Monday 31 May 2010

peter lanyon

has made it on my list for the land art investigation.
i hadn't seen his work before. but richard's course on modern and contemporary art at the tate britain last week introduced me to this one here:

Peter Lanyon, Lost Mine, 1959, 183x153 cm, oil on canvas
Tate Britain

i think it was my favourite painting of the lot. - in far as my emotional response goes. i love it for its colour balance and rythm, emphasised by the strong gestural marks. the rythm of calm and dynamic. it depicts the tragedy of the flooding of the tin mines in levant, cornwall. the tin mines were under the seabed and too close digging under the seabed led to their flooding with the loss of 39 miners' lives in 1919*.

see this bbc archive for some information on the cornish tin mining industry.

so, a couple of books on lanyon and lanyon's landscape paintings are ordered. it's been a while that i was that intrigued by a painter. there is a potential, from what i've read so far, that his landscape work actually provides a radical departure over previous landscape genre obsessions with harmony, a hiding of ownership and power relations in the landscape. i'll wait on the post delivery to read on.

*this is the information given on the tate website. i did some reading about the levant mining disaster and can't find any reference about flooding; instead, the miners were trapped and suffocated when the mechanical ladder on which they ascended after a shift broke and brought some of the shaft down with it. an incident from the mid-19c is the mining disaster at east wheal rose, where 59 miners died when shafts flooded. see the wiki entry here. i will wait to read more about the painting to get a sense which tragedy lanyon referred to.

there is a forest. this is its sound

there is a rainforest. this is its sound.

one forest. many sounds. from dawn to dusk. in my explorations into soundscapes, i listened to chris watson's introduction of his sound installation, whispering in the leaves, at the palm house at kew gardens on saturday lunch time.

a mix of rainforest sounds are mixed to trace the time that passes between dawn and dusk.. transmitted via 80 speakers throughout the palm house that houses tropical plants from wherever tropical plants grow.

the sound piece came towards the end of three days spent in kew gardens and an investigation into botanical collections, drawings, the endeavours of dreams of imperial order and totality.

the sound piece: a lot of sound. a lot of humanising of a rainforest. and above all: the assumption that there is one forest that makes sounds.

i think installations work best if they don't try to be authentic.

can i consider this as a piece of popular education? as: other senses than the visual and oleofactoral engaged while in the hot palm house? not sure about that either.

Sunday 23 May 2010


the book on gordon matta-clark found my way as an intervention for my current interest in land art; the dangers of a rural and remote idyll.

so matta-clark's work is a forceful pulling back into the city; into politics of development, speculation and the destruction it produces as a necessary moment within.

the land art rests for the moment as i'm working on the final set of printmaking pieces. a series of four. which i decided to be about lived in and visited spaces. rooms i lived in or visited. some old, some new, some fleeting some persistent. the prints are to be a combination of all things i learned in the course so far. so: probably culmination is a better word rather than combination.

two of the images will be new ones; two will be translations into print medium of existing images.

the home/house/interior relates to some of the sound art i recently come across, heard, saw, pondered. it concerns the spaces that are demarcated by subjective responses to the places we inhabit. the boundaries these spaces establish: of access, of use.

there is a lot more to be said and done about this. most of this is taking place off-screen and i have been coming to use the blog here more as an uncommented but carefully assembled holding space. i seem to be working in messy clusters these days.
  • there is the one about about interior spaces, subjectivity as well as disappearence; 
  • there is another one that is developing out of my previous work on fields, landscapism, a thorough look at landscapenature;
  • and there's a third that is starting to ask questions: questions about knowledge production in art. the methodologies of artistic production and how these can be explored.

the last point opens up to the how? can i work on these issues in art/research? can i play with these in art/research? can i learn about these? can i learn about these with others?

i think these will serve well as starting questions for the next few years. there will be some visuals too. but first, take this one little intervention

Saturday 22 May 2010

one art

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Interior spaces

In the middle of my series of 4 for the final print assignment, i'm returning to last summer's engagement with henri matisse. notably his cut outs and his constructions of interior spaces.

there are two images that caught me as to the spaces they establish and subvert.

one is the

Henri Matisse, The Family of the Artist, 1911 (oil on canvas)
Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia (© The Bridgeman Art Library – London, New York, Paris)

the second one is this one:

Henri Matisse, The Blue Window, 1911
130 x 90 cm.
Museum of Modern Art, New York

While Matisse is first and foremost a painter, and thus possibly a bit misplaced in the Contextual studies pages of my Drawing logbook, I would like to discuss and have a closer look at Matisse's painting, and in particular his interiors and still lifes.

The questions to consider are
    How does he compose his paintings? In particular
  • How does he achieve balance and harmony (two elements he is particularly noted for)?
  • How does he construct spatial dimensions in his paintings?
  • He is well noted for depth in his paintings which works against conventions of perspective drawings
    For my own practice, these questions are relevant for
  • (a) the compositional arrangements of drawings - notably still lifes; and
  • (b) ongoing consideration over how to construct space and depth within the picture plane
As for the construction of perspective and space in space, some initial observations were:

The background with fireplace and two sofas seemed to be straight at eye level; as for the construction of the sofas, the left one sees the female figure floating on it, suggesting that the one plane we see is indeed the seat itself rather than the front panel; the sofa to the right in contrast does not seem to have a seat but only consists of back and front panel. But both sofas sit on the same floor line.

We seem to be looking for high up down onto the carpet and the top of the fireplace. Although the front of the fire place suggests that we are also looking at it side on.

There's a major change in perspective happening around the chess table and the two chairs. I traced the space of the chair legs and the left one stretched far into the back ground of the picture while the right chair's legs look fairly undistorted.

There are significant developments as to his perspective in this painting, and an earlier one (Harmonie Rouge 1908) - marking a difference to earlier ones:
- the flattening of space,
- the reduction of concrete objects into a space that isn't concrete and the simplicity with how objects are represented
- the space he establishes also contains metaphorical reference: the world as perceived and conceived. (Flam 1982, p. 30)

There is also some material on the convergence of Matisse with Russian Iconic art and a particular reference to his construction of space. [The author uses 'convergence' rather than influence, which strikes me as curious. He mentions the painting here also, which precedes Matisse's visit to Russia.]

"Sometimes Matisse's pictures and the icons are said to be "flat" because they lack Albertian perspective -- as if space were dependent upon such perspective. This, too, is an error, as will be made clear by our investigation of the nature of pictorial space. This investigation will begin in the following paragraphs, and will be taken up again and deepened later in this essay.

Our experience of space in the world is largely kinesthetic, dependent upon the sensation of our bodies' movement, our feeling of the forces of gravity and equilibrium, and the ever-varying correlation between optical stimuli and eye movements -- including binocular convergence, accommodation to focal distance and parallax. This elementary fact is forgotten by those who think that space is achieved in painting by optical verisimilitude [had to look this up: something having the appearance of being true], with its shading of volumes and its atmospheric and linear perspective approaching the effect of photography. An arbitrary "snapshot," the epitome of a purely optical impression, gives us a jumble of variously shaped tones removed from their spatial context. From being accustomed to viewing such flat images, whether in photographs or in academic "realist" paintings, we develop a "space blindness." The eye seizes upon recognizable details and, by a conventional sort of "leap of credulity" accepts the flat image as referring to things one has experienced in the world. The difference between flatness and space collapses.

The opposite happens in great paintings. There our experience of space is heightened. In a masterpiece of Matisse -- or of Rembrandt or Raphael, Giotto or Picasso or Mondrian, for example -- a feeling of depth is created by the pushing and pulling of shapes and colors. All the lines and tones are organized, at once musically and architectonically, in such a way as to give the viewer movement into and out of depth; and this depth is made palpable by the tension between it and the flatness of the pictorial surface. The real experience of space in a painting is not quantitative, dependent upon the suggestion of deep vistas; rather, it is qualitative, dependent upon the resonance of the tension between the flat plane and all the pushing and pulling planes of color. The difference between flatness and space is not collapsed in painting; it is amplified." (MATISSE AND RUSSIAN ICONS:
The Metaphysics of Pictorial Space by Lazarus James Reid,
I found this very useful for understanding some of the limitation of perspective and how Matisse's complex treatment of colour and form establishes a depth of space which works at time with, at times against perspective.

These points were discussed on the OCA forum. The particular insight that emerged for me from that discussion is the way in in which the paintings seems to pivot around a central axis through the chess board. In summary, there are the following points to make:
  • There is an overall impression of harmony in this painting; it is achieved by repeating patterns (diamonds) and more importantly by red, black and white as unifying colours.
  • The sense of harmony betrays the complex social relationships that are displayed in the painting;
  • Examining the perspective, anti-perspective and construction of the picture plane gives some indications to these tensions - Anne's observation of a central axis along the chess table was a very important observation for this: so, people are distorted, float or huddle in the pictorial composition.

Without this discussion, I probably would have not considered the painting in more depth - the pattern and overloaden interior set up would have stopped me. I find it too frilly, fluffy and busy for me to dwell on it. It seems too decorative and too symbolic. However, the analysis of the picture plane opened up an interesting discussion on perspective conventions and the details of how an apparent flatness is indeed carefully constructed and achieved. It has also been insightful as to the dynamics contained in the convention of family portraits and interior settings.

Now, this has also been part of my printmaking research - what is there with the spatial constructions that I can take from it for the final series of prints?

Go. Figure.

Saturday 15 May 2010

conical intersect

by gordon matta clark may just be the thing to continue with in my little line of disappearances.
slightly different scale though

Wednesday 12 May 2010


... they don't come alone. and today's obliteration has been on a slightly different scale.
it concerns the size of my music folder. can you see it? it's 4 kb in size.

how on earth?!?!
so i go hunting for it... in various backups. it's nowhere to be found. 60gb of MY PAST have vanished. i feel disturbed. wrong-footed. out of sync. rather literally. somehow in all my updates my time machine decided to omit my music files.

after a confused phone call i sit back and grin a bit. just ever so slightly. all those soundtracks to events, people and locations. i can just make some of them up. forget about the unhappy, cheesy, cliched soundtracks that have been dragging along.

it's a bit more comprehensive than reinstalling apps on my phone - yes: the day of obliteration in form of a long-dodged diy firmware update that saw my apps disappear, along with some recent sound files and a few photos.

here's to new music. the one i was looking for? this one here:

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Practiced Skills

Some continuation of a OCA forum discussion on skills, craft skills and ideas. [if you have access to the forum, the link is here]

Most of the art practice I have pursued so far has been concerned with learning skills. The focus on learning painting, drawing in different media was at the foreground of my engagement.
This was deliberate. It was in a sense a way of working my way along some empirical lines: practice, observation, experimentation to  build up experience, knowledge and skills.

The ideas and concepts behind this experimentation were kept rather quiet. In fact: I remember an early blogpost which deliberately dismissed conceptual work.

Keeping quiet with conceptual concerns was a way of keeping separate academic work and art leisure.

What this allowed for was a responsiveness to 'empirical problems' such as tensions of colour, surface, composition; and ways of resolving these into a finished painting.

It also allowed for concerns over memory, belonging and identity constructions to surface (notably in the Fieldwork). If I had employed a deliberately conceptual framework at that early moment, I suspect I would have ended up with work concerned with urban environments and politics over publicness.

In all this, however, the approach to art was in fact rather similar to my approach to research: by asking questions, by experimentation within limitations and by moving along such lines of enquiry in a rather systematic way inclusive of tangents.

Much of this is highly conceptual: conceptual with regards to methodology and empirical practice. It is also conceptual with some continuous themes: about presence/absence, what can be seen and what remains invisible. The concerns over constructions of space, planes, fields and environments. As well over positionings - within the artwork, besides it and of the art (istic practice) itself.


so rarely do i break things that i'm used to have things around... forever.
when this one splattered all over the carpet i just wondered.
wondered over this favourite mug of mine.
wondered how it still was a pair of two.
given to us in 1993.
two stayed with me since.
firmly back to a single one.

favourite nonetheless.