secular cathedral) and was rescued from decay.
The piece relates Sam Cooke to Barack Obama. You can see traces of my earliest experiments with the zine which involved folding it

No caption required

The pictures are about birds and climate change. I related this to flooding.

ECG traces descending through disruptions to death

 On the right a disjointed mirror reflecting the viewers face. On the left, overlaid paper cut-outs of the changes in head shape from baby to adult. When opened out (below) they reveal a tree which refers back to the authors reflection on her rediscovered connection to the natural world.

Roselyne Edwards had drawn the ageing of her mother from family photos. I used cut out paper to separate them from their backgrounds and link them to the tree of life

This was my first drawing before I had really got into the swing of things. The figure attempting to change an old picture frame into a mount for a Go Pro camera. It also links to the people who congregate in the Turbine Hall in The Tate, focused on the changes in the exhibition and not tuned in to the world around them.

Another rather obvious reference. America is changing.
A bit literal here.

Who are we, who sit so close to Europe but look across the world?
I used the zine as a sketch book but made preliminary sketches for some of the modifications. 
Testing placards

Ideas for page 4

More ideas for page 4 and for page 1

More ideas for page 1 and for page 12
I have never used an existing book as a sketchbook before and I found the exercise, on some levels, quite liberating. As I filled the pages the need to make a cohesive body of work grew and it became more challenging. Using the text as a starting point to generate ideas was useful and this would be a great technique to deal with artists block. It's also interesting to work with a broad theme especially one that encompasses ideas that are currently in the news. I have enjoyed making both of my responses to this project. If I am to take either of these ideas forward I would need to work in making something much more robust to cope with repeated handling.


For this project I made my own books in the shape of fans. These lacked content. My approach was to use the way the viewer moved the pages to change the weather but I spent too long making the physical pages and not enough time on the visual elements within.
I modified the pages of the Edge fanzine but in doing so I moved away from the original theme and the finished project was incoherent. A better approach would have consolidated the theme.
Look at the work of Les Bicknell 

 Les Bicknell, in his own words:

"my practice in general explores the book; specifically ideas around a sense of place.The book as a symbol of power and knowledge can be a vehicle to communicate directly; it is a form that is understood in these terms but repositioning its context and purpose challenges these very notions. The work becomes a question rather than an answer, a collaboration between maker and reader/viewer. The practical aspects of the book form, of disseminating information; of making things clearer is an interesting idea to question.The sculptural forms are derived from and examine the book form. The work explores the idea of form as a content and manipulation as the narrative.The work positions itself conceptually and physically between and within the idea of both sculpture and book. The hybrid nature of the work finds its roots in both forms – exploring and challenging both genres.The idea of a sense of place comes from stillness and silence, a reflective experience of taking time to look, listen and consider the spaces I find myself in and my connection to them. The immediate landscape around my house and the walks I undertake provide a starting point for the work, the unseen and the seen have equal worth when making the work. "

He is a prolific blogger, writing eloquently and entertainingly about the art scene, not just book art, so it can be difficult to drill down to book related art. 
This is from his blog
I found the video of Fractal folds mesmerising. How do you conceive something so complicated and then demonstrate it so fluently? Works such as the Louth Millennium Sculpture project work with figurative sculpture and text. Does this still count as a book? it is telling an unfolding tale. Similarly Beyond is text displayed on stone.
A book can lead you on an imaginative journey away from where you expect to be. Unpicking and rebinding considers the fabric of the book as a device and then wanders off into the world of folds, folding and then into smocking. Bicknell's work is an encouragement to follow ideas away from expected routes. His books are sometimes about the object itself rather than the content (the early fold works) but can lead into more narrative pieces as they develop. He also sounds like an engaged and exciting tutor. I am inspired by the variety and quantity of work that he produces, many artists have only a few pieces online and never seem to change them which makes it hard to understand individual work in a wider context.