Wednesday 28 May 2014

Black & White

The facebook page of the Museum of Modern Art informed me that it was Franz Kline's birthday a few days ago, and of course posted a picture of one of his paintings to celebrate. It reminded me of how much I like this painter's work. In general, I have a love for the painterliness of Abstract Expressionism and I think it leaks into my own work, figurative or abstract.

Here is another Franz Kline black and white painting. Is it completely abstract or is it a figure standing on a bridge? Actually, I was taught that "abstract" means "taken from" which is completely different from "non-objective" work that aspires more to music (such as the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky).

The elegy series of Robert Motherwell are another group of abstract paintings using mostly black and white to great effect.

In 1984 I was on holiday in Ireland, visiting my parents, so I was using the minimalist palette of black and white to created postcard size self-portraits. In fact I used old postcards acquired from the local shop of one of my aunts. These two pieces from the series were included in a retrospective show in Wicklow County Buildings in 2005, "Coming of Age: Work from the Past 25+ Years".

I had previously painted a few large pieces (3' x 4') of figures in relation to the canvas solely in black and white, but only the small self portraits have survived from this time period.

At the time, among my music choices was The Stranglers including this song from their album Black & White, "In the Shadows".

I revisited the minimal palette in the early naughties with "There She Goes" a large multi-panelled painting on card. The card panels were painted first with my signature magenta background, which is always allowed to peep through subsequent layers of paint. This piece too was exhibited in the Coming of Age exibition in 2005.

While I love bright colours in my paintings (browns never get a look in), there is also something about the possibilities of limitations which is fascinating. Last year I was completely taken with the Jean Charles Blais exhibition that I saw in Antibes, most expecially the black and white figure paintings.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Poetry, John Cooper Clarke & Mike Garry

A few months ago I was reading an article in Brainpickings about reading and a discussion of the answer to the query "how is one to develop that discerning taste, especially in determining what is worth reading and what is not?" Maria Popova was mostly discussing and asserting Joseph Brodsky's suggested answer of  "read poetry". The arguments were good ones, and I have noted it well. I used to read (and write) a lot of poetry and am determined to re-form this habit. The timing was good as about the same time tickets went on sale for a night with legendary bard John Cooper Clarke at the wonderful venue of Vicar St. in Dublin. My ticket was acquired immediately and magnetised to the fridge door for several months. The event finally took place last Saturday and left a sold out audience in raptures.

Since JCC had put out several albums that I knew from the early 80s, I wasn't sure until arriving at the venue whether or not a band was going to be playing with him. There was a single mike and speaker set up on stage so I knew it was going to be a solo event and got excited -- I was going to hear things as poetry not as songs!

I once lived in a place in Toronto where my friends refused to visit because it reminded them too much of John Cooper Clarke's song "Beasley St". I have been told that this area has been unrecognisably gentrified. so it was with some amusement that I heard JCC's update "Beasley Blvd".

The support act was another poet, Mancunian Mike Garry. I had not heard of him before but he was fantastic also. Here he is in action, with his tribute to Tony Wilson (founder of Factory Records & La Hacienda nightclub in Manchester):

It was a fabulous evening of poetry and a good reminder to me to keep up that habit that Joseph Brodsky recommended. Very appropriately, the night was started with a long walk into Dublin, stopping along the Grand Canal at John Coll's sculpture of Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh .

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Irish Museum of Modern Art Exhibitions

Last Friday I went to Dublin for a morning catching up with the shows at IMMA. I specifically wanted to see the Patrick Scott exhibition before it closed. It has happily been extended to June 22! In the main museum building there were a couple of other exhibitions which were interesting and thought provoking. 

Haroon Mirza's "Are Jee Bee?" filled a series of rooms with sound, video and sound-proofing sponges. The installation recalled club dance scene with it's thumping electronic rythm reverberating through the rooms and re-edited videos. The whole installation overlaid the previous Eileen Gray exhibition didactics which provided a historical layering.

In the other West Wing galleries, the large hallway and adjoining rooms provided lots of space for Sheela Gowda's "Open Eye Policy" retrospective exhibition. A lot of her installations use found objects, such as tarpaulins, oil drums, and dried cow patties.

The exhibition was extensive and also included smaller, intimate drawings and paintings, as well as manipulated photographs.

The Garden Galleries, the IMMA name for the coach house beside the main building, was the last stop before going home, but the main reason for making the trip into Dublin. Patrick Scott's "Image Space Light" exhibition is a major survey of his work from the 1940s to 1970s. The exhibition is set up so that the little hallways between the gallery rooms have display cases of archival ephemera, which are great to see in conjunction with the work.

Scott worked a lot on unprimed canvas, using thin tempera layers. He was adept at reconciling hard lines with soft ephemeral colouring.

His work was always elgant. Sadly, he passed away this past Feb, the day before this exhibition opened. He was a Saoi in Aosdana, the highest honour for an artist in Ireland, and has left an amazing legacy of work.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Fever Afterimages - Monoprints

Over the past few weeks in the studio (when I wasn't in the south of France) I have been experimenting with monoprints, working out some compositions for Fever Afterimages. Using Speedball water-soluble ink (black to keep it simple!) I started out using the smallest glass plate, 7.5 cm x 12.5 cm, and plastic tool to scrape away the lines from the ink.

Here is another sample:

I decided I didn't have enough space to play around, so moved on to the largest plate I have to hand, a piece of plexi-glass 13.5 cm x 21.5 cm.

Still using a plastic modelling tool to create the lines.

I decided to use a small eraser to create various lines:

I worked with the eraser to see what textures I could get:

Using an eraser to get some of the main lines, then I used a plastic modelling tool to draw lines on the back of the print as I was rubbing it with the wooden spoon:

A few nights ago I had an idea to use cut out bits of paper placed on the inked plate to create my compositions. I decided to use my medium sized plate for the following pieces, a glass piece 10 cm x 15 cm. I decided to use the more textured watercolour paper for these

 I have located 2 small pieces of prepped wood and acquired 3 small canvases so will soon start painting using colour!