Stewart Geddes lecture 20/10/14

This Monday’s lecture by Stewart Geddes was very intense and really helpful. In addition to the fact that he uses paint and therefore there were elements of process which were of more specific interest to me, there was an overview of how his studio practice has developed over several decades to which he gave us a really interesting insight as to how that can happen. In this case how a ‘crisis’ in his practice evolved and allowed him to go in new directions. This is really useful at this stage where we are in a sense  ‘unpicking’ what we do.

These are the things I chose to reflect on:

The idea of making a painting into an object. Geddes changed to wood as a support as it is more resistant to his process of removing and scratching away than canvas for example. He has also chosen to alter the shape of the support and reference contemporary objects such as ipads. I am interested in the connection between the painting and the object and seeing paintings as objects in this way.

The idea of the unstable sign. This was present in Geddes’ work in the process of ‘decollage’  for which he referred to Jacques Villeglé and Raymond Hains

raymond-hains-et-jacques-villegle-ach-alma-manetro-fevrier-1949  Ach Alma Manetro 1949

This is present in his process of adding and taking  away. so continually modifying both his ‘found’ signs and his own constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed ones. In a world where most agree that signs are extremely relative he takes this idea one step further in his practice. It is interesting that his other practices of found paintings and photographic work follow a very different process. It was especially useful to see how he unpicked the process of one painting for us. He showed many stages of transformation of this piece. One of the most memorable statements he made was how when he was seduced by one element of a painting he painted over it. This is especially interesting in the light of watching the interview on VL2 with Tomma Abts who says that the more developed a painting is the more difficult it becomes to totally change everything as she risks losing everything. I think we have all felt that so I am impressed by Geddes’s discipline. I tend to remove or paint over parts of my work that are not working and therefore become unbearable. This stage of the presentation was probably the most useful and enjoyable for me as a practitioner. Although I work very differently it was a great insight a made me question how I choose to edit my work.

Geddes’s ability to change his practice when he had a successful career as a painter is also really significant and opened up new ways of working. The use of photography focusing on the ruin of buildings from his own lifetime and the urban environment he lives with and found paintings which are again objects that he exhibits alongside his paintings and photographs. This mixture of practices which seem very separate in terms of process create another discourse when placed together. I suppose therefore illustrating the instability of the sign even further. I found that Tanya’s question about why he needed to paint when he could make the photograph really resonated with me. Tanya’s photographs she showed at this point were really impressive. As Man Ray said

‘I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence’

What Tanya’s and other good photographs have is that existence and something else I think but I have to be careful as I am very much out of my depth here. I did observe, however, that painting still seems to be Geddes’s main practice and the other elements are important but support the painting, add to it even,  rather than protagonise his studio work. But I am a painter.

The drawings. It was really great to see the drawings that Geddes shared as part of the presentation. I would personally have loved to have seen more of them. As is often the case they show most of the process and have an energy that few final pieces of work ever achieve. I regret not asking him about exhibiting the drawings and how they fit in with the other strands of his practice.

We were really lucky to get this chance to listen to Stuart Geddes and be able to ask him questions, he was a very generous lecturer.


Crying – development of series 18/10/14

I spent part of the weekend experimenting with inks and trying to decide on the composition and selection of images for the crying series. I need a range of people of different races, ages and a gender balance, I am not sure of whether I want the full faces or cropped as I have a real variety of sources and so I need to make some decisions.

These are approx 25 x 25 cm squares of korean paper and indian ink.

IMG_0001              IMG_0003         IMG_0002            IMG_0005       IMG_0006             IMG_0008            IMG_0011          IMG_0012              IMG_0007           IMG_0013

I am thinking I need to find a balance between emptiness (white paper or blank support) and detail. As usual the crucial question of when they are finished. I need to decide on the cropping of the images – how much to crop.

It seems practical to choose a small format to make sketches next week – half term – when I will be traveling a lot and then translate onto wood/canvas when I return. The advantage of the wood would be I can continue to work and erase, however I have to be careful not to overdo it.  I will start by cropping all the images as I have quite a few that work that way relatively successfully such as:

DSC_0126 - Versión 2  acrylic on board 40 x 40 cm

I will focus on the composition and balance over the half term along with preparing for the next Task.

The lost Communities

I tried a new way of drawing this on transparent plastic – I ended up with less plastic so chose a section and a variety of ideas. The original idea was that I wanted to draw directly onto a wall. But my walls are too small (original drawing idea is 3m) I couldn’t use indian ink on the plastic so the experiment is permanent marker and black acrylic. the white squares are added behind the plastic – some are painted in acrylic and others are paper stuck on.

12de octubre      difficult to photograph due to the sun reflecting on the plastic.

olvidados 11:10:14        olvidados details    olvidados det2

This is just a section showing both the marker and paint as you can see the dotted line is rather light. Also I need to take into account that my wall is rather unusual. I need to photograph on white background. It might be less interesting on a white wall. Maybe I need to make a wall texture or just take it out onto the street.

I like the idea of making the 20×20 ‘heads’ separately and drawing the lines on a wall directly. I might get the opportunity soon as have been invited to show in a local artist run space – small but flexible I think.

Post take 2 influences

Yesterday in the studio I decided to take the work from this project a bit further and try some of the suggestions and ideas I didn’t get time to do in the time limit.

I wanted to make it more 3D and in particular to break out of the rectangle / square format. The idea of a ‘holiday’ and making something outside of my normal studio practice really appealed to me. Also I got some really useful suggestions from my cohort: More layering, japanese brushwork, carving, embroidery, burning, distance etc etc I took the experiment I liked least and kept going with it.

take 2

I don’t think it works, but it has given me a lot of ideas. I shall continue to take ‘holidays’.

I realize that I really want to make bigger color work and that I probably do want to paint but the idea of an exercise in no splashing or brushes is great as is the idea of stitching.

What is History Painting Today?

This is the question Angela posed in my tutorial and I would like to make an initial response. I will then ask others what they think. My first reaction in the tutorial was that it must be on the street as street art seems to make the most direct comments on current events and often suggests a narrative. However, I suspect that might have also been because I am keen to do something on the street and therefore thought it would fit neatly in with my plans.

I have therefore begun to question what history painting was. Who commissioned it? For whom and to whom did it speak? Generally it seems to have come to mean large scale figure painting which depicted specific historical events. I always think of it as including a moment in narrative which can include stories most commonly from the bible or classical mythology. It is a tradition in western art which sometimes showed contemporary events as if they were from classical times with greek/roman clothing etc. The general consensus seems to be that it originates during the renaissance, was important in 17th and 18th centuries and declined in the 19th century. It is now questioned whether the ‘disappearance’ of the genre coincides with the end of history itself (Green).

It became the official language of the academies of many european countries; it was at the top of the hierarchy of genres. It was patronised by state, church and monarchy: therefore had a huge authority. I think this was my reason for wanting to give the ‘workers’ this level of importance. I also, going back to previous themes in my work, always wanted to give the unknown people doing unremembered deeds that status and importance.

The 17th 18th century audience for history painting I imagine would have been a relatively élite one. With art galleries not open to the public until after the french revolution, and in many cases during the ‘time’ of history painting I don’t imagine a wider public. The official art of today could be seen as that commissioned by governments – public art which commemorates events. But is it narrative?

1987 – Tragic and Timeless Today: Contemporary History Painting – See more at:

Is an exhibition from the 80s which includes artists such as James McGarrell and Mark Tansey along with Nancy Spero and Leon Golub whose work I was already aware of. Spero is adding women to the story however the artists are mainly figurative painters (reemerging in the 80s) and mainly men all dealing with different concerns.

David Green – History Painting Reassessed (2000)

I came across this book which could be interest and browsed the first few pages online: It proposes that history painting died with history. It examines the work of artists such as Jeff Wall, Louise Bourgeois and Gerhard Richter in the way they deal with history in post history.

Take 2 Influences 5


The experiments turned out like this:

exp 1experiment 1 exp 2 28:9experiment 2exp 4 final 29:9experiment 4

exp 5 29:9:14experiment 5exp 6 final 29:9experiment 6exp 7 final 29:experiment 7

looking at the pieces together I can see that I did manage to achieve more abstraction and I have take on board some of Katie Pratt’s ways of working, possibly in too literal a way. I have not pushed myself far enough from my habitual practices. I would have found it really hard to work on one piece at a time as they needed time to dry between layers and also found myself working larger and larger. The pieces seem quite somber in mood and I think this reflects some of the music and Ruben’s painting. I had wanted to make the cardboard into more 3D structures but this was not possible to do in the time limit. I think I shall continue to make some time for those type of experiments if possible.

I realise I fall into a lot of habits. Using paint in two of the larger pieces was not really pushing myself enough. I could have forced myself to go much further. I was not comfortable with considered deliberate mark making techniques, they made me tense up and the work look stiffer. For the larger piece I ended up almost copying Pratt’s combination of marks and therefore it becomes rather derivative. What I do like about it are again the looser overlays of brush strokes which add movement.

The next step is to consider how I could take this further and at the same time how I could use it to force a change in my workers ‘communities’ project.