Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern

Off to London to see the Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate.

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Just to set the visual scene….. I took a couple of photos yesterday that have spurred me to choose the particular O’Keeffe image above. This most monochrome version of the three “Black Place” landscapes on show in London sprang out at me from Google thismorning when preparing to set off for the show. I saved it. Then I saw it on my iphone photos, alongside this photo taken yesterday :-

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I think that it is unkanny how the brain makes associations and it’s great fun to unpick them. It’s not the whole story of making, but probably a more important one than I tend to give it credit for. The composition on this very industrial scene in Sheffield’s Don Valley taken yesterday clearly influenced my decision to pick that particular O’Keeffe painting above thismorning. I just didn’t realise until I saw them both together.

Here is another O’Keeffe image. I wonder if I can make it work back the other way?

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It’s a bit of a challenge this, and obviously not operating at the same unconscious level as the previous choice. Anyway I’ll give it a go…..

A bit contrived and the figures don’t add anything but it’s not unsuccessful:-

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What can a Prisma filter do? …..

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Hmnn, very much not an O’Keeffe, but maybe its got something going for it…..

In the meantime, this old painting of mine popped into my head:-

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I think that it has some of the organic elements of O’Keeffe’s works and also the large areas of colour. The whole thing is not really in the same class though, with the more textured flat areas and the slightly confused complexity in parts. Some of the tonal work has merit though and I need to think of that when moving on to painting (rather than blog rambling:)).


Having been around the exhibition now, I am struck by several things:-

She was a really good black and white artist whose drawings and subsequent painting drew heavily on photography and the influence of her partner at the time. Then later on her friend the photographer Ansel Adams. (Apart from her own photos of course).

Also she did a whole load of work based on buildings in New York:-

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So is my London architecture playfulness/experimentation perhaps so far off the mark?  Certainly the factory silhouette at the start of this blog could fit in quite neatly with some aspects of O’Keeffe’s vision. How about this photo from earlier today also?

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I really was struck by her responses to New York, but when it comes to it my response to London architecture (wonderful as it is in all sorts of ways)  is not to get excited about the idea of painting it. She lived in New York  I do not live in London.  I do live near the Don Valley factories though and I think that is the difference. The factories and silhouettes against the Don Valley light, move and inspire me and make me want to paint. London (fantastic as the late Summer light and architecture are) does not. So Georgia O’Keefe leads me confidently back to a place that matters.


She clearly had a much broader vision than the popular “sexuality metaphor” reputation that was promoted by her husband initially and then vociferously denied by her for decades afterwards.

I particularly liked the “Bones” paintings and think it is all well and good that they represent the beginnings of a partial iconography for 20th century America:-

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Much more than the narrow surrealist interpretation offered by some critics at the time. This is not Dali.


The importance of place is the thing though as I have hinted at earlier. It comes through with power and dignity in her work. Clearly this is what she is about to a huge extent. I was amused by her quote, “God promised me that if I painted the mountain enough times, then he would give it to me”. (Words to that effect).

So what does one take from this?

……in a few words, the importance of place, a confidence around abstraction, a boldness of colour, a sparing but necessary use of black, the power of painting in series and an unerring projection of personal emotions.

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Making “Through the Square Window”


Following on from the Church and the Mosque images that I worked on and posted on Twitter, here is the combination of the photos and the painting once it was combined and then applied to a 38″ x 38″ canvas:-

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A4 sheets are cropped after printing and then assembled with masking tape.


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Ironing of the individual sheets proved difficult to begin with.


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I was always expecting some roughness to emerge, and was eventually pleased with the “old photo” type effect that began to happen.


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I kind of got the hang of it eventually though and so the ones at the top are neater than the earlier ones at the bottom edge.  No matter though as can be seen, as it comes together very well when stretched up on canvas.


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After coating with two layers of watered down PVA glue and drying off I finished the whole thing with a black marker.


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I checked on Google for the phrase which had popped into my head from the old “Play School” kids program from the 60’s and found that it was also a book of poetry by Sinead Morrissey and a series of silk screen prints by an artist called Kate Banazi (different from my work and very stylish)

For myself, I like the tension that is created by the window idea and the thing with the windows in the picture and the picture as a window. Or perhaps a window within a window within a picture. The Hand writing is a reference back to the “In from the Cold” painting from the previous post about the Berlin Wall.

So, a long build up to this with the photos and the original painting, but I am happy for the final piece to be completed in one sitting more or less.

As I said previously though, I think there is more than one painting here.




Bridges, River, Church and Mosque

 


More painting ideas

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Fig 1  “Church and Mosque: Don Valley”, Photograph, Canon 1d mkiii with 28-300mm telephoto


Some further thoughts, painting ideas and developments after wandering around the Don Valley and taking some more photos.

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Fig 2 “Long Shadows”; Photograph, Canon 1d mkiii with 28-300mm telephoto


Using the Canon 1d mkiii with the 28 to 300mm telephoto gave me a bit more scope than the iphone 6.

I originally intended to follow up the bridge idea previously mentioned and in a sense I am doing. However, not quite as expected.

I drive past the view of the Church and the Mosque often (fig 1) but this is the first time recently that the light has been favourable. The bridge picture is thirty yards further along than the railway bridge in the previous post.

So I got some pictures of the Church and Mosque and then went wandering to discover that the bridge over the river that I’d just been standing on to take the “long shadow” image (fig2) had this written across it:-

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Fig 3 “Imagine Waking”; Photograph, Canon 1d mkiii with 28-300mm telephoto


So I suddenly felt that I had a whole load of ideas competing for attention with my “time travel” memories from the previous post.

At this point I went off, downloaded all the pictures and started Tweeting some of them in one form or another. The unintended consequence of this  was that I found a photo filtering app called “Prism” and came up with the following set of images:-

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Fig 4 “Bridge and St Johns” Prisma filter


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Fig 5 “24 grid filters for St Johns”


It is a really neat filter effect app for mobile phone that produced some striking outcomes. The grid effects like the one above and this one below where also very pleasing:-

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Fig 6 “Church and Mosque”; prisma filter


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Fig 7  “24 grid filters for Church and Mosque”


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Fig 8 “Church and Mosque”; Photoshop from 30 imported Prisma filter layers  


At this point I have still got half an eye on the background oil painting canvas (fig 9) that I showed in the previous post:-

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Fig 9  “Underpainting”; oil on canvas, ready to kick start one of the ideas


My intention had been to paint my first bridge ideas over it, but this idea  kind of moved on over the last few days.

Eventually I decided that it seemed to fit better with the Church and Mosque above. I’m pretty sure I have two or three paintings taking shape now anyway and I just need to start working them through.

Finally though, the last Church and Mosque picture above was made by importing all 30 filtered versions of the image into one Photoshop file over 30 layers (fig 8). The process was then to work on the top layer and remove everything that I didn’t want (which could mean almost everything) and then move it to the back of all the other layers. Then repeat the process with all the other layers in turn. The final outcome is of course much more subtle, whilst each subsequent new layer offers me the option of its own character and energy in whatever wuantity I like.

These are a couple of other photos of mine that I gave filter treatment to along the way. You can see the importance of lighting on the circuit board one in particular:-

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Fig 10  “Signpost” Screenshot of initial Prisma app experiments  

 

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Fig 11  “Circuit Board”; Just for fun Prisma filter from iphone photo

So I’m ready to move on to a new stage in this precess and now intend to start drawing and painting to produce a small body of work around this whole theme.


 

Painting a Bridge

I really like bridges. The big ones like over the Humber and even small ones like the one at Bakewell.

But what I really like are the cast iron industrial railway bridges like this one in the Don Valley in Sheffield:-

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Ask me why but I’m not sure I can really answer. Something about the triumph of function over form at one level, but it is something more than that. I hesitate to say that it is an aesthetic in its own right, but it really does stamp something on my psyche.

I was walking down the road to pick up my car from it’s service and found myself wandering through this semi-indusrial area of the Sheffield Don Valley. Every now and again a train would thunder across the bridge and I would miss the photo opportunity.

I don’t suppose they are all that “northern” as the railway network covers all areas, but they remind me of being 11 yrs old in 1971 nevertheless. Trainspotting and associated record keeping and worship. All of which was undoubtedly the same for my peers in Kent at the same time….

BUT,

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I can’t help being transported back to that northern childhood and feeling in touching distance of any number of other experiences.

It is a kind of “Life on Mars” thing, infused with timetravel mystery. And from a painting and making art point of view it can provide a backdrop for a narrative as yet undiscovered.

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This is the underpainting I will work with and then paint the further layers of context and narrative over and around it. The above photos will inform what I do and tease out some sort of story I hope.

Visit to the Zoo

Visit the Zoo on the last day of your holiday……

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Taking photos In the lion enclosure 

The photo above shows some visitors to the Berlin Zoo looking at and taking photos of a female lion. She doesn’t look very happy and in fact in the photo is “roaring”.

Let’s face it Zoos are a bit dodgy  aren’t they?  The poor animals thousands of miles from their natural habitat. Forced to behave themselves and (to some extent at least) perform for the Zoo audience.

However, the above picture is actually only one of two experiences that really bothered me. The vast majority of the Zoo is absolutely wonderful.

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5 things to do at the Berlin Wall

Pausing for thought


This is my first visit to Berlin and I guess new cities are always difficult to negotiate. The following blog explains a bit about my own approach to this and is both a reflection and a recommendation centred around the Berlin wall “East Side Gallery” and the wall’s “Memorial Museum”.


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“In from the cold”:

Oil, felt pen and spray paint on canvas

60″ x 60″: Claytor 1990


1. Think about the power of Art.

Go to the East Side Gallery and walk along looking at the different bits of grafitti art. Ask yourself what was the purpose of those paintings on THIS wall. Wasn’t the job done anyway, before the paintings were  completed? Make sure that you look at the other side of the wall also while you think about this.

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2. Remember your own art

Think back over any of your own drawings, paintings, film, ceramics, printmaking, photography.

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Ask yourself if anything you see is like anything you have done? If so why and if not why not. The paintings on the wall are for the most part, not that attractive, but they are situated entirely in the right context. They are political in a way that most art is unable to be. Picasso achieved it with “Geurnica”, but that is pretty much the exception that proves the rule.

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Social media affords some wider political context for our work as artists. Is this good enough? I ask myself how important is it to have an audience who can stand in front of my work as an artist. To be more than just a “meme artist”, do I have to literally reach my audience? Do they need to be able to touch my paintings.

3. Look really closely and close up

Study the details of the paintings on the concrete wall surfaces. Not because you will appreciate the grafitti art on the wall sections better, but because it will help you in just BEING THERE.


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4. Make your own piece of art out of what you see.

This landscape is not dead. Its story continues and you have an obligation to tell it.

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5. Move on to the wall museum

Look out over at the last example of the watch tower and the Berlin wall

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“Its forbidden to deface or damage the wall”

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Famous Gorbachov kissing picture

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Crowds taking their photos

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View from platform: Berlin Wall Memorial and Visitor Centre: July 2016

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Concreted stained glass work: Berlin wall memorial and visitor centre

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Berlin wall memorial and visitor centre

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Berlin wall memorial and visitor centre. View of last double section of wall including watch tower.


In conclusion, all the walking around and climbing stairs and viewing platforms combined with museum exhibition stuff, makes for a very exciting and thought provoking day.

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“In from the cold”:

Oil, felt pen and spray paint on canvas

60″ x 60″: Claytor 1990

My own thoughts turned to this painting that I started in 1989 around the time the wall came down. In the first instance it had been a response to reading “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” by John le Carre. Then watching the film of the same name staring Richard Burton. It eventually became interwoven and tied in with the events unfolding in Berlin.

It is perhaps one of my own favourite paintings and so it has been splendid over the last few days to see my original “statement of ego” (for that is what most art is) taken a little bit further after all these years. I was struck by the similarity of the close up texture and tonal work between some areas at the beginning of the gallery wall and my own “In from the Cold” piece.

The painting itself was finished many years ago, but I feel that I have only just finished it properly in my own head now, after this first visit to Berlin and the unrelenting mosaic of social, political and historical detail I have taken on board.


 

Upcycle


Up cycling by www.rebago.com

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I really like these “upcycled” bags on a stall in a market in Berlin. They are a bit pricy at E35:00 upwards, but they are all bespoke individual pieces. Speaking to the young Polish woman on the stall, she explained how they use materials such as inner tubes, airbags and seatbelts (all car related material I note). This makes for strong, durable products that are waterproof and long lasting. There is an industrial stylishness about them which beats the commercial sports/school bag hands down.

The bags are also for sale at www.rebago.com

I see another new curriculum GCSE project in the making……