MA Finals

MA Degree show

MA Degree show


At last all deadlines have been met and here is an image of my MA degree show. I was very pleased with the final paintings for show – particularly as they represent a move forward in my work, very much supported by my earlier paintings at CFT.
The feeling begins

The feeling begins


This was the first of the new series of work, where my work is based on repetition and difference. The theme of repetition has come from my observations from the theatre where rehearsals and the ‘run’ of a show is rooted in repetition. I feel that this is an approach to paintings which I can sustain over the next period of my painting practice.
There are still three days left of the MA show (today and Monday and Tuesday). It is well worth a visit with the excellent work from 12 graduating artists. In addition, my paintings from the CFT residency are now on display in the foyer of the Minerva Theatre and I shall be blogging about this shortly.
It’s been a long summer, with much hard work and I look forward to taking a couple of weeks away from the studio to recover! (My garden is also wondering what I look like, as it hasn’t seen much of me this summer!)

MA Degree Show and CFT Residency exhibition

MA FINE ART invitation (FI). jpeg

Two years of study are coming to fruition in The Imaginary and the Real exhibition in artOne. The show is fantastic and not to be missed. I am very proud to be part of this cohort of MA students.

For me, I also have my body of directly theatre-inspired work on display at the Minerva from Thursday 10 September until 14 November. Come and see how this collaboration between the theatre and the university has resulted in an entirely new body of work.

Getting ‘edgy’

Different Drums - work in progress

Different Drums – work in progress


With a week to go until the MA deadline I’m definitely getting edgy. The final two paintings for the show are shown above ‘in progress’. A scary moment! Is this really the end of the course? Relief and sadness combine together. But all this emotion is too premature. The paintings need to be prepared for exhibiting first. I’ve debated with myself long and hard whether or not to paint the edges of the paintings. I had intended to leave the marks of making on the sides. However, I couldn’t deny that they were a distraction. The work is not going to be framed and so I reluctantly started the process of painting the edges. I didn’t want white for the abstract paintings as this would detract from the colour of the images. Where I had graduated coloured grounds to work with, this means choosing whether to go with the lighter tone or the darker. I’ve always gone for the darker, to somehow ‘ground’ the piece against the wall. A bigger problem is to get the edges painted and dry in time to be able to pick the paintings up and move them around. I can only complete two large paintings at a time as I need to lay the paintings on their backs on tables to reach (and see!) the edges clearly. One slip of the brush and I could ruin a painting!
Watching paint dry!

Watching paint dry!


To go back a stage, to the paintings themselves – I have made a transition in my work, moving more fully into abstraction and, I realise, into something more performative. I had experimented with the idea of symmetry, which has come across so clearly to me from working in the newly refurbished CFT, where an asymmetrical Foyer has become symmetrical. Even the staircases are known as Stage Right and Stage Left. In this painting I added marks to the canvas on the basis of what I add to the right I will add to the left (I have since turned the painting through 90 degrees).:
Symmetry

Symmetry


It was a liberating experience. I didn’t want an exact mirror image so my repetitions were diagonally opposite and altered in colour or size etc to keep the painting interesting. I feel that it needs editing further – it is either too busy or not busy enough. What it has done for me is to introduce a new way of working and from this experiment, the content of my degree show has been made. I kept the same palette (magenta, cerulean and lemon) as I had been using for the earlier paintings from The Rehearsal. I now have two bodies of work, one, which I will exhibit at CFT, with direct and recognisable links to the production The Rehearsal and another, which represents development into the body of work for my degree show.

‘Getting’ Perspective

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my painting practice and why I paint in the way that I do. Multiple viewpoints of a place often appear in my work, either by design or sometimes they creep in without me noticing. Many of my paintings are about doorways and stairs. So coupled with my, wholly intentional, inclusion of ‘pathways’ through my paintings, there often appears to be a choice for the viewer, as to how the eye should travel through the painting.
I re-visited some of my earlier research of David Hockney’s thoughts on perspective. He famously created Pearblossom Highway, by taking 600 or more photographs along a road in Mexico (?) from different positions (including up a ladder) and he collaged the photographs to create an entirely believable location, which doesn’t actually exist in that form.

Pearblossom Highway http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/artists-documentary-close-personal-hockney

Pearblossom Highway http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/artists-documentary-close-personal-hockney


The detail in the picture allows you to see the road sign (stop ahead) as clearly as the crushed Pepsi can on the ground, as if you have tilted your head downwards – because tilting downwards is what Hockney did with his camera.
He has long pursued an enquiry about why paintings became more ‘realistic’ or more like a photograph after approximately 1420. It was thought that the use of lenses was the answer, although no actual lenses were found from early enough to explain it. Hockney explains in an instructive (if self serving!) BBC programme how a much simpler piece of equipment, a piece of glass or mirror and a darkroom can create an inverted image, good enough to trace from. This was therefore be the foundation of a detailed and accurate painting, without the need for drawn grids, which we normally associate with perspective drawing and painting. The drawn grids were a later invention, widely attributed to Brunelleschi, who realised the size restriction of the use of a mirror (a standard 30cm for all images). By extending lines from the drawing (tracing) of the reflected image, he was able to make a larger image than the camera obscura allows. (Khanacademy has made a short film on Brunelleschi’s experiment with perspective.)
Hockney also explains how painters such as Van Eyck obtained sharp detail from the use of a single eye (camera lucida), good enough for him to represent the rear of the couple in the Arnolfini Portrait. Images from lenses are different because they have one eye and we have two and we move around, so the absolute detail of images seen through lenses are ‘too good to be true’.
This research has led me on to a closer look at Vermeer, who many think used the camera obscura because of his competency in handling perspective, and the design of his studio. Some think that his use of the device was more for compositional planning than for direct tracing. The softness of Vermeer’s images and his diffused highlights are reminiscent of the ‘out of focus’ area of the image seen through a camera obscura. A film called Tim’s Vermeer, was made of Tim Jenison’s reconstruction of Vermeer’s studio and how he may have worked.
To go back to how this relates to my own work, I think that, because we are surrounded by photographic images today, we have become blind to them. The painter can offer something different. We are dealing with the materiality of paint and the hand skills of applying it. We can juxtapose one colour against another, we can soften edges, wipe back paint, pour it and splash it. Making a painting is a very physical experience. I want my paintings to invite the viewer to look around the canvas, not to walk past, as I often do with a painted ‘photographic’ representation. That tells me nothing about the painter. This is why I build in a pathway (or two or three) to guide you through the painting. I also resist the sharpness of lines, reminiscent of photographic images, which saturate our culture. In my more abstract work, the collisions of colour grab your attention first, before the soft drifting of colour guides you through additional areas of the canvas.
My paintings are currently ‘under wraps’ until the degree show, but here is another snippet from a painting, which I have been working on:
"Go and suffer in the garden" detail
There is a mauvey-grey, which is part of one of my ‘pathways’ and links to the same colour elsewhere in the painting.
Also, Check out my photograph of the camera obscura, which I made using two shoe boxes! It actually works! Forgive my excitement, but I went to an all girls’ school in 19**, so science was rather basic for us.
Camera Obscura made out of two shoe boxes

Camera Obscura made out of two shoe boxes


Inside the shoe box you can see the upside-down image of my herb garden, projected onto the tracing paper, which I taped to the inner shoe box (the one which slides so that you can focus the image).

Come to the degree show at artOne from 9 September to 15 September to see more of my work and that of 11 other excellent artists.

Studio time

I am in the last stages of my MA now and am busy preparing for my exhibition at the university in September. I need a coherent body of work, which will look good hanging together. I have been using some standard sizes and thicknesses of canvases for a while now, all beautifully made and primed by Sophia Alexander-James. This means that I will be able to choose from the latest paintings, knowing that the canvases won’t be a distraction.
This is the space I work in – it is rather messier now as I am working much more with canvases on the floor and pouring and splashing paint

artOne studio

artOne studio


At the end of June I had painted “We’re Supposed to be Rehearsing”
Rehearsal 4

Rehearsal 4


This painting has some good qualities but I am unhappy with the area to the right and may yet attempt to resolve this. July has seen me ‘mining’ this painting for new paintings and in particular using a heightened version of the colour palette. I am not ready to show these paintings until the degree show (my equivalent of Press Night) but I could reveal some snippets
Rehearsal (detail)
Distant Stage detail
Alongside the practical studio work I am drafting my 2000 word statement on my latest work and I am beginning to prepare for my seminar, which has to be given to my tutors and others on 8 September – not far off now!

RSC Residency – Susan Stockwell

I visited Stratford at the weekend and saw Susan Stockwell’s installations at the RSC. She is nearing the end of her one year residency at the RSC. I was particularly interested to see her work. Not only is she a very successful artist, but she was my sculpture tutor at Farnham and she progressed my thinking about sculpture significantly.
The Paccar Room was open, where Susan has made a smaller installation based on Sail Away, which was in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

Sail Away RSC Susan Stockwell

Sail Away RSC Susan Stockwell


Sail Away RSC Susan Stockwell

Sail Away RSC Susan Stockwell


Susan’s work is about trade and maps and the use of much handled currency for the sails of the boats is entirely appropriate.
See the University of East London’s video to see Susan making boats for the installation
Sea Markings
The site specific installation of sails above the foyer cafe is very powerful and again Susan has used second hand (much used) sails and also she made some sails out of used commodity sacks
Sea Markings RSC Susan Stockwell

Sea Markings RSC Susan Stockwell


Sea Markings RSC Susan Stockwell

Sea Markings RSC Susan Stockwell


I love the way that you can see a tiny person sat at a table in the cafe in this photo.

As for my own work, I am working intensively in my studio now preparing for my finals (late August) and the MA the degree show starting on 9 September in artOne.
I shall post some snippets of my work soon.

Painting in the Foyer

Today was the day to paint in the foyer at CFT. I wanted to re-engage with being in the theatre as I have spent June in the studio and on the final lectures and tutorials of my MA at the University of Chichester. As ever, Sophia Alexander-James was there to help me with the lifting and carrying and setting up and clearing away. She also makes and primes my canvases, which osteoarthritis prevents me from doing myself. I have no strength in my thumbs and wrists. Even drawing or any other fine movements with my hands can be painful. Sophia also filmed the painting session for me on a video camera. I also tried an experiment, to use my i-Pad to take a time-lapse video, which was successful for a few seconds and then something interrupted the filming and when it re-started, hilariously, the lens was facing in the opposite direction to where I was. I am able to find it amusing, only because of what it actually recorded. The flickering light on the tables and chairs and the wind blowing the foliage outside is truly beautiful. What a bonus!
Here is the link to see the video. https://vimeo.com/user25569393

Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15

Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15


Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15

Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15


And here is what I was painting:
Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15

Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15


This is only the start of a painting. There is much more work to do.
I also had a warm-up time before starting on this painting on a much smaller canvas, working from some earlier drawings.The painting is visible on the floor behind me in the first photo.
Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15

Painting in the Foyer 7.7.15


I used acrylic paint on both canvases, not my usual choice for painting, but working in oils on location is not very practical. The issues I have with acrylic paint are that mostly, the pigment is much less dense and dries very flat looking. This is fine for underpainting. Acrylic paint dries very quickly and I struggled at times this morning with the paint ‘setting’ before I had finished putting it on. On the second (square) canvas I painted water onto the canvas first to help with the drying time. I always use acrylic medium too as this helps with the loss of brightness of colour as the paint dries.
Here is the link to the time-lapse video of me painting in the Foyer:
https://vimeo.com/132906147
This is the painting after editing and re-working in the studio, using oil paint. There may be further changes too.
Meeting with Luna

Meeting with Luna

Feeding the inner artist

A trip to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition was the start of my day in London. Jim Lambie’s installation on the staircase up to the Wohl Central Hall was amazing:
ZOBOP by Jim Lambie
I was excited to see Pippa Blake‘s painting The Rehearsal, which resulted from her residency with CFT, observing Pitcairn.

The Rehearsal by Pippa Blake

The Rehearsal by Pippa Blake


Check out Pippa’s website for a better photograph than mine!
Oh, and did I mentioned that I was overcharged by 49p when I spent a penny in Victoria Station? 50P!!! It makes you want to get your money’s worth.
Visiting exhibitions is such a good opportunity for artists to step away from their own work and see what other artists are doing or have done in the past. It may seem like a luxury but I see it as essential nutrition for the working artist, even if you stumble on some junk food on the way.
The Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern was equally rewarding. I had no idea of the scale of some of her work. Seeing someone’s work only in books can be so misleading. Her devotion to colour ticked all my personal boxes too. By contrast Agnes Martin‘s paintings use colour but at the most subtle level and seeing the two exhibitions on the same day was very interesting. I noted that there were not many men looking around the Sonia Delaunay – but rather more in the Agnes Martin exhibition. Draw your own conclusions.

“We’re supposed to be rehearsing”

Dress Rehearsal of The Rehearsal

Dress Rehearsal of The Rehearsal


This is the second new painting based on the above drawing from The Rehearsal’s dress rehearsal. The title is a quote from Lucile at the beginning of Act 2 “…we’re supposed to be rehearsing”
I’ve used magenta and a blue-green as they complement one another and blue-green was the colour of Niamh Cusack’s costume.
Rehearsal 4

Rehearsal 4


Rehearsal 4

Rehearsal 4


Rehearsal 4

Rehearsal 4


I wanted to echo the use of coloured filters in lighting, by using thin glazes of coloured paint to build a depth of colour.This painting has a stillness which reflects the stillness of the theatre before a rehearsal – no actors and no audience. This painting will be a resource for future paintings for my MA. The next paintings in this series will be based on my experience of being in CFT and drawing on the concepts which have occupied my attention as a result of being involved with the theatre. These are: repetition (rehearsals) mirroring, the scale of marks, stage left, stage right and symmetry. I also want to use this palette, perhaps emphasising some of the colours to create more drama in the paintings. I also need to become less representational in the work I produce, in order to meet the proposals that I have made about my painting in my MA.

Paintings from The Rehearsal

The Rehearsal Paintings

The Rehearsal Paintings


This was my blank canvas (although I had painted in a background) for my second painting, started on the Masterclass workshop with John Skinner.
The first painting had a very heavy feel to it with a really dark background, so I wanted this one to be lighter in feel and more delicate in its marks. I was not happy with the composition of the first painting, as the image exists right on the surface of the picture plane, which is not a way that I usually work.
Rehearsal 2

Rehearsal 2


Some of the tones in the painting were too dark in this early stage and so they have been adjusted to create a better depth of field in the painting.
Rehearsal 2

Rehearsal 2


There is much that I like about this painting – it does have some delicacy, but it felt too static to me, so I painted the ‘background’ over with yellow. I gently ‘polished’ back the yellow over much of the background but left the top right with some active marks. This started to create the drama that I am looking for. I shall leave this painting for a while now – it could be complete. I’ll decide that later.

The first Rehearsal painting described in my earlier blog has been bugging me and I found the large green area too dominating so I painted it out loosely with a dark blue.
IMG_1761
It is still not right and it is a great distraction to me so I have turned it to the wall for the time being and I shall start some new paintings this week.
2015-06-29 10.47.05
I am also preparing to be filmed next week whilst starting a new painting based on the Foyer at the theatre. I shall be re-visiting some of my earlier drawings and making some small studies on paper this week.

Lectures continue too and we shall be having a talk from Sam Lock, a Brighton based painter, this week. He will also be giving tutorials to MA students. Last week Matthew Burrows visited us and gave a very enlightening talk about how he sustains working as an artist. It is quite a lonely occupation. I found his tutorial very instructive, advising that I spend regular time mark-making and drawing, as a ‘limbering up’ for a painting session. I already do this to some extent but Matthew pointed out that my study times could be more focused on one or other aspect of my work and this could maintain a freshness in the marks and so transfer better to my paintings.