Dear Cleo 18 06 24

Dearest Cleo

Last weekend I went to see The Life in Motion exhibition at Tate Liverpool, it was a joint exhibition of the work of Egon Schiele and the photographer Francesca Woodman.

I had seen Schiele’s work previously in the Courtauld exhibition The Radical Nude in 2014 and did not need much persuading to go and see his work again. I was curious however as to why he was paired with an American Photographer of the 1970’s.

The link, from reading the catalogue, appears to be Woodman’s ability to portray the emotional state of the subjects and Schiele’s ability to depict the emotional tension in contorted human bodies.

I am used to going to galleries to concentrate on the images on display and not the story and emotions behind the images, and concentrating on this aspect of the exhibition was unusual but recalled part 3 of the Drawing 2 course where I was asked to consider how my emotional state affected my process of working. I have thought about this since, and I think I have decided that the work takes precedence over my emotions, if the work is not good in the first place there will be no one interested in considering the emotions of the artist or his ability to display the emotions of his subject or his emotional reaction to the subject. It is an occupation of the chattering classes to discuss how insane Van Gogh was as he produced each of his great works.

All that having been said the works on display are superb my favourite Scheile was Self portrait in a crouching position the hatching on the legs is reminiscent of a similar technique employed by Cezanne, the intention of which seems to suggest movement.

I was new to Woodman but fell in love with Untitled Rome Italy 1977-8  and I liked her use of delayed exposures to give a sense of movement and synthesising the body with the architecture .

Once I had seen the exhibition, there were two further exhibitions that I looked at, the first was Roy Lichtenstein in Focus. They have just invented a way of cleaning Lichtenstein’s pictures and there was a video presentation of the technique and one of the gallery staff was giving a talk on Lichtenstein’s process.

In the ground floor exhibition space Ken’s show Exploring the Unseen was a celebration of one of the gallery handler’s Ken having worked at the gallery for 30 years. It was an exhibition that was landscape based and included major works from the Tate collection.

By far the highlight of the gallery is its permanent collection. This is laid out on a constellation basis and covers approximately half of the gallery space. The constellation basis is probably best explained on the Tate Liverpool website here. The interactive website, like the real life gallery, traces the links between modern and contemporary art and artists. The website is a great tool and for a change, women artists are well represented, but like all of the internet it is built for surfing, you have to be there in the gallery to really appreciate the artwork on show.

Following our tour of the galleries, we convened in the coffee bar to discuss our impressions of the Life in motion exhibition and the gallery as a whole and to talk of other things including course related issues.

Thanks to Bryan, Catherine, Bernadette, Kym, Roselyne and Karin for a great and educational day out.

On the train home I read Bomberg in preparation for an exhibition I am going to see next weekend at the Ben Uri Gallery in London. I hope to catch up with you before then.

My love as always

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo

It was good to catch up yesterday, Lunch at Celicias’ is always quite delightful and yesterdays was especially so.

I went on one of my favourite study visits today, the trip to the British Museum Drawing room, I have been before, but it is the trip that never ceases to amaze me. You get to see drawings by absolute masters real close up and see how they were created. Apologies to the masters I copied and in fairness, my copies include a link to the original.

Figure 1 (17 05 09 01) after John Napper, Dried plants 1958

Figure 2 (17 05 09 02) after Jan Van Breughel the elder,

Figure 3 (17 05 09 03) after Paul Signac, Still life with a bowl of fruit 1926

Figure 4 (17 05 09 04) after Frank Auerbach, Study for another tree in Mornington Crescent 2007

Figure 5 (17 05 09 05) after Frank Auerbach, Study for Camden Palace Spring Morning 2000

Figure 6 (17 05 09 06) after Henry Moore, five studies of figures in the underground, and after Boudin, Groups of figures near Planches, Trouville. 1866

Drawing in a Museum or gallery is always problematical even one as  private as the Drawing Room at the British Museum Art as performance kicks in and everybody likes to see a performance, the curious and in the case of galleries and museums the lurking expert. All art is a performance, the only factor is the size of the audience during the performance. Stand on the street corner at Leicester Square and for every portrait drawn there is a crowd of onlookers, only in the studio can an artist have solitude and peace and perhaps the solo performance is the zenith of art, as it is of music think Leonardo and his Giaconda, Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, no spectators there then, and who could be bothered to watch Vincent perform?

So why the big modern idea of art as performance, “Can you see what it is yet”, it could be the influence of television or the speed of modern life. Even performance art must prepare the costumes or location although it is possible to go with the flow once the performance starts as almost every artist to a greater or lesser degree goes with the flow as he paints or sculpts even in his studio. I think art  as performance is overrated or about ratings, my blog on Word press makes an enormous play of how many views and visitors I have, I don’t really care, I just hope they come to see the  drawings, “Build it and they will come” (Costner), and not the words, the style, the affectations or my histrionics.

Rant over, one of the hard things about drawing in museums and galleries is that for the most part you are working in a different medium than the original work because of the institution’s rules. With drawings, however, copying seems to induce you to make strokes and marks at the same speed as the original because marks have their own tempo, you can’t drive at six miles an hour on a motorway and so you get an understanding of the way the original work was produced and hopefully that in some way feeds back into your own process.

These are the ones I didn’t copy, but probably will from the computer screen or print outs, having seen the originals should hopefully provide further inspiration, in the privacy of my own studio I can work in whatever materials are appropriate.

Figure 7 (17 05 09 07) Vincent La Crau from Montmajour May 1888

Figure 8 (17 05 09 08) Henry Moore, three figures in front of a bombed out building

Figure 9 (17 05 09 09) Barbara Hepworth, St Remy mountains and trees 1, 1933

Figure 10 (17 05 09 10) Thomas Girtin Blackfriars Bridge and St Pauls 1800-1

Figure 11 (17 05 09 11) Gabriel de Saint Aubin, Interior of the artist’s studio 1780

Figure 12 (17 05 09 12) Frans Snyders, Game and fruit

There was one other drawing on show by Margaret Stones for which there is no image on the web but you will get an idea of the style of this drawing from following the link.

All in all, if you are at all interested in drawings, it is a once in a lifetime experience and well worth the effort.

Another good thing about going to the British Museum, is that if you get off at Tottenham Court Road you have to walk past Cornelissen’s which is a pure treat, I bought some red chalk and some black chalk, the black was reconstituted and a little greasy, but with the red I drew this sketch when I got home I think it is the best sketch of Freya I have ever done.

Figure 13 (17 05 09 13) Freya, Red Chalk, graphite and white pastel on A4 cartridge

On the way home I went to see The American Dream pop to present and Howard Hodgkin Absent Friends, but those reviews will have to wait for another day as I am tired now and I am sure that you, my dear, must be exhausted from reading all this. Sleep tight.

Love as always

Mickos x

Dear Cleo 17 04 25

Dear Cleo

Following on from yesterday, I have now made it to the Whitworth Gallery ready to view the Petherbridge Exhibition I meet up in the cafe with about a dozen fellow students and the group leader Bryan. Bryan knows a whole lot of stuff about art and you have to do your best listening when he speaks.

Drawing with pen and ink is a high wire act, there is little if any margin for error. Petherbridge works exclusively in pen and ink and ink wash, in accordance with the observations  of Martin Clayton in the catalogue to the exhibition “her compositions are crisp and decisive, and it is remarkable that there is rarely any preliminary underdrawing (or even a prepatory study) in which the composition is sketched out or constructed. Her usual method is cumulative, an improvised accretion of motifs that are worked out as they spread across the sheet.” (Malbert,2016: 68)

We discussed the fact of what happens to the failures that don’t work in such an exacting medium as   pen and ink and how much of an edit the artist must have in such a situation. I like the idea that Petherbridge has more than an idea of where the drawing was going to go or get to but allowed the work to grow as it spoke to her, with a good dialogue her failures must be few.

Petherbridge is a master of perspective juggling with different types of perspective in the same image so that your eye can’t settle and you feel a curious sense of acrophobia or vertigo, it stops you entering fully into the image flattening it, reminding you that you are looking at a flat picture plane

The drawing I liked the best was Taming the bay (Melbourne) probably because it had a more human feel to it, maybe because the sepia ink had run in places but even then I suspect Petherbridge had engineered this for effect, just as she had done in the water  in the Fourteen Stations of the Tiber series. My runner up was the drawings from the Altarpiece of 1984; I found their warm sepia tones more relaxing than the stark black and white drawings “in technical pens that belong to the aesthetic of construction and engineering”,(Malbert, 2016: 84) and maybe because I encounter these technical engineering drawings in my work daily I see them less as art.

Figure 1 (17 04 25 01) Altarpiece for 1984

One of the things that is surprising is that Petherbridge does not use any of her own drawings in her seminal work The Primacy of Drawing where she is able to write most eloquently of the drawings and processes of others, I have seen her speak of her own drawing  in the video of the Battle of Homs and she writes of her own drawings in the catalogue and ends with this “My own drawings are, I think, about the impossibility of drawing landscape and also about attachment to and social critique of place. Drawing is so close to writing; I believe that I draw/write both my dissatisfactions and my aspirations in pen and ink” (Malbert, 2016:85) I think this is a suitable and fitting summation of her lifetimes work.

There is a great similarity between the appearance of an ink drawing and an etching, upstairs in the museum an exhibition of the work of Marcantonio Raimondi echoed this similarity.

Marcantonio as he is better known collaborated with Raphael who designed patterns for Marcantonio to etch. Perhaps the most celebrated being The Massacre of the Innocents which gives a marvellous insight into both Marcantonio’s and Raphael’s processes.

The cycle start starts with the sketch at figure 2 and is followed by a fairly crude pen and ink sketch both by Raphael, of which I haven’t been able to find a copy on  the internet, that was pricked through and ponced with charcoal by Raphael to allow him to create the drawings at figures 3 and 4. The drawing at figure 4 is (my guess) pricked and ponced by Marcantonio to create the etching of the same piece at figures 5 and 6.

Figure 2 (17 04 25 02) Raphael sketch

Figure 3 (17 04 25 03) Raphael sketch

Figure 4 (17 04 25 04) Raphael sketch

Prior to this I had always thought that Raphael had walked the same high wire as Petherbridge letting the drawing speak to him as he drew and I was amazed to discover this side to his process maybe there is hope yet for me and my tracing paper and Photoshop.

What is possibly more amazing is that Marcantonio possibly pricked and ponced a Raphael as part of his process. There is a definite lesson in here to be less precocious with your sketches, when only yesterday I started giving mine names.

Figure 5 (17 04 25 05) Marcantonio etching after Raphael

Figure 6 (17 04 25 06) Marcantonio etching after Raphael (the one with the fir tree)

Figure 7 (17 04 25 07) Durer woodcut

Figure 8 (17 04 25 08) Marcantonio etching after Durer

Apart from the undoubted quality of his etching, Marcantonio is famous as the protagonist in the beginnings of copyright law and intellectual property. His etched copies of Durer’s woodcuts of The Life of the Virgin impelled Durer to travel from Germany to Venice prior to the invention of trains to confront the Situation. Durer obtained a judgement in Venice that it was permissible to etch a copy of his woodcuts as long as the etcher did not include his trademark AD motif. Durer was hardly satisfied by this judgement and included the following extortion in subsequent editions of his “Life of the Virgin”;

“Hold! You crafty ones, strangers to work, and pilferers of other men’s brains. Think not rashly to lay your thievish hands upon my works. Beware! Know you not that I have a grant from the most glorious Emperor Maximillian, that not one throughout the imperial dominion shall be allowed to print or sell fictitious imitations of these engravings? Listen! And bear in mind that if you do so, through spite or through covetousness, not only will your goods be confiscated, but your bodies also placed in mortal danger.”

On my way back to the gallery cafe I visited the video installation Vertigo Sea, more echo’s of Petherbridge, by John Akomfrah. I was all right when they shot the deer because I have seen that before with you in Bambi but I felt it was a bit much when they started shooting polar bears and I had to leave.

Figure 9 (17 04 25 09) Photograph

I took this photograph of a stainless steel tree out of the gallery window and was fascinated by how the artist’s description echoed Petherbridge’s Portrait of the artist, Double vision 1 (book in the head)

The whole afternoon was curiously summed up by Deanna Petherbridge in The Primacy of drawing where she notes “Raphael and Durer famously interchanged drawings about 1515…..The Raphael Durer reciprocity is an acknowledgement of admiration and equal status,” (Petherbridge 2010: 76)  when Durer was probably made aware of Raphael’s work through the etchings of Marcantonio.

The serious work having been done, I retired to the Turing Arms for a well deserved pint of lager where I caught up with your Aunty Loz before venturing with her to Greens Vegetarian Restaurant in Didsbury where I was pleased to eat the best food I have eaten in a decade even though, as you know and are often want to scold me, I am not a vegetarian.

Apologies my dear for some of the big words in this post but it will do your English good to look them up in  your dictionary, please don’t use the internet, so you can be more prepared for the day the electricity goes down, and I hope you enjoyed playing spot the difference between the various renaissance prints and drawings.

All my love as always



Malbert R. (2016) Deanna Petherbridge Drawing and Dialogue. Manchester: The Whitworth Gallery.

Petherbridge D. (2010) The Primacy of Drawing. New Haven and London: Yale University Press