Research: Personal Project

When undertaken research for my personal project I looked at artists who were influential in my choice of subject matter, style of drawing or chosen medium.  My overview research centred on the set book Vitamin D:  New Perspectives in Drawing by Emma Dexter, Phaidon Press.

Artists who captured my initial interest include:

  • Anna Barriball – drawing over photographs
  • Shannon Bool – drawing on found paper
  • Michael Borreman – narrative and figures facing away from the gaze of the viewer
  • Ernesto Caivano – multi-narrative panels, use of pen and ink
  • Matt Greene – style including use of more freely applied ink areas as background with precise drawings for main subject
  • Yun-Fei Ji – style
  • William Kentridge – use of charcoal
  • Julie Mehretu – way marks pull together fragments within the wider drawing
  • Vik Muniz – style, particularly Prison XIII, the Well, After Piranesi, 2002
  • Glexis Novoa, use of graphite on rose marble paper in Dia de la Victoria , 2002 and graphite on travertine marble in From Murano Grande, 2002
  • Silke Schatz, geometric lines and grids
  • Zak Smith, style of free and expressive marks

I also looked at Contemporary Drawing from the 1960s to Now by Katherine Stout.  Artist include:

  • Grayson Perry – narrative and self exploration
  • Tracey Emin- exploration of self and monoprints
  • Gilbert and George – use of photographs in drawing
  • Paul Noble – style and imagined places

I pulled together scanned images of the drawings into my sketchbook as  a sort of inspiration board so that I could refer back to some of them and ensure I was pushing my work as far as I could.



Research: The Shock of the New

Chapter 9:  The Future That Was

The final chapter in the book looks at the role of the museum and the end of modernity.  Hughes looks at the birth of the Modern Art museum with MoMA and the role of the museum in changing the purpose of art.  He presents works such as Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII, 1978, which he states is totally dependant on the setting of the museum as the only place where bricks could be seen as art, otherwise in other settings they are just 120 bricks; the museum gives room for a debate about space associated with this work.

He also looks at the rise of the art market and the increasing values associated with art.  This leads onto the role of artists who have tried to come out of the art ‘system’ by presenting land art or performance art.  He looks at the work of Michael Heizer, Complex One, Central Eastern Nevada, 1972 and Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970, both of which at the time of conception had no value attached to them, could not be traded or move, were difficult to see and took time both to visit and see.

He ends by looking at the work of Auerbach, Freud, Hockney, Pearlstein and Fischl as Realism re-emerges.

Research: The Shock of the New

Chapter 7:  Culture as Nature

In this chapter Hughes argues that nature has been replaced by culture in art.  The visual overload of modern life has changed art; in a pre-technological age we tended to look at one thing at a time (including art), now, multi-reproductions and mass production has stripped art of its complexities.  Art therefore began to assimilate advertisements within itself in order to survive and hence the birth of Pop art which is the main focus of this chapter.

Hughes looks at artists such as Stuart Davis who loved the neon lights of the city, jazz and in his cubist-style paintings to incorporate brand names.  He goes onto examine the work of Robert Rauschenberg including his combines and use of the throw-away before moving onto Jasper Johns, who used very well-known objects which are so familiar they are not well seen.  Johns’ American Flag paintings are used to delay the eye – they are real but abstract.

The work of Richard Hamilton is examined, one of the inventors of Pop Art, and I especially like a quote from the artist on his collages that the  ‘visual world becomes a new landscape of secondary visual material’.   Warhol with his extracted repetition from mass culture items, where sameness is used as a glut, is discussed by Hughes, who states Warhol wanted to be a machine, to repeat, to print.

Lichtenstein is then discussed and the way his large comic book pictures changed the way we look at the image – we flip through a comic book but we are paused by the large-scale of the paintings.  Rosenquist’s F111, 1965, is then viewed with its contrast between the killing machine and the images of the good life America wanted and believed it was defending before Hughes finally comes to Oldenburg who art is ‘part of the world around it but does not function as part of the world around it’.

I enjoyed reading this chapter although at times I think Hughes ignores the visual pause art can have on hectic lives and how its role has changed.

Research: The Shock of the New

Chapter 6:  The View from the Edge

The link between man and nature is the theme for this chapter and how the legacy of the 19th century Romantic painters has been transmitted into modern art.  He starts by looking at Van Gogh and how the energy of his marks convey the power behind the natural places he paints; he also links the images of the worker to life and death.  Hughes presents the view that Van Gogh’s freedom of colour and optical mixing was his legacy to modern art and that Van Gogh was expressing the self wanting to get out.

He then goes onto examine Edvard Munch who he states explored the self via a battleground of emotions exorcised through his paintings of childhood illnesses, the fear of women, strangeness in the crowd and anxiety/helplessness within the city.  Munch is presented as one of the fathers of expressionism which Hughes then examines through the work of the German Expressionist Kirchner, then Kokoschka, through Soutine (with his distorted emotional landscapes and images of carcasses) before arriving at the work of Frances Bacon (whose work he states dismisses the ideal body of classical art) and De Kooning.

Hughes then presents the emergence of photographs of the Nazi Death Camps as almost a barrier to the future direction of art, stating that after these photographs what could art say and could it carry social meanings as in the past?  Hughes presents two sources as a future direction – the natural world and abstraction.  He then looks back at the work of Paul Klee, Kandinsky and the sculptor Brancusi, whose work sort to compress the form of the subject into the sculptures (mass, contour, surface with no detail).

Finally, Hughes turns to America and the Abstract Expressionists, looking at the work of Mark Rothko and the intensity of his colours; and Jackson Pollock, who large physical works are almost landscapes in themselves.

this chapter was interesting for it introduced a number of unfamiliar artists to me and expanded my knowledge of existing known painters who works I should explore more, for example, Edvard Munch was not well-known to me apart from the Scream.

Research: Alex McFarlane

My tutor suggested I look at this artist, who is mainly a painter and sculptor.  She particularly wanted me to look at his Industrial series, where he combines the use of drips and accidental paint runs with accurate renditions of the object.

I must admit his art was a revelation to me – the large industrial landscapes, the combination of accuracy with free expressive use of paint, the drips and runs to depict the foreground trees or water coming out of the pipes and finally, the incorporation of actual pieces of metal pipes/plumbing attached to the painting, providing a transition between painting vs sculpture.  For me many of his painting had a sinister psychological feel and reminded me of scenes from the George Orwell novel ‘1984’, despite the colourful nature of many of the images.

Two of my favourite paintings, for their grimly atmospheric industrial feel, integration of the drips of paint into the water flowing from the pipes, colour palette and use of actual plumbing supplies are River View and Soot 2.

Looking at this artist inspired me to have a look at drips and runs more, and the use of bleach on inks and watercolour.  I also went out sketching to Dungeness to have a go at my own Alex McFarlane inspired image and then took this further into other drawings using drips and more accidental effects.  These appear in a separate post.

Link to artist website here.

Research: Insights – Self Portraits by Liz Rideal

Before I start the exercise on creating a self-portrait I thought it might be useful to do a bit of background reading.  I picked up this book many years ago at the National Portrait Gallery after visiting the BP Portrait Award exhibition.

The book presents self-portraits as a form of personal expression, self-reflection and self promotion.  They can be direct, as in a direct depiction of self or indirect, as a concealed or cryptic portrait only recognisable to friends or cognoscenti.  Mortality is also discussed in the book along with ‘memento more’ (‘remember you must die’); self-portraits are a way of achieving immortality.

For me the book highlighted a number of things for me to consider when drawing my own self-portrait:

  • it can be used to emphasise both my physical and cultural identity
  • a mirror creates an image that is smaller and reversed with infinity stretching outwards – using a mirror means we do not see what others see
  • the importance of considering the composition eg direct eye contact, staring back, etc.
  • what you wear communicates something about yourself
  • if you include other people it can record something about people and relationships important to you at a specific time.

This was a useful read and contains a wide range of images of self-portraits across all periods of art and in a wide range of mediums.

Rideal, L.  (2005) Self Portraits. London: National Portrait Gallery.

Research: Georgia O’Keeffe

I decided to look at the art of Georgia O’Keeffe as I admire her simplification of shapes and forms in her landscapes and cityscapes.  One of the things which struck me when looking through her images was how much to me they seemed to be design-led.  This was from some of her very first images, such as the charcoal drawing Early No. 2, 1915 through to her flower paintings (e.g. Two Calla Lilies on Pink, 1928), her cityscapes (e.g. Radiator Building – Night, New York, 1927),  her landscapes (e.g. Red Hills and Bones, 1941) and her later works (such as Above the Clouds I, 1962-63).  I think this may come from her early training and her first job as a commercial artist working as a freelance illustrator.  I have also read that it comes from the influence of photography in the early 20th century and in particular her marriage to Edward Stieglitz who was a famous photographer.

What I like about her work is the clean lines she creates catching the main shapes devoid of other clutter, the way she uses positive and negative shapes to create form, her use of colour and the decorative patterns she creates from the shapes she observes.  She also captured the sense of place and time whether it be the city or a New Mexico landscape.  Her work shows her interpretation of what she observes rather than the visual appearance, something I am trying to achieve in my own art.

Book Read:  Georgia O’Keeffe, Randall Green, Phaidon Press, 2014.

Links to images:

Early No. 2, 1915

Two Calla Lilies on Pink, 1928

Radiator Building – Night New York, 1927

Red Hill and Bones, 1941

Above the Clouds 1, 1962-1963