(Current Studies, by blog description (2015-16)) - Click on each label to see corresponding posts!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Anselm Kiefer Exhibition, Gallery Visit & Lecture by Mark Gibbs, Tully House Gallery & Museum, Carlisle

Today I was lucky enough to spend a little sojourn to Carlisle, to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibition to gether with an explanation of the works by local artist and curator, Mark Gibbs.  This lecture, sponsored by "Artists Rooms" (www.artistsrooms.org),  http://www.artistrooms.org/exhibitions/anselmkiefer-tulliehousemuseumandgallery

(Please see http://www.artistrooms.org/galleries/anselmkiefer# for more images, hereby acknowledged as source for the works shown for my personal research hereunder).

The first works on entry to the exhibition were four early photographs, from a series of some 190 all entitled "Heroic Symbols"...

These four photographs were taken by Kiefer shortly after graduating from Art College in Germany and were met by an extremely critical and scathing German public when first exhibited.  Especially poigniant here is to remember that at this time, (1969), Germany was split into the two halves of the Federal Republic of Germany in the West, and the Eastern (under communist rule and highly influenced by Russia) as the Socialist, "Democratic Republic of East Germany".
 Much of the influence of the series was for Kiefer to refer to "The Occupations" as a statement, in context, during 1969.  Kiefer's Nazi salutes in various poses were all taken in different locations that had been occupied by Germany during WW2.   The obvious connections with Casper David Friedrich (discussed in more detail in an earlier blog on this site), which alludes to 'the lone German hero' of a more considered 'romantic' period of an earlier german history, shows how this notion of heroism can be perverted.   What I mean here, is that the 1888 rise of German Nationalism that Casper David Friedrich was exploiting (as a result of the post-Waterloo and Napoleon-esk images), is what Kiefer is particularly referring to here.

Until properly explained by Mark Gibbs, I didn't understand until today, that it's about the Iron object of Jewelry, and the subsequent use of Iron within the 'Iron Cross' used by the Nazi command to bestow for merit in the second world war.

Kiefer had definately been influenced by one of his teachers, Joseph Bueys, who, during the 1950s, propagated what seems now to be a complete myth, that he crashed in his aircraft in the Crimea, during the war (he was actually a Radio Operator and Rear Gunner according to the official records) and was captured by Tribesmen from the Russian Steppes (Tartars) who allegedly kept him alive through wrapping him in a felt blanket and keeping him alive by covering himself with, and eating just Lard / Animal fats.  (When he was 'rescued, there were no signs of any tartars in the village he was being held at).   It later transpired that this is much more than extremely unlikely!
 Bueys famously performed a piece of art   "I like America and America likes me", in which on arrival in the US, he was taken by ambulance to  the gallery space, which was an enclosed room with glass viewing, whilst wrapped in felt and lard, and lived in it together with a North American Coyote for three days!...  This was an allusion to him wanting to appear as a Shamen, someone in a liminal space between life and death, in order to engage the spectator.  When the three days where up, amazingly, the Coyote hadn't eaten him (Bueys did have a large shepherd's crook with him to defend himself), and in fact had grown quite tolerant of him. So much so that at the end of the time, Bueys was able to put his arms around it!...

In a similar way here, Anselm Kiefer is inMark Gibbs opinion, trying to create a Shamenistic position, whereby he himself is taking all the suffering on behalf of the people.  Expanded more fully, what Kiefer is actually doing, is taking on "the illness" of the German people, as a Shamen, in order to cure it.
In the same way, in"Occupations" this is why he is actually dressed like a Shamen, - he holds a branch of a tree.
What's really deeply intellectual, is that he points out the yin and the yang of work, but the first point which appears as important, is, in fact, un-important.  Indeed, it is the minutiae, (what appears as un-important), which is actually the important point!...

So occupations, is really about Iron, but also, consider the medium that Kiefer is using. It is firm and photography. at that time this was dependent (pre-digital of course) on Silver-Nitrate.  Therefore Occupations = Iron & Silver.

There are so many of these series that I'm not totally sure that the images above are the exact same images used for the exhibition, however, they have been selected as closely as I could find!

The next picture, which was under scrutiny is entitled "Pallet (2006)".
 This painting or piece is made up from ash, straw and hay. The concept being courted with is that "value versus no value" at all is in constant tension. It’s a kind of distinction between the yin and the yang. Anselm Kiefer has derived this from Goethes myth, where the character Margarete, who was a blonde heroine (hence the reference to gold in her hair), together with the writings of Paul Cellan (who was born in the Ukraine, being of Jewish and Rumanian, together with German origin), who wrote a book called Todiche Fugue (the death Fugue).

Black milk of morning we drink you at night
we drink you at noontime Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland
we drink you at dusktime and dawntime
we drink and drink Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland his eye is blue
he shoots you with leaden bullets his aim is true
there’s a man in this house your golden hair Margareta
he sets his dogs on our trail he gives us a grave in the sky
he cultivates snakes and he dreams Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland
your golden hair Margareta
your ashen hair Shulamite
—the final lines of Paul Celan's poem, "Death Fugue," published 1947 (trans. Jerome Rothenberg)
 Furthermore, Paul Cellan was one of the founders of the activists, the 47 group, established in Paris after the Holocaust. This painting, therefore, is of the dilemma of artists and their ideas post the Holocaust.

In the next painting, - this is called “the Heart” (2006),
and actually refers to the heart of the artist. In alchemy terms the heart has been turned into something precious by making it covered in gold leaf. However, the actual objects are made of clay and the reference therefore is much deeper about Earth itself. Also, you may notice there is a piece of seaweed, this has an allusion to salt, pure and white, but also sea water has a reference to human blood. All of these similarities, all of which are very symbolic of alchemy and when put together, it is very much in an alchemists’ sense that we put them as iron, silver, gold, straw, ash, clay and earth.

Kiefer then moves on to another symbolic element, the next series being that of water. The character “Amphetax” was a hero in the Holy Grail series, who was wounded. Within this piece Kiefer is associating to say that the land is wounded, and an allusion to this is that both the next pictures have a wheelchair as a very symbolic part of reference for wounded of them.

In all of these preceding works, the narrative is built by the viewer. What Anselm Kiefer is driving at, and what he wants is to create mystery and not meaning.

Having discussed at length already, the approach that Kiefer has towards shamanism and Alchemy, a further series to be considered, that he has been involved with for many years, is the substantial use of lead in his art works. This is very much an allusion of lead being an extremely heavy metal, and so alludes to the weight of our own guilt is not enough to hold the heavy burden of human history. Interestingly, much of the lead that Kiefer has acquired over the years has come from the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

His regular use of lead in for example the photographic collage of the lead books together with cast dead sunflowers, (which are again a regular reference in many of his works) is, in my opinion all about his own reference to the heavy burden of guilt of the German nation.

The next piece in the exhibition is entitled “Aurora” (2014), (In the cabinet to the left of the photo below),
 and is a composition placed horizontally in a cabinet, of a rusty submarine lying on its side, but placed on a bed which appears to be of dead roses, together with flower sticks. This is an allusion to the Pathos of obsolescence of the objects, and so Kiefer has made all this placed on a foundation bed made of lead. The submarine or U-boat resting on its side in itself is a symbolism all about grief, a national grief. This was “suffocated” grief that cannot be expressed by those who have been hurt, hence the U-boat, or under water / drowned notion.

Within all Anselm Kiefer’s works, again the ideas of loss, memory and grief are extremely strong.

The boat, the Dresden, which is also placed on a plinth was the only surviving boat from a small battle (thought to be the battle of Canals in the Falklands). The United Kingdom ships HMS Creasy, Monmouth and Good-Hope were all involved in this battle as part of the operation of the coast of Chile.

Going back to the piece’s title “Aurora (2014)”, it is in direct reference to the ‘Goddess of Dawn’. Also, sometimes known as the Rose of Dawn. In other words, this is the reason why Kiefer is spread the boat onto a bed of dead roses.
(By the way, under deeper contemporary cultural examination, there is a political group called “The Rising dawn”, which is a neofascist group, that are currently rising in power in Greece at the moment).

Worth mentioning here is that currently on display in London at the Maritime Museum, Anselm Kiefer is also displaying works entitled “the new theory of war”, which is actually a set of suspended submarines within the courtyard. This can be linked to Anselm Kiefer’s interest of the Kabbalah and particularly the number 317, and how crazy theories can get credence.

To the right of Aurora, the huge painting on the back wall of the exhibition in Carlisle is entitled “the Norns” (1983), which is a reference to the Norse mythology of Urd, Verdandi, Skuld (collectively, the Norns). This piece looks like a huge cathedral like cavern somewhere under the ground, an allusion, perhaps to the funeral hall of the great German soldiers (This painting is based on a 1939 design by Wilhelm Kreis, for the Funeral Hall for the Great German Soldiers, in the Hall of Soldiers).... But it is also a sort of allegory to the Catholic Church. (See the first Renaissance picture of perspective by Versace, of the Holy Spirit the Son and the Holy Ghost. Within this painting, Kiefer has also indicated what also appear to be tree roots coming from the roof of the vaulted structure. Is this a reference to it being buried under the ground? Or is it because it’s buried under the tree of knowledge, the Norse ash tree of knowledge, also, known as Yggdrasil? An earlier work is shown below to illustrate the version on exhibition show...

In all his pieces, There is in fact a limitation of materials, in such that when he has put them together they create many more meanings, far in excess of the whole.

Then finally in the smallest piece in the exhibition, and I think the final piece itself, entitled “the game is over.” (2014). Kiefer has put a single sunflower within a glass cabinet, and the symbology has been created because the sunflowers stalk is broken in the middle of it, but within it, is an iron hinge, linking the flower and its’ stalk to the base of the stock of the plant. This is displayed horizontally rather than on the wall, but it also has a white canvas base (painted with white acrylic), and is displayed together with what appeared to be volcanic rocks also scattered within the cabinet, together with some German writing,

“Das’s spiel ist aus von valien vailen steinen sind moasser fuss so wund. Einer hielt, mit dem woollen wir springen”.

Translated, this would read as “That 's easy to play from Valien vailen stones are moasser feet so sore . One held , with which we jump woolen”.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Guest lecture by Rachel Goodyear, a contemporary artist and illustrator.

Rachel Goodyear is interested in many aspects of contemporary art, from drawing and animation through to sculpture, particularly of porcelain, etc.

Graduating from the Leeds Metropolitan School of Art in 2000 she was short-listed for the Northern Art prize. Subsequently she has also exhibited the Drawing Centre in New York. She describes her work as historical - illusionary and with repeated motifs of “twinning”. One of her favourite mediums is pencil and watercolour with sizes ranging from traditional A4 size to A2 sized images. Her view is that small images pull people in, and cause them to become more intimate with the viewer. When she is drawing she tends to lose herself within the drawing process and hopes, in fact wants the viewer to do the same.

Rachel often uses a motif as a central point to her paintings. The images of animals and animal masks work to capture and enliven the concepts of the human feral behaviours that we have within ourselves. She considers this yin / yang unconscious duality, to be constantly battling deep within ourselves. Therefore, there is lots of doubling within images or twinning as she puts it. Described more fully, there are two halves of the whole, conspiring, pushing and pulling against each other constantly in a way that our brains seem to do on a regular daily basis.

Rachel is based at the Islington Mill in Salford, and the studio is the most important place in her life. When she is within the studio space, she considers this is “like a walk within a sketchpad”. The importance of just being there within the site at Salford (which is an old textiles mall), is vital. Even if she feels it is just to read and sit around and chat without actually having done any art. It’s this environment that gives the stimulation in order to do work. The studio seems to be a room of chaos, but when you’re in the eye of the storm, as she explains, she creates these wonderful works.

Earlier in her career, her own drawing was very private. She studied fine art in order to understand sculpture better, but only when she graduated and moved to the Islington Mill, were where her drawings begun to be exhibited. She was very aware of “losing” the studio atmosphere which is a natural place for other artists to provide constructive critique and it also feels like a general mixing of artists in almost a university type setting. During her early years, she drew on anything. And that means she drew inspiration from any environment and any subject. She explains that motivation is essential to maintain because everybody is looking at her!

At the age of 27 she was diagnosed with Hodgkinson’s lymphoma. This was a turning point for her. She had to adapt to her situation completely as during some weeks she was too weak to do anything productively, but by starting little doodles during her treatment and through, very importantly, the Lyme Arts Foundation (which provides hospital art treatment), she was able to go forward and created a body of work during this time of real discomfort, and describes which she called “too close to the line.” This was the time that she became totally immersed into the Drawing of this body of work, purely for herself. It’s an exclamation of animals together with relationships together with pleasure and pain, the balance of power in drawings. The juxtaposing of the possible with impossible of the everyday things. An example being; “Bats roosting on the underbelly of a dog”, - one of her works shown that this lecture as below.

The imaginary images or indeed the imagery of simple colours, but with disturbed positions of the figurative provide for Rachel the “stumbled upon.” Image. To her, it seems as though it’s something that has been conspiring against you and the image is taken from the deep recesses of the mind.

Within Rachel’s work, there are heavy expanses of graphite. She particularly finds this medium interesting simply because of the physical properties of the materials. Graphite can be a “shape shifter”, - like in the piece of work, entitled “The Gathering” She goes on to say that the title can be a tiny introduction against the work in order to make people think.

In the piece “fallen tree”, this is an example of an image of frozen moments in time, but in an immersed drama is hidden, for example, the skeleton.

In “Bear Kiss.” A motif of the bear is a kind of emblem of power, and yet it is under captivity, and so this provides the illusion that this power under captivity can turn on the Captor themselves at any time.

“Mandrake” is an unsettling view of the gentle tea party, but on closer inspection, looking at the man, his ear is actually bleeding. This I think is an illusion to a feeling I’ve often had when being bored to my wits end and having to just put up with the pain of incessant garbage ramblings at a tea party. A bit like this blog!

Rachel Goodyear exhibits drawings in clusters, as a disjointed narrative, for example, the works. “Thoughts -Ville” this is a cluster of some 30 drawings.

A new experiment is entitled Valley. This is a three panel piece of 1 m x 2 m high, +2 other panels on either side. Within the works, the two outer panels contain a narrative that is very different from the centre one. For example, the Bears are catapulting women across the valley to each other, but within the centre panel, this depicts a very genteel dance within the glade or Valley forest floor.

Rachel explained that she spent ages putting cut out characters onto these panels in order to understand where they fitted best. This reminds me of a technique that Matisse used to use in order to place his figures in his own concept of the perfect place within a drawing or painting. In Rachel’s drawing, the masked figures are dancing to the compulsive fiddler and his music from the top of the pedestal in the middle of the forest. This is quite mesmerising.

On a different theme, there are other ways of drawing also interest Rachel. The idea of the trickster has been a theme of the YSP. How can a drawing slip in and out of two dimensional.

In the work. “King rat” the breath and the postcard of the portrait shows fungi growing out of an eye. I find this very disturbing and suggests that there must be some deeper issues going on in Rachel’s minds.

In dancing devils, this is an animation which was some admitted to the Drawing Centre in New York, and indeed was actually an animation projected onto a drawing, of dancers of light, all gathered within a ring on top of a drawn log of wood.

When describing “Octopus hypnotist” Rachel’s fascination and at the same time revulsion of the sea creature, together with the suggestion of the phallic symbolism was also exhibited in the Drawing Centre in New York.

Rachel went on to explain that residencies are fantastic experiences for younger artists. These get you out of the usual environment and routine. For example, she spent time in Banff, in Canada, which was hugely beneficial to her. The ability to imagine completely new ideas as an artist in residence is also fantastic way to network with other people too. It’s absolutely wonderful to put faces to names and to meet new people, but also to look at what’s available within that environment. You may be working in. She emphasises the importance of understanding to look for what is working and what can be unsettling. For example “The falling the body” on a conveyor belt of other drawings, which was also presented as an animation.

She suggests that her process is based on new ideas with new characters and fragmentation with ambiguous relationships. She describes her more recent work as monochrome with layering and dispersals of other worlds and timescales. For instance, she talks about “stacks”. This is the idea of isolation of a rock stack and the relationships between people. Maybe the separate rocks and people stranded on each of them could be connected through a tiny bridge. Other processes that Rachel often uses in order to inspire her to create further work is the use of collages, in which she finds useful in order to juxtapose images and find what are her major influences at the time of putting those collages together.

I asked Rachel what were her major influences when she was learning the trade? Rachel replied that these were mostly nostalgic collections, she particularly enjoys the work of Louise Bourgeois. In a similar way, Rachel explains that as she finishes one body of work, she often uses the residue of work that has been compiled in order to feed into the next project.

I am extremely grateful to Rachel for her permission granted to me verbally after the lecture to reproduce the photographs of her work for my own research study within this blog.

I took this last point away as being an extremely important part of artistic process, and my conclusion is that the process is in many ways similar to many artists that we are constantly building a body of work based on what we have already done, then injecting new influences and new ideas into new paradigms in order to create something original.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Reflections upon the last term....

My initial responses to the themes Appropriation, Interpretation and Adaptation for 3rd project, Studio Practice 4, were firmly rooted with an intent to continue the strategy I had first considered during the previous semester.  That was and continued to be, to emulate in some personal way, the traditional artistic learning mechanisms of the Great Masters (Aristides, Classical Drawing Atelier, 2006). I’m still confident that this approach has not only helped to develop my tactile epistemology, particularly within the practice of drawing, (which I still firmly believe to be the most important foundation of all art (see https://www.ucl.ac.uk/medical-education/publications/Reprints2010/2010-PACA-ArtStudentsWhoCannotDraw.pdf).  (McManus, Chamberlain, Riley, Rankin, & Brunswick, 2010).
 (- however I do appreciate that others may differ with this assertion), but also, in due course, has helped me to tease out contemporary applications of this core skill, so that my creativity can begin to emerge into more diverse practices (Davidson, 2011).

My drawings have therefore been centred on copying a small selection of Great Master’s sketches (Appropriation), but then representing them in a completely contemporary style (Adaptation), magnifying them to painting-drawings.
The Studio Practice environment affords me the opportunity to explore & develop my drawing skills on a much grander (literally) scale, than what I could accomplish in my home studio.  (Inspired by (Sheringham, 2006) Page 196).   Interest in creating artworks on a much bigger scale has allowed me to free up my expressive painting abilities and the example of Harold Speeds drawing, of 1905, (Fig.1) (Speed, 1913), where I have interpreted some of the notions of George Baselitz (i.e. Painting upside-down), and together with the original appropriation of this image, adapted it to a very large and then recreated it quickly (Approx 1.5. hours) on a scale of 6’ by 4’ with acrylic “paint-drawing” (Fig.2) - (Appropriation, Adaptation, Interpretation);I hope slightly menacing representation should capture the viewer’s attention with an affect to draw the spectator towards my work for a closer investigation.

With regards to the interpretation of materiality, a new relationship and a deeper appreciation of the works of Anselm Keifer (born 1945), the German Neo-Expressionist (Arrase, 2001), together with his peer, George Baselitz (Bn 1938) has emerged.

The idea that paintings are just about pigmentation being put onto a surface, are far too shallow for today’s sophisticated viewer.  I am fascinated by the colours, but I think the most common on this planet, the closest colour that I have found to the Pacific Ocean, being Ultramarine and the closest colour to the Earth itself being Burnt Umber.  I realise also there are many other colours to choose from, but I have decided that a long-term exploration of just this limited palette will enable me to represent everything that I need.  Blue and brown are also associated with mood.  When one is browned off or feeling blue, it says everything about their importance. Having chosen to mix my own blacks through Acrylic paints, I’ve purposefully left some of the blending of these two colours “un-mixed”, in order to capture a sense of speed of deployment, so that the ranges of tones and tonality are represented not only in the traditional greys, but also the underlying blues or browns.
I have also explored other artistic methods such as print (silverpoint via Perspex, Lino-cut, wood-cut) and plaster moulding as experimental methods of representation.
 Whilst further exploration of these methods will be of benefit to my body of work, I feel that for the moment, I will continue to hone the core skills of choice of subject matter, composition and translation as a priority.  This will, in my humble opinion, help me to mature my artistic language and enhance an emerging, more personal and unique signatory style.  The drawing as imitation approach of the learning style taken from the Grand Master / Atelier route has served me well as a foundational step.  However I have consciously moved away from the ‘soft’ psychological boundaries that this method was confining me within.
I have also begun to move outside the representation of the figurative form, (Vanderpoel, 1907), and want to explore a far more contemporary engagement with the quotidian, not only in the selection of subject matter, but also in the depth of enquiry, (Sheringham, 2006).  As a result of some recent experimental works, I am searching for the ambiguity of representation, rather than the imitation of it.  This has led me to use (in a similar vein to Kiefer), additional and perhaps unusual materials to mix together with the pigmenting and suspension medium of acrylic.
My continued fascination with the idea that ‘we all leave something behind’, at whatever moment, be it relatively long (in terms of hours, days, months or even years), or short, (minutes, seconds or fractions thereof), in any place we visit (either physically / geographically, or now, even virtually in the internet-cyberspace), has been gnawing away in my mind.  In the first year I created a piece of work relating to the internet ‘finger-print’ and the notion of it remaining long after we are no longer ‘physically’ present.

 I will therefore not explain in more detail here, (other than the brief adumbration outlined above), all the separate meanings from the components used in my final piece (from my use of domestic dust, waste lint (taken from tumble dryer filters), human hair and other detritus).
The piece is called ‘Comfort’.

The representation is at first glance, possibly a rock or stone? …
But on closer inspection, an old coat, slung upon a chair back.

What does it mean?

 I want the viewer to imagine, to find out for themselves.


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