Friday, November 29, 2013


Uclan Crits, printing, research paper and website update.........

Already back a week from trip via London and Lancaster to Uclan in Preston with a lecture from tutor Claire Hope,  and  MA critical presentations with Pete Clark  Presentation about MA and other students as well as a chance to work in the print room. I plan to work more in the print room with a couple of weeks of intensive focus to experiment with superimposing and layering edited drawings, sketches and prints prepared in Brussels and exhibit with the MA students later this year.

Managed also with Eduardo's help using Dreamweaver to update and upload a revised and edited website with a new section of the latest ongoing series of painting called  The Fugitive Image'

Below is the text without images of my research module so far. 

MA Fine Art Studio Practice                              
MA FINE ART SEMESTER 1                                    
Essay word count approx 7,000 words excluding notes and bibliography. 

Photography: mirror and image in contemporary painting. 

Fig 1

As a painter developing a studio practice I have used both digital photography as well as found photographs in my own work both implicitly as an integral part of a process aligned with collage to extend vision (Fig 1) and explicitly as a subject in its own right, an object within a trompe l’oeil still-life, a painted image of a photographic image and a frame inside a frame.  (Fig 2)

Fig 2
In this paper I am interested in examining how photography can be considered as both mirror and image through its implicit and explicit presence in contemporary painting and relating this to issues of representation and abstraction, mechanical objectivity and creative subjectivity inherent in these media and processes, and the tension between mimesis and the expressive materiality of paint in certain key contemporary painters in particular Gerhard Richter, Luc Tuymans, Micheal Borremans and Peter Doig, and to explore how this can inform my own developing understanding and practice.
In a painting the image is the visible part of the a work which incorporates subject and content that may extend outside and beyond the visible work and it’s context. To a greater or lesser extent the paint itself might be considered the ‘image’
Painting is a process incorporating the visual, tactile, physical materiality of expressive marks and gesture. A language of signs that extends from abstraction to representation it carries with it and often clearly references a tradition that stretches back millennia although its claim to a particular authority in contemporary art is often disputed.1
The mirror seems not to lie, presenting an objective truth in the impersonal reflection of the appearance of visible forms - yet it’s flat surface is only an illusion of reality and its inverted mimesis a great deception. Painters have always perhaps, and certainly since the Renaissance in Europe, used mirrors both practically and metaphorically. Further on I will examine this in examples by Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Velazquez.  
Although the camera obscura has existed since ancient times and has been used by artists like Vermeer as a drawing aid, the chemistry for fixing the image was only discovered in the first part of the 19th century leading to the daguerreotype. In the eye of the camera the mirrored momentary appearances of visible forms reflected in light and shadow are captured and fixed in processes that seem mechanical, scientific, objective, impersonal.
As photographic technology developed and became more accessible painters were quick to realize its potential as a visual aid in the studio and many, like Degas and Manet were both directly or indirectly influenced by it.

Fig 3

In Manet’s ‘Bar at the Folie Bergere’ (Fig 3) the mirror is explicitly present forming most of the back wall of the image.  Photography seems to be implicit in many aspects of the composition including the physical properties and handling of paint, the frontal lighting, flatness, banal realism and ‘snap shot’ quality and photographic discontinuity, observable in the feet of the gymnast in the top left hand corner and in the cropped figure of the soliciting gentleman refracted in the mirror to the right, heralding a break with the academic tradition it emerges from. Indeed Foucault goes so far as to suggest that Manet was ‘inventing if you like the ‘picture object’, the ‘painting object’  by making ‘ representational play of the fundamental material elements of the canvas’ 2
Despite persistent resistance towards accepting photography as art3 the developing importance of photography and film throughout the 20th centuries challenged painting’s traditional hegemony whilst providing a rich source of inspiration, and a new medium for extending and enriching the traditional verisimilitude of the mirror and camera obscura kaleidoscopically. By the early 1900s photography appeared to have liberated painting from the need to imitate reality and this along with the other rapidly developing technologies of change played a part in provoking Picasso and Braque to fracture traditional perspective and the mirror of realism into the simultaneous multiple viewpoints of the cubist revolution.
Clearly influenced by cubism Francis Bacon’s use of materially damaged photographic sources for painting, including Muybridge’s ‘Figures in Motion’ and Richard Deakin’s commissioned portraits, is well documented although his ambivalence towards them when questioned in interviews seems to belie their obvious importance as charged intermediaries in the process of generating a final often expressively distorted painted image.4 (Fig 4 and Fig 5)
Fig 4                                                                       Fig 5

It was some time before another painter, David Hockney whose use of photography as source material for paintings has been openly and widely acknowledged,5 inverted this relationship and explored how photographs themselves could be collaged into a ‘cubist’ images inspired by painting in his Polaroid collages or ‘Joiners’ (Fig 6)
  Fig 6                                                                Fig 7

Chuck Close’s giant Photo-Realist paintings have gradually morphed into colorful painterly ‘abstractions’ that form into grids, like pixels in a digital image, to create optical illusions of form and space, jolting us from a distance with the gestalt pattern of recognition in which an individual persons face emerges but which loses its identity and dissolves into blobs of paint close up (Fig 7)

Fig 8

In Gerhard Richter’s painting ‘Uncle Rudy’ (Fig 8), which belongs to a series of works from his early career just as he was becoming established as an artist, we see what appears to be a blurred, out of focus black and white photographic image conjured with a virtuoso handling of monochromatic oil paint. This and other early paintings reflect a fascination with the relationship between photography and painting and the use of found photographic images culled from the media and personal sources marks a clear break with traditional academic painting.

   ‘Family photos, pictures of groups, those are truly wonderful. And they are just as good as the old masters, just as rich and just as beautifully composed (what does that mean anyway).’ 6

In these paintings the photographic image itself is the explicit subject matter of the paint although clearly this image of a ‘Nazi in the family’ was hardly uncontroversial in postwar Germany. In ‘Uncle Rudy’ the quality of Richter’s paint surface and its relation to the photographic source reflects a gaze that is distanced, dispassionate and detached, the blurry grey handling of the surface of the paint and its bland ordinariness seems to be the very embodiment of Hannah Arent’s  ‘Banality of Evil’. 7 Robert Storr has said this about Richter’s early work.

       While many Photo-Realists used photography primarily as a means of achieving feats of trompe l’oeil magic (although a technical wizard, Close was the leading exception to this rule), Richter was more concerned with the problematic reality of photographs than in the reality the photographs ostensibly recorded.8

Traditionally a photograph is a picture made by fixing an image created by shadows and mirrors in the sealed box of the camera onto light sensitive paper in a dark room. The eye of the camera reflects an optical and mechanical image of the objective world. Although digital photography uses a new and different technology, creating the image with pixels, it remains remarkably similar in many respects to it’s antecedent. Like a mirror the photographic image exists as a two-dimensional flat illusion of a three dimensional spatial reality.

In his notebooks Leonardo Da Vinci explains how the mirror can be used to test the verisimilitude of the artist’s work against nature, seeing painting and the picture itself as a mirror of nature.

        When you wish to see whether the general effect of your picture corresponds with that of the object represented after nature, take a mirror and set it so that it reflects the actual thing, and then compare the reflection with your picture, and consider carefully whether the subject of the two images is in conformity with both, studying especially the mirror. ….....if you but know well how to compose your picture it will also seem a natural thing seen in a great mirror.9

The mirror’s presence in the history of Western Art is powerful both as a metaphor and as practical tool for extending vision. Its implied presence, as in the self-portrait by Rembrandt (Fig 9) witnesses his self-enquiry like a window through time to the viewer. What he is actually painting is an image of himself from an image of himself in the mirror. His gaze fixes both his own eye and the viewer’s with interior and exterior vision simultaneously. We are caught within this refracted gaze across time and space in a search for the painting’s truth.

Fig 9                                                                    Fig 10

The mirror witnesses both the artist and the couple in The Arnolfini Marriage by Jan Van Eyck (Fig 11 and detail Fig 12) distorting space in its convex surface and yet impressing us with the veracity of this moment in time when the marriage vows of the couple unite visible and invisible, sacred and the secular in both legal and moral bonds before the viewer. Here seeing is believing.

Fig 11                                                  Fig 12

Perspective, the camera obscura, observation of light and shadow are the optical sciences of Vermeer’s silent but eloquent interiors that seem to objectively mirror reality. The picture in its frame, like a room in doll’s house with a wall removed, negotiates interior and exterior spaces both inside and outside the picture frame, with real light illuminating the surface of the painting and painted light entering the room from a window to reveal individuals absorbed in reading, sewing, playing musical instruments or other domestic activities . Here is a world in miniature that seems to perfectly mirror reality. ( Fig 10) 

In Velasquez’  ‘Las Meninas’. (Fig 13 and detail Fig 14)  the mirror’s presence is both implicit in the process of making and explicit as an image in itself, like a framed picture inside a picture which occurs at the centre of painting next to the open door directing our gaze both forward and backwards into and outside the pictorial space. The portrait of the king and queen, which we see the artist painting from behind his large canvas to the left of the picture, occurs within the frame of the mirror hanging on the back wall of the room, reflecting a space just in front of the picture where the royal couple should be located but where the viewer is actually presumed to be standing to look at the picture, thus confounding us with the logical impossibility of the painting being constructed in the time and space it claims to exist in and represent as a true moment of reality. Here is an elaborate visual game of mirrors and shadows that challenges the viewer to question the very appearance of reality in time and space and makes both the mirror and the painting itself the central focus and metaphor of the work. 10

Fig 13                                              Fig 14

Since he emerged in the late 1990s Micheal Borremans work has risen meteorically to international prominence. A major exhibition of his work, entitled ‘As sweet as it gets’ is planned for February 2014 at the Brussels Centre for Fine Art. 11
Borreman’s paintings, often made with a limited palette of subdued muted oil colour and a dramatic contrast of light and shadow, have an almost academic quality reminiscent of old masters like Caravaggio, Velasquez, Goya or Manet.  Beautifully painted with great technical proficiency and controlled freedom they capture the imagination with absurd situations and surreal displacements often between figures isolated within a group and their ordinary yet bizarrely constructed contexts. The disconnected but strangely involved relationships between figures and spaces and the mismatches in scale ratios generate a disturbing psychological tension that is both contradictory and defiant, and reveal a mirrored world of painting at once familiar and strange and perhaps ultimately inexplicable. In a monograph article in Frieze magazine the critic and co editor Jennifer Higgie concludes that Borremans particular take on the absurd is rooted in both his Flemish identity and Belgian history. is difficult not to conclude that the recent history of both Ghent and Belgium has influenced his perception of the human condition as being shaped as much by illusion, illogic and cruelty as by fair-minded reason. 12
In the drawing ‘People must be punished’ (Fig 15) many of these characteristics are present. Alluding perhaps to both cinema and advertising in the disjointed scale ratios, the picture appears to express an anxiety about individual and collective identity and the sense of freedom or constraint.  The absurd image inside an absurd image and the sketchy drawings in the upper margins give it the feeling of a work in progress, an elaborate and highly involved dystopian daydream emerging from a extended doodle. Borremans always draws on found paper with interesting marks or stains which he returns to over time as the image gestates and develops into the final work. 13

Fig 15

Borremans a self-taught painter, trained initially as a printmaker and photographer and also makes films. There is clearly an important symbiosis between these media which plays a crucial role in generating the peculiar quality of the image in the final work, whether it is a drawing, painting or a film. 
Interviewed in the documentary film ‘A Knife in the Eye’ the curator Delfim Sardo says,
    ‘What strikes me is I always thought that his painting was very cinematographic …and now he makes the opposite, he makes films that are also painterly. 
In the same documentary film Borremans talks about how the both the cinematic or photographic view, ‘but also in my case with looking at art in reproductions’  is something typical in his work.
    Q: Is a photograph necessary a starting point?
    A:  Well there is a tradition in it, since the origin of photography, painters  have eagerly made use of it. In my case, earlier I used to work with materials I found and recuperated, but I added to it or took away from it, I mean I am never going to copy the photograph, I always manipulate the image, as well in light, in colours, in composition. Even if you consciously don’t manipulate, when you paint you always do manipulate, whether you want to or not
Initially working with found images in popular media, magazines, and the Internet he has increasingly used carefully selected models, costumes, props and controlled lighting in a studio setting to create photographic images that are sources for later paintings and films.
Never working on a pure white canvas he colours or tints the ground in a method used by the old masters whom he admires. In the documentary film previously referred to Borremans discusses his strong emotional reaction to the painting of the Infante Prince Phillip Prospero of Spain painted by Velasquez in 1659 (Fig 16) and now in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna and acknowledges a significant debt. This commissioned portrait of the young Phillip who was already sickly and later died at the age of four intimates his precarious health and uncertain future with the bells, charms and amulets he is painted wearing and has in retrospect a certain pathos and melancholy. 
In Borremans’ own royal commission from Queen Paola in 2010 for the Royal Palace in Brussels14 he used similar colours to the Velasquez portrait with deep rich reds, browns and muted beiges and white. Rather than a member of the Belgian Royal Family however he chose instead to focus on the palace footmen with a series of small paintings in which they appear occasionally with back to front jackets in disconcerting impersonal poses as in ‘Lakei’ (Fig 17) which is a typical example.  Dotted around the state apartments these paintings appear subversive, ironic, slightly irreverent and humorous. Like Alice’s world through the looking glass Borremans exquisite paintings reflect a playful yet disturbing anarchic back to front reality. 

Fig 16                                                                       Fig 17

 ‘What I often saw as a young man, what has strongly inspired me to paint are the works of Velasquez. 15
Borremans relationship to cinema and photography is part of a critical apprehension of contemporary media brought to bear on the medium oil paint but what is also clearly important is a connection with the past and its roots in the Low Countries and Europe which surely has particular historical resonances for a Flemish painter.
     ‘When you make a painting, you know you are using a technique with a whole history. Many things depend on that, you can’ t disconnect it’ 16
A plethora of film, video, print and photographic media is evoked in the figurative paintings of another Belgian, Luc Tuymans. Seemingly innocent snapshots, digital images from the internet, stills from film or video, and footage from surveillance technology and camcorders in television reality shows are both implicitly and explicitly referenced in his work  His indirect, cropped and indistinct view of a subject, the diffused light, pastel colour and muted tones, evoke the particular visual qualities of film and photography with an apparent naivety which belies their sophistication and content.  The banal subjects painted in drab tones have titles that allude to specific historical contexts outside the frame with sometimes chilling irony generating an atmosphere of unease that surrounds them like a miasma hanging over a murder scene in a seemingly ordinary and familiar setting.  The oblique view and a certain studied diffidence in his gestural marks gives the painted surface a strangely dispassionate quality adding to the tension between the image and the text and challenging the viewer to the explore an area of ambivalence between the moral and aesthetic purposes of painting. John-Paul Stonard has said in reference to the painting ‘Gas Chamber’ (Fig 18)
  The subject of this painting is indicated less by the title than by the failure of the image to represent adequately such a subject, implying the impossibility of such an undertaking. 17

Fig 18

At the end of the same article he later quotes Tuymans as articulating the central tenet of his painting as:
‘Anything banal can be transformed into horror. Violence is the only structure underlying my work’
Tuymans paintings invoke the phantoms of the past but also the anxieties of present reflected in the media which Stefan Beyst believes reflect Tuyman’s covert personal psychology far more that his overt political conciousness18
Like Borremans, Tuymans has enjoyed significant international recognition. He trained as a painter and art historian and experimented with video and film before emerging in the mid eighties with paintings that express a sense of dissonance and alienation in the remembered traces of trauma in Belgian and European history. Invoking the memory of The Holocaust and Belgium’s controversial colonial past in the Congo in works that recall, in their charged content, Gerhard Richter’s ‘October 18th 1977’ series of painting,19 he has gone on to reference issues like child abuse in the wake of the Dutroux scandal and the far right in Flanders amongst other things.
Tuyman’s drawings, water-colours and oil paintings have a complex relationship to the photographic images they are culled from and to the historical events to which they allude in titles and texts which create specific contexts in which they can be read as potential ethical or political discourse. In an interview with Gareth Harris in the Art Newspaper Tuymans compares the relationship between photography and his distinctive painting process to Richter’s
The blurriness is actually sharp because, unlike with [Gerhard] Richter, it is not wiped away but just painted. Painting is a very physical object, it’s very difficult to compromise it. It’s difficult to remember it correctly because it’s so complex. But it’s much more detailed than any photograph will ever be.20

Fig 19                                                                              Fig 20
Both the mirrored and the photographic image are present in muted tones of this banal domestic image. (Fig 19 ) A circular mirror set off-centre at an angle of ellipse inside a square canvas creates an oblique counter image as pale, ghostly and indistinct as the wall and mirror frame above the mantle piece with its vague ornaments casting muted shadows from the diffused light of an unseen window. We can almost breath the dust settling on the surfaces in the boredom of this stifling suburban setting and the sheer blandness feels repressive, unsettling and creates a sense of unease. The photographic imagery Tuymans evokes in paint whilst lending a veneer of documentary realism is like a mirror that deflects vision outside and beyond the horror he alludes to rather than reflecting it directly. Like the mirror Athena gave to Perseus to slay the Medusa, painting allows us to look on horrors indirectly without turning to stone.
In Peter Doig’s painting ‘Window Pane’ (Fig 20) reflection in water, a motif which occurs often in his work, can also be read as a metaphor for both the material and process of painting and vision itself.21 Both water and oil paint, are capable of extraordinary transformations becoming in turn liquid and solid, opaque and transparent. Water can reflect an inverted vision of the world like a mirror on the flat surface of a frozen pond with its wet centre, like the shadowy image captured in the lens of a camera or the retina of the eye. The reflected image of trees and sky is framed inside an image of ice and snow, which is framed inside the large rectangle of the picture itself which, like another large frozen and reflective surface, fills a wall and envelopes the viewer. Doig’s painting recalls the work of the impressionist painter Monet in his famous Nympheas (Fig 21). The composition and a handling of colour, light, surface, texture, shape and space seem to oscillate between figuration and abstraction. We can read the paint itself as the image, becoming lost in the sensual visceral quality of the material, even as we see the representational quality of the marks.

Fig 21

Unlike many traditional landscape artists working from sketches and studies made from life and developed back in the studio or directly ’en plein air’ Doig works from secondary sources, in his case photographs, magazine prints and other found images like film clips or newspaper cuttings in the studio. He uses these as starting points to evoke a sense of place remembered and imagined, re-invented, almost conjured out of colour, light and the expressive marks, gestures and qualities of the paint itself. Photography is embedded in this process and implicit in the visual quality and feeling of the image. 

Interviewed about his recent exhibition ‘No Foreign Lands’ at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, Doig whose brightly coloured paintings have been compared Matisse, Bonnard and Gauguin, discusses his relationship to the paintings of the past.

“I still think there’s a lot to be learned from looking at paintings from the past. There was a tendency in the 20th century to always be trying to be the next step in what painting could be, what art could be. Now you can follow these different avenues a bit more. That to me is what makes being a painter compulsive.” 22
Doig’s photographic sources enable him to project his memory, imagination and vision into expressive painterly speculations that are reflected back onto the canvas with colorful impastos and glazed layers of paint evoking a magical and dreamlike sense of ‘genius loci’ in a theatrical collision between the real and the fantastic. These places are to Doig, who was born in Edinburgh, grew up in Trinidad and Canada and the UK and continues to live and work in these places and in New York and Germany, simultaneously exotic and familiar. Although they might reference specific external locations through photographic sources and memory these are emotional landscape of interiority and they explore a typography of feeling.

In Julian Bell’s book ‘What is Painting?’, the writer sets out to explore representation and modern art and highlights a dichotomy between what he calls the ‘new technology of photography’ and ‘the new ethos of expression’ . 

            ‘I have suggested how painting can be seen, from the fifteenth century onward as a practice that offered an image for human knowledge of the world. The model of the camera obscura used to clarify the terms of this project, promoted two developments, both of which would affect the production of painting in the early 19th century. One was the new technology of photography. The other - which in fact predated photography - was the new ethos of expression. The one seemed to threaten the basis of painting. The other seemed to redeem it.’ 23

The best of Peter Doig’s paintings seem to achieve a synthesis of both photographic technology and expressive painting by absorbing them completely into the alchemy of the artistic process, which is as much about the materiality of paint itself and its abstract marks and tactile visual qualities as it is about representation or realism.

Gerhard Richter has also explored this dichotomy between painterly and photographic image throughout his career in works that have often appeared to oscillate between these two polarities of realist representation and abstraction. In photo-realist works like ‘Reader’ (Fig 22) recalling the work of the 17th century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer, the soft blur suggests focus and depth of field whilst the drag marks of the squeegee in the giant abstract ‘January’ (Fig 23) part of a triptych of large double canvases, suggests the very antithesis of this even as it recalls the grey scale painterly, photographic blur of his of his ‘October 18th 1977’ series.

 Fig 22

Fig 23

James Elkin’s response to the question Julian Bell’s book raises ‘What Is Painting?’ was another book ‘What Painting Is’ which attempts to answer the question posed by the earlier book’s title by focusing on something which art critics and historians find difficult to express in their medium of words, namely the very materiality of paint itself and its processes.   Elkin avoids the usual academic language of art history and sets out instead to use alchemy as an alternative metaphysical language for exploring the material and spirit of the paint. 

       ‘This is where alchemy can help, because it is the most developed language for thinking in substances and processes. For a “spiritual” alchemist, whatever happens in the furnace is an allegory of what takes place in the alchemists mind or soul.’

He goes on to say;

          ‘ …. neither alchemy nor painting is done with clean hands. Book learning is a weak substitute for the stench and frustration of the laboratory, just as art history is a meager reading of pictures unless it is based in the actual work of the studio. To a non-painter, oil paint is uninteresting and faintly unpleasant. To a painter, it is the life’s blood: a substance so utterly entrancing, infuriating, and ravishingly beautiful that it makes it worthwhile to go back into the studio every morning, year after year, for a lifetime.’ 24

The photograph, like the mirrored reflection is all surface and illusion, a perception as much as a thing, a glimpse or fleeting visual moment captured objectively, scientifically, impersonally by mechanical, chemical or electronic means, appearing to have almost no tactile depth or substance, something that exists more in the retina than in a physically embodied form.

‘I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence... as a snail leaves its slime. (Francis Bacon)’ 25

The painting on the other hand is almost biological, a kind of excretion something physical that the painter exudes onto the surface of the canvas like the snail’s slimy trail. Light and colour are embodied in the physical materiality of pigment and oil and the unique pattern of identity written into the signature of the painter’s gestures and marks is like the DNA from which the paintings structure is assembled.  What are the tensions or synergies between the polarities apparent in processes involved in making photographic or painterly images?  What are their respective capacities to reflect perceptual realities, with various degrees of conviction and integrity, through a creative synthesis in contemporary painting?

‘Ita Visio Ut pictora’ 26 -if vision itself is a picture then the relationship between visual and physical perception, between retinal and tactile vision, hand and eye, lie at the heart of what painting is about.  The means of mechanical reproduction of images has grown exponentially since Walter Benjemin’s wrote his analysis of ‘the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.’ Like Paul Valery, quoted in the introduction to this work, we can say  neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial.’ 27As we adapt to the real and virtual spaces in the architecture of a evolving globalised digital environment with its plethora of images can painting still help us to define and navigate a valid and valuable human response? 

The surviving wall paintings of Pompeii (Fig 24) reveal an intensely visual culture happily dissolving real walls into mirrored illusions of themselves in complex and sophisticated visual conceits of trompe l oeil, surprising similar perhaps to our own dissolving walls of digital mimicry? (Fig 25)  Painting has long explored the boundaries between reality and illusion, is it perhaps, with the value of this hindsight, peculiarly well suited to explore contemporary visual phenomena?

Fig 24                                                  Fig 25

In the work of these four painters it seems that painting and specifically the traditional medium of oil paint has paradoxically a particular and perhaps unique ability to comment on the nature of both modern and contemporary film, photographic and digital media and our complex relationship to them as they mirror our illusions and reality. Perhaps painting by its very difference and distance from these media and the way that it evokes a complex series of memories and associations connecting it with both the recent and more remote past, asserts a persistent yet disputed authority which continues to be contextualized by the artist, the museum curator and the critical text in ways that remain profoundly relevant to the human condition. It is this nexus which I seek to explore further both in my own studio practice and research. (Fig 26 and Fig 27)

Fig 26                                                                              Fig 27

In my own work I have explored the photograph both implicitly and explicitly, incorporating the photographic method and image into both the process and the subject of the work in a variety of ways. Most of this work can be viewed in my website and in this blog              

In memory and metaphor I worked from digital scanning of photographs, enlarged into a ‘scaffold’ grid on canvas the painted images of a series of family photographs explored ideas related to photographs as objects of both memory and metaphor in the construction of identity.

The installation ‘Tribe’ juxtaposed photography, painting and film to explore the relationship of the viewer to the picture frame and the act of looking in both time and space; time captured in the photograph, time reconstructed in the painting and real time in the live video recording of the viewer. 

The series of oil paintings in ‘Silva’ incorporated photography into panoramic 360 degree collages used as a basis for developing a series of expressive paintings of trees in the forest in a large horizontal format incorporating text to form elegiac landscapes that are philosophical contemplations on the nature of time.

More recently I have continued to explore the tradition of trompe l’oeil still-life painting working with acrylic paint and other media from direct observation of fragments of paper and other objects within a shallow space and incorporating the photographic image as a pictorial paper fragment alongside other still life objects inside the picture frame

Currently I am working on a series of oil paintings on wood roughly 40x30cms (the fugitive image) based on the direct observation of carefully prepared colleges of torn paper that incorporate fragments of photographs from which I work directly to make oil paintings inspired by the tradition of trompe l oeil which explore the illusive and transitory nature of both the surface and the frame and the fugitive nature of both paper and image. Painting a series of frames inside frames I aim to invoke both the presence and the absence of the image simultaneously and challenge the viewer to examine pictorial conventions of representation in order to question the nature of real illusions and the illusory nature of reality. “Things in their true nature and illusions are of the same basic substance” Thich Nhat Hanh

1Ben Lewis writing in the Sunday Telegraph reviewing ‘The Triumph of Painting’ at the Saatchi Gallery 2005, Article entitled ‘New Life Sprung From The Dead’ Ch.2. Quoted from the Saatchi Gallery website. 
  ‘The other back story is the revival of painting. Until recently painting really was “out”. Of course, there were important painters working in the 1990s – in Britain notably Chris Ofili and Peter Doig – but critics didn’t talk about painting, and curators didn’t mount exhibitions of paintings. The thinking was that skilful painting was a self-indulgent and pointless display of self-importance. Why paint an unmade bed when you could put the bed itself in a gallery?’

2 Michel Foucault. Manet and the Object of Painting p. 79
      Manet certainly did not invent non-representational painting because everything in Manet is representative, but he made a representational play of the fundamental material elements of the canvas. He was therefore inventing, if you like, the ’picture object’, the ‘painting-object’, and this no doubt was the fundamental condition so that finally one day we can get rid of representation itself and allow space to play with its pure and simple properties, its material properties.

3 Hugh Honour and John Fleming. A World History of Art. fifth edition. 1999. Photography Comes of Age. P. 688
        ‘Whether it (photography) could be considered an art was the subject of acrimonious discussion and was the main point at issue in a lawsuit fought in the courts of Paris in 1861-2 which ended with the judge ruling that photgraphs could be –the conditional tense is significant-products of thought and spirit, of taste and intelligence, bearing the imprint of a personality ans this works of art

. 4 Barbara Dawson and Martin Harrison. Curators of  Francis Bacon, A Terrible Beauty. Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Pub. 2009 Steidl. Extensively documents fragments of photography and other material retrieved and archived from Francis Bacon’s London studio at 7 Rees Mews and relocated to Dublin in 2001. In chapter 5 ‘Latent Images’ Martin Harrison describes Bacon’s complex and ambivalent attitude towards his own use of photographs.

5Marco Livingstone. 1981 David Hockney. Thames and Hudson. Pages 94, 97, 101, 113, 114, 115 122 134 140, 144, 186, 187, illustrate key examples of source photographs used by Hockney in his paintings

6Gerhard Richter. Letters to Two Artist Friends. From Düsseldorf, September 22, 1964, to Helmut and Erika Heinze.  Quoted from (quotes, subjects, portraits)

7 Hannah Arendt. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Penguin. 2006 .”  Quoted from the Epilogue
 “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together

8 . Robert Storr. Gerhard Richter, Doubt and Belief in Painting. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Chapter 1, Beginnings Page 30,
9 The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci selected and edited by Irma A Richer. Oxford University Press

10 Sabine Melchior-Bonnet. The Mirror. A History. Translated by Katherine H Jewett. Published Routedge  2001  Particularly the chapter ‘Self-Reflection in the Seventeenth Century. page 164 dealing with the mirror in relation to Vermeer, Velasquez and Rembrandt.

11Michael Borremans ‘As Sweet As It Gets’ Brussels Centre for Fine Arts. BOZAR This exhibition planned to open in February 2114 is billed as ‘containing a hundred works from the last 14 years, allows you to get to know a fascinating artist and offers an overview of his work. It will move later to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art.’

12 Jennifer Higgie  Engima Variations. Monograph article about Michael Borremans. Frieze Magazine. First published in
Issue 89, March 2005

13 Guido De Bruyn director ‘A Knife in the Eye’ (2009) documentary film about Michael Borreman and his work.
14 Commission from Queen Paola for The Royal Palace in Brussels 2010. I was able to view this series of paintings that year when the palace was opened to visitors.
15  Guido De Bruyn ‘A Knife in the Eye’
16 ibid
17John-Paul Stonard  Ref. Tuymans, Luc, Grove Art Online Volume Grove Art Online, issue Published in print August 1996 | ISBN:9781884446054

18 Stefan Beyst.. The Secret Charms of Luc Tuymans. Quoted from Chapter headed ‘Subject Matter’

‘ We cannot escape the impression that the involvement with what is topical in the media only masks a blindness for what is really at stake. That Luc Tuymans is above all interested in the problematic that have influenced his childhood experiences, makes us suspect that his political themes are merely a metaphor for private problems, especially childhood experiences. In that respect, a comparison between ''Gas chamber' (1986) and the children's room in 'Silent Music’ (1992) speaks volumes.’

19 ‘October 18, 1977’ cycle of oil paintings created by Richter in 1988, was based on ubiquitous photographs of the Baader-Meinhof era RAF terrorists and is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA  in New York.
20 Gareth Harris. The Art Newspaper ‘Why paintings succeed where words fail’ Belgian artist Luc Tuymans talks to us on the eve of exhibitions in Europe, Russia and the US.Features, Issue 205, September 2009
Published online: 09 September 2009

21 This painting I saw for the first time Venice in 2003 The 50th Contemporary Art Biennale. Venice 2003. Musee Correr ‘Pittura,1964-2003 Da Rauschenberg a Murakami’. Curated by Francesco Bonami.
22 Peter Doig, Interviewed on his ‘No Foreign Lands’ exhibition Published by Edinburgh Festivals 4 Aug 2013

23 Julian Bell ‘What is Painting ?’ Thames and Hudson 1999. Quoted from chapter ‘Photography and Realism’ on  page 57.
24 James Elkins What Painting Is.’ How to think about oil painting, using the Language of Alchemy. Routledge. 1995 Quoted from pages 4 and 5
25 The Oxford Dictorary of Art. Quoted from. page 45

26 Francois Julien. ‘The Great Image Has No Form or On the Nonobject through Painting’ Translated by Jane Marie Todd. The University of Chicago Press. 2009 ISBN 13: 978-0-226-41531-4  Page 161  Referencing Johannnes Kepler  Francois Julien states,
  ‘In Dutch art, painting was identified with the eye itself rather than understood as a seen world. In deciding to call the image on the retina not imago but pictura, Johannes Kepler connected painting and vision even more intimately. No longer is painting the image of vision; now vision is already the image of painting. Ut pictura, ita visio: since visual perception is itself an act of representation, it follows that seeing is (already) drawing. And it is that image, not the image rendered in perspective but the optical image – the world “painted” on the retina – that the Dutch painter paints.’
27 Walter Benjamin,  The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)  Source: UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden 1998; proofed and corrected  Feb. 2005.
 “Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931
Le Conquete de l’ubiquite.


Figure 1. Elegy 8: ‘Winter Sun’ Alan Mitchell. 
Oil on Linen. 200x40cm

Figure 2.  ‘Dad’, Alan Mitchell. Oil on Canvas, 80x50cm.  

Figure 2  Edouard Manet. A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, 1881-2 Oil on Canvas. The Courtauld Gallery London

Figure 3 Photo-booth portraits of Francis Bacon, George Dyer, and David Plante in Aix-en-Provence, 1966–1967. 10 3/16 x 8 11/16 in. (25.9 x 22 cm) The Estate of Francis Bacon

Figure 5 Francis Bacon. 'Self Portrait', 1971 oil on canvas

Figure 6. David HockneyMother I, Yorkshire Moors, August 1985 #1, 1985. Photographic collage

Figure 7. Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 1997  oil on canvas 102 x 84” The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Figure 8  Uncle Rudy Gerhart Richter 1965 oil on canvas 87x50cm.

Figure 9 . Rembrandt Self-Portrait.
1661. Oil on canvas, 114 x 94 cm; Kenwood House, London

Figure 10 ‘Woman in Blue Reading a Letter’. Jan Vermeer. 1662-64.  Oil on Canvas.  46.6x39.1cm.  Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Figure 11‘The Arnolfini Marriage’ Jan van Eyck. 1434. Oil on Oak panel of three vertical boards.  82.2 x60cms. London National Gallery  

Figure 12 Detail of Figure 11

Figure13 ‘Las Meninas’. Diego Velazquez. 1656. Oil on Canvas. 318-276cm. Museo Del Prado, Madrid.

Figure 14 Detail of Figure 13. 

Figure 15 Michaël Borremans,‘The Swimming Pool’, 2001, 34 x 28,2 cm, pencil, watercolour on cardboard, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Figure 16 The Infante Prince Phillip Prospero of Spain.Velasquez 1659 oil on canvas. Kunsthistoriches Museum; Vienna.

Figure 17 ‘Lakei’ Micheal Borremans 2010 65 x 50 cm oil on canvas

Figure 18 Luc Tuymans, Gaskamer (Gas Chamber) 1986, oil on canvas, 24 x 32 1/2 in., The Over Holland Collection.

Figure 19 Luc Tuymans, Mirror, 2005, Oil on canvas, 55-1/2 x 50-1/2 inches, David Zwirner Gallery

Figure 20  ‘Window Pane’. Peter Doig 1993

Figure 21 The Water Lily pond c 1917-19 Oil on Canvas Google art project. Location  Albertina Vienna

Figure 22 ‘Reader’ 1994  oil on canvas 72x102cm  Gerhard Richer

Figure 23 
’January’ Gerhard Richter 1989. 320 cm x 400 cm Catalogue Raisonné: 699 Oil on canvas Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, USA

Figure 24  Fresco. The Villa of the Mysteries. Before 79 AD Pompeii. Italy

Figure 25  The two-story-high virtual reef. The Cube building at Queensland University of Technology.

Figure 26  Fugitive 6 Alan Mitchell 2013 oil on wood 30x40cm

Figure 27  Fugitive 7 Alan Mitchell 2013 oil on wood 30x40cm 

Annotated Bibliography:

A World History of Art Hugh Honour and John Fleming. fifth edition. 1999.
Comprehensively illustrated and wide ranging exploratory overview of art history spanning prehistory to the final chapter ‘Towards the Third Millennium’ first published in 1984 and subsequently revised. Useful as a classic canonical ‘road map’ that also raises questions about the nature, meaning and function of ‘art’ in various cultural contexts from a contemporary position. 

Arendt. Hannah Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  Penguin. 2006
Originally published in 1963. As Hitler rose to power, Arendt a Jew, fled Nazi Germany for America. She reported   on Adolf Eichmann's trial for The New Yorker. The subject of this trail and Arendt’s report was recently made into the film ‘Hannah Arendt in 2012 directed by Margarethe von Trotta.

Bacon, Francis. Francis Bacon A Terrible Beauty. Catalogue of exhibition curated by Barbara Dawson and Martin Harrison. Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Steidl. 2009 Published in honour of the artist’s centenary and legacy it contains a series of analytical essays by various writers based on the material retrieved and archived from Francis Bacon’s London studio at 7 Rees Mews and relocated to Dublin in 2001.

Bell, Julian  ‘What is Painting?’ Representation and Modern Art. Thames and Hudson. 1999The author, both a writer and painter, sets out to examine what defines painting and how its history impacts contemporary practice in relation to questions of representation in ‘modern art’.

Borremans: Michaël  Eating the Beard September 30, 2011 by Hans Christ (Author), Hans Rudolf Reust (Author), Michael Borremans (Artist) First comprehensive overview monograph of the artist  assembling and analyzing examples of over 100 works from the previous ten years and exploring the cross fertilization between media like film, photography and painting and unity of themes and ideas across the artists overall work. 

Elkins, James, ‘What Painting Is’ How to think about oil painting, using the Language of Alchemy. Routledge. 1995. Provocative unconventional approach to writing about the process of oil painting that eschews the usual academic language of art critical or modern scientific analysis for a maverick experimental foray into the metaphysical realm of alchemy to explain the substance of paint itself and its elemental fascination for the painter in the obsessive quest for material and spiritual knowledge, meaning and value, death and immortality in the act of painting. 

Foucault, Michel. Manet and the Object of Painting Tate Publishing 2009
English translation of a book first published in 2005 based on a series of lectures given by French philosopher Michel Foucault (whose major works explored theories concerning power, knowledge and social control) in Tunis in 1971 that explores how Manet’s work was seminal to the development of Modern Art. Presented in the form of a commentary on thirteen of Manet’s paintings, Foucault sets out to explore the relationship between light and space in the first two sections and finally the place of viewer specifically in relation to ‘A Bar at the Folie Bergere’.

Gerhard Richter, Panorama. A Retrospective.Tate Modern London. Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Centre Pompidou, Musee national d’art moderne, Paris  2011
Comprehensive survey of the artist’s entire career published on the occasion of the major touring exhibition above. The Tate galleries well illustrated monograph includes a conversation between Nicholas Serota and Gerhard Richter and contained a series of essays from international critics and curators examining different periods and aspects of his work within their historical contexts.

Julien, Francois  ‘The Great Image Has No Form or On the Non object through Painting’ Translated by Jane Marie Todd. The University of Chicago Press. 2009
The pre-eminent French sinologist Francois Julien set out to explore traditional Chinese landscape painting on its own terms. Using the I Ching and various contemporaneous artistic commentaries as ciphers through which to explore the relationship between the act of making marks in paintings, Taoism and conception of Nature in Chinese thought and culture. By way of contrast he sets this against the radically different ways of conceiving landscape and the meaning and function of painting within the Western canonical tradition from classical to modern times

Livingstone, Marco  David Hockney. Thames and Hudson. 1981
First full length critical study, published in the popular format of ‘The world of Art Library’ series, setting out to examine the artist life and work in mid career to date. Placing the work in a biographical context it analyses the variety of Hockney’s creative output and documents the processes involved including his use of photography in certain key paintings.

Loock, Ulrich.  Luc Tuymans  Phaidon  2003
Curator Ulrich Loock and other critics examine aspects of Tuymans’ work and career through an interview with the artist and a series of essays that throw light on his intentions and the context of his work including the ‘Mwana Kitoko: Beautiful White Man’ Series that examines Belgian Colonial history in Zaire (formally the Belgian Congo)

Melchior-Bonnet. Sabine; The Mirror. A History. Translated by Katherine H Jewett. Published  Routedge  2001
An erudite cross-disciplinary critical investigation that explores changing attitudes to the mirror the nature of reflection and the development of self-consciousness from antiquity to the present. The book is divided into three parts that explore respectively he origin of the mirror and its development in early modern Europe, the nature of mimesis and the evolving self before during and after the Renaissance and the complex and often contradictory responses to the mirror’s truths or lies.

Richer. Irma A The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci.. Selected and edited by Irma A Richer. Oxford University Press 1980. A representative selection of texts arranged according to subjects and culled from earlier translations selected and edited in 1952 by Irma A Richer and first published in the same year

Storr. Robert (2003.) Gerhard Richter, Doubt and Belief in Painting. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Currently Dean of Yale School of Art, Rober Storr has been variously a director of the Venice Biennale (in 2007) and curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. This book, which includes previously published essays and an interview with Richter, examines the diverse stylistic oeuvre of Gerhard Richter and analyses the impact of photographic media and traditional painting.

Websites and other Online Resources consulted  Gerhard Richter official website documenting his work and ideas.  The official Website of the estate of Francis Bacon The only authorized website of David Hockney  Stefan Beyst (born 1945) is a Belgium based retired lecturer in the philosophy of art and modern art history.

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