Part 5: Stage 1: Review

Returning to the earlier parts of the course has been quite a journey. I started with looking through all the images and selecting those that still spoke to me the loudest. I ended up with 70 images. What was fascinating was noticing how the most recent work has a clear line of development from the very first work of crumpling the paper.

I’ve printed these images off as tiny thumbnails so that I can trace this line and analyse what interests me, so that I can then decide what and how to push the work. I would also like to refine this large volume of images into a few. I need to think, what would I exhibit to explain my enquiry. Part of me thinks one entire room, bare, empty, echoing except for the wounded shirt hanging from a simple wire hanger. Nothing else. No drama. No explanation. Just presentation. Here it is. You can see this.

After looking at the images I charted the most interesting lines of research. These seem to trace from Michaux (asemic text and poetry) to Matta to Kandinsky in one direction, then Louise Bourgeois to Tracey Emin to Egon Schiele, to Gustav Klimt and Elzbieta Kazmierczak to the German Expressionists. I have also been considering what elements of these works and the processes and philosophies behind the work particularly interest me. I’ve come up with a list (Julia I’m trying to learn from your organisation skills):

experimental, expressionist, distressed surfaces/process, expressive, gestural, tensions, line, layer, motion tracing/sensing/tracking, emotion, giving form to interior language/surface/life’, not predictable.

Key words that emerge in my thinking on this: raw/passionate/vulnerable.

I thought of the processes that have spoken to me: layering, back-printing/monoprinting/3D printing writing, crumpling, distressing, denaturing, contrasting, complex, tearing, network, map, binding, wrapping, concealing, revealing, holes, wounds, suprasemic text, transparency, soldering, scratched, pierced, burned, stained, scarred, stitched, visceral.

Then in my on-going reading on Tracey Emin I discovered this concept introduced by Roland Barthes: the ‘grain of voice’. Which means the ‘materiality of the body speaking its mother tongue’. And lo! I have my answer!

How do I, Lottie, give materiality to my body, my inner language, what language does it speak in: pain? poetry? emotion? gesture?

This seems an interesting line of enquiry. How do I externalise the inner language of my concealed surfaces?

Research and exhibitions

My three muses around which I have centred my research are Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin and Elka Kazmierczak. Researching the works, the process and inspiration behind these artists’ creations has led to many connections that I’ve followed up: significantly the work of the German Expressionists – in the case of Emin, Egon Schiele, with Kazmierczak – the German Expressionist woodcuts in particular. Then I’ve looked at the collaboration between Emin and Bourgeois.

It was inevitable in my research of Emin that I had to look at the work of Billy Childish. I have never liked the man or his work. He’s been part of my locality for most of my life and I have always found him, his art, his music, his poetry abhorrent. My local gallery has an exhibition of his work on so I forced myself to go and see whether I had changed my view and if not to see if I could nail down what it is that I hate about it.

Keep in mind that contiguous to this research has been my own research into trauma, its impact on the human body and brain and its emergence in my work and what it means for myself and my art. This has led me to research Bessel’s work in this field, leading me to follow up ideas born in Darwin and developed with Porges, making links with my previous research on the inner language of the mind and its representation in the work of Henri Michaux and his parallel Matta.

I am aware that my three influences share an autobiographical subject for their work. This speaks to me about human value and personal integrity. None of these artists could be described as sentimental or commonplace. Oftentimes I read of works of these types being labelled as ‘confessional’. I resent this term. It is derogatory and subtly demeaning. What has Emin to confess? A rape, childhood abuse – should this be seen as confession? Really? Asking for forgiveness?

No.

I wonder if anyone who has been abused could accept this term. Confessional is another way of supressing the responsibility we are challenged with as audience to these works. Confession leads one to consider the artist as ‘owning up to some wrong doing in order to be reconciled with the rest of the community’. It is an alienating term.

No.

Not confessional. Brutal, bare naked truth, intimate, seeking address and notice.

I have found the recent exercises trite in the face of the subject matter that is emerging in my work. The exercises are commonplace, surface oriented and feel purely exterior – something that I now recognise in Billy Childish’s work – the very essence of artifice that repels me. Marketable skills and production. Technique, pattern – nothing that reflects anything of the artist to me (or in terms of my own exercises: nothing that allows me to reflect myself). At least though I can now put words to what I reject in Childish’s works and thereby what I hope to remove in my own.

I have been in my head and under my skin battling with various demons recently. I wrote in my journal earlier in the month that ‘art is the skin to life’s gristle.’ I wanted to put this into action today, drawing on the visual research I’ve been undertaking.

Looking at Emin’s monoprints, reading about her process and needing to get out of my head and back on the surface of my skin I decided to have a go at some monoprints too. I used the back-drawing technique using the end of a paintbrush so that I couldn’t see the trace but could only feel the mapping of my view. In utter frustration at my local adult education having axed life drawing from their course directory I decided to simplify matters. Emin’s signature style is ‘repeating painfully intimate details’ (pg 78 ‘The Art of Tracey Emin’ ed. Merck & Townsend, Thames and Hudson 2002), ‘one poncif is her depiction of the open legs…a charged element’ (pg 76) ‘stripped of her clothes and reduced from a figurative element to a semantic one’ (pg 75) which is where Emin and Kazmierczak meet. If it is here that my influences meet, then to feel what they are working with and to see if it can be a powerful element in my own hands I set to. I cannot bear to look at myself in photos or a mirror. I feel alien to my body as if I don’t quite inhabit it. How can I teach my daughters to treasure and value their own bodies if I am so separate from mine. How can I show that the wounds are more than surface, that they alter self-perspective and should never be something that require confession or seek penance. They are a truth of me. What can be more true than my own skin. What bears every imprint of every moment I have ever lived. My body. I refuse to be commonplace. I refuse to be sentimental. I refuse to be afraid.

Annette Kuhn: ‘Though perhaps for those of us who have learnt silence through shame, the hardest thing of all is to find a voice: not the voice of the monstrous singular ego but one that, summoning the resources of the place we come from, can speak with eloquence of, and for, that place.’ (A. Kuhn, ‘Family secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination, London: Verso, 1995)

This is my body, speaking through my hand. Prints of the imprinted.

I select these three prints below as the most successful of the print run, since they hold the most fluency and intimacy, yet retaining something of the influence of Emin translated through my own hand.

Something very strange and unanticipated emerges in this following print – but it is a something that needs investigating further. It seems to hold both the figurative and semantic, as well as narrative, something concealed yet self-exposed. Significantly, there seems to be something very menacing about the odd curved pincer that is central (goodness only knows how that came to be?!).

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(See Bibliography page for texts)

T1: MMT: Pt 4; pj1: ex2

I thought it would be healthy to do this exercise: 1) It is using up a lot of brain space not wanting to do it; 2) it might be wise to do something process orientated since much as I know I would like to keep poking at the hurt bit that I’ve found, it’s probably a good idea just to cradle it for a little.

Rather than chosing from my sketchbook I decided to combine some of the image and influence research with this exercise to help give it some weight. In the days of mass produced prints, home copying and laser printing, a monoprint drawing makes absolutely no sense to me. If it’s my drawing why add another process in – if I can paint it, why paint it to a plate and then print it to paper/fabric? I kind of see the value in printing to stabilised fabric as the plate retains a certain amount of paint so the fabric doesn’t become too saturated.

Anyhow, I though it healthy and wise and went for the first painting which always offers me solace, and with the prominence of blue has a calming and stabilising effect on the expression of the last couple of days.

The painting is Casper David Friedrich’s ‘Monk by the Sea’.

I needed to mix my blues first and then work fast painting in strips of colour. I omitted the fine details but It did make me look even closer at the image of the picture I had.

First print and ghost print:

I was surprised how much more I could paint today before it was too dry to print, since the weather is cooler and more damp.

I then chose a contrasting mood. Sickert’s ‘Lazarus’. I think the connection to my recent work doesn’t need spelling out. I had to leave out the pink and red tones in the painting as the work was drying rapidly – is this something to do with green pigment?

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From left to right – ‘Lazarus’ image that I laid gelliplate over – thereby resulting in mirror image. Hardly any acrylic left for ghost print.

Finally, I’ve been continuing to look at the work of Elka Kazmierczak and have started to research her influence (German Expressionists) so I looked to the work of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and his work ‘Gap in the Dyke’. At first I misread the title as ‘Gap in the Dark’ and read the picture with this in mind. It was only when I cam to annotate my samples that I realised my mistake and created a different narrative. Point being the massive impact of titles! I missed the figures completely in my copy! I was so interested in the movement of the lines of colour and getting the orange/red mix just right that I missed them.

As can be seen below the ghost print is almost non-existent. I am concluding that different pigments have a different drying rate – or the large sweeps of paint in the Friedrich print prevented it drying so quickly. I know you can get acrylic medium to solve this.

It was a healthy exercise simply working with colour and pigment. But I don’t quite get the point of it… one more sample and I can move to ex 3 which inspires me more in its unpredictability and freedom.

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T1: MMT: Pt4; Pj 1 – monoprint series

There seems to be a mini series developing here and it won’t leave me, so as it gains momentum and an energy of its own I will follow. I am wholly unentranced with ex2 and if it is a reaction against this exercise that is in its turn creating this series, then it has been successful in encouraging the monoprinting required of this project.

I’ve continued to paint the plate with water, then sprinkled brusho colours – the first print I take is on acetate and this then blends the water and powder. I wondered how the plaster would take up this print and used the ‘meat bag’ from part 3 and rolled it over the plate to pick up the print.

It was interesting to note that a pinkish waterline crept up the sample and the brown became the predominant colour. The plaster immediately absorbs the paint and so there are more precise lines and speckles of colour – not the marbling and flow that is the experience on the acetate. It also seems to isolate the colours – e.g. the red splodge seems to cancel out any other colour.

A trip to Barnardo’s came up trumps though. finding an alpaca sweater for £2 and a silk top for the same I immediately siphoned off the silk top for sampling rather than wearing. I don’t know what story this shirt has but it is pristine, it looks hardly worn and is as clean as if it were for a washing powder advert. This made me consider about outward appearances be-lying inward truths. My psych used to tell me to stop swallowing all the bad stuff into myself in order to neutralise it, because it would grow again and make me sick. I thought I had no anger – but that has since surfaced in the wrapping sampling of part 3 – I also felt that I had absorbed all the violence and it would not re-surface. Urm. I think the current series shows that she was right and I was wrong. Neutralising it internally does not make it go away. It has to be purged. Perhaps this series is part of that process?

I’ve been reading Tracey Emin’s ‘Strangelands’ and her confessional and abrupt tone is a real strength. It’s made me realise that although there may be many, many damaged people trying to piece it all together through what should be intolerable circumstances, it is not the damaged, the harmed who are sick. It is those who prey on them. I got angry for her too. And I realised, all those words that were said to me are still inside and are imprinted on my soul. It’s like they are a trap to the light getting in and out. Like a net of words around my heart trying to keep it and my life small. I was deeply affected by a dream I had that I was trying to get out of a car that had gone into the ditch in the floods. I was on my own and I realised my legs were caught in a net and the more I tried to wriggle free the more net I discovered was around me. I was supposed to stay still and not struggle and go down without a fight – the plastic line round my neck  got tighter and tighter the more I fought and I kept looking up wanting to shout but the water got in my throat and choked me awake.

I think this stuff needs to come out!!

Following the process that has refined into: gelliplate, brush on water, sprinkle brown and scarlet brusho, lay acetate, smear colours then lift, then take subsequent prints; I used some of the fabric from Nina and found a triangular bandage from the first aid kit (there were 3 in the kit and I figured with only 2 arms that I could spare 1!!) to print on.

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Letting these dry I thought about what I could do with the silk top and played with various ideas and the dried materials from the last print run.

This all felt very safe and predictable. The thought was leading the composition rather than the materials and intention coming together and directing.

I haven’t printed to silk, and I have pristine white silk to hand – it felt deliciously wrong to print to damp untainted silk with wild abandonment. I set up the process as above then lay the front of the wet blouse to the plate. Again, the abdominal area is speaking to me as the place this wound resides.

The prints were delicious and incredibly the stain didn’t make its way through to the back – which still looks faultless and impeccable. There is much metaphor for me in this – that saying ‘behind closed doors’, but significantly what it tells me is there isn’t an exit ‘wound’ – it has to come out.

Inger has sent me some links to Nava Lubelski who embroiders stains and I wondered if the influence of the research on this that I did following the tip off (thanks Inger) was going to come out on this piece.

It had other ideas.

I had discovered too in the way that research goes, that Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois had collaborated on a very hard-punching series. The things we’d really rather not see and say made explicit.

I remember many placating words. These alienated me from people then and infuriate me now.

Never, never tell someone how they should feel. Ever.

Trying to layer up the meaning with the materials:

A bubbling irritation made me want to rip the shirt, to make holes in it and layer that hidden hurt behind and beneath. Then I remembered the heat gun… and how in previous feedback it had been suggested to revisit this one day.

That day was today.

I layered on the printed bandage and scrim to ‘soak up’ the pain that was going to be released. But, oh my goodness how long does silk take to burn?!! Highest setting of an industrial heat gun (thank you Mr Man), nozzle held mm from the surface of the fabric and I waited and waited – there was a lesson here for me – I had suppressed every reaction to avoid igniting any further fury, I had stopped talking (I know incredible isn’t it?!) in order not to say anything, because every word I said was used as a weapon against me. I had stopped showing anger, fear, hurt, happiness, I simply waited and waited in a tightly coiled spring ready to escape when that chance arrived. The slow burn seemed symbolic of this, and in the end it didn’t smoke or flame it just burnt out all the colour from the print, then made a singe mark which, when touched with the lightest pressure, fell apart. Hmm. I patched up this hole with my sacrificial dictionary. Still on ‘h’ I found ‘haven’ – so I made this crumbling point safe. The fabrics are pinned – I’m not sure yet whether to leave this or stitch it. It’s not speaking to me enough about that yet.

I’ve given this piece the title of something someone once said to me when my soul was bleeding, and at a point when, like the burnt silk, I could have disintegrated in a breath, ‘It’s not that bad – you haven’t even got a bruise.’

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Considerations pre-Part 4

I’ve been stalling a little before I start this part as I had to have a mental shift.

Living in a house of girls, teenage girls predominantly, print is big this season. I feel overwhelmed, saturated, sensory-overload at the exposure to printed clothing, scarfs, bags, books, pens… that I have been immersed in. I don’t do shops. I get overwhelmed and living in a village, I get a bit Johnny Country Mouse when I go into town. But when there are birthday voucers to be spent, the tri-annual pilgrimage descends. Wow, there is so much print out there! It has been like being back in Hell n’ Earth (toys r us) for me. Too much colour, too much for sale, too high shelves, too full shelves, groaning commerce, too much noise, too many flashing lights. I feel sick with it in the same way you do when you’ve eaten too many sweets. All systems overload.

So, I’ve had to wait for the sick feeling to settle so I can look at this project with unsated eyes.

I have sketched with black ink, a fine brush, fine lines – a bit like a drawing diet of toast and water in an effort to clear and settle my senses.

Top left was trying to explain what happens when I returned from town: bubbles, invasive hit lines, and so much mental noise. The cat on the right helped settle me, she stayed put so I could draw her simpler yet. 4 lines. The other curves sketched in the bottom left were lines that I used to recentre me and reground me. I wanted to see if it worked both ways – that I coud project my energy on to the page, but also if I could project a desired state on to the page and in drawing it absorb it. I’m going to experiment with this further.

 

T1: MMT: Pt 3 Research cont.d

The exciting result of sharing my learning on the blog and on the forum is that my eyes suddenly get extended to others’ eyes across the globe.

A big thank you to Inger and Jennifer who scouted out 2 inspiring artists that I most certainly have appreciated looking at and would never have known about otherwise.

Firstly, looking at the work of Claude Heath, particularly his drawings and notably his landscape drawings that utilise acrylic on a transparent ground. I also was intrigued by his graphic work ‘Waterfalls’ which is supported by a video here. I like that he studied philosophy before he turned his mind to creating art. He plays with the perception of 2-D and 3-D. I am fascinated by his discussion on this work and how his work is created to hope to understand water better – that he is attracted to something that as he describes, cannot be completely comprehended. Perhaps what I am searching for is a grasp at something else that cannot be comprehended: our inner language. ‘You can always use drawing to extend other question for other people in other realms.’ His blindfold drawings speak to me on a textural level and a familiar level. They are like the big brother of where my sketches are growing. He discusses 3d technology as a freeing restraint. And I am smitten by his use of the term ‘enquiry’. We talk the same language here. I feel less lonely in my thinking.

Which takes me on to my next soul-partner in creativity. I have always felt that ideas can be pulled out of ourselves, pulled through, but they are pulled through us as from another place. The picture I have in my head is pulling strings from us, the thread of an idea, it can pull from your heart or your mind or your belly, put it pulls and catches like a fishing line or net, as it passes through us it picks up the catch – slivers of sliver fish ideas, lumps of tangled seaweed memories, snapping claws of unhealed hurts, yet you keep pulling. it is not pulled out from us but pulled through use. Those threads originate outside of ourselves. Many of us at the same time can grasp these threads or be grasped by these threads) and pull them into being through ourselves, through our internal translation, and yet on the other side of the country someone can be pulling through similar concepts and questions and enquiries that reverberate since they are from the same part of the same source, but materialise with slight differences due to the individual they pass through. This is one of the reasons I am curious as to what you get to if you keep looking further and further into ideas for their source, their original language. Steven G Bonfield and I must have been pulling from the same sea or inspiration. Not only is his work a fusion of text and form, but he has created works that CAN BE TOUCHED. How long have I ranted about this?! My concern for playgrounds, art that can be handled and climbed over and through and INTERACTED with – other than on a visual, cerebral level.

Jennifer sent me some photos from his exhibition ‘The Language Landscape’ that she visited here. In the supporting text she mailed me it states how  he ‘makes interactive paintings and sculptures filled with or covered by writing….whose physical characteristics are indivisible from the poem.’ His Artist’s Statement calls to me like one of my pack:

‘I sometimes feel that I am primarily constructed out of language. The skins and bone and gristle of me is real but not as real (or as me) as the words that I speak and think with. My work is an attempt to get inside this world of language. To explore language materially and as a web of subjective connections. I’m not so interested in sharing my thoughts on language or aesthetics. I’m attempting to share my experience of them.’

With this statement he becomes another piece of the jigsaw of me, some bits fitting flush others sticking out where I stick in and not all edges touching, but definitely the next piece.

Now to hunt him down!!

 

 

 

Research

Discovered Miriam Londono on a Web hunt and inspired by her paper writing books I had a go at 3d written book pages. I had to interlink the writing somewhat in order to give the pages structure and it was tricky to photograph to show pages.  But my results so far cast the inner surface of a written page without the paper ground.

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Bibliography:
http://www.miriamlondono.com/