The London Original Print Fair

The annual London Original Print Fair is held at the Royal Academy where the exhibition rooms are taken over by many galleries from all around the world which specialise in original prints.  This means that there is a huge breadth of work to see, spanning different ages and different artistic cultures, from Picassos and Bawdens to contemporary Chinese woodcuts and the latest Peter Bakes. I can’t imagine any other place where you could see works by such a wide range of excellent and emerging artists, all accessibly displayed and with knowledgeable people to tell you about the work. There is also every conceivable printmaking technique to examine, and it is even surprisingly affordable.

Here are just a few of the printmakers who caught my eye:

Anne-Marie James with her book pages sliced into slithers and interposed so that two images engaged in a dialogue. There is an image here (the second) and her other altered book art can be seen here.

Tom Hammick’s huge woodcuts are always interesting, especially how he layers colours.

Cornelia Parker’s polymer photogravure images of glass, particularly those of broken glasses.

Glenn Brown for his rather bizarre, affectionate but irreverent, take on art history

Victoria Burge brings together science, mapping and art. She used heavy embossing to create three-dimensionality in her prints.

Bill Jacklin creates monoprints in several layers with wiping and white spirit spattering, creating movement and atmosphere.

Alison Lambert was showing very large charcoal portraits where the surface had been torn and abraded to recapture highlights. She also makes some very strong monoprints.

Douglas Gordon’s offset lithographs of a solar eclipse juxtapositioned with Anish Kapoor’s etchings.

James Collyer’s Yamashiro Falls  married simplicity of design with technical complexity. This gallery picture is so poor that it hardly does it justice.

For inventiveness and originality, Thomas Gosebruch really stood out, and, wonderfully, he was there, happy to talk about how he made his work. I was intrigued by how he folded paper and then printed on each segment and how he got ink or paint to be 2 or 3mm deep.  The paper folding is an idea well worth stealing.

Basil Beattie’s prints were monoprinted using a silk screen, a process I have been experimenting with. The print studio representatives were really helpful with a discussion about papers, inks, mediums and screen mesh size. The prints were very tactile and heavily layered in oil paint, quite unlike run of the mill screen prints.

My very favourite prints were by Kate McCrickard. These were really complex, many layered monoprints using really bright luminous colours in the initial layers and muted colours on top, with an outline ultimately added to define the figures (I think). The gallery owner told me that she sketches in local cafes and then translates these sketches into monoprints. The whole process must be very drawn out, as each layer of ink dries, but I think she probably works on a group in parallel because the prints naturally formed sets with a rhythm of the same coloured layers between them. Another idea to steal.

I have to thank Rabley Drawing Centre for sending me a complimentary ticket for the Fair. How could I have missed Emma Stibbon’s Vent from my list of eye-catching prints? There was just so much wonderful stuff.

Life Drawing – Graphite (Warning – Nudity)

This week, I have resolved to use graphite for drawing. I have put together a drawing set of 2b, 6b and 9b pencils, powdered graphite, liquid graphite, XL soft graphite block, brushes and erasers. My plastic erasers are cut into wedges and I am also trying out an electric eraser. I love drawing into charcoal or graphite with an eraser but it is now particularly painful, so I have been bought the electric one.

This week, as usual, we started with short poses, but the model was placed on a rotating platform, so that we got the same pose from different angles for three minutes each.  I trued drawing each pose other the other to make a time sequence.

A2, graphite, carbon, 5 posses, 3 minutes each

The model started with his one arm elevated, but had to drop it after a few minutes. I have tried to use different graphite mediums (or an eraser) for each pose, but for one I used a carbon stick as it was getting so confusing. The rotation was only announced as the first pose started, and I wish I had had a little longer to plan this. I would have rotated my paper to landscape and planned my media to just use graphite.

A2, pencil, XL soft graphite, 15 minutes

Too much detail attempted

As usual, I find the quickest poses produce the drawings I like best for their spontaneity. This 15 minute drawing is overworked, especially in the face, the head isn’t sitting in the shoulders amongst many other problems. I was trying to consider ‘lost and found’ and define the figure by the tonal contrasts against the background, with very limited success.

I am still hearing my tutor from Drawing 1 telling me to position the whole figure on the paper. I am trying to override this, and focus in on details or completely fill the paper with body, not have acres of negative space around the body. The next pose was very vertical and I have tried to crop in so that the body has a presence across the width of the paper. To try and avoid drawing outlines, I brushed in the mass of the figure initially with graphite powder and then developed it with the large graphite block and an eraser. The size of the block precludes any detail in the face which I think has worked much better. I think that I should have cropped in more, and I am sure that I have made the torso too long. The softness of the graphite tones is lovely and carving out shapes with the eraser is very effective but I have to ration its use. The electric eraser makes much more mechanical marks, unsurprisingly, and was too noisy and intrusive.

A2, 30 minutes, graphite powder, XL soft graphite, eraser

Detail, the graphite block only allows soft, large marks

Trying to ‘carve’ the knee with eraser, too crude

For the final pose, I cropped in even harder to focus on the elbow resting on the knee. I could have cropped in even more but found all the negative spaces really interesting and challenging. I deliberately cropped through the hand because I wanted to draw it but didn’t want to push the centre of attention of the drawing right over to the edge. I have tried to create a composition which draws the eye right around the support.

A2, 45 minutes, pencil, XL graphite block, liquid graphite

I have used sparse liquid graphite on a bristle brush to try and describe each muscle and its volume. Liquid graphite has been used to create blocks of strong tone in the background. It has given this drawing drama. Once applied, the liquid graphite cannot be erased and my brushwork is not sufficiently accurate in places; I have lost the bottom of the heel on the right and tried to refind it, unsuccessfully, in pencil. The drawing makes a statement about the muscular strength of the male body in contrast to the soft, delicately curved, female body last week.

Setting myself clear objectives and limited media works well for me, and is stopping me getting stuck in the same rut. I hope and believe that my life drawing is progressing. I need to experiment with colour, although I know this is not my strength.

Assignment 4

I want to create an installation in a public place. Ideally, I want to make it large, or at least occupy a large space significantly. It must be temporary and leave no trace. It must be non-littering, not interfere with ordinary site use and not require permission.  This last is not because I am not prepared to apply for permission, submit plans, risk assessments etc, it is a practical consideration based on timescales.

Ideally, I would like to create a piece of graffiti driven by the sketchbook and screenprinting work that was generated by the ‘found drawings’ project. I have considered drawing with an instantly removable medium such as clay or chalk but even these might need a power-washer in the current dry weather. I could draw using a natural substance, leaves say (but its spring) or grass. I could walk on dewy grass to leave a drawing, but this might be very difficult to photograph (referencing Richard Long). I had lots of ideas but none that I felt would be practical to execute in a public space.

Adjacent to the amenity area I used in the last project, is a bus shelter and I thought that it would make an interesting project to bring the bus shelter and its users closer to the wilder environment. I can’t fill the space with sticks etc but could I draw a landscape the same size as an advertising panel, tape it to the glass, and then extend it in some way into the space to draw in the people? Can I make a bus shelter more interesting?

Just at the moment, the apple blossom is lovely, and the pavements and grass are covered in a confetti of petals. It is a beautiful, ephemeral moment in the seasons. I thought that it would be fun to share this with folk using the bus stop and using petals to extend a drawing into the environment. I don’t think petals can be construed as litter, although a drawing on paper might be. It would have to go up one night and be removed the next, without trace.

Initial preparation involved collecting apple blossom from under a tree (each petal collected by hand from the ground!) and storing it in the fridge for later use once I had a drawing. The other step was to measure and photograph the bus stop so that a drawing the right size and scale could be made and its position planned.

I drew over the images to assess scale.

Envisaging a poster sized drawing, mirroring the existing panels.

It is tempting to use the advertising frame and stick a drawing over the existing poster, but I think TFL might be justifiably irritated. This size looks a bit insignificant. There is also the problem of how I might stick petals to the glass as if cascading out of the drawing.

Envisaging larger scale drawing to ground, fed behind the seats.

I think the larger drawing would work better but there would be a problem that it could no longer be flat but would have to travel over the raised, grey bar in the glass. It would also be harder to fix. I would have to use paper roll which has a memory of curling, so plenty of double sided tape would be needed which might come off the paper rather more easily than the glass. I am keen not to make a mess.

Maybe the tree should be a bonsai?

I quite like the idea of the drawing being discrete, having to be noticed by the observant, rather like Slinkashu’s ‘little people’ installations, but I am not sure that it serves the purpose of creating a dialogue.

It occurs to me that this whole idea is less about a dialogue between the drawing and the place, as trying to provoke a dialogue between this deeply urban structure and its environment.

I have decided to commit to drawing a large tree which will occupy all the space the left back of the buss stop. I did consider taking it right around the corner but this would have obscured the view of busses arriving for anyone occupying the seat.  The panel is 7 feet high, 4 feet wide.

I found a local small crab apple tree with interesting body language and sketched it.

I then considered where it should be placed in the frame, how it should be depicted and on what sort of background. A charcoal drawing was out because of peoples clothes and because the surface needs to be robust.  The pale backgrounds in my ipad sketches are too much like an ordinary poster so I experimented with dark backgrounds against which apple blossom should show up. A naturalistic background was rejected because I do want an element of startling the observer with something out of place.

A lot of this project was revolving around practicalities. To produce a drawing of this size, I need giant paper. Two 7 foot long sheets of heavy duty lining paper were joined to create a sheet 7′ by 4′. Whilst the glue was drying and the paper flattening under weights, I considered how to create a dark background on that scale and decided that the most dramatic and practical way would be to use drawing ink. Various experiments were done to test how the ink took on the paper to create a large scale wash. I used water washable ink which is cheap in volume and which can be manipulated with water to good effect.

Small scale experiments to test media and approach

Scaling up, trying different approaches for blossom

Testing things at a small scale was only so useful when it came to work on the actual paper.

The basic design was painted with various densities of ink.

Just using water and ink was quite effective at creating bark and blossom but I did want to include a blush of pink to link the drawing of the tree with the real petals, so tinted gesso was added.

I wanted to get the feeling of curdled masses of petals ready to drift down. Water was dripped into the ink and wiped off to create an impression of petals in the air, although the drips were rather more linear than I wanted.

Double sided tape was generously attached to the back and the drawing installed. Once in situ, real petals were glued on using Prit but, unfortunately, having been collected of the floor and  stored in the fridge in plastic, they were damp and wouldn’t stick reliably. The remaining petals were distributed over the seat and pavement.

In order to photograph the bus stop, I had to cross the road to the opposite bus stop at which people were waiting (why I chose the other). They were intrigued and grinning broadly. They said they particularly liked the petals.

Analysis

This project has brought together the small interventions I made in the landscape with natural material with trying to grab someone’s attention and involve them in their environment. In this case, that isn’t just this piece of urban street furniture but the wider environment around it and also the moment in time.

To capture the eye of the people using the place, I have introduced the unexpected with a shower of petals, seemingly falling from a tree within the space. For the idea to be fully realised, I could have done with a much greater volume of petals and with being able to add more real petals to the drawing.

The scale of the drawing it appropriate for the idea but could perhaps have been even wider to completely fill the glass on the left, and perhaps have reached right down to the ground. The drawing itself is a bit crude with the delicacy of the trunk and branches lost in the process of scaling up. The size meant working flat which made it difficult to stand back and assess the drawing.

The drawing was installed in the morning and taken down in the evening. I do not know how many people saw it, but I hope that it altered the mundane experience of a bus shelter. Perhaps, every spring, all bus shelters should be dressed in petals, like well dressings.

 

 

Life Drawing – Media (Warning – Nudity)

I try and give a lot of thought to what media I take to life drawing and how I might use it. I love charcoal and completely see why it is most peoples ‘go to’ medium for life drawing but I find that I get stuck in a rut, doing the same thing all the time without making progress, if I don’t challenge myself with different media and specific objectives; trying to work differently.

For life drawing last week, I decided to use only graphite but combining different sorts; pencil, graphite stick, soft graphite block, liquid graphite with, of course, eraser. I practised marks on scrap paper before I left home so that I new what to reach for in the initial quick poses. When I arrived at the studio, I found that I had left all my media at home. All I had in the bottom of my art bag was a single pen and a water brush. Folk offered me other media to try. This is an initial quick sketch made with home made vine charcoal. I found this very hard and scratchy compared with willow.

A3, charcoal, 2 mins each

I reverted to my one pen, a Kuretake, water soluble pen, used with the water brush for a bit of tone.

A3, 3 minutes

A3, 3 minutes

A3, 3 minutes

A3, 5 mins

I had lost my initial spontaneous line with the pen and was getting bogged down in complexity. For the longer poses, I added charcoal to the pen for mass and tone.

A3, pen and charcoal, 30 minutes

Our model was Jennifer, an ample lady of great grace. I find it quite difficult to get her proportions right as her feet and hands are so small and delicate, but not as small as I have drawn them here.

A3, 30 minutes

A2, 3 minutes

A2, pen with charcoal, 20 minutes

Drawing large with just a pen was an interesting challenge. I think the initial pen drawings are the most successful, but inevitably they are all about outline. I don’t think that the addition of charcoal is successful, but it was poor, scratchy stuff.

For the last six months, I have had problems with the thumb on my dominant hand. At first, this was diagnosed as tendonitis, then inflamation of the tendon sheaf, and now an x-ray has confirmed arthritis. I hoped that it would resolve but I now know that I have to work around it. Drawing with a pen is particularly difficult and, looking at these drawings, it’s clear that my fine motor control has gone. It’s wobbly lines all the way from now on.

Objectives for next session:

  • take the graphite and use it!
  • try to remember to select details
  • try not to work with outline
  • remember ‘lost and found’.

 

4.3 Installation

In this project we are called upon  to make a drawing which relates to its environment creating a dialogue with the space. Following the momentum of the previous project, I wanted to make a drawing in the landscape which draws attention to some aspect of that landscape and ideally draws the eye to some focal point or actually creates a focal point.

I have an environment over which I  have control and with which I am deeply engaged. My garden is at a woodland edge and if designed to be wildlife friendly. In particular, I have a pond which is home to newts and other creatures including dragon and damsel flies. Grass snakes and slow worms live in the long grass.

My ambition in this project was to create something which would act as a focal point for this seat overlooking the wild life pond. In the summer, I like to sit here and watch the dragonflies, so I thought it would be interesting to use a dragonfly as the inspiration for the drawing. I could think of two different approaches, either use the shape of a dragonfly, or a wing, or the kind of arched stem on which they like to perch over the water.

A number of curved lines, arching over the water would be interesting because they would intersect and change their relationship as you moved around. They would also serve a practical purpose as the dragonflies would actually use then. However, I don’t have any material in the garden which arches like that. There is plenty of bamboo but it stays upright when cut. I have willow from basket making, which would work but is too fine to be visually assertive and is quite short.

Sketchbook thinking:

Having played around drawing wings, supports and bodies, I settled on trying to draw a dragonfly in wire. I really like wire drawings/sculptures; they combine both linear form and mass. I have some iron wire which I considered using but, as you can see below, it disappears against the background. Instead, I selected copper wire which is recycled from some project of my husband’s. It’s fineness means that it bends very easily, you can literally draw with it, and has a beauty of its own.

Making the body, about 25cm long.

Looping and twisting the wire, I was trying to retain a drawn nature by making the structure open.

Working out how to make wings.

Four lengths of wire were twisted together to make the wings. This was to give both structural and visual substance. I played around with internal strutting in the wing, but this looked both contrived and too loopy. To make it work I needed to cut short lengths and solder them in place, and I decided that this was too much like a model of the real thing rather than a drawing.

Seeing if the dragonfly shows up in the environment.

Final size, 25cm by 55 cm

Having tried it in various locations around the pond, I really wanted to position it perched above the water. A bundle of willow withies was formed into a support using more wire used in a loose, non uniform way.

In place, over the water.

I also considered locating it in a field of willow stems which would repeat  the shape of the bound perch and offer perches for real dragonflies. As time has gone on, the willow has sagged in spite of reinforcement.

Seen from the bench.

Analysis

Wire is a lovely medium to draw in and copper is really responsive. Although it slows up well in the environment, I find it too shiny and unnatural. I have sprayed it with acid and am hoping that it will eventually oxidise to a lovely green. I plan to purchase some finer iron wire to try some further drawings, and this will rust pleasingly. There is a difficult balance to be found between wire which can be worked easily and intuitively, and wire which has visual substance and presence. I would certainly have liked to have made this bigger and with more presence.

This is a drawing of a dragonfly and not a model. It is deliberately impressionistic and does not attempt to accurately represent the details of the dragonfly such as the structure of the eyes or wings but I have tried to be accurate about proportions, attitude, volume, angles of legs and wings etc. In this way, I hope that I have captured an essence.

The drawing is relevant to its location and adds a focal point currently lacking. I am in two minds about how dominant it should appear. I would have liked to have made something stronger, but I also rather like the idea that is something to be discovered rather than shouting its presence. The family have firmly declared that ‘it’s a keeper’ and they rarely offer an outright opinion on my work. Making larger art in the environment engages people and elicits a response that wall hang art doesn’t.

I am considering how a better support can be manufactured in a material which will create an arc over the pond but will not sag and which is appropriate for the environment.

 

4.3 Research – Importance of Place

It is hard to believe that place, especially one’s own place, isn’t important to everyone, although we might all focus on different aspect of place. For me, place is inextricably linked with the natural environment, the change of seasons and the weather. For Frank Auerbach, it is the urban environment of London, for Giorgio Morandi, it was his studio filled with familiar pots and jugs and for Emily Kame Kngwarreye, it was her ancestral homeland of Utopia, north of Alice Springs, both its physical landscape and her community’s deep cultural relationship with the land.

Her initial works on canvas, when given acrylics at the age of 80, were dot paintings in the aboriginal tradition of ceremonial body art or sand drawings used to tell tales of ancestors and the ‘dreamtime’ or transmit life lessons. Without a written language, aboriginal peoples developed pictograms used in their story-pictures to depict people, animals, plants and landscape features. This gave Emily a visual vocabulary with which to speak about her her place and everything within it. Dots were introduced when the ‘white man’ arrived to hide or obscure the underlying sacred symbols (Kate Owen Gallery, 2017).

Emily’s paintings move beyond this symbolism to a less traditional interpretation of her landscape in ‘Earth’s Creation’ (1994). She has still used dots but in swirls of vibrant colours which represent the greening and flowering of the landscape after the rains. In her final works, the landscape is reduced to broad, soft, swathes of colour, sometimes vibrant but sometimes muted. All iconography, symbolised or not, has dissolved away into colour and emotion.

This development has similarities to Morandi’s enquiry into his collection of artifacts, and his still life paintings remind me of landscapes; when he groups them together in flat planes, touching but not overlapping, the objects loose individual character and become part of a panarama. His intense enquiry over many years in to the same artefacts resulted in a greater and greater loss of detail. He was experimenting with how much he could leave out and still capture an essense.

O’Keefe had a similar absorption in the landscape of New Mexico around her Ghost Ranch and a similar delight in the intense colours produced by clarity of air and changing light in the desert. In her paintings, the desert isn’t rocky, but fluid and plastic. Her favourite subject was Pedernal Mountain, “It’s my private mountain,” she once said. “It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.” (Sooke, 2016).

I am a keen walker and over the years have camped, walked and climbed in some stunning mountainous locations which have tugged at the heart with their isolation and beauty. The Cuillin Mountains of Skye (here painted by Alexander Goudie) appear in my prints repeatedly, although there was a twenty year gap in my visits. When I finally returned there last year, it was very emotional. I envy people who are able to access readily the landscape that inspires them. My garden, enclosed by high trees, is my proxy for the wilderness.

Sketch of Cuillin from Glen Brittle as they briefly appeared from the cloud, Sept16

References

Kate Owen Gallery, (2017). [online] Available at: https://kateowengallery.com/page/Aboriginal-Art-Symbols.aspx [Accessed 22 May 2017].

Sooke, A. (2017). How Georgia O’Keeffe left her cheating husband for a mountain: ‘God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it’. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/what-to-see/how-georgia-okeeffe-left-her-cheating-husband-for-a-mountain-god/ [Accessed 22 May 2017].

Bibliography

http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/utopia_the_genius_of_emily_kame_kngwarreye/emily_kame_kngwarreye

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/global-contemporary/a/kngwarreye-earths-creation

https://kateowengallery.com/page/Aboriginal-Art-Symbols.aspx

4.3 Installation Research

The Tate defines installation art as “large-scale, mixed-media constructions, often designed for a specific place or for a temporary period of time” (Tate, 2017) but what is large scale? and presumably an installation could use just one medium (although the fabric of a  location might be deemed to be a medium also). It seems clear however, that an installation, to be fully realised, should arise from its location and the location should be an intrinsic part of the work. There are three dimensional works, or even two dimensional works in non-traditional materials, which are described as installations by galleries but which are not site specific because they are for sale and will move on to another site, so installation can be a catch-all for works which don’t fit any more traditional art niche or which the artist wants to move beyond a label such as ‘sculpture’. However, thinking about installation in the context of the next project, I am thinking about line and location and extending the one into the other.

An installation work which epitomises this approach is Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s epic ‘Running Fence‘ , 1972-6. This line of fabric snaking across the landscape draws attention to its undulations. The texture and colour of the fabric contrast with and highlight the textures and colours of the terrain and link it with the wind and the clouds above. The work creates variable sinuous lines when viewed from different locations. Of all their works, this seems to me the most poetic and the one where the installation and the landscape speak to each other.

In the Pais Vasco, in 1984, the sculptor Agustín Ibarrola created an ‘animated forest’ in the Forest of Oma by painting a huge number of trees with undulating strips and shapes which join up or fragment as you walk through them.  The scale of the enterprise is amazing with hundreds of trees painted. However, whilst this is site specific and inspired by the prehistoric paintings in a nearby cave, the man-made nature of the paints and their riot of colour sits a little uneasily in this beautiful environment. The work has been imposed on the place and has taken it over.

Jim Lambie’s psychedelic staircase  transformation for the Royal Academy’s 2015 summer exhibition, like Ibarrola’s trees, brought colour to a place which is little regarded compared to the exhibitions beyond. Here the installation was ephemeral and had the dual purpose of making us look again at a familiar place and drawing the visitor up the stairs and into the galleries. Although the jazzy colours may seem as out of place here as in the forest, the work is completely rooted in the location and the fact that a work is temporary can have the effect of making us pay attention to it whilst it lasts; it never becomes old hat.

A key component of installation seems to be a sense of theatre. The artist requires the public  to be startled, shaken out of their expectations and dragged into involvement in the place and art. Perhaps this is where scale comes in because, whilst intervention can be small and quiet,  Installation is Big and attention grabbing.

References

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/i/installation-art