Friday 13 January 2012

The Garden of my Mind (and how things are grown)

The Garden of my Mind 2011 (sold) (click for close-up of image)

This lovely picture is one I made in early 2011. The face is painted in oil then embellished all around with textiles and embroidery.

The weekend will be upon us tomorrow! I have been thinking about starting a new artwork and are still intrigued with working on the theme of "plumage". Have been referencing some pictures of birds, wings and feathers and thinking about colours.

The way I usually work is very spontaneously, very intuitively. I seldom do sketches or much planning in advance. The composition always starts on a prepainted canvas with the positioning of the figure which is then blocked in with acrylic paint. The face gets painted next, sometimes entirely with acrylic or oil paint over acrylic. The second technique is better for soft tonal shadings. Acrylic is better for strong sculptural renderings.

The background is then painted. The final stage is to embellish the "body" with textiles and stitching. For this, my approach generally is to spread out on a large work table the fabrics I've selected from my collection of textiles plus fragments of textiles I've made from layering/stitching along with any other things I want to incorporate like braids, laces, beads, etc. These are moved around at random over the canvas until something excites me in the composition. The pieces are gradually collaged together in this way - stitched, embroidered or stuck down as necessary to build up the surface. I don't usually work out the whole area at once, for example, I might do just an arm, the neckline, the left hip, etc, and work outwards from there.

I hope to begin work on the new art... perhaps tomorrow!... and in my future blog postings, for however long it takes, I'd like to explain and show step by step how I construct an image.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

back home, sweet home

This morning I send a close up picture of the face and completed "hair" embellishment for Abigail. I have a little more embroidery work on this canvas, perhaps 3-4 hours, then it will be ready for stretching. At present the unstretched canvas measures 61x88cm and will be quite a lot smaller after stretching. 

Late yesterday afternoon Rodney and I got home after our little sojourn in Sydney and at Pretty Beach. As relaxing as being away on "holiday" can be in some senses - like having delicious meals prepared and presented, minimal obligations to housework - I really miss being away from home and my studio and art materials. In August this year Rodney and I will be having a joint exhibition of our art at Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery and I'm determined to work towards that in a disciplined way to have at least 20 new artworks for the walls. So I'm tending to count the hours that the necessities of life are taking me away from the time that could be devoted to art. The next couple of weeks in addition to the days I normally work, I have offered to assist at a couple of art workshops for people with Autism at a town an hour and half drive each way from home so.... as rewarding as that will be in its own way! means a couple of days less for art this month.

Sunday 8 January 2012

More art from 2011

Works on my studio wall, Nov 2011
I finished "Abigail" on Friday. When we get home next week Rodney will stretch and mount it and I'll publish a picture. I took it to Sydney to show my sister and its amazing how different it looks outside the studio.
Leaf Lady, march 2011

Muse on Picasso

I enjoyed the Picasso exhibition more because it was fascinating to see his work displayed chronologically from the early 20thC up until his last works in 1972. I wouldn't have gone if not for Rodney organising it as I'm not a great fan of his art. But in the history of 20thC western art Picasso is a phenomenon that can't be ignored because he has become so mythologised. For a contemporary 21stC artist that sociological history alone is worth examining.

I have no interest (or time) in expounding a great academic treatise so heres some brief musings...

* modern viewers of Picassos art (and his artist contemporaries such as Braque, et al) from the turn of the century have lost conciousness of just how very shocking those original cubist works were. We have become so accustomed to seeing them for nearly a 100 hundred years that they can seem rather ordinary, even trite.

* european avant garde artists of that era were greatly influenced by modern technological change. 2 important aspects that can be remarked on, necessarily concise here...

1. The advent of photography - ordinary people of all classes of society were able to obtain realistic images of themselves and the world, abundantly and cheaply, thus one of the centuries old roles of the artist - to record people, their homes, possessions and events - was hugely reduced. Artists were no longer needed for this purpose and had to substantially reinvent why painting had any use or value to the contemporary world.

2. Advances in science and physics were explaining all sorts of things that had previously seemed mysterious - for example, how light and colour act on 3 dimensional objects, how the eye and brain act simultaneously to "see" things, colour photography was being developed. The development of the "cubist" style was influenced by these scientific discoveries and theories, Picasso and his friends were trying capture how we really see things before the brain puts its own interpretation onto what is present.

*influence of  Globalisation - Picasso and his avant garde art friends were the first to take seriously the art of other races and cultures outside of Europe. They were deeply affected by their realisation that human beings of all races, cultures and times have felt compelled to create objects and representations we call "art."

Picasso and his friends were curious, brave and dedicated to their passion for depicting their world and trying to find a meaning in it other than mimetic representation. What annoys me about this era is my opinion that it can be misunderstood by ordinary people who haven't studied art history and sometimes people can  buy into the mythology of the "mad genius" artist (always male), a cult that Pablo Picasso has become the iconic progenitor of. To european society coming out the Victorian era the radical art movements of that time could only be rationally attributed to being created by people who were mad, unstable mentally...perhaps even "degenerate" as the Nazis described them. But put into the context of some of the sociological and scientific advents of the time briefly outlined here I think my first sentence of this paragraph is a more realistic and accurate way to view him and his contemporaries.