Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tactile Time and Space

Howard Hodgkin's playful post pop abstract expressionist explorations with the painting as both window and frame challenge us to consider the illusion of space as opposed to the flatness of the surface and the power of the paint simultaneously to  reinforce and subvert pictorial conventions. They tease us with titles which make specific allusions to times and places. These cryptic word clues to possibly meanings challenge the viewer to 'read' these abstract brush marks and seemingly spontaneous gestures (apparently they are worked on over long period in successive layers) as bearing some significant relationship to a reality other than their own as 'painting'. Is this the blue of the sky or sea seen through an open window - although clearly not any literal or realistic representational sense? The titles provide a context which anchors the viewer's attention, pulling them back from otherwise potentially unfocused range of responses to pure abstraction and pointing to a specific stimulus to consider and empathise with and its apparent connection to painted colours, shapes and marks.  

Howard Hodgkin Early Morning  2010-11

We stayed on Naxos a few years ago.  Every evening we took a stroll to Chora for dinner in a seaside restaurant and would first walk around The Portara, which is the frame of giant doorway, all that remains of a 6th century temple dedicated to Apollo facing out to the sea and the setting sun.  At the time I found this ancient doorway, framing the elemental realities of earth, air, fire and water, to be a fascinating challenge to my contemplation of time and space. The past and the future always exist as either memory or imagination in the eternal present. The space inside the proportional frame and the space outside it are part of the same dimensionless infinity. Somehow this rectangle of 'nothing' framed by 'something', or this form made of emptiness, silently witnessing the ever changing cycles of night and day, sunrise and sunset and the generations of people being born and dying on the island, and the all the comings and going of visitors in ships over the centuries seemed to absorbed into the simplicity of its just being there.

The Portara, Naxos. Greece

I always experience something of the same sense of occilation between form and space, shadow and light in the Seagram Mural paintings of Mark Rothko which I saw most recently at the Tate Modern's Rothko  exhibition in 2008. 

Mark Rothko Red on Maroon 1959 Mixed media on canvas

In 'The Artist's reality, Philosophies of Art by Mark Rothko',  Published by Yale University Press in 2008 and based on the writing of the artist Rotho says this in a chapter headed 'Space' and subheaded  'Different Kinds'.

Tactile space, or, for the sake of simplicity let us call it air, which exists between objects or shapes in the picture, is painted so that it gives the sensation of  solid. That is, the air in a tactile painting is represented as an actual substance rather than as an emptiness.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Serial Collage

Working in a series with four separate pieces of card the same size making collage/paintings with different papers and tapes and acrylic paint washes and various additive and subtractive techniques to explore the pictorial conventions of both frame and the space,  the absence/presence, assertion/negation of the image in layers that both accumulate/depreciate over time.   I am starting with complementary colours which are quite bright but expect these to become more muted, fade and leave tonal relationships and pale after-images over time. The examples below are just the beginning of the process - I plan to keep working on these four sheets (and to make more) - pushing the process as far as I can to see where it leads and photographing each stage. It may be that these 'collages' form the basis of 'trompe l oeil' oil paintings of paintings but they and the photographs are interesting for me in themselves as explorations or variations on a theme.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

'Meditations on the Frame'

At the suggestion of Georgia Chrischilles I am reading 'Meditations on the Frame' Jose Ortego y Gasset and have left two paintings from the fugitive image series in her gallery at 58 Rue des Minimes. 

Several statements have a particular resonance and I find I want to read and re-read them to savour their meaning and to contemplate them in relation to what I am trying to do by painting the frame inside the frame, or painting self-conscious or self-aware images that 'de-pict' the conventions of pictorial space including the frame/s.  

The texts below are translated from the Spanish by Andrea L. Bell. 

Pictures live housed within their frames. That association of picture and frame is not an accidental one. Each has need of the other. A picture without a frame has the air about it of a naked, despoiled man. Its contents seem to spill out over the four sides of the canvas and dissolve into the atmosphere. By the same token, the frame constantly demands a picture with which to fill its interior, and does so to such an extent that, in the absence of one, the frame will tend to convert whatever happens to be visible within it into a picture 

The painting, like poetry or music, like all works of art, is an aperture of unreality that opens magically unto us in our real world.

When I look at the painting, I enter an imaginary space and adopt an attitude of pure contemplation. Wall and painting, then, are two antagonistic and uncommunicative worlds

The work of art is an imaginary island that floats surrounded by reality on all sides. 

The indecisive nature of the boundaries between the artistic and the living disturbs our sense of aesthetic pleasure. hence the picture without a frame, confusedly blending the boundaries with the pragmatic, extra artistic objects that surround it, loses all elegance and suggestion. What is needed is for the real wall to terminate quickly and abruptly, so that we may find ourselves suddenly and without hesitation in the unreal territory of the picture. An isolator is needed and that isolator is the frame. 

As the frontier for both regions, the frame serves to neutralise a brief strip of wall. 

The painted canvases are portholes of ideality which perforate in the mute reality of the walls. They are openings of illusion into which we can peer, thanks to the beneficent " window", the frame.  

Have started drawing as an 'artist in residence' in the classroom and plan to work on a series of these drawings over lunch and/or after school both as a practical demonstration and teaching tool and as a way to continue to exercise observation drawings skills as a basis for exploring and developing printmaking processes with layers of drawn and other marks both in school and in the printmaking studio at Uclan over Easter. The small sculptures on the table were carved in breeze block and coated with plaster an then sanded smooth. They are derived from bone and pebble forms. 


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Circle of Bliss

The sun is my heart
Your face is a flower 

Touching the earth
My body is blessed 

My eye is the sun
Lighting your face

Tree root and crown
In the leaf of of my hand

You rain in my heart
Mountain and cloud 

The seed of my thought
In the soil of your mind

Unclasped and awake
You open to light 

Breathing and walking
This circle of bliss