Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rethinking assignment

Rethinking, Reacting, or Responding
I started by thinking about the motives that Kandinsky would have had in painting Composition VII, 1913. Like other early modernists at the time, he believed that painting should reject traditional imagery. The modernists wanted to create a new art that would transform the society that they saw going to hell in a hand-basket (this was the eve of World War I) into a utopia that embraced the new developments in art and science. Kandinsky believed that he could create new forms and imagery that didn’t rely on the tradition of history painting, still life, the figure, etc, but was based on intuitive response and interaction with the act of painting. He used the analogy of music to help him create a new pictorial language with its own rules and structures. His hope was that his pictures would awake the “spiritual” in the viewer and enact a shift in ideology.

For the most part, I agree that a painting can enact change in a viewer . . . perhaps not to the extent that the modernists would have hoped, but I do believe that we are forever changed once we see a drawing that’s new and unlike anything we’ve seen before. It isn’t enough, however, to stimulate the viewer by the visual experience of a painting (or drawing). I wanted the viewer to interact with the drawing by having them walk along it. I used clinical (circular) forms in the drawing that are devoid of any inherent meaning so the viewer wouldn’t be preoccupied with the forms but with their relation to each other in the drawing. The forms are composed at regular intervals along the drawing to make reference to rhythm in music. I had a hard time holding back adding more forms but I decided to focus on the rhythm aspect of the drawing (maybe a little spoon fed?). One of the main critiques I have of Kandinsky’s painting is that the composition seems to be happening all at one time: like a chaotic explosion of form (and music). I wanted my drawing to express the temporal quality of music in a sequential fashion. I thought that this would help the viewer to engage with the drawing.

Lastly, the size and relative value of the forms in the drawing make reference to different musical notes or beat sounds (ie. the biggest circle could be the bass drum, the smaller circles being the snare, etc).

I think that my drawing reflects the global/universal shift that has been happening over the past 100 years since Kandinsky painted his 1913 canvas. Whereas Kandinsky’s forms are organic and spontaneous, the forms in my drawing are calculated and devoid of meaning in themselves. My drawing also reflects the effect of digitization and computers on visual expression: it can be dissected and re-sampled much like digital music editing software by moving the sections of the drawing around.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dash to the finish line

In order to round out the series of paintings for my solo show next month (March 17), I thought that I'd make a couple of smaller ones that were less dense in terms of layering.

Woman Reflecting, 20" by 30", oil and charcoal on canvas, 2011
Hugging, 24" by  24", Oil and charcoal on canvas, 2011

Grasping, 36" by 24", Oil and charcoal on canvas, 2011

These paintings seem to be pointing me in the direction of the figure in motion or in activity. The figures are doing something . . . not just posing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

ugh! I should rename my last post

Kandinsky and his ilk thought that a painting could change the world. This was in pre-WWI european society: the eve before we began showing each other just how awful and deadly we could be! The effect of industrialism were now widespread. The modernist in the early 20th century wanted to awake the human spirit through visceral reactions in art (also before shock tactics . . . but in a sense, their works were pretty shocking). Through pure colour and form sensations, (which were being transcribed by the intuitions and "inner needs" of the modernist painters, sculptors, architects . . .) we were going to transcend the impending doom of trench warfare and world wide epidemics.

Much has happened in the past 100 years and the notion of the artist painting from inner need has been exhausted (ie. abstract expressionism: Pollock, deKooning, etc) so my question: can a painting change the world?

More specific to Kandinsky's work is his analogy of his forms and colours to music "Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul." (Concerning the Spritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky, Dover Publications, 1977, first published in the United Kingdom by Constable and Company, 1914). My question for this aspect of his art is: how does this translate in a monochromatic drawing?

One last issue for discussion is the temporal quality of the work. Kandinsky's painting in 1914 seems to happen all at the same time, like a flash. Alot of stuff is going on and I find it a bit much to absorb. So I would like to see something "longer" in terms of time.

Kandinsky's motives to paint Composition VII, 1913: to enact a visceral response in the viewer that would lead to a shift of idealogy in the human spirit.
I think in part that it's true. A piece of art can change the world. Maybe not to the degree that the modernists had hoped it would . . . and probably not on its own. But I do believe that once we see a drawing, we are forever changed . . . especially when it's something unexpected and unfamiliar. What a drawing has that a painting lacks is this sense of not being finished. A drawing is akin to a thought: ever evolving with time and scrutiny. A painting has a feeling of finality to it: like its a final statement or resolution of an issue. Richard Serra says "drawing is a verb" (bromance). So my point is that I want to make a drawing in response to Kandinsky's painting that will illicit a response to the unfamiliar and the unusual in the viewer with the notion that this isn't the final say . . . but more the asking of the question . . . or formulating the question. I enjoy the analogy to music in shape and form but I'd like to give it an "ipod" twist. Or at least evoke the idea of the digitization of music (and our spirit?).
Seems like I've posed more questions by trying to find the answers to the first ones. But I guess that's what makes art so much fun :)
Richard Serra
Wassily Kandinsky

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bringing Thought into Art

My art relies heavily on intuition and spontaneity. Since taking my studio courses at UVic, I have been noticing that my art lacks something: concept. Sure, you could argue that using your intuition, spontaneity, and such is a concept. But that seems like the slacker answer. I don't think I'd want my art to be totally cerebral because that's not who, how, what I am, but it would be interesting to see how concept mixes and mingles with intuition.
I have an opportunity to test this out with my latest drawing project. We have been asked to revisit, rethink, revise a piece of visual art that we respond to. I've decided to chose a piece by Wassily Kandinsky because it was in learning about his paintings that I was really pushed to start painting myself.
Composition, 1913, Wassily Kandinsky
Right off the top, a few things to consider are translating the form and hue of the painting into greys (black and white drawing assignment . . . unless I can convince my prof to let me use a little colour :). Second is that is seems to me that all of the action of the painting is happening at once. One of the things about Kandinsky's paintings is that they are loosely paralleled to music (like itunes visualizer . . . hmm) so I'd like to see the drawing unfold in way that makes reference to time. Perhaps in a scroll or multiple grounds.
So when I pressented this idea to my prof, she made two comments: 1. rythme is important in the piece and 2. i should consider social and philosophical changes in the world since 1913 that would account for the revision of this piece.
So lots of interesting questions to ask myself with regards to this piece. I'd better get on it too cuz it's due on Monday . . . and i've still got one more painting to finish for my solo show coming up on the 17th eeeeps!

Things to consider about my philosophy about life and art: 1. what is my basic philosophy of life (i should articulate it) 2. what is my worldview, relation to natural world, 3. what values do I hold dear. Hmm . . . will probably need coffee (or something stronger) to wrestle with issues by Monday :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Value and Grid

If drawing is the way in which we rationalize the world around us, then the use of a grid creates an order that our logic-brain (logic-brian lol) loves so much! Interesting paradox though, when using a grid, the mind gets bored and the holistic side of our brain takes over. But I digress . . .

20 hours later and I'm finished my value study drawing for my class. The assignment was to take a photograph, photocopy it to make it a greyscale, draw a 1/4" grid over it, enlarge it to a 1/2" grid on a large sheet of paper, then render the values of grey using a symbol or set of strokes. This is an approach to art making the Chuck Close uses. It is a labour intensive process . . . but it was also very meditative.
Temple at Didyma, 18" by 24", graphite on paper, 2011

I loved the character in the stones and find symbols of the decay of human civilization fascinating (ie. old factories and abandoned strip-malls). I chose the symbol of the square to render the drawing because the square makes reference to the larger grid. I left the grid lines showing to reinforce the measure of space on the picture plane. I thought it would also be interesting to take random (actually intuitively chosen) portions of the grid and was going to create a second drawing using only those pieces. I found it more amusing to leave the pieces on the same page; placed off to the side of the main drawing. I like this effect. It creates a puzzle that the viewer tries to piece together. I also find it interesting that the isolated squares create an abstract image of their own accord. While I was rendering the squares, I could let my mind wander a bit and then snap back to attention when a more complex square was next in line. I used a good range of pencils: 3H, 2B, 4B, and 6B. While working on each individual square, I lost sight of the whole so I had to make a second pass to correct and reinforce the contrasts in tones. I tried to be as meticulous as possible with this drawing. It’s not my temperament to work this way but it was an interesting experience.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Seated Caryatids

Seated Caryatids, 30" by 30", Oil and charcoal on canvas, 2011

Matthew Ritchie

Pretty dope. I learned about meta-narratives and quantum mechanics while researching his work for my class presentation. The conceptual part of my work is an area that I haven't really thought (lol) about very much. It adds another dimension to the work. I'm pretty excited about what I'm learning in class :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In Parallel: Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley
Antony Gormley
It’s not so much his drawings that I find interesting but more his sculptures that look like drawings. Pieces like Quantum Cloud (1998-2008) give the impression of being figure studies using set rules such as: you can only use straight lines and the bars have to touch at certain points. The materials in theses sculptures are neutral in colour which is also why I relate them to drawing (even though I realize that painting is drawing in colour). I could easily see a crosshatched drawing in ink looking like this . . . but this is in three dimensions.
But, his drawings emit a silent but strong physical presence that I also gravitate to. His contours/silhouettes of figures have a sense of weight, due in part to the thick black ink used to render them. Another thing I like about his drawings (especially some of his ink washes) is that they look like the inevitable result of using the chosen material: the medium evokes the message.
Antony Gormley
I think it’s very interesting to see the two mediums in parallel because you get the sense of the other in the work: you think of his drawings when you look at his sculpture and vice versa. I like the idea of the body as a place and not just an object in space, it makes me consider the physical presence of my body as I make drawings (much like the exercise we did with using different body parts).