Sunday, 31 May 2020

Walk Through - Meat and Two Veg

Okay, so here's the bit by bit walk through of a painting I did that's loosely based on a butcher I met in a London supermarket. At the time, I'd quickly doodled him but now I doodled some more and I quickly got the idea that it might be fun to capture the man's big forearms maybe as hams or chicken drumsticks.

I even considered, for a while, doing a kind of Arcimboldo painting with him completely made of meat. But, thankfully I saw reason.

So I got me a canvas and did some scribbling and blocking in. 'Gettingt rid of the white' is almost always the first thing I do after pencilling. I usually then do an under-painting but I didn't in this instance. I kind of drew on the hoof. Oh how I wish I hadn't ... You see, an under-painting shines through your blocking in. Acrylics are only semi-opaque. Pencil doesn't show through. Almost immediately I started slapping the paint on I realised that I'd lost my drawing and had made the forearms waaaay too big. I wanted an exaggeration, yes. But this was Popeye territory.

I also realised that there was something horribly wrong with the sleeves. So, while I thought about how to fix it, I worked on the tiled background and the man's head instead. 

Sometimes you've just got to be brave and make the big changes that are needed. If that means painting out a whole section with white paint and starting again - so be it. Sometimes you may need to chuck the canvas and start over. But that's a bit drastic. You can usually recover your painting and you MUST do so. You need to build on a proper foundation. On the subject of which, it was at this point that I realised that the green counter top he's leaning on was way too high; it looked like he was leaning over a wall. I'd lost my line (again) and painted the green a tile and a half too high. And his left arm and sleeve still weren't right. Out came the white paint again ...

I used Daler Rowney System 3 acrylics for these paintings but I also use Uni's fantastic range of Posca paint pens for highlights and for sketching directly onto the canvas. I used them to mark out where I was going to put all of the meat products, for example. Anyway, I lowered the desktop to elbow height and things began to look better. The underpinning structure seemed pretty much there now. It was time to start painting in the detail. Oh, and to move the hole in the cleaver, which I'd put in the wrong corner. What a numpty. 

Things seemed to go swimmingly for a while. I got most of the butcher figure completed and had made a good start on the meat, having concentrated on the glazed ham centrepiece first. I put it away for the night ... and returned to it next morning with fresh eyes. And saw immediately that I'd painted the criss-cross cuts across the ham incorrectly. They should follow the contour of the ham, not go against it. Sussarussfrassasassin' white paint ...

Hey, I got there, eventually. Here's the finished painting. Replete with a couple of sprouts so I could give the picture a cheeky title.

Well, I say finished ... as Leonardo D Vinci once reputedly said, 'Art is never finished, only abandoned'. I did sell the piece. However, whenever I look at photos of it all I can see is things I want to re-do! Like the hands, for example. Both different sizes and one forefinger is HUGE. There's some oinky perspective mistakes among the bacon too. Grrr.

Oh, and as a couple of people asked, the brushes I use most commonly are Cotman or Royal Taklon brushes. For this painting I used a 5/8ths, 1/2", and size 1, 3 and 5 brushes and Posca pens.

The canvasses are cheap and cheerful ones from The Works. After all, I'm still practising and teaching myself topaint. I'll buy decent canvasses when and if I ever earn any proper money from art!     

So there you go. Another one in the can. And if you're interested in how big it is, here you go:

Rubbish Art 5

A few more great examples of people making wonderful and surprising works of art from everyday object, found items and recycled bits and bobs.

We;ll start with Jennifer Maestre who makes lovely organic-looking shapes by drilling and wiring pencil stubs together. Her website is here.

Stuart Haygarth, meanwhile, constructs elaborate chandeliers from found objects. Here are two examples - one made from articles washed up on the beach and one made from discarded spectacles. They are called, appropriately, Tide and Spectacle.

Stuart's website is here.

Australian artist James Corbett recycles car parts into a range of differently sized sculptures - from life-sized orang-utans to much large than life-sized grasshoppers. His website is here.

More soon!

Pr*cks in Space!

Did you know that there is, allegedly, a secret art show on the Moon?

Legend has it that it was installed on a hatch on a leg of the Apollo 12 landing module Intrepid. And one of the artworks on display is Andy Warhol's ... er ... member.

Artist Forrest ‘Frosty’ Myers tried to arrange for a ‘Moon Museum’ - a small collection of artworks - to be taken to the Moon on Apollo 12 but NASA rejected the idea. He therefore enlisted the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation and did it as guerrilla art. Work by Robert Rauschenberg (a wavy line), Andy Warhol (stylised initials), John Chamberlain (a geometric pattern), Claes Oldenburg (a mouse), David Novros (a square) and Myers (a computer generated shape) were miniaturized and baked onto an iridium-plated ceramic wafer measuring just 3/4" x 1/2" x 1/40", with the assistance of engineer Fred Waldhauer at Bell Labs.

Waldhauer knew an engineer at Grumman - only ever identified as John F - who agreed to attach it to Intrepid. Consequently, it was taken to the Moon where it remains to this day. It was only later that NASA discovered what had happened, and that the supposedly ‘stylised initials’ drawn by Andy Warhol were, in fact, a drawing of a penis. At least 16 Moon Museums were created, making it one of rarest of his 1960s multiples. Here's a better image of the postage stamp-sized 'Museum' where you can see the details more closely:

So, is the story true? NASA has never confirmed it. But, in 2010, the US PBS TV network did a documentary about the alleged lunar artwork and tracked down Apollo 12’s launch pad foreman, Richard Kupczyk, who confirmed that it is indeed on the lander - along with plenty of other smuggled items. 'Apollo was something bigger than life, and we were all part of it,' he said. 'We wanted to leave a mark.' And Frosty Myers is happy to show people a telegram dated 12th November 1969 from 'John F' stating: 'YOUR (sic) ON A.O.K. ALL SYSTEMS GO'. And the event was reported at the time. Two days after Apollo 12 left the moon (and two days before they splashed down) Myers broke the story to The New York Times which ran the article accompanied by a photograph of one of the 'Museums' - with a strategically placed thumb over Warhol's contribution.

If it was a hoax, it has lasted remarkably well and no one has ever managed to successfully debunk the story. I guess we'll only truly know the truth when we return to the Moon and someone goes and checks.

But I hope it's true. I really hope it's true.

One small willy for a man, one cheeky act for Mankind.

The Challenging Sculptures of Patricia Piccinini

Somewhere between fine art, movie special effects and dreams lies the work of Australian artist Patricia Piccinini. Her sculptures are extraordinarily realistic, which adds to their strangeness. Personally I love them.

What she's doing, of course, is showing us that anything that challenges our perceptions of 'normal' can seem grotesque and uncomfortable. She's whacked the 'difference' knob up to 11 to bring us face-to-face with our own prejudices and conceptions of 'normality'.

There's a lot more of her work on her website here. And there's a great article on her work here in The Guardian.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Gallery Visit - GOMA, Glasgow

I've been to the Glasgow-based Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) many times and I have to say that it's a curious building; it looks huge from the outside but feels quite small inside like an inverted TARDIS. Of course, the statue in front is one of Glasgow's most famous modern landmarks.

Now ... while I'm the last person to want to stereotype people, much less nationalities, much of the artwork on display does have a ... well ... 'dour' quality to it. For example, here are a few I snapped:

Children's Books Don't Count (2013) Lotte Gertz

Dr Strangelove (2013) Andrew Kerr

Representational Error (2013) Tony Swain

See what I mean? That's not to say I didn't like a lot of it. But it was all rather dun coloured. Or bleak. Another piece consisted entirely of plaster heads in baskets as if freshly guillotined.

However, not all of the art is quite so maudlin. There are some very colourful and joyful pieces too, And on one of my trips, I discovered the Eric and Jean Cass gift of sculptures and other art by the late Niki de Saint Phalle. Immediately you see her work, the world is a better place. With her brightly-coloured chubby figures, her dragons, cows and devils, and her dancing couples all around you, you can't help but smile. It's the complete opposite of most of the other art I saw.

de Saint Phalle became a model but developed an interest in sculpture and architecture - particularly the work of Gaudi and Ferdinand 'Le Facteur' Cheval. Whilst in hospital recovering from a serious nervous breakdown, she started making collages from pebbles, leaves and found materials and began to develop her own style through the combination of painting and assemblage. She began producing her first paintings in 1950. This led to assemblages in plaster and her 'shooting paintings'. These pictures were plaster with containers of paint beneath the surface which would explode when she shot them. More sculptural work followed and in 1965, she created her first 'Nana'. These large, voluptuous and brightly painted female figures were made originally from chicken wire and wool or fabric and later in polyester.

She also designed stage sets and costumes, created movies, furniture and large-scale sculptures, fountains and parks including the Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, Golem in Jerusalem, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in California and Grotto in the Royal Gardens in Hannover. Her most ambitious project was the Tarot Garden near Tuscany which took 20 years to complete. Her highly original form of self-expression helped her to overcome her personal crisis and health problems, and throughout her life, art became her means of coming to terms with feelings, emotions, dreams and nightmares. You can see the nightmare aspect in some of her darker works which, frankly, sometimes look like the work of another artist. Here's her Great Devil and the truly odd Altar to a Dead Cat, also both at GOMA.

I was so taken with her work, I even invested in a couple of prints. I was tempted to buy the giant inflatable 'nana'. But where would I put it?

The exhibition has moved on now but there are still a couple of her pieces there.

I was also delighted to see, when I visited last year in 2019, that Beryl Cook has now appeared in the gallery. And about time too. She was a wonderful artists and seriously underrated by the snobbier art critics. It was lovely to see her among the Hockneys and Warhols.

Another piece I particularly enjoyed was this amazing and huge photograph by Nick Waplington. Untitled (1995) gives a snapshot of life on a council estate in Sheffield and it's painfully honest. There are so many details to spot.

So there you go. Hope you enjoyed your little tour around GOMA with me. One thing that was a delight to see was how many parties of school children there were on site. Nice also to see them using new technology to enhance the experience. They were being asked by their teachers to find a piece they particularly liked and then do a short video - using iPads - to introduce the artwork and the artist and then explain what they liked and why. What a great idea.

Always fascinating, always surprising. If you get the chance, go and visit.

Website here.