3 September 2014

Zen circles or 'Enso'

A little something I wrote elsewhere about these Zen circle paintings I do.. 

"I enjoy doing these because I find it meditative/relaxing concentrating on making each zen circle or Enso. Originally Enso just have the one circle, the ones I do have three componant circles around a dot. This symbolises me & my three children.. Also how your attitude radiates outwards & affects other people.. like a radiating circle.. a ripple in a pond."

I have done a few of these now this year, and I hope this explains a bit as to what fascination circles have for me in my recent abstract painting & drawings.. these are the first two on black paper. I'm planning a whole series so we'll see how it goes..  

More about Enso: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ens%C5%8D

21 August 2014

Necrology - Standish Lawder (1970)

"the sickest joke I've ever seen on film" - Hollis Frampton 

What does it mean? Let's look at the title. Necrology. Necro suggests something about the dead, -ology usually means a study of something. So put together its a study of the dead. 
Ok, but what about the cast list towards the end, what does that suggest?It suggests a roll call of the dead, albeit a fictional cast. 
11 or so minutes of people standing on an escalator with the film run backwards? They are ascending to meet their maker. 
The people featured in Necrology were commuters being filmed covertly by the filmmaker at New York's Grand Central station. It was filmed during the end of a work day when all office workers were let out of work to go home for the day, the end of their shift. 
Check out more about Standish Lawder & his films at UbuWeb: http://ubu.com/film/lawder.html

10 June 2014

William Henry Green - Action Artist (1957) / Ken Russell - Pop Goes The Easel (1962)

Tony Hancock - The Rebel (screenshot)
Watch scene here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gs73aPdYvnE

Do you remember the Action Art bicycle scene from Tony Hancock's "The Rebel"?

This guy was the inspiration.. British Action Artist, William Green.

Sadly all the negative attention to his (at that time) unusual work & his methods didn't do him any good and he gave up making art and became an alcoholic (he did eventually make a return to art due to an exhibition but that was thirty years or so later just before he died). Knowing this makes me realise how delicate people can be about their work and whilst we might all think aspects of it are funny or weird to us, theres always someone who takes pride in their work seriously enough that any criticism could make them feel self conscious about continuing their creativity and destroy their confidence.. Such a shame.

Here's a clip of Green working on a piece for a Pathe Newsreel clip called 'Action Artist' from 1957:

This could've been the very piece he was working on in his studio that day when Pathe paid him a visit: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/green-untitled-t07905

Some more information about William Green including an artists biography & some of his later works on paper via England & Co Gallery: http://www.englandgallery.com/artist_group.php?mainId=56&media=Drawings%20%26%20works%20on%20paper

A nice little blog piece from the Illuminations Media Blog archive about sixties art television (mentions William Green & also a bit about Ken Russell): http://www.illuminationsmedia.co.uk/blog/index.cfm?start=6&news_id=195

I also read that Ken Russell filmed Green for a spot on the BBC's Sunday Report & I'm very keen to see that if the footage is still around.. In the meantime here's a link to 'Pop Goes The Easel' a report made by Russell for the BBC arts programme Monitor in 1962:

And a bonus link to Russell's Bohemian semi-social documentary about the old digs where he used to live in West London: 'A House in Bayswater' - 1960:

7 March 2014

Squares, and Circles, and Lines, oh my! (a long post about drawing)


I had attended a drawing systems short course, learning how to draw perspectives using various drawing systems: Orthographic Projection, Isometric Projection & Perspective Projection. What I took from this course was the doodling in the practice exercises, I seemed to find this a fun aspect of the class:

So I worked them out in sketchbooks which filled with pages of these exercises and I really wanted to do something with them. I could see patterns and sculptural planes emerging:

So I cut a Linocut of one of the patterns that emerged during these exercises and printed it up:


I had started doing some sketching as a response after reading Bataille's Story of The Eye:

Which morphed in to sketches of dots with three circles centred around them (similar to Greek / Turkish Magic Eye symbols):

This then became a motif I could work with best in watercolour inks, a coloured background also became important within experimentations:


I then became interested in varying the size of the circles and also looking to try and create patterns within the piece to create a kind of texture:

I also brought both these motifs, square and circle, to one particular piece:


I had seen some work of Robert Horvitz at the 'Reflections From Damaged Life' show at Raven Row (and also attended his artist talk there). 
The use of lines in his work painstakingly drawn for ten hours a day at a time using pen really intrigued me, it made me want to experiment with mark making myself using a cartridge pen and simple basic marks. My drawing up to then had consisted of abstracted shapes with a border around them, something similar to the counterculture poster artists of the Sixties. Horvitz' work simplified the line down to a basic mark which when repeated made astounding pieces.

After seeing Horvitz' work I simplified it down and experimented using directional lines:

I hope to continue using these motifs in my abstract drawing practice. Here is one particular directional lines piece:

I do also feel that life drawing classes, even though I mainly draw abstract pieces, does bring my drawing practice full circle. Drawing is a draughting skill which needs to be practiced fully and from all angles whether it be representational drawing, abstracts, or doodles. I wouldn't say I have an exceptional skill where drawing is concerned, in fact it means I have to practice it more to get results.


15 January 2014

A New Hope..

I've been going through a process of reclaiming my general sense of creativity over these past few months, especially since I started taking art courses during the Summer of last year.
This has been in part an attempt by myself to use my natural creative skills to get myself not only interested again in to other areas of art and creativity (from having heavily devoted four years of my life at university to only time-based media, video and film work as my degree entailed) but also so that I could use them in part as a recovery process and distraction away from the depression I had been suffering from.

Back in 2011 - 2012 as I was coming to the tail end of my art degree I had something akin to a nervous breakdown. Not to get in to the small details but it was a period in which certain personal issues and stresses I was facing in different areas of my life were combining together to create this black suffocating miasmic cloud which was beginning to suck the enjoyment out for me of creating art, and out of life.

Last summer, a full year after finishing my arts degree and slipping in to this depressive funk, I decided that it was perhaps the right time for me to embark on a few arts courses which would be challenging, enjoyable and also which maybe could distract me away from the overkill of the effects of only having studied one particular discipline of the creative arts for so long and which would touch on certain other areas that I hadn't participated in for a while: drawing, sculpture, printmaking..

After my experience midway through my last year of university I felt I wasn't really up to making any more film or video pieces as the effect of being depressed had sucked out any kind of impetus to create or enjoy the process of making film or video and I wanted badly to distance myself away from that area for a while. I felt that doing art courses would keep me busy creatively whilst perhaps helping me to work around the creative block that depression brought with it. Dark times indeed. I'm happy to say that after all that darkness I'm still creating work albeit not in my genre of film & video but in painting, drawing, and printing. So for me it has worked somewhat.  

Last November I came across an online piece in the Guardian about some kind of controversy to do with an upcoming art show. Doing those art courses had begun to increase my level of confidence in a practical way as a hands on artist but now I was looking for something different to look at. I had been to some major gallery shows but I felt the urge to start going gallery hunting again to see more modern contemporary work, to see if there was anyway I could contextualise the stuff I was getting up to now and find out if there were other artists out there I could relate to and not just the old ones.

At work one morning (I work in a library) I was sitting on the issues counter at a slow period just surfing the web and after a few clicks through art related websites along comes this article about a new Jake & Dinos Chapman show at the new Serpentine- Sackler Gallery in Kensington. Then I clicked through to an online chat with the Chapman Brothers in the Guardian which I read through, (it had made me laugh in a mischevious manner because it didn't seem so pretentious like some artist interviews can seem to be) http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/nov/26/the-chapman-brothers-answer-your-questions-live and I made the decision then and there to go along and have a look. At college and university I had been so inwardly introverted about artists film and video that I was only concerning myself with that sector of the art world. This had meant I had heard of the Chapman Brothers (mostly the media view of the controversy surrounding their work to be honest) but had not gone out of my way to see any of their shows or study their work in more detail. I Googled their website to have a look and came across some video pieces of theirs and the idea of this excited me because I never knew any of their work in that area existed: http://jakeanddinoschapman.com/everything/films/

So the day after it opened on the 29th November, I visited the show and got my mind blown.

Since then I've read Jake Chapman's darkly dystopian romance novel parody: The Marriage of Reason & Squalor, and its almost follow up: Introspastic: From The Blackened Beyond in which Chlamydia Love - the main female character from the first book - 'interviews' Jake Chapman (except she doesn't really get any where because Chapman proves an elusive and as mis-directioned an interviewee as a Derren Brown mind trick). I also read Chapman's book Memoirs of My Writers Block in which Chapman poses as Christabel Ludd an amateurish writer seeking advice from various ghost writers on how to write her first novel using the story of a character she embarks upon from a news article on the BBC news website. This one was the first one I read as the idea of someone overcoming writers block intrigued me in relation to my own creative block I was having with my film & video work. I wasn't disappointed, found them all entertainingly humorous, daringly shocking (in a good way), dark and intriguing. I would certainly recommend anyone to look them up. Not only did I find that their show was life affirming to me and with an abject dark humour to it (people were looking worried at me as I walked around the gallery chuckling away with my companion and discussing the work enthusiastically as if I was the only one in on some kind of joke - some people often think conceptual art is a bad joke they've been left out of I've found) but the books led me on to other reading such as The Story of The Eye by Georges Bataille, To Hell with Culture & The Meaning of Art both by Herbert Read. All this in the space of a month and a half since visiting their show at the end of November.

I can honestly say both the art classes and the experience of seeing the Chapman Brothers show has invigorated my creative spirit and its up and running again which is very pleasing!

There's an irony to all this though, and you know what that is?

At university we were directed away and discouraged from studying anything to do with the Chapman Brothers by our art school tutors for whatever reasons I don't know. Maybe its true when they say that "when the student is ready the teacher(s) will appear".

Devotchik @ Wordpress - my film & video work over the years

Just to let folk know I have uploaded the majority of all of my film & video work (since 2005!) to a new Wordpress blog site where they can all be viewed and which will only be devoted to my film & video work.

If interested then you can find it here: http://devotchik.wordpress.com/

Thanks for reading! :-)


29 October 2013

Paul Klee @ Tate Modern

Die Zwitscher-Maschine (Twittering Machine)
1922 Paul Klee

Back from the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern, he's one of my favourite artists at the mo.. So, what can I take from his work for myself and what appeals to me about it?

Well to start with, the line execution in his drawings: he came from a draughtsman background. One of his familiar quotes is “Drawing is taking a line for a walk” and his delicate fine-lined style of drawings in pen and ink are great. The gradation of colours and layers used in his paintings, drawings and lithographs and the way he colourised the backgrounds of his works adds not only atmosphere and / or depth but also you feel he spent just as much time getting those blends right because that was just as important as the main element on the page / canvas.

Also how he kept back some of his work from being sold because he felt they were too special which I think was rather brave in itself especially since certain well-known contemporary artists are being referred to as 'conveyor line artists' because they sell nearly everything they do flooding the market not because they need to or are in any way wanting for much more in the way of the material wealth they have already accumulated. Klee held back and only released for sale what he wanted to sell. Control. I get it.

In all honesty I'm not a fan of his 'magic square' pieces but I do love his lithographs and I have the one of the 'Twittering Machine' (see attached photo) blown up to A3 size on my bedroom wall which serves as creative inspiration (upon waking its one of the first things I see and thats deliberate on my part). His work has several themes and styles over the years spread out over 17 rooms in the Tate exhibition so to recognise him for those more familiar pieces would be too simplistic for me, his work speaks of deeper meanings and more interesting experiments - you get the feeling he tried to reconcile something in his work but wasn't afraid of the varying outcomes produced. The fact he taught at the Bauhaus too (Josef Albers being another of my favourite abstract colour experimenting artists who also taught at the Bauhaus before moving on to the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina - check out the history / teachers / students from that place!) and had resisted using the new mechanised methods that other artist teachers at the Bauhaus were discovering and using, preferring to do it his own way and relishing the outcomes. Now there was a craftsman if ever.

I'm going again, soon!