Thinking through Art

Thinking through art with Emma Drye

If Arlene has taken the trouble to organise it, it is definitely worth going. It is always an interesting day at the London Art Group.

When the flyer came through the topics were;

An introduction to research

Different perspectives

Personal key words

Resources and strategies

Discussion and Reflection

You had to bring a piece of research something to write on and some coloured pens, what no sketchbook? I was quite sceptical, how can you think through art without a sketchbook? As it turned out you could.

There were twelve of us on the course, with Emma that made thirteen. Emma spoke for a while about research and then tasked us to read an article from a book as a group of three. Emma, Steve and I read Unidentified Foreign Objects which was basically the transcript of an interview between Elizabeth Fischer and the artist Phyllida Barlow.

It was Steve’s job to summarise the text, Emma’s job to summarise the way we went about the research and mine to come up with the killer quote.

I have never read a book at the same time as another person since I was at infant school. There was the obvious problem of the speed of each other’s reading, which after the first two pages wasn’t such a problem as we adjusted comfortably to each other’s reading speeds by some form of group telepathy.

The way we went about our research was by having a group discussion after each two pages read which meant you instantly got two different points of view of what the last two pages were about from people with differing life experiences that of your own. This in itself was highly illuminating, comparing my male impressions of the text with the ladies’ feminist approach, particularly so because the article was one woman interviewing another.  We then had to give a presentation to the whole group of our findings. It would take too long here to summarise the article suffice it to say that the killer quote was that “A painting is an approximation of something that could be even better.”

The next exercise was writing, I hardly do any hand writing anymore, longer than a post it note, so it was interesting in itself to write for fifteen minutes without stopping about what I was researching. It was a sort of surrealist game and surreally I wrote it in the back of my neatly typed research.

In fifteen minutes I wrote three sides of A4, which more than surprised me, about carrier bags, dolphins recycling and how since the carrier bag charge, people have old dirty unhygienic plastic bags, there may be less of them but now, we are gifting the dolphins plastic bags with germs that could possibly kill more dolphins than our previously clean ones.

I think that the writing has made my research a bit more practical, and less bookish, hopefully that will show through in my work. I do have a thing about people having dirty carrier bags, but until performing this exercise I never considered the effect that dirty carrier bags could have on dolphins.

It is an excellent technique that allows your mind to wander around the thing you are researching, I will definitely use it again. Perhaps it is a normal research technique that helps more people reach their eureka moment while researching, if it is not then it should be.

The next step was to underline the 15 minutes writing with four colours to indicate whether the words used were material, visual, process or ideas. I was pleased that visual and ideas were the predominant highlights of my unconscious mind.

This is entirely consistent with the research I have been doing into Post Studio Art, where the material, where do you acquire a dead shark? and the process, how do you preserve it in formaldehyde? are less important than the visualisation of the original idea of a shark in a vitrine and the impact that it would have as an artwork.

The remainder of the day was spent listening to each other’s research into the various topics that were being researched by members of the group as part of their own studies. What was interesting for me hearing these was that my own research was in two separate boxes, the bookish type and the practical type. I learned from listening that it is possible for these two boxes to become one so that the bookish research can provoke new materials and processes to realise new ideas and visions to inform my creativity.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day regardless of the absence of sketchbooks, Art is not always about drawing, sometimes you have to think more than you draw. Thank you again to Emma and the rest of the London Group for advancing my understanding.

Dear Cleo 18 09 12

Dearest Cleo

I was sorry to have missed you on Saturday but I did have a really good time attending the workshop at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. Not long now until your quarter day, are you excited?

The London Group Workshop 2

The day itself

For the second London Group Workshop the venue was again the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. It is a lovely place for a relaxing day out, but the London Study Group were working and relaxing didn’t really form part of the agenda, except at Lunchtime and the coffee breaks

The Workshop was led by Clare Wilson who began the proceedings with a very informative talk on her residency as an artist in Aberystwyth and her process of creating abstract work and how place and memory played a part in their creation.

Once the talk was over the work began in earnest. After a time, probably an hour, maybe less of searching for ideas in our sketchbooks, we then set about producing a collage, before moving on to fix down an image of a place we wanted to go we had brought with us to a canvas panel using raw liquid acrylic.

Figure 1 landscape sketch Charcoal on A4 cartridge

Figure 2 landscape sketch Charcoal on A4 cartridge

Figure 3 landscape sketch Charcoal on A4 cartridge

Figure 4 Dream of a memory collage on A4 cartridge

We had a rest then and some lunch where we chatted mostly about each other’s progress with our studies before returning upstairs to the workshop room to remove the paper from the back of our image with a sponge to leave a reverse transfer print of our image on the canvas board.

Figure 5 There are places I remember and others I will go Acrylic and decoupage  on A4 canvas board

We were then encouraged to paint over our transfer, being aware of edges and the layering process to develop the transfer into a new work. The day was rounded off with an open group discussion led by Clare on the benefits of working in a way that was new to all of us and how this could be incorporated into our own processes.

I finished with a sketch of the figures inspired by the shapes of the trees.

Figure 6 Tree people Charcoal on A4 cartridge

Reflections on the day

I would not consider myself to be an abstract painter and I struggled to break free of my realist self. In the sketchbook work I produced three sketches, all three are figurative, but I was playing with my mark making techniques. The second of the three had a beautiful early mark that was reminiscent of  Cezanne but this got lost as the sketch developed. I didn’t take a progress photograph but I have memorised the technique and when it is developed a bit and reappears I will credit this day with its discovery. Looking at the sketches now the second one is by far the most daring and the most abstract, though not very so, I feel it needs to be examined further and pushed on a bit. I am fond of the layering effect of the sharpie over the charcoal and the soft edges of the charcoal contrasting with the hard edges of the Sharpie.

The collage I created is also very figurative, I think the image itself had much to do with this. It is the garden of a restaurant I go with my family he day after a family event, a christening, a wedding or a funeral, when nobody can be bothered cooking and it holds a lot of special memories so perhaps I wanted it to remain real, I think there is a surrealist touch to it so perhaps as a dream of a memory it works.

The place I wanted to go was the Hermitage, there were a lot of straight lines in the transfer print that didn’t quite blend with the curves of the memory place, but managed to contrast quite well with them when the memory place was overlaid on it. I remember seeing the Rauschenberg exhibition and discussing the techniques he used for his prints Clare’s technique was equally as good.

Clare stressed that these exercises were a way in so I did the Old Leonardo trick of staring intently at the final piece. Using a Motivsucher(TM) I picked up while standing at the checkout in Great Art, I isolated this image.

Figure 7 Sample of figure 6 Virtual image

A quick bit of Photo Shopping later and I eventually had my way in, and went on to create Ochre Numbers 1, 2 and 3

Figure 8 Ochre #1, acrylic on canvas paper 40 x 40 cm

Figure 9 Ochre #2, acrylic on canvas paper 40 x 40 cm

Figure 10 Ochre #3, acrylic on canvas paper 40 x 4o cm

Many thanks to Clare, for the thoroughly enjoyable day with much food for thought.

I will see you next Saturday, without doubt, because we are coming up to your quarter day and I wouldn’t want to miss that, until then,

My love as always

Mickos xx