Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gallery Visit - Tate Modern

I visited the Tate Modern at Christmas. There were many artworks I saw there that were of interest but I have decided to focus on one artist for my learning log - Gerhard Richter. In particular I found his series of paintings inspired by John Cage particularly interesting in relation to my recent research on art and music.

Gerhard Richter

Cage (1) - (6)


The inspiration for these paintings comes apparently not from an analysis of the sound quality of a particular piece of music, but a shared aesthetic of allowing aspects of chance to control the development of the artwork:

In an interview with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist in 2006, Richter discussed the Cage paintings and the ongoing significance of John Cage’s concepts of discipline, chance and coincidence for his works. Chance plays a definitive role in abstract painting, Richter explained: ‘Despite all my technical experience, I cannot always exactly foresee what will happen when I apply or remove large amounts of paint with the scraper. Surprises emerge, disappointing ones, pleasant ones, which in any case represent changes to the painting – changes that I have to process first in my mind before I can continue’ (Richter 2009, p.531) ("Cage (1) - (6), Gerhard Richter 2006 | Tate"). 

These dense images apparently owe much to chance, the way the squeegee moved and removed the paint could only partially be controlled. However, I would argue that much of this is controlled, the choice of color for example. If the technique creates uncontrolled color mixing then the artist has certainly chosen a limited color palette, possibly to control this, or to reflect the minimalistic style which is sometimes a feature of Cages work.

Example of Cages work:

Variations II (1961)

This work is intended "for any number of players and any sound producing means." The score consists of eleven transparent sheets: six with lines and five with points. The mechanism is the same as in Variations I: perpendiculars are dropped from points to lines to determine sound characteristics, except that the list of characteristics is different: frequency, amplitude, timbre, etc.("Variations (Cage)")

This piece of music is an example of the 'happenings' period of Cage's work, music inspired by quite random events. Many of these pieces involved quite complicated instructions to create these random events, which seems ironic. This begs the question, is anything truly random?

Richter painted abstract works based on music previously. A series of paintings inspired by Bach appear to utilize similar techniques of applying and removing thick layers of paint with a squeegee. However, the music of Bach is very different, a lot less is left to chance. The music always has a clear structure and is seen as extremely orderly and balanced. How Richter has used this music as inspiration here is unclear, the image is certainly calmer and more balanced than the Cage images with clearer lines and strong horizontal lines creating more order and balance. The colors are bright and create strong contrast. I could connect these features to qualities of the sound of many pieces of music by Bach, such as clearly structured forms with contrasting sections and keys. However, if we analyze from the same view point as the Cage paintings and assume the artist has taken the same artistic intention to composition a different analysis could be made. J. S. Bach created balanced musical works with the confines of a system of rules designed to create balanced and ordered harmony suitable for music to be used in church. In the paintings Richter has followed formal rules of composition by creating a composition based on thirds divided by the use of color vertically. Balance has been created by using colors of equal intensity with one area of focus created by the use of white in the centre. A triadic color scheme has been used, a classic way of achieving balance in a composition whilst maintaining contrast.

"Cage (1) - (6), Gerhard Richter 2006 | Tate". Tate. N.p., 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
"Richter In The 21St Century: Real And Tangible Accomplishments » Biography » Gerhard Richter". N.p., 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
"Variations (Cage)". N.p., 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

lino block designs

 I am continuing to work on assignment 5, lino and mono print combinations. This was my source image. I used this as inspiration to some degree for all of my mono prints of water.

I then turned my attention to the tree in the foreground for the lino block. I drew a range of studies of it, the best two are below. The black drawing was really a value study, the color painting was trying to be a freer expression of the flowing lines of the branches.

I developed these into two designs. The design on the left is quite stylized but I think it will translate well into lino.

I experimented with chopping these up and collaging them

I don't know about these, I may come back to them, at the moment I prefer the original idea. I will develop this design more with chine colle so may come back to these then. I traced it onto acetate and laid it over my prints to try it out.

I was worried the design was too stylized and would not fit with my mono prints but I am happy these will work together after looking at these images. The mono prints are loose enough not to compete with the style of the tree.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Mono Prints of Water

I have explored mono printing water with a range of techniques, some inspired by artwork I have studied, others by a video tutorial I followed on painting technique.

In this print the ink was a diluted wash with turps. It was very hard to control, plate very slippery. 3 layers developed from photo and drawing, the 3rd layer of white was not effective.

After this I did a study into painting ripples from a video tutorial to get a getter understanding of how painters created the illusion of water. I used those paintings as a basis for these reductive print value studies, which were also inspired by Turners print Study of Sea and Sky. I used rag and cotton buds to wipe the plate.

Texture of paper very obvious in this print.

Addition of yellow lifted this image considerably, more successful texture, smoother paper.

Next I tried painterly mono prints, again based on my painted study.

Single plate study based on painting. Over saturated colors. I thought the thin application of ink would dilute the saturation of the color.

In my first practice at 2 layers I printed a blue background with reductive clouds in the top half. I added pink to the clouds in the second layer which was ineffective. The blue ripples worked well, including some use of perspective with ripples. Right ghost print on damp paper. I could use these with a lino print by printing lino over the pink areas. Unclear horizon lines make these images unclear. I could also develop with chine colle and lino.

 This much more successful attempt at a 2 layer print based on my painted study of water used vertical underpainting of reflections of the sky and over printed ripples like in the painting tutorial. The quality of print could be improved, both went through press unevenly, white patch on left on first, white patch on right on ghost. Ghost has some extra lines from previous wiping on the plate. Again, careful positioning of lino blocks or chine colle development could make these useable for this assignment.

Neocolour monoprints

I tried a new technique to try and imitate some of Turners free marks on his water studies. I thought neocolour crayons would work well for this. I drew on the plate then printed onto damp paper.

In this print I added a few small marks of neo color, I think this was really effective at creating depth by making more solid lines in the ripples and creating perspective.

This print came out a bit unbalanced. The water worked well but the horizon line is too heavy and the pink in the clouds is too strong.

Research Into Representations of Water

After visiting the RUA exhibition and seeing lots of interesting paintings of the sea I did some more research into how other artist's have represented water.

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Moonlight over the Sea


I really like these simple lines and washes, the reflections of the moon light is the most representational aspect and it clearly orients the image as being on the water with just a few simple lines. I could try this in print with white marks as back drawing or a second layer? Or try white neocolour crayon 2nd layer?

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of Sea and Sky


This is a print developed from one of his drawings. I could try this in a reductive one color print using rags and cotton buds.

Victor Pasmore

Spiral Motif in Green, Violet, Blue and Gold: The Coast of the Inland Sea


The texture of this image is completely different, capturing the movement of the sea rather than the direct representation of it visually.
I could try something similar using a variety of techniques such as reductive lines to make spirals or any motif abstract representation. 1 layer. Stamp shapes in ink - flat all same size, play with perspective, do flat all same size or vary size to create depth.

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sunset at Sea, with a Lighthouse and Ship


I like the simple representation of the water in this drawing. The soft lines show the movement of the waves and some perspective through the size of the ripples.

I could use this idea for back drawing or neocolour mono print. Pale washes, maintaining white areas, first then add lines in the second layer.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Water Painting Techniques

I examined a traditional painting of water and tried to figure out how the layers of the paint were applied.

John Constable

The Sea near Brighton


In this painting I can see the reflection of the sky in the water. it looks like the reflections are painted as a first layer and the highlights of the water are added afterwards.

To explore this technique I took an online course:

In this I learnt to paint the sky reflections as a base layer:

Add the land and darkest reflections of the land

The add another layer of horizontal ripples over the sky reflections using perspective to increase the distance between the ripples across the water

I'd like to try making a mono print in layers like this but might leave out the land to keep it simple, or possibly add the land as a final layer if I decide I want to.

Gallery Visit - Royal Ulster academy of Arts 2016

I thoroughly enjoyed this varied exhibition. Sometimes I find it difficult to take in such a variety of artworks, but there were several points of this that I found very interesting.

The first was a selection of paintings of the sea that were all grouped together.

James Allen RUA

Breaking Wave

Oil on canvas

This painting was quite impressionistic, the colors show the layers of the sand beneath the water and texture from the paint adds impact to the foam of the waves. The brush strokes are broad and they create movement.

This painting is very detailed. The brush strokes are extremely fine and the fine drops of spray are individually painted. All the fine lines and shapes create a very lively surface which is almost alive with movement when viewed at close range. This painting must have been developed from an extremely detailed photo to contain such a high level of detail of the water.

There were two paintings by this artist on display, the one I examined in more detail was winter of the same scene but it is not on view online. The water is resented very differently here, the horizontal lines create a calm stillness. Rather than depicting actual drops or waves in the water the impression of water is created through the highlights of the reflected light.

I am quite inspired by these paintings to try representing water in print in the next assignment. The layers of paint could be layers of ink in mono prints. 

This painting has a highly textured background with a semi transparent layer of letter stencil shapes in silver of the letters jazz. Examining this got me thinking could I do something similar with printmaking? If I create a textured background with textured acrylic medium what happens if I print over it? Would it get squished into a sticky mess? Would the embossing of the print create interesting textures?

What I found most interesting about this painting was its title, Jazz. Why does this image represent jazz? The background certainly has energy and is quite free form, the letters that are layered over the top in silver say the word jazz but jazz is much more than a word, it is those colors in the under layer that express its energy.

Multiple blocks. I love this combination of shapes, it has so much energy. This technique has so many possibilities for variations within an edition. Other examples were presented at the exhibition, on white paper. The negative space is so important here, it is really consistent around the blocks. The bright colors and striking textures and shapes lead the eye around, the arrows get superseded by the color. The red arrow does make you look down. It has a cool side on the left, is a bit unbalanced but the general energy and vitality of the piece keeps the eye moving so these things are not as important as they might be in a more static design. 

Margaret Mannion Kallen

Not a Walk in the Park

Etching and carborundum

33 × 38

You could see by the embossing of the paper these were all separate blocks. The textures were really very different to one another up close. Each image was individual yet part of a whole. An interesting comparison to the print above which also used multiple blocks. Much more even spread of color and value, up close it is the contrast of textures that really give the individual blocks their character, the etching and carborundum are very distinctive. Much more subtle design, more balanced. The slight misalignment of the block is interesting, gives the piece movement.

I really enjoyed experimenting with multiple blocks in my experimental piece, I would like to try using small blocks like these printed in one impression, although I can see a good press would be required or they might move.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Reflection on Feedback from Assignment 4

My feedback from this assignment was disappointing, but not surprising. I got off track with my sketch book experiments and really lost focus. The biggest weakness my tutor found was in the composition of my final design, and how much of my preparatory work was spent exploring similar 'floating objects' without consideration of the background or enough variety of scale and shapes.

In this assignment I tried to explore a different working approach. previously I have been extremely outcome oriented, so this time I tried not to think about the outcome at all, following drawing exercises to work in my sketchbook in a range of media. This was not successful because I had no focus. I went to the complete other extreme producing a range of unconnected drawings and then not developing ideas to create my final composition. This may have been more successful if I had been more disciplined about time, I could have set myself 2 weeks for the drawing activities, and then more time to develop them. I didn't really think this aspect of it through.

However, this has been a useful learning experience. From this assignment I have learnt that it is OK to have ideas from the beginning, and even some idea what the outcome will be. I have learnt a range of sketch book skills for exploring a subject in new ways, I now need to apply these to more challenging subjects that I can develop more. I know I need to work on composition much more. The aspects of this assignment that were unsuccessful have given me renewed faith in my previous working methods, so now as I approach the end of the course I hope in the next assignment I can show I'm finally getting the hang of this sketchbook thing.

My tutor gave me positive feedback about a range of my experimental prints and encouraged me to develop these textures more. I will be repeating this assignment so will start by developing these. I will also have the opportunity to purchase better supplies over Christmas, as it has been challenging getting all the right materials for this technique in my remote location.