Since October 2015 I have been researching a number of different texts, which have different contextual feeds into my practice. The areas I chose to study are both reflective of my interest fields and of suggested texts. I have looked in depth at how painters might work with the physical medium of oil and what that could mean. I also have researched a number of artists, some of whom bear no relation to my practice but are engaging by the way they paint or by the subject areas they choose.
Additionally I have visited a number of exhibitions and talks some of which feed into the context of my work and, again, others which are totally unrelated.
James Elkins, What Painting Is
I have looked in depth at how painters might work with the physical medium of oil and what that could mean. James Elkins deftly describes in many different guises from mathematical, scientific, alchemistic and purist terms how paint, this mysterious substance has been used historically. The main threads of the book focus on the alchemistic properties alluding to the magic an artist who uses this material can produce. He asks what a painter might do in their studio. Elkins questions the smells, the mess, the struggle to work with such a medium. Is there a controllable aspect to paint or does it have a life of its own? How do artists mix the colours and what the results reveal.
At times this was a very hard book to read but I am very glad that I persevered; there were both baffled and Eureka moments.
Martin Gayford, Man with Blue Scarf
Gayford’s compelling and insightful book gives the reader an in depth diary of the seven month time span sitting for Lucien Freud. How could anyone else in the position write with such clarity and knowledge? This was such a privilege to read such an intimate, fascinating perspective. Art critic Gayford paints his own vivid picture of the Freud’s processes.
Freud was renowned for his privacy, yet he painted portraits, which required another person to be present, since he always painted from life. I identify with privacy as both an artist and within my personality.
Gayford recants their huge breadth of conversations and reveals an insight in to Freud's painting process and his practice. He talks about the time in Lucien’s studio and their time dining afterwards. How this relationship developed over the seven months is at the heart of the book. Gayford writes with such honesty, with wit and such fondness it is both touching and compelling. The book is beautifully illustrated with images of Freud’s work from 1940 to his last work before his untimely death in 2011.
Throughout the book I felt I was as much a part of Freud’s painting process as Gayford described. I felt present and intrigued. Having seen the portrait first hand it has now given the portrait a new and exciting narrative to a painting that I already admired.
James Elkins, What Painting Is (Book)
Martin Gayford, Man with Blue Scarf (Book)
Gerhard Richter, Doubt and Belief in Painting (Book)
David Hickey, The Invisible Dragon (Book)
Frank Auerbach, Tate Britain (Book, Exhibition and Talk
Out of Chaos, Inigo Rooms, Sommerset House (Book and Exhibition)
Gerhard Richter, Doubt and Belief in Painting
As one of the most significant painters and one that I admire greatly I chose to study this along with a number of Richter’s other books. Richter has used photographs to inform his paintings in such a wide breadth of manners since the early 1960s. An influential painter with his own unique and much revered painterly language. Historically his works address both deeply political and personal issues. Richter has been absorbed with blurring his realistic figurative works as well as entering into the language of abstraction. His subject areas range from landscapes to portraits many of which are derived from mass media and photographic archives. Richter's creative prowess is evident in the success that he has achieved within his lifetime. He remains true to his painting and somewhat modest about his success.
David Hickey, The Invisible Dragon
Originally published in 1993 this revised version reconsiders beauty. The book unfolds more as a manifesto than a courteous dialogue. Hickey writes more about his denial of the authentic gratification that draws people to art. Tactically Hickey includes his responses to Ruskin, Shakespeare, Deleuze and Foucault whilst battling museum culture, academicism and politics amongst other topics. He describes the works of Warhol, Caravaggio and Mapplethorpe. The point I believe Hickey is making is to make the reader rethink about what art could be and how it exists. It is in every essence a critical response to art and how it is and should be perceived. I am not entirely convinced by the book and may reread parts.
Frank Auerbach, Tate Britain (Exhibition)
As much as my painterly practice bears little relation to Auerbach's work, other than we both use paint I was mesmerised by his works. I was drawn back to the exhibition on several occasions gazing long and hard at what I feel are as much 3D and sculptural as they are paintings. Often described as revolutionary, Auerbach has been associated with an impressive circle of artists including Francis Bacon, David Bomberg and Lucien Freud. Having also studied these artists previously this made this retrospective all the more compelling. This exhibition also hosted a talk by the curator Catherine Lambert who also still sits for Frank Auerbach.
I was very disappointed in general with Catherine's talk, it was expensive even with a concession. For such a prestigious institution I felt the talk was far from professional and slick. Her presentation was surprisingly cluttered, but there were some interesting points about other artists who are painters that were valid. We also attended a Private View.
Out of Chaos, Ben Uri, Inigo Rooms,
Sommerset House (Exhibition)
This exhibition bore more relationship to an ongoing
project I have been working on 'Second Hand Smoke' to do with my family history. The exhibition was a reflection of works by displaced Jewish Artists who have left their Motherland either by choice or by unforeseen, and some very unfortunate circumstances to forge a new life elsewhere, an émigré history. The exhibition was set out chronologically as a celebration of 100 years of the Ben Uri Gallery in London. It looked at Art, Identity and Migration and dealt with conversations about the relationship between art and immigration. It is a subject area that is close to my heart but also very sensitive because of my family's Holocaust history.