Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Scherzo Polyptych

"Scherzo Polyptych", Acrylics and paper collage on hardboard, 61x240cm.

Scherzo Individuals

The culmination of this project came in four days of intensive work starting with the decision to take a saw to my "Diptych" and create five individual paintings each one representing the five named fairies in Shakespeares play "A Midsummer Night's Dream. They are:

"Moth", acrylics and paper collage on hardboard, 61x30.5cm.

"Cobweb", acrylics and paper collage on hardboard, 61x30.5cm.

"Mustardseed", acrylics and paper collage on hardboard, 61x30.5cm.

"Titania", acrylics and paper collage on hardboard, 61x30.5cm.

"Peaseblossom", acrylics and paper collage on hardboard, 61x30.5cm.

Each individual is represented by a different colour, for example; 'Moth' is a light brown torn from wrapping paper, and she appears as a scrap in all the other panels, as do each of the others. Also, each panel has a reference to Mendelssohn's music with a small fragment torn from the bar notation.
They are intended to each stand alone but, of course, they were conceived as a polyptych, and can also stand together.

So, that's me for this project. I will go and have a lie down now before starting the next one!

Oh, I'll post the Polyptych so that you can see them together.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Scherzo Diptych

Firstly, I would like to welcome to this blog an artist who I have only just met but whose work I think is of the highest quality and I greatly admire: Mayaka Nakamura. Welcome Mayako.

Following the uncertainty which overcame me in my final piece from yesterday (I thought it was good but didn't know how to proceed) I laid that aside and started again, this time with the intention of following it through to a fuller, richer completion by building layer upon layer to create a painting of greater depth than I have ever achieved before. Each of the following Stages were completed on consecutive days.

I set up fresh boards on my studio floor and with renewed intention set off in time to the music:

Scherzo Stage #1. Acrylics on primed hardboard, 61x240cm.

Excited by this, but determined to build up further layers of meaning, next day I worked over the whole to "knock back" the white and try to bring some feeling of a Midsummer Night into the piece:

Scherzo Stage #2. Acrylics on primed hardboard, 61x240cm.

With this dull 'backdrop' I felt it necessary to bring some playfulness back into the Scherzo:

Scherzo Stage #3. Acrylics on primed hardboard, 61x240cm.

The playfulness I was seeking is certainly there, but it was the words of Leonhard Emmerling in his (Taschen) book on Pollock, when he was speaking about "Convergence: Number 10, 1952" that Jackson had used "...a range of colors that verges on the vulgar", and "...exudes a sort of delirium whose violence goes hand in hand with recklessness and lack of concentration". That decided me to work over the whole piece again - can't have any vulgarity here ye'know!:

Scherzo Stage #4. Acrylics on primed hardboard, 61x240cm.
With a large household paint brush and some emulsion paint I forcefully laid down a coat of white paint suggestive of ground mist and deepened the upper and lower portions.

I kept telling myself that what was important was the process regardless of what transpired - if it came from my subconscious then that was good. But that doesn't mean anything when you waken in the middle of the night in a blind panic! So much work and it was all lost by my own impetuous hand. How am I going to pluck victory from the jaws of disaster?

I have absolutely no idea.

Or do I?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Project 3: Scherzo Action

Having worked for over five weeks experimenting and having tremendous fun with each different approach to making free abstracts it was now time to bring together all that I had learned and discovered and make my final pieces that hopefully would be good enough to stand for this project.

The previous posting (Action Painting) was the precurser to this - a warm-up, if you like. But what was it to be?

As often happens I probably do my best thinking in bed lying awake during the night ruminating on these things, and having made an extensive study the previous day on Wassily Kandinsky (an artist whose work I thought I didn't like, but after looking closely discovered I do, especially his earlier abstract painting) who also loved music and tried to capture the feelings listening to music generated I got my BIG idea: I would paint my own interpretation of the "Scherzo" from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Felix Mendelssohn. I love this music. It is the linking Intermezzo between Act 1 and Act 2 describing in music the fairy procession through the forest of Titania, Queen of the Fairies, with her 'changeling child' before they are "ill met by moonlight" by Oberon. [The link takes you to what I consider to be the definitive 1935 film version with the beautiful Olivia de Havilland as Titania, James Cagney as Bottom, and the brilliant Mickey Rooney as Robin Goodfellow - Puck, and the Scherzo starts properly at 4:00minutes. Worth a watch!]

To get myself into this concept I started with a couple of pastel studies made while playing the music over and over again:

Neocolours on paper, 3xA4+1xA3.

Dry Pastels on paper, 3xA4+1xA3.

The dry pastels allowed me more easily to block-in areas rather than just thin lines, although if I had wet the Neocolours I could probably have achieved the same end.

Next, I moved on to acrylics and made about four different versions, two of which are shown here:

Acrylics on paper, 2xA2ish.
I was trying here to get a better feeling for the forest at midnight.

Acrylics on paper, can't remember the size.
I've got the dancing movement, and now the concept has developed - The final piece will be painted as a diptych on two panels of primed hardboard, each 61x120cm making the final painting 2.4 metres long!

Using household paint and brushes I lay this first statement down:

Household emulsion on hardboard, 61x240cm.
Uncertainty creeps in. I like it but am unsure if it really what I want. It is the end of a hard's work and I am tired, so I will come back to it tomorrow to see where it should go from here.
(As a hint, I think better things are yet to follow ;o)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Action Painting

In my Theoretical Studies for this Project No.3 I was interested in how Jackson Pollock had to defend himself from accusations that his paintings were "meaningless explosions of un-channeled energy" and I must admit when I first started attempting my own abstracts a few years ago this question of meaning dogged me. Until, that is, I read statements by Robert Motherwell regarding the validity of painting from the subconscious. I also remember attending an artist's talk once where the artist, John Kinglsey, in answer to the question I put to him about his approach to abstract painting, said: "I don't try to intelectualise, or rationalise a painting by thinking it out first, I just follow my intuition".

Pollock rejected the criticisms of his painting, of course, and talked about having "total control...denial of the accident...energy and motion made visible [and] memories arrested in space". I especially like that last point, which was what I think I was trying to express yesterday when I posted an answer to Melinda and Brian's questions on what my intentions were.

After almost five weeks of wide-ranging research trying to pin down those abstract artists who apparently worked from their subconscious (I found 10 out of over 25 I looked at), my attempts at "free" abstract painting, Subconscious Musings, Klinesque and Heronish "doodles", and Motherwell's "Automatic" paintings, the one thing I hadn't attempted yet was a bit of Action painting:

Action #1", acrylics on cartridge paper, 45x63.5cm.

Even with very fluid paint it's not easy getting it to drip off the end of a range of implements - brushes, sticks, palette knives - so I wasn't able at this first attempt to create and control lines. I had to make do with pouring from a plastic cup which came out in larger dollops than I wanted, but at least allowed me to blow the paint in whatever direction I chose, with the added (surprising) benefit of "feathering" into little fingers. This was exciting and lot's of fun! I felt totally engaged in the painting. As Pollock put it:"I am painting", and I don't think he meant it as a verb!

In this next one I was now gaining control of the pouring and was able to get thinner lines in the directions I wanted:

"Action #2", acrylics on cartridge paper, 45x63.5cm.

And for the third painting in this series I stayed with the same two colours which were giving maximum impact:

"Action #3", acrylics on cartridge paper, 45x63.5cm.

These just literally blew me away. I really didn't know such things were possible. The only downside was that after a few strenuous blows to get the paint moving over the surface of the paper I would become light-headed and dizzy.
So what's new I hear you say!

All of this was just limbering-up. Tomorrow the main attraction get's underway.
See you anon.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Klinesque Abstracts

The last few weeks have been high intensity for me finishing my final paintings for this Abstract Painting Project and getting everything ready for my Third Tutorial on Wednesday last. I am absolutely jiggered but satisfied I reached a good conclusion which I will talk about in the next few days, but for now I will try to catch up on what I have been up to since my last posting of "free" abstract paintings.

Following on from those "free" abstract studies, where I cast everything to the wind, suddenly I take fright and think...woah, hold up there big fellah, there are other ways to skin a cat ye'know (apologies to felines the world over). Think of Franz Kline. Think of Patrick Heron. Think of Robert Motherwell. Each of them, aparently, often found their imagery by making "doodles" from their subconscious first. But instead of making small doodles (or as I had been calling them, "Subconscious Musings") they drew larger scribbles and then worked them up into large scale paintings. Kline, in particular, used broad brushes in old telephone directories to create his bold structural images then very carefully painted them to a larger scale while preserving their "spontaneity". Hey, I can do that I naively thought. And here's what came out:

"Klinesque Abstract #1", acrylics on primed hardboard, 41x61cm.
Using a household paintbrush loaded with Prussian Blue I laid down the dark motif straight from my gut, then, as freely as I could muster, added colour areas in response to some sweet inner voice.
Orange always speaks loudly to me.

What comes out has a bold graphic quality that I like and I am excited by this, but the next question (as always) is: Aye, but can ye do it again?

Repeating the same process this next one surfaces:

"Klinesque Abstract #2", acrylics on primed hardboard, 41x61cm.
As far as I'm concerned this meets my favoured criteria of an image jumping off the far end of a Gallery wall.
Does it for me!
How could you ignore it?

But can I do it again?

"Klinesque Abstract #8", acrylics on primed hardboard, 41x61cm.

Each of them looking strong but their only meaning, if you need one, is that it comes from somewhere deep and has resonance within me.

And that's all there is today.