Unpacking my Theoretical Investigation

I have decided to research science and art as a theme for my final essay, and have decided to streamline my research to investigate how contemporary artists are responding to science. By reflecting on the themes and interests that drive my creative practice I am able to gain further insight into my theoretical investigation.
As a creative practitioner I am interested in the environment and the intricacies and individualitiues that make up this environment. I feel that as much as there is a science to the natural environment and its relationship to human beings, there is also a metaphysical grid that ties it all together. I am interested in the balance between the physics and metaphysics, that make up the environment, and continually exploring ways that I can project this in my work. I find that I am particularly interested in the climate change occurring on the Earth and ponder the reason behind this climate change, trying to look beyond the scientific theories and entertaining the idea that these evolutionary physical changes happening to the Earth could be a reflection of the human race.

Considering my interests in the evironment and relation to the human race, I would like to investigate the relationship between art and science, on a more theoretical level. By exploring how various contemporary artists are responding to new scientific findings, related to the Earth and its rapidly changing environmental landscape, I could gain more insight into the connection between these changes and the human race. As a generalization I could say that by studying the work of contemporary artists, I would gain informed understanding into contemporary cultures, which could be seen as a reflection of the state of the human race, specifically issues related to the environmental sicences. By undertaking a theoretical investigation in the relationship between art and science I would gain further insight into the philosophical issues that inform my practice. I would like to entertain the idea that artists can be seen as modern day philosophers, seeing that they are continually reflecting and responding too their surroundings. Thus by looking at various artists work and their response to new scientific discoveries I would be investigating science and the possible philosophical interpretation of science. 

I feel that my views and speculations ragrding the earth and its connection to a metaphysical grid is truly based on instinct and a “gut-feeling” which drives most of my desicions as a creative practiotioner. I think it is nerccessary at this point to discover alternative views on the subject and its relation to science, thus attempting to supplement my philosophical views with a more informed, factual platform.

“Artists and Scientists strive to see the world in new ways and to communicate that vision, when they are successfull, the rest of us suddenly “see” the world differently. “Our” truth is fundamentally changed.” (Forbes 2016)

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Integrating Theory and Artistic Practice

My work is primarily made up of abstract mark making, which I see as the soul of my practice. During the painting process, there is a point that is reached, when I feel completely connected with myself and in-sync with the process, where all the “elements” are aligned. It is in this state of alignment that I produce the most self satisfying work. This is the most important and difficult part of my practice, which can be described as a sense of equilibrium, that is sometimes achieved without any effort, while at other times I have to consciously work towards it.

I find great inspiration from artist, both historical and contemporary, that seem to evoke this sence of “equilibrium” in their work, such as Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, Wassily Kandinsky, David Otrowski and Christian Rosa. Each of these artist seem to connect with something deeper within themselves, portraying some sense inner connection in their work.

As a practitioner, I also consider the idea of human existence, experience and evolution to be an important aspect of my work, and seems to have become a recurring theme.  I try to incorporate aspects of diversity in my work, which can be relatable to a variety of audiences, despite age or culture. It is this aspect that can be considered a dominant theme in my work, the fact that as a global community we may be separated by age, gender, culture, religion or geographic locations, yet we all share the same basic human instincts and emotions.

 

Image Reference

International Contemporary Artists & Globalization

There are many significant aspects of globalization that affect contemporary culture and as a result, has an effect on contemporary art. However, it would be necessary for me to understand the effects on contemporary culture first, which had been described as the result of the word becoming increasingly interconnected, due to an increase of global, cultural exchange. This has created an environment where people are becoming rapidly aware of foreign cultures and religions. It has also created scenarios where people are adopting new cultures as a result of frequent immigration and travel, thus creating bi-cultural societies.

 

This, for me is quite significant in that it allows an individual to be identified by multiple cultures, and brings to the surface issues of a global identity. This allows for a dynamic cultural shift that challenges historical and traditional stereotypes which society attaches to various cultures. These old stereotypes are coming less significant in our current, growing global community and forces society to question and adopts renewed perceptions towards the idea of cultural identity.

 

I feel that the theme of emerging identities is extremely relevant in contemporary art and many artists are exploring the themes of root cultures versus adopted cultures. I can personally relate to this theme, because looking at my own identity; I am an Indian, born in South Africa, and am constantly exploring aspects of my merged cultural identity, where I am actually identified as South African- Indian. This idea of global diversity has created a new movement in the art world, with emergence of new central themes, namely; ‘local-international’, ‘contextual-global’, ‘central-peripheral’ and ‘western-non-Western’. These themes essentially, challenge the status quo regarding individual identity and would drive an art market that is highly contextually based.

 

These themes are greatly explored in the work of Mohini Chandra, an artist living and working in Britain and of Indian Fijian decent. Chandra has experienced extensive world travel with her family, fro a young age, and it was these experiences that have inspired and influenced her work. It is through this that she explores themes of globalization, identity and migration, which occur quite strongly in most of her work. She uses photography as the main medium to investigate various contemporary, globalized cultures that is linked to an analogy of memory and the past.

 

Chandra is currently based in London, before which, she was raised in the Australian-pacific region. Her ancestors were stole form India as slaves and forced to work on sugar plantations in Fiji, this ended due to a strike that forced her family to disperse to various parts of the word. This forced exile and dispersal of her family is explored in her work, Travels in a New World 1 & 2, where in, Travels in a New World 1, Chandra sets up an installation made up of tea chests, filled with her personal family photographs. The tea chest represent the British colonization of different land, and the effect of British culture on native cultures, as well as how British identity has been formed by its colonial relationships. Placing the photographs on the tea chests, represent a discourse centered around the ideas of slavery and resistance.

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Figure 1, Chandra, Travels in a New World 1, installation, 1994

The family dispersal is represented in the second part of the work, Travels in a New World 2, which is also a walk in installation. Here Chandra projects moving imagery of the Pacific Ocean on to the wall in the galley, layered with headshots of various members of her family. The headshots were taken in different countries that her family fled to, and the ocean signifies a linking of her scattered family.

 

Although the installation is based on her family, it is also a statement that can be extended to many other diasporic communities around the world. This work is among many of Chandra’s work that explores aspects of family ties, identity, and cross-cultural globalization.

 

I can relate quite strongly to the themes in Chandra’s work, and am particular intrigued by the idea of cultural versus personal identity, versus global identity. I feel like these themes are quite interrelated and are so relevant to our lives on a daily basis, where the world is becoming smaller as the say, but at the same time becoming more dynamic, as far as culture is concerned. I would like to further investigate the idea of emerging identities, in my own work, based on my personal bi-cultural identity.

The Final Portfolio

Artist Statement

The central theme of my portfolio is movement, which essentially can be translated into many things, however I have decided to focus on the movement of the human figure, specifically children at play. I have also looked at the movement of koi fish as they swim, exploring the patterns of the water and the submerged colours of the fish.

I have communicated my interpretation of this form of movement into lines, marks and patterns of colour using slow shutter speed photography and painting. My paintings are as much about the process of mark making as at they are about the final product. This has been a journey for me as I discovered a unique form of abstraction in the painting and digital mediums.

My reflections on the process and build up to completing this body of work.

This process has been intensely rewarding and intensely frustrating in equal measures. I feel like its been a spiral, where at times I have felt completely lost in my working process, and so unsure about my work, and then all of a sudden I would have a breakthrough. I decided to explore abstraction, which was a first for me, and I really struggled at times to find some sort of resolution to my work. It was really only towards the end of the development process that I could see an end, and see my work coming together as a coherent series. There were times when I felt truly stuck and unable to move forward with my work, this was a huge irony, considering that the focal theme of my portfolio was movement, and I’m not sure whether or not this added to the intensity of the work or not.

 

I have done extensive research into other artists, different processes of making art and contemporary art practices; all of which are related in some way to the theme and subject matter I have chosen for the portfolio. I feel like most of the research has been informative and inspirational, and has allowed me to put some of my thoughts into perspective. the work of most of the artists I researched served as some form of light house, where every time I felt like I was loosing my way, I would refer back to their work and find the courage to carry on.

 

I feel like I’ve grown immensely in my creative practice and really ventured out of my comfort zone, to the point that at times I wanted to turn back and just play things safe. I feel like no matter the outcome now, I have gained a huge amount of knowledge in the field of abstraction and mark making, I feel like I have experimented with so many different processes and materials, some that I did not even know possible.

 

At this point I feel like I’ve broken many of my personal rules with regards to the art making process, and I am comfortable with the broken rules, that it has opened up even more possibilities to my creative practice, which can lead to more growth and experimentation.

Experimenting and Processes

Extensive sketchbook processes, that eventually lead to a body of work.

 

Experiments in photoshop also help me process my thoughts and try out new ideas.

 

Here I experiment with combining the digital imaging and painting using photo transfers.

Jackson Pollock’s Manifestations of Modernism


My interest in modern art and especially Pollocks abstract expressionism, is extensive, and I find that the principles of abstract expressionism often inform my own practice.


“The meaning of modern art is, that the artist of today is engaged in a tremendous individualistic struggle- a struggle to assert and to express himself”

Life Round Table on Modern Art, (Davenport 1948:79)

In light of the above quotation, this essay will focus on the works of Jackson Pollock, and ways in which theories of modernism developed through his career. Throughout his career, Pollock continually searched for new methods and techniques, as a means of self-expression, while at the same time integrating and adopting different modernist ideals, towards complete abstraction. Fineberg (1995:17) describes this as a feature of modern artists, with their eclectic approach to external sources. When modern art initially emerged in America, it was described as work that takes into account the two-dimensional quality of the picture plane, the authenticity of the canvas, and the fundamental abstractness of form. For Pollock, abstract expressionism became the perfect expression of freedom, which is symbolized by his eventual action paintings and the expression of the “self”.

Regionalism

Pollock’s introduction to formal painting was through his mentorship with Thomas Hart Benton, an American regionalist painter, who’s art sought to expose the dehumanized state of American life. Through his politically driven art, Benton also sought to find a compositional equilibrium and rhythmical balance in his paintings. It is these ideals that had the greatest influence on Pollock’s stylistic approach to painting and have stayed with him throughout his artistic career. Frank (1983:18) describes these ideals as a dynamic compositional rhythm of lights and darks that expose strong notions of concepts in a painting. Pollock’s assimilation to Benton’s style can be seen in fig. 1, Going West, a landscape with a dynamic compositional structure, and textural paint application of swirling, rhythmical patterns that come together in complete compositional harmony. This intense emotional expression can be seen as Pollock’s first step towards self-exploration through the act of painting. Benton has described Going West as, Pollock having found “the essential rhythm’s” in art (National Gallery of Art: 2015).

 

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Fig 1: Jackson Pollock, Going West, C1934-1935. Oil on fiberboard, 38.3×52.7 cm. National Museum of American Art. Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thomas Hart Benton. (Source: Jackson Pollock.org)

New Techniques

Pollock’s continued search for the new can also be attributed to his encounters with the Mexican muralists, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, where he was drawn to their expressive distortion of forms and innovative use of paint. Pollock was inspired by Orozco’s huge mural paintings, and device of exposing working parts of a composition, which Pollock combined with his own temperament towards impulsive and emotional themes. This can be seen in Pollock’s expressive painting, The Flame (fig. 2), which could have been inspired by Orozco’s Prometheus (fig. 3), a mural at Panama College. Landau (1989:46) suggests that it is the flames engulfing the giant’s hands, in Prometheus, that served as the main inspiration for Pollock’s own painting of flames. However, Pollock’s approach is much more expressive and painterly, with a looser composition, The Flame can be considered Pollock’s first attempt at semi-abstraction.

 

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Fig 2: Jackson Pollock, The Flame, c1934-1938. Oil on canvas, 81.3×64.5 cm. The Mr. & Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection (Source: MOMA)

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Fig 3: Jose Clemente Orozco, Prometheus, 1930. Central panel. Frary Dining Hall (Source: Pomona College Museum of Art)
 

Siqueiros introduced Pollock to experimental techniques, including splattering of paint and the use of industrial paint, such as Duco and enamel. Doss (1991:328) suggests that these new techniques began to alter and refine Pollock’s original regionalist style, which can be seen in his splattering lithograph Landscape with Steer (fig. 4). Pollock does this by drawing on lithographic stone, using an airbrush to add concentrated colors of red, blue and gold; however, this advanced technique would be put on hold until his intense discovery of the drip paintings.

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Fig 4: Jackson Pollock, Landscape with Steer, c1936-1937. Lithograph with airbrushed enamel additions, composition 35.1×47.1 cm, sheet 16.41×59.3 cm. Gift of Lee Krasner (Source: MOMA)

Towards Abstraction

Pollock’s progressive independence from regionalism can be attributed to his increased focus on inner content and fascination with the Indian Arts of America. Pollock’s interest in American Indian subject matter can also be attributed to his affinity with the Shaman, who he saw as a tribal artist. This is seen in fig. 5, Birth, which displays three tribal masks, painted in garish colors, which Pollock uses directly from the tube, and worked into with brushes and stick. This direct method of painting, and the obvious shamanic influence, sets the path for a new direction in Pollock’s career. The vertically stacked composition of masks can be directly linked to Indian totem poles, which can be attributed to the many totem poles on display, at the time, at the Museum of American Indian Art. Pollock examined theses totem poles at length, and it is likely that Pollock intended the stacked composition of Birth to be read in the same way as Indian picture messages. This vertical structure can also be attributed to Benton’s compositional theories of a vertical axis surrounded by curved shapes; Pollock extended this idea through his Native American interests.

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Fig 5: Jackson Pollock, Birth, c1941. Oil on canvas, support 116.4×55.1 cm frame 120.7×59.7×6.4 cm. Tate, Purchased 1985 (Source: Tate)

The use of totemic imagery is also seen in Pollock’s Male and Female (fig. 6), where two symbolic figures function as vertical planes, each describing a masculine and feminine form. Pollock adopted surrealist automatism to layer fragments of numbers and shapes with spontaneous brush marks of splattered and dripped paint above and in between the vertical composition. Fineberg (1995:89) claims that these occasional drips and splatters cannot be attributed solely, to the surrealist technique of free association, but also to Pollock’s efforts to record the spontaneity of his unconscious thought process. Pollock’s unfolding of the unconscious mind was also directed by his Jungian therapy session, used to overcome alcohol abuse. Jungian theories focus on holistic concepts that bring the conscious and unconscious mind into harmony, which allowed Pollock to use his psychic experience as a guide towards gesture and form. Furthermore, the distortion of forms and shallowness of composition reveals the influence of Picasso’s Guernica (fig. 7), which introduced Pollock to the concept of painting being a search for formal values and a vehicle for self-expression. The gestural drips and splatters combined with the absence of realism in Male and Female, sets the grounds for Pollock’s breakthrough in the later drip paintings.

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Fig 6: Jackson Pollock, Male and Female, 1942-1943. Oil on canvas, 186.1×124.3 cm. Gift of Mr. & Mrs. H. Gates Lloyd 1974 (Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art)

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Fig 7: Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937. Oil on canvas, 249.3×776.6 cm. Museo Nacionale Centro de Arte.
 

Pollock’s fascination with Picasso’s cubism was intensified by the release of John Graham’s article “Primitive Art and Picasso”, which links Picasso to both Primitive art and Jungian psychology. These inspirations are displayed in fig. 8, Magic Mirror, which according to Langhorne (1998:59), provides the “animated materiality and underlying structure” of the poured paintings. Similarities can be drawn between The Magic Mirror and Picasso’s Woman in an Armchair (fig. 9), where Pollock’s painting is an almost mirror image of Picasso’s. Pollock mimics the compositional style of Picasso’s work by making use of a somewhat curvilinear, rhythmical and repetitive organization. This can be seen as the first steps towards Pollock’s break into allover compositions. The title of the painting suggests Pollock’s close affinity to the shamanic, with the inclusion of the word magic. The mirror also suggests notions of the looking glass into a person’s soul, which further describes Pollock’s fascination with inner content. The breakthrough in Magic Mirror, which Langhorne refers to, can be attributed to the lines in different densities, which Pollock uses to describe the woman figure, and suggests movement in the painting. This is enhanced by the rotating patterns of reds, oranges and yellows. Pollock also mixes sand and other debris into the painting, which creates a fresh, third textural dimension.

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Fig 8: Jackson Pollock, Magic Mirror, 1941. Oil, granular filler, and glass on canvas, 116.8×81.3cm. Menil Collection, Houston. (Source: Chicago Journals)

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Fig 9: Pablo Picasso, Woman in an Armchair, 1909-1910. Oil on canvas, 81.3×64.5 cm. The Mr. & Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection 1997 (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Abstraction

In a 1949 radio interview with William Wright, Pollock describes his feeling towards the modern artist, who is “working and expressing an inner world”, and “expressing the energy, the emotion and other inner forces” (Pollock 1949:3). These statements could aptly describe the driving forces behind Pollock’s breakthrough painting, Mural seen in fig. 10. The most revolutionary feature of Mural is the even distribution of line and form across the picture, which creates an almost rhythmical compositional structure. This, according to Landau (1989:147), demonstrates Pollock’s break from a reliance on European traditions and his dependence on therapeutic sources, these, becoming secondary to an enhanced self-reliance leading to non-objective painting. The rhythmical lines in Mural suggest dynamic energy and movement of the human body, and the artists direct contact with the canvas. Through the process of creation, Pollock explores the balance between control and freedom within the act of painting, as seen in the spontaneous drips and splashes of paint across the canvas. This can be attributed to Pollock’s earlier encounters with Siqueiros, who advocated for the idea of a “controlled accident”. The compositional structure of Mural can also be credited, to some degree, to Benton, who taught the idea of equilibrium between static and dynamic lines that create a sequence of movement, Pollock however, advanced on this idea by applying it in a purely abstract form.

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Fig 10: Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943. Oil & casein on canvas, 247×605 cm. Gift of Peggy Guggenheim (Source: Uima)

Pollock’s study of control, through spontaneous gesturing continues, as he integrates automatism as an ideal in the process of painting. Thus, the experience becomes more conscious and less focused on the surrealist technique of bringing forth unconscious material. This can be seen quite evidently in fig. 11, Full Fathom Five, where Pollock lays his canvas on the floor, and allows gravity to assist in his automatic pouring and dripping technique, where the action becomes the representation. Fineberg (1995: 92) explains that this form of action painting through the unconscious is what makes Pollock’s automatism so radical and new. Aside from this revolutionary process, Pollock also advances on his approach of adding sand to his paint, as previously seen in The Magic Mirror, and Full Fathom Five Pollock embeds pebbles, nails, buttons, pennies, keys and tacks into the painting. These admixtures are not openly visible, but interwoven into the threads and drips of paint. These added elements of pocket paraphernalia create an increased dimension, which enhances the artist’s direct contact with the canvas and a realness that is almost tangible. Pollock moves away from the representational symbols and signs towards a purity of gesture, which is almost holistic. It is these drip paintings that signify Pollock’s arrival at complete abstraction and allover compositional structure.

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Fig11: Jackson Pollock, Full Fathom Five, 1947. Oil on canvas, with nails, tacks, buttons, keys, coins etc., 129.2×76.5 cm. Gift of Peggy Guggenheim (Source: Met Museum of Art)

Form and Abstraction

Towards the end of his career, Pollock felt a need to reinvigorate his practice, and transformed his colorful dripped canvases into a more poured technique of thinned out black and brown paint. These paintings, including Number 7 (fig. 12), were done on unprimed canvas, allowing the paint to soak in to the canvas, creating stains in different hues. Pollock seems to have been “drawing” on the canvas with poured paint, allowing figures to emerge from the tangles and puddles of paint. This “return to figuration” is still driven by unconscious imagery, yet not as representational as his earlier figurative work; these can be described as hybrid paintings of abstract figures. Pollock seems to have morphed these two elements into one and has described this as a need to put the image back together, where as before his objective was to break the image apart (Landau 1989:214). In Number 7 Pollock’s representation of the human form is as a pure instinctive expression, no longer as an icon or symbol, this can be seen as a freedom derived from having bridged the gap between figurative an non-figurative representation.

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Fig12: Jackson Pollock, Number 7, 1952. Enamel and oil on canvas, 52×40 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Emilio Azcarrage Gift, in honor of William S. Lieberman 1987 (Source: Met Museum)

Self Discovery

The span of Pollock’s career can be described as an exploration in mark making through the discovery of the self, this resonates very strongly with my own art practice. It reduces painting to the very act itself and the feelings that motivate that act. This freedom of expression has allowed me to understand an important aspect in the art making process. I have found the progression of Pollock’s career towards complete abstraction very inspiring, because it has allowed me to gather informed ideas and methods to unleash my own creativity. I have found that this has given me the permission to stretch my own ideas and apply them, no, matter how unconventional they may seem. The extensive research that I have undertaken for this essay has truly widened my horizons into knowing that almost anything is possible. I have also become more aware as to how significantly art practice is intertwined in an artist life.

 

Through out his career Pollock was continually inspired and influenced by external sources, but incessantly worked towards adapting these external factors to his own personal expression. This eventually shaped an art form described by complete expression through abstraction. Pollock demonstrates a rare, common ground between a form of extreme free expression and retention of authenticity to the subject and form of painting that fully embeds modernist ideals. His search for the self was manifested through his paintings, and the progression of techniques and methods applied to each painting can be linked to Pollock’s diverse states of being at the time. Frank (1989:83) aptly describes Pollock as an artist who “painted his autobiography” and successfully broke down barrier between art and life.


 

Bibliography:

 

 

Image Reference:

Breaking down of the Self towards the Innate

I have decided to focus on painting as the primary medium, in my new project, with the aid of photography and video which serves as a tool for observation. I chose painting as the main medium because for me, it represents a personal journey to push myself beyond my perfectionist limitations within the painting process. I’m using the act of painting as a metaphor for letting go of controls and reconnecting with my inner child.

In doing this, my primary subject matter is movement, more specifically, the movement of children as the play and dance. The movement that they make is spontaneous and subconscious; this ties in with my need to reconnect with my spontaneity and unconscious action in drawing and painting. I have also chosen to focus on the movement of koi fish; the reason for this is that I find fish to have a beautiful synchronized, almost balanced movement as they swim in water. Even though there are many fish swimming together, the movement of each fish seems to have its individual space or line on the water.

For me the movement of the fish represents a feeling of organized chaos, whereas the movement of the children at play represents a more spontaneous and excited movement. When painting the movement of the two different subjects, I find that there is a strong connection in the line made by the movement of fish in water and arms spinning and swinging. In juxtaposing and investigating the relationship between these two types of movements I find a sense of balance and peace, a figurative place where you can choose to be moving or standing still, but most importantly being able to connect with your innate.

 

I am using video and photography to investigate these movements, by taking photos of children in action, using a slow shutter speed to enhance the swishes of movement made by the body.

I also plan on taking some videos of the children at play and of fish swimming in water, which I can then edit to slow down movement drastically in order to gain a better understanding of the line movement makes. These lines and marks then become the subject matter of my painting. I’ve chosen to use water-based media to paint the movement, primarily watercolors, because they lend themselves quite well to the moving subject. I’ve also included some acrylic ink, where I would want the moment to be a bit more controlled, with the use of masking fluid to draw more prominent lines. Overall the is breaking down of the figure into abstract movement and the more I push towards this form of abstraction, the more I connect with my innate.

When I reflect on all the sketches and paintings done thus far, I can clearly see my journey towards abstraction, and I plan on exhibiting this journey using my series of sketches. This can then form another aspect of my project work and I see my exploratory work as an integral part of the overall theme, where my process and development of the abstract line is a movement in itself.

Inspirational Project Research

My focal theme for my new body of work is movement, by observing the movement of koi fish and children at play. According to the Mariam Webster dictionary movement is described as “ the act or process of moving” and “ the quality of representing or suggesting motion”. As such, movement is described as a 3 dimensional subject, which needs to be captured on a 2 dimensional display, through the act of painting and mark making.

My theme of movement is enhanced, or more specifically, defined by the subjects I’ve chosen, that being koi fish and the movement of children. The idea of children at play evokes feelings of innocent, spontaneous and playful movement, which is free flowing and exciting. This idea will direct the feel of the painting so that it doesn’t follow a realistic structure or pattern, but rather produce something more abstract. Which is why I have chosen to explore abstraction in more depth. This idea is reiterated by Elkins(2000) who says that “ paint is a cast made of the painters movements, a portrait of the painters body and thoughts”.

I’ve chosen to include koi fish, for their beauty in movement through water, and according to symbolist history, koi are know for having a powerful energetic life force, due to their ability to swim against currents. This resonates with me, in that this journey of me working towards abstraction is quite literally having the ability to swim against my own current.

My challenge is, how to effectively convey movement, these qualities and feelings on a 2D plane. According to Jensenius (2013) movement happens in space over time, and both these elements cannot be directly represented on a 2D display, so the success would be based on being able to represent both the temporal and spatial aspects of movement on one surface. Gottlieb explores different methods of evoking movement through the compositional elements of a painting. The first of these is to create a feeling of instability in a painting by making use of elements such a pyramids that lie on their head, suspended masses and empty positive space. A similar compositional structure is seen in Degas’ ballerina paintings, where the dancers are always portrayed in pose, and the lines of the bodies create triangles that are ‘unbalanced’. This sense of unbalance evokes feelings of movement.

 

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Ballerina Painting  by Degas

 

The next method is called ‘Enactment’, which is more easily described by stroboscopic photography; where by every movement of the subject is displayed on a singular surface. Stroboscopic photography is achieved using an external flash on the camera, which is remotely triggered at regular intervals, while the shutter of the camera is left open for the duration of the movement.

 

The artist, Shinichi Maruyama follows the idea of enactment, in his nude photographs, but instead of displaying each movement of the figure individually, he layers each image, almost like the building up of a sculpture.

 

Bill Waldam uses long exposure shots to display the movement of dancers in his ‘Dancers in motion’ series. Here the movement of the dancers becomes blurred into a single form that is not contained, creating a more dynamic composition.

 

The idea of enactment is taken a step further by the Nobuhiro Nakanishi; in his ‘Layered Drawings’. Each photo represents a movement in time, described by the layered landscape. This links back to the idea, that movement is directly related to space over time.

 

The work of all these artists can be seen as abstract in nature, which is described by Levin (166:1961) as non-representational and a “canvas covered in homogenous design that does not involve normal spatial recession”. He goes on to say that abstract art is no longer a means of analysis, but rather a means of expression. By ignoring traditional values and concepts of art history, it has the ability to expose deeper feelings and emotions for the artist and the viewer. I do believe that there are varying degrees of abstraction in art, and the above artists’ work may not be considered traditionally abstract, there are others who have evoked a feeling, or sense of movement through more abstract methods.

Heather Hanson explores movement of the body through her kinetic drawings, using her entire body as an instrument for mark making. The result is large charcoal forms and lines that allow the eye to re-enact the movements of the artist. This idea of mark making through drawing, is described by Clayton (2014) as drawing with a sense of “playfulness and pleasure in expression” which allows the artist to create work where both hemispheres of the brain are fully activated, thus bringing forth-unknown ideas and creative possibilities.

 

The works of the above artists greatly inspires me, and although each one has a different process or approach to conveying their theme, the common thread, is that all the pieces look at conveying a sense of movement. I am not sure, yet how to incorporate the different processes, but I am sure that my resulting work will be a combination of a few experimentations and and various techniques.

Bibliography

 

Reflections: Visit to the Everard Read Gallery- Johannesburg

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Gallery Selfie

My first impression of the exhibition was the layout of the art work in relation to the design of the gallery, which supports a strong indoor outdoor relationship, with large windows and many areas that lead out into small gardens. The gallery displays work in a garden setting as well, which worked well with this particular exhibition, which was titled “Bronze Steel Stone”, where all the work was based on natural materials. With the natural exterior complimenting the work, the clean interior of the gallery contrasted strongly with the natural materials, thus enhancing the work. I reflected on the work in the gallery as a whole and did not focus on one particular piece or artist since the exhibition focused on a multitude of artist, who’s work were all connected by the theme, through the material used in their work.

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Kaki Mcinnes, oil, metal, steel and fish hooks on canvas

The exhibition included sculpture, installation and relief work as well as painting; and the connection between all the work was that the sculptures were made up of bronze or stone, and the paintings, were either painted on to steel or included metal and steel as relief elements on the canvas.

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Kerri Evans, acrylic on metal

What I found quite interesting about this was that the theme was not very apparent when I entered the gallery, so at first I didn’t quite pick it up, it was only when I got through about a quarter of the exhibition, that is saw the lettering that stated the theme, which was very understated. I thought that this was quite effective in that I could appreciate each piece of artwork for its individual beauty, and only after looking at a piece for a bit longer did I notice the material that connected it back to the theme.

 

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Lynda Sales, collage of painted metal on board

Another interesting aspect of the exhibition as a whole was that the subject matter varied quite distinctly between all the work, as well as the style and execution of the work. Some of the work leaned heavily towards abstraction, while other pieces were more realistic, so there was no real consistency in artistic style, except for the common natural materials used by the artists. I found that this is what made the exhibition all the more interesting, the fact that the theme didn’t come across too literally.

The paintings and 2-D work is what stuck out at me the most, this was mostly due to the fact that I’m focusing on painting as a medium for my next body of work. I found the concept of painting on metal quite intriguing; the metal had a much smoother, slicker feel than canvas that gave the paintings an edgy, modern feel to them. This got me thinking of experimenting with watercolor on metal, just to see the outcome. The other aspect of the metal paintings was that in some areas the metal was left bare which brought in the element of reflections on to the painting, which essentially can be seen as an added texture to the work.

Overall I found the exhibition quite soothing and grounding, I think that this was due to the natural materials used in the work. Walking through the gallery I got the feeling of feeling cantered and at peace, where the concept of time and space became irrelevant.

Re-evaluating the Current

There are few central themes and ideas in my current practice; I find that I am increasingly drawn to nature, and the exploration of the self. Especially focusing on the peace and energy inherent in nature, specifically looking at trees, flowers, birds and fish. I’ve tried to connect with this energy through my fine art practice, and tried to explore it further.

There are also a  few emerging themes in my work, such as the inclusion of the human figure, as a representation of ‘the self’, and the interaction between the energy of the self and nature. Another emerging theme is the exploration of the physical movement of nature and the human figure, and the interaction of the two.

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“Leap” Digital Collage

I haven’t had a specific approach to the development of my ideas, so I can’t say if this has changed, rather it has become more structured. I have never used a sketchbook for developing ideas, I just sort of allow ideas to pop into my head, and then allow myself to muse about them for some time. I find that a lot of my ides come from exploring different processes. I do find that I use my sketchbook more frequently now, as a means for exploring ideas.

I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring these themes using video, photography and digital collage. With all three processes, I found that I could express my ideas quite quickly, and I also found that I could experiment more easily with new ideas and concepts. I enjoyed juxtaposing contrasting subject in one piece of work using digital collage. I also enjoyed the mono print technique; I loved the spontaneity that this technique provided.

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Layering painting and photography in a digital collage

 

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Former, realistic approach: Oil on canvas

I would like to explore video art more extensively; I think it is a great way to explore movement. I would also like to explore the digital collage more, it think it’s a great tool for developing ideas, or for a finished piece of work. I would definitely want to challenge myself a lot more when it comes to painting, I feel like I have never really discovered my individual style or niche when it comes to painting, and I lack the confidence to paint freely and expressively. I would like to move a way from my very rigid realistic style of painting to a more expressive, but refined, technique.

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Freeing the mind: photography

The thought of combining video, photography, painting and digital collage, into a complete art process is extremely appealing to me, I am not too sure how this could be achieved, but I think the results could be quite interesting. I think the relationship of these individual processes could almost mirror the relationships between humans and nature, which is a very strong theme.