31 October 2009

London wandering

A mysterious object - looks vaguely edible -It's a felt necklace - aren't the radishes gorgeous? Discovered at the "at work gallery" near Tate Britain. They have gorgeous jewellery, precious and non-precious (ie made from plastic, cloth, etc and/or recycled objects) - see it on their website.
Next door, Long & Ryle were showing work by Xavier Garces - the drawing of the field of stones in the middle of this photo was quite wonderful (priced at £3000) -
We decided we needed to go to the bead shop in Covent Garden, and as we wandered around Sue spotted this lamp stump
which led to discoveries of others, including this Edwardian(?) lamp post that has been replaced by something "more efficient" -
Covent Garden has lots of shops, of course, and as darkness fell we wandered in and out of them. I was aghast at the price of kids' shoes - £24 for these tiny trendies -

Art I Like - Marcia Hafif

I came across Marcia Hafif's "daily drawings" at the Daimler Collection, but these don't appear on her website (almost as if drawing is something artists do in secret!). OK, they were done about 35 years ago - old stuff....

[Addendum: looking at the website in October 2016, I find the works on paper: http://www.marciahafif.com/inventory/pp.html ... and much else!]

Here you can see a couple of her drawings held by MoMA, including "January 1972" - an example of the mark-making on large sheets of paper that she did regularly - process art - "Marcia Hafif obsessionally recorded pencil marks during a given day and time (evoking the most treacherous of prison walls)"; for the exhibition under review, "curator Cornelia H. Butler’s catalogue essay is explicit in its desire to complicate the standard boy’s club narrative of the period. She does so by suggesting that concerns with time, everyday materials, repetition and what constitutes a legitimate studio practice are all of vital interest to women, both in terms of formal exploration and with regards to then developing concerns with content as an explicitly feminist issue." But I digress - we're looking at the work of this artist, and how drawing fits into that work.Here is an essay from the catalogue of her 2003 exhibition. Here we learn that in 1972 "Marcia was drawing vertical pencil marks, as a kind of meditative exercise into standard black drawing books. She started at the upper left corner and worked systematically down the paper. Then she began to use words instead of lines, but words semantically unrelated to each other. She tried not to make sentences or phrases, used no punctuation, left no margin, line breaks were contingent on reaching the right hand edge of the page. You saw a wall of penciled words." At this time, conceptualists and minimalists had the idea that painting was no longer valid.

What led her to painting then? Looking for ways “to begin again,” in her phrase. Toward that end, Hafif belonged for a time in the early 80’s to a loose group of radical artists who advocated a certain fundamentalism in painting.

In 2004 she showed the “Glaze paintings” series (2003), each annotated by the names of the colors involved in its making, such as Flesh Tint/Alizarin Crimson, Manganese Violet/Phthalocyanine Blue, Vermilion/Phthalocyanine Blue and Light Green/Indian Yellow; all are monochrome paintings constructed from two colors, made with the apparent precision of a dispassionate scientist. Hafif’s project, which is ongoing, involves every aspect of making a painting, from grinding the pigment into oil to determining the scale, proportion and mark. She uses different mediums, such as oil, encaustic, egg tempera, casein and glazes, working with colors tonally so as to establish a scale of flesh tones, grays and so on, looking for straightforward ways to make paintings without complicated crafting, based in part on the nonhierarchical, nonauthorial methodologies of the 1960s and ‘70s. They are illusions: "One painting is a gorgeous shimmering violet when viewed from a distance, but shifts to green when viewed close-up. Another is black, but made without black pigment." (info found here)
An essay from Artforum, Sept 1978, on the current state of painting, can be found here. It says that Marcia Hafif: "keeps work whole and within the vision of one author, rarely using an assistant, ordering work form a factory or working in a group. Painting has been able to gather new energy by throwing things out and starting afresh. Although much of it has seemed to continue reduction, it has been, more precisely, involved in a deconstruction, an analysis of painting itself. With belief remaining in the potentialities of abstraction, and in reaction to the apparent exhaustion of painting, the artists cited above, and others, began the inventory - the cataloguing, the examination - of the parts I have spoken of. Painting became demonstrative, conceptual, a thing to be examined, more passive that it had been. The artist was making personal work. Thus certain changes came about. The format became generally smaller. Color became opaque, seen for itself rather than being used t create an illusion or to express. Line was used for itself rather than to delineate shape or form. Personal touch was readmitted as the sign of the brush and the artist's hand was again visible. These are elements of painting. "

But to get back to the drawings - she described the immediacy of the act of drawing as “a quite direct path [that] runs from the hand to the brain, to the feelings, to the need and the desire to locate an image, a thought, a design in the visual world.”

A review of a 1999 exhibition said that she gives the idea that artistic manipulation itself can be the true art object a "surprisingly visceral form in "One Hour Twenty Minutes,'' in which hundreds of tiny pencil marks represent the seconds ticking off Hafif's life on Nov. 20, 1972. Despite its seemingly detached measuring of a random block of time, the work inevitably inspires thoughts of how we mete out our existence."

30 October 2009

Art I Like - Gunther Uecker

German artist Gunther Uecker is new to me - I saw one of his nail paintings at Haunch of Venison recently, where the current show places him together with Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Enrico Castellani - "All four artists were born within six years of each other (1928-1933) and their practices offer an opportunity to compare the strong aesthetic influences, interests and objectives their generation shared, despite developing on either side of the Atlantic....Castellani trained as an architect in Brussels, Uecker went to art school and the Kunstakademie in the former German Democratic Republic, while Flavin and Judd studied art history and philosophy respectively in the US."

In 1955 Uecker crossed from the GDR to Dusseldorf (as did Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke a few years later). Uecker started making his nail paintings in the late 1950s, and also "occupied himself with the medium of light, studied optical phenomena, series of structures and the realms of oscillation which actively integrate the viewer and enable him to influence the visual process by kinetic or manual interference" (says the Haunch of Venison website)."In his typical manner, light and shade activate the area of the enormous nails , thus creating a field of powerful motion, which changes according to the perspective. The intensity of the process of creation endures in the work. The subtle choppiness of the surface makes for a conflictive relationship to the material’s rigidity." says this site.
Neither of these images is "Wind", which is a two-panel painting, the nails with large flat heads daubed with white paint, the background painted pale and darker cream. The nails undulate in height and in angle; the shadows of the nails add to the effect of movement.

In passing

After hours bodies strewn everywhere
scene of chaos
and mutilation
Damaged dummies
awaiting their fate
When do the lights go off?
When does this end?

29 October 2009

Highbury Corner - and beyond

This tiny garden is on the way to the Estorick Collection, where there's a show of Italian ceramics, mostly from the 1950s.The sign on the wall commemorates the 26 people who died and the 150 who were injured when a V-1 flying bomb destroyed Highbury Corner in 1944.

Now, it's a roundabout, and there are plans to reroute the traffic and make a square, in front of the station. The grand station was destroyed when the Victoria Line was built in the 1960s. Click here to see a photo of the area round about 1900.
I'm amazed to see that it used to have trolley buses going round - in the early 1960s.
But enough of this local lore - two minutes' walk and you get to an "Italianate villa" converted into a museum/gallery (with bookshop and cafe). The ceramics are in two rooms, with lovely views to the autumnal scene outside -
I immediately got out my sketchbook - or would have, had it been in my bag. Instead, I had to use pages of the diary. You can see many of the pots in the show here. But not the one that most fascinated me, a "black box with bits" by Guiseppe Spagnulo. On the right, by an amazing coincidence, is my quick sketch/aide-memoire of a textured pot by Pompeo Pianezolla - on the actual day, 1 October, I was in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin drawing, among other things, other pots by him (though not the one shown in this post).
Spagnulo also did "Testa" -
The arrangement of three pots by Fausto Melotti appealed to me - and indeed he's done a lot of figurative work, and had a retrospective in New York last year.
This tiny picture gives you some idea of the glazes Melloti uses -

Street scene

This woodcut delighted me - the bottom of the image is the woodcut, 2 x 30 inches; the top is a detail. Just two inches high ... and printed in three colours ... that approaches the condition of doing embroidery!It's called Emmons Avenue and it's by Uruguayan-born Antonioo Frasconi, who lives in Connecticut. You can see more of his work here, and I found out about him via the blog of woodcut artist Annie Bissett - in the sidebar you'll find a long list of "other woodblock artists".

28 October 2009

Ceramics week 6

One of the day's highlights was a demonstration of making paperclay. You need cotton linters, torn up and soaked in quite a bit of water, and a glaze blender. It has paddles for mixing, rather than blades. You don't want to chop up the cotton fibres - for strong clay you want the cotton fibres separate and covered with clay, all lying in the same direction.The fibres are scooped out of the bucket ("sieve, don't squeeze") and poured onto a plaster slab, covered with fabric - the plaster takes out the moisture.
The pulp is mixed with porcelain powder - or rather, the powder is mixed in water first, then the pulp is added. Various proportions can give different results - but we don't have firsthand experience of this (yet?). Then the mixture is poured into plaster moulds to remove the moisture - it takes a couple of hours to get the clay to a workable consistency.
Meanwhile we searched the shelves for the items from last week that had been fired.
I was pleased with the textures inside this one -
I painted various glazes onto some of the pieces in my tray, ready for stoneware firing: tenmoku (brown), charcoal, and tin glaze (white), as well as some black slip, coating insides and outsides, and filling in the embossed bits -
Wonder what will happen with these pinch pot "barnacles", made in the first week -
Here they all are, ready for firing. (Note the sgraffito!)
As I write, it is "reading week" - a chance to catch up, and to start serious work on "the essay". I've got a bit behind with downloading photos and writing about classes - back to normal next week!

What is art?

"Art," said Frank Zappa, "is making something out of nothing and selling it."

27 October 2009

Core studies week 6

"Shop art" was the subject today - design, art, commerce and commodities. Another schematic diagram, with Capitalism in the middle, and in each corner: Production, commodities, exchange, consumption form the cycle. "We see this process as natural." How do these processes fit into art and design? Consider William Morris, heir to a mining fortune. Consider the Bauhaus, designing everyday objects for industrial production, and consider this quote from Walter Gropius: "To build is to shape the patterns of life."

The key concern for designers today is to look for what people value in objects. "Design is about solutions" said Milton Glaser, who originated the "I (heart) NY" logo. So much branding...

In the group exercise we considered Richard Hamilton's 1956 collage, Just What Is It That makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? under the headings form, context, meaning, effect/purpose - with some debate as to whether it was optimistic or ironic.
Other artists mentioned in regard to consumer culture were Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Michael Landy, Tomoko Takahashi, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, and Damien Hirst. Recommended watching: The Mona Lisa Curse by Robert Hughes (partly available on youtube).

And after all that - what is the purpose of art? Here's the list we came up with: expression, recording, create dialogue, relationship with things, encounter with materials, shed light on culture. Take your pick.

The afternoon session considered visual research - " a natural thing that all artists and designers do"- with the example of how American painter Eric Fischl paints on acetate to try out positions of subjects. This secquence of sketches was finally changed by using a different figure on the left, for the final painting:

Artists connected with Fischl are David Salle, Alex Katz, Manet, and Frans Hals. Recommended reading: TS Eliot's 1919 essay, Tradition and the Individual Talent.

26 October 2009

Sculpture week 6

The first 5-minute presentation today
was about architect Renzo Piano -with special attention to his "ship building" - the science museum in Amsterdam - which is meant to be a mirror image of the tunnel underneath. Note the colour, which helps it to blend in to the environment (imagine what it would look like in orange...)
The Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou in New Caledonia is amazing too - its form is similar to the villages in which the Kanak people, whose culture it preserves, live -
The other presentation was about sculptor Eva Hessewho was working in the context of minimalism and heavy steel sculptures - exploring materials such as direct use of latex; process driven. Subtle and understated work. She said she wanted to "get to non-art ... another kind of vision". The Tate has five works of hers, including "Tomorrow's Apples" - Shortly before her early death, she described her subject as "the total absurdity of life".

The morning's project was to release our cement cast from its plaster mould - by chiselling all over the surface
until chunks break off
That looked easy enough, but goodness what a mess it made - and it took quite a long time.
After careful removal of as much plaster as possible comes the scrubbing. I'm going to have to get a long thin pointy thing to get the green plaster out of the keyhole -
After cleanup and mopping of the floor, with people walking over it the whole time, we got back from the lunch break to find it had dried in a wild way -
The afternoon was spent developing our ideas for the sculptures that will go at the front of the building. I got diverted onto a new idea
but really should stick with the original one -
it will give me more focus, and a way to integrate the sculpture and ceramics elements. Gotta think ahead to that final project....