DJCAD Reflective Research Journal – Week Five

I worked some more on the pink plaster genital people but then put them aside for now. I also finished the paper-cut-out-people-dipped-in-plaster-and-set-with-the-burning-paper-house-between-them. I recently bought, a set of little toy painted wooden buildings and farm animals in a charity shop, because they were the same as a set I’d had as a child, which was lost in the fire. I placed one of the little houses within the curve of the plaster fire and with its red roof and black windows it stood out clearly on the white scene. I painted the ply wooden base of the whole scene white, then dripped black ink around its edges. A little cliched, angsty and gothic maybe, but it looked less anaemic and angelic after this. I made a short 30 second electronic sound piece to go with it, made with chopped up bits of another song I had written about shadow behaviour and the fire. Then I presented this at our group crits. I deliberately made it untitled because I didn’t want to influence people’s reactions and any title I gave, would have been too revealing.

The crits. were really useful, I felt. Both for the practice of thinking of things to say about other people’s work and for what people had to say about mine.

People said the sound piece was sinister and they liked the layers and the voices coming in and out. Someone said the figures looked benevolent and almost like protectors of the house and that the windows of the house were black, so maybe the people inside were asleep and that there was a sense of danger from the music. Someone else connected up the black of the windows with the dripping black on the base and said it was like there was a darkness seeping out; a sense of something bad. Suggestions were made about projecting images onto the white of the scene and having the sound on a loop.

Having made three stretchers for canvas on Tuesday morning, (glued board on them instead), I started looking for art documentaries on contemporary painters for inspiration on where to go next with the painting, to take me away from the angsty expressionism. I came across Dana Schutz, who I follow on Instagram and watched one of her lectures and then found a book about her in the library. It was interesting hearing about her methods and where her ideas come from. She spends hours, sometimes days, mixing her colours (oil paint), a whole palette ready to use, then wraps it in plastic and submerges in water to keep them wet. Her ideas come from bizarre thoughts and she typically uses no reference pictures. I think maybe the pink of her Frank series (The last man on earth, wandering around naked and sun burnt) decided the start of my palette for the first painting I did on the boards. She mentioned artists she liked, who I then looked up; Laura Owen, Martin Kippenburger, Philip Guston. Lots of ideas and inspiration here.

I wanted to do the shadow symbols as more solid looking shapes, as they had been completely 2D up to this point. So, I made them fleshy pink, faceless (if they had faces), but mostly they just had an extra set of genitals. I wanted to title it something along the lines of “faces have been removed to protect identities” or “genitals have been changed to protect identities” or “genitals have been added to make my point” or “my shadow made me paint this”. They are not as anatomically explicit as Carroll Dunham’s pictures and are more like fantastical creatures. But they have come out too beautiful, I think I want them to be uglier. I can’t seem to get away from aesthetically pleasing.

I started feeling, as I often do, that producing useless art objects is self-indulgent and wasteful, that it’s an illusion that we understand anything and that trying to make sense of out behaviour is pointless and ridiculous. More research on Jung’s shadow and shadow behaviour.

I did some further research into Cleon Petersons work, whom Mark had mentioned a week or two back and discovered that the main idea behind his work was Jung’s shadow! Made me realise how important it is to have a historical and contemporary context for your work and makes me feel silly for thinking I can still have an original idea.

A liked a quote from Dan Nadel, read out at the start of the conversation between Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons: ‘Attempting to render that, which it is to be human is an absurd task, which makes it all the more urgent.’

From trying to find more Carroll Dunham documentaries, I discovered an artist who films his visits to New York’s Museums and Exhibitions; James Kalm. Through him, I am discovering a whole lot more American painters and sculptors. He has a lot of interesting things to say and mentions artists he thinks are influences on the work he is examining or who’s work it reminds him of. Mentioned artists who I have so far researched are Richard Diebenkorn, James Lasker and Sean Skully.

Paintings have always been the kind of art which most speak to me and excite me. But Some sculpture (as mentioned above) is catching my interest too. Particularly if its bright coloured. Is this because it’s aesthetically pleasing? Which is a bit shallow of me; or because as I have said before, because I have been corrupted by colour? The more toxic or synthetic the better.

Some of the artists I have recently discovered on Instagram are, Louise Bonnet, Rebecca Morgan, Paul Chan, Melanie Daniel, Sarah Sze and Laura Clay. The first three are exploring subject matter similar to mine and Paul Chans nylon windsock people, moved by electrically produced air are mesmerising, but make me question the sustainability of the materials/resources used to produce them. Melanie Daniel explores issues of climate change and the last two make work quite different to mine but are very innovative and inventive. To be honest, I have not found an artist yet who is not using environmentally suspect materials and methods, myself included, except Andy Goldsworthy (and maybe a handful of others), though I have not specifically researched artists working sustainably. Maybe this should be my next task. Why is art such a free for all of toxic materials? Do we have to be so damaging in our creativity?

The latest painting, I have started, is exploring the shadow through our use of alcohol in the form of gatherings of beer bellied men in pubs. Its painted on high-energy-produced-toxic-formaldehyde-VOC-imbued-MDF, primed with petroleum-based-plastic-polluting-acrylic-gesso-and-paint.

I always want to explore this more in my work, but it’s so difficult without being cliched and attacking and hypocritical.

I worked a lot on the research for my critical and contextual studies essay, this week and last week and did a good bit of the writing. I have at long last, got a clear idea of what academic writing is now (I think).

This week, the artists talk was by Jasmina Cibic. She delivered vast amounts of information energetically, wittily and very fast. It was hard to take it all in, but it was a great insight into former Yugoslavia and its politics. She makes immersive performances using multiple disciplines. She explores, among other things; self-power and the shadow of power in architecture and she quoted someone who said ‘strive to be distinctive, rather than original’ which I like, in light of my Cleon Peterson discovery.

I have made a start to the fire book, in a small readymade sketchbook, rather than concertina book, to try out ideas and having now made the sound piece, next week, I mean to hire a video camera, (or use my phone camera to start with) book some time in the little white room we have been told we can use, (for trying out installation/exhibition ideas) and make a short video of the piece I presented at the crit. And also, maybe try something out with the shadow puppets. I should take some time to draw out a story board first and possibly make some more figure puppets. But as I write this, I am not sure whether I really want to do this, or if I would rather explore these ideas in painting? I like the idea of using 3D objects I have made or even 2D paper cut outs, rendered 3D with solid materials, or just bending card into sculptural objects and using these as the reference material for a painting.

But if I was to really try to get away from contributing to the production of toxic materials and preventing waste, then shouldn’t I look into using found objects, rubbish, non-recyclables etc? Doing this wouldn’t even have to restrict my addiction to colour. Am I still also hooked on the need to display traditional painting skills, drawing ability or craftspersonship? (Though other methods don’t necessarily have to rule these out either). But would I not still be creating useless objects, even if they were made of waste? I have got to get away from thinking art is useless, otherwise why am I even here?

Enjoying this process and all my research but feeling self-indulgent with it.

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