Two pieces of my work from 1989 which relate formally in a way to what I am thinking about now. I was working in the opposite direction at that point. I was making textile pieces based on garments and then using plaster and other materials to make them solid and in this case I worked on a mannequin and then stretched them out like paintings. At the moment I am taking the paintings off the stretcher.
Belgian Politician by Luc Tuymans
This week’s court case against Luc Tymans for plagiarism makes me reflect on how, in spite of the more mainstream success of museums and art tourism, art is a real minority interest. The ruling that the painting ‘Belgian Politician’ is in fact plagiarised shows how little educated people are aware of contemporary art. As Adrian Searle points out in the Guardian the painting takes the composition and practically everything else is different. It also raises questions about work such as Sherie Levine’s retaking of photographs such as that Walker Evans photograph, both shown below:
Not to mention The 100 year old ready mades of Duchamp.
On a more personal note I have used film stills and whilst I am obviously not Luc Tuymans would I be considered as plagiarising.
After looking at Edward Hopper’s work, where he evokes a great sense of the absentee protagonist I decided to look further into this idea. What I admire about Hopper’s work is how he shows our inability to connect to others in his work when people are present. However the empty spaces underline our isolation even further. As this is so potent I decided to look at other artists who show empty spaces and look at abandoned building which have always fascinated me. This lead me to José Manuel Ballester as he has taken the humans out of both his own paintings of interiors.
and removed the characters from art history. Here the ‘Last Supper’ without the diners and installed in the ‘Tabacalera’ an ex-tabaco factory which is now used as an exhibtion space.
I also looked again at Luc Tyman’s Gas Chamber another potent empty space.
I need to make time for drawing and investigation spaces.
The work of Luciano Fabro interested me in relation to maps and the ‘Mapping the Territory’ Task III. He uses maps: folding tying, hanging like garments or crucifixes and negative metal maps folded on the floor: like construction garbage. Fabro’s work from the second half of the 20th century comes out of the ‘Arte Povera’ tradition, using common materials whilst criticising consumerism and industrialisation. The exhibition is very sensual showing Fabro’s relationships to his materials which are a mixture of playing with the everyday and some craft made.
- walk in and out
- rub paint into fabric
- push furniture around
- stretch canvas
- cover mistakes
- pull canvas
- cut canvas
- staple canvas
- hang paper
- edit images
- lay paint onto supports
- throw turps
- mix colours
- dilute paint
- spill paint
- splash paint
- erase people
- focus on the not included
- fill in with colour
- erase images
- rip fabric
- tear paper
- draw on photocopies
This has been an almost overwhelming tour of late 20th century early 21st century art which, riding on the back of reading Heartney’s ‘Art and Today’ and Whitham’s lecture on the ‘Neo-Avant Garde’, is almost overwhelming. I dont think any of the ideas were totally new to me but I feel the number of names and dates and possible further reading as a heavy weight. I therefore think it is going to be useful to reread my notes and try to pull out what is useful.
Gerald Deslandes is a Gallery Director, Curator and OCA tutor. His curating experience has brought him into direct contact with many of the artists he was discussing. It also makes him very much a part of the art world.
FEMINISM AND MULTICULTURALISM 5th January – This lecture was the one I listened to in a bar in Andalucia during the ‘Reyes’ procession and therefore I believe my notes might be slightly less reliable. It was also, as Angela Rogers suggested, rather uncomfortable having a white male present this lecture. I question this combination of feminism and multiculturalism as almost an established genre: justified by the both women and other cultures are the ‘other’ in western art. He did say from the outset that the main focus would be feminism.
Deslandes took us back to the founding of the Royal Academy in 1768 and Zoffany’s painting of 1772 in which the only two women academicians Mary Moser and Angelica Kaufmann are not physically present – they are represented by their portraits on the right-hand wall.
Traditionally women had been seen fit only to paint genres such as flower painting and landscapes. Angelica Kaufmann however was best known for history painting, under the direction of Sir Joshua Reynolds the RA promoted History painting to the British who had less of a taste for it than was common in much of Europe.
Women were largely confined to the suburbs:
What I long for is the freedom of going out alone, of sitting on a bench in the Tuileries….of looking at the artistic shops….of entering the churches and museums….the freedom without which one can’t become a real artist – Marie Bashkirtseff
Bashkirtseff complained how even in the last half of the 19th century women were not allowed into churches or galleries to see art.
This quote really struck me. It is true that lower classes did not get opportunities either, but even rich women were confined by society.
We looked at a variety of examples of work by women in which they looked at themselves and their lives as subjects. We also looked at how women were represented by male artists mainly for the male gaze. In the case of Oskar Kokoshka violently. Frida Kahlo’s work was used as an example of how she made herself the subject most interestingly in the examples of ‘My Dress Hangs there’ and the ‘Two Fridas’. In ‘My Dress Hangs There’ we see her dress ‘inserted’ into signs of domesticity and historical monuments of her native Mexico and the United States. Deslandes juxtaposed the ‘Two Fridas’ with Gilbert and George from the 1970s. Gilbert and George representing otherness through their identities as gay men.
The early 20th Century
The surrealists presented female sexuality in an uncomfortable way for many. Dora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning and Leonora Fini were given examples. This work is worth investigating further. Ithell Colquhoun and Georgia O’keefe at the same time played with ambiguous images of nature to represent sexuality.
Claude Cahun and Lacan Using photography Claude Cahun makes herself the subject of the images in her self portrait of c1936 it is argued she is alluding to Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage, in which establishes the ego as dependent on others. These are strong images and lead really well onto Cindy Sherman and her ‘untitled film stills’. Here Deslandes applied Laura Mulvey’s ideas that women were objects and not subjects of the gaze:
‘(woman’s) visual presence tends to work against the development of a story line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation..the bearer of meaning not the maker of meaning ‘ – Laura Mulvey 1973
1970s and 80s This period coincides with the women’s movement or second wave feminism and sees feminist artists as activists using contemporary means such as performance to protest and raise awareness. It all looks rather dated today to me, although I was alive for most of this I wasn’t really so aware of it until the 80s. I do think this was a more optimistic era and that this movement was necessary as is the third wave today. Nevertheless much of the work doesn’t speak to me perhaps it doesn’t need to as I don’t need convincing. The most interesting for me were ‘The Hackney Flashers’ and the homeworkers, The grass roots engagement seems more meaningful. We also looked quickly at feminist classics like the Guerilla Girls, Judy Chicago, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger. From a more multi cultural perspective the African American Faith Ringold whose quilts are inspirational and British artist Sonia Boyce. The others I found most interesting are Kara Walker and Maud Sulter both of whom I have come across before.
I found this work really intriguing. The paintings are based on work by women artists from history repainted and reconceived. The frames are falling apart and could be seen as contesting the limits imposed. This is an artist I need to look into.
ARTIST’S NOTES In the centre of the exhibition, suddenly I had this realisation that I had never experienced this situation before – of being totally surrounded by brush marks by women artists that stretched right back through history. I felt part of a continuum for the first time. And there was anger, rage that for so many years there had been this absence that I couldn’t even identify until now.
Multiculturalism and the 1990s
We looked at mainly British artists from the 1990s: Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and Sam Taylor Wood who made David Beckham the subject of the gaze mirroring a society ever more concerned with male objects. Irony plays a big part of the YBA generation and we looked at Jake and Dino Chapman’s ‘The Family Collection’ (2002) fake african art with titles that are wordplay on contemporary brands. Having lived in London in the 1990s I remember the hype and the RA Sensation exhibition. The discussion at the end of Deslandes’ lecture was about this media attention grabbing and how little things have changed. I wonder, although there is still plenty of inequality I feel yes we have moved on, to what extent art has helped I am not sure. The 90s work is far less serious and far more media conscious. The shock tactics feel a bit like playing a game but I doubt the generation of Emin and Lucas would be in the position they are without the early generation’s gains.
Finally it was good to revist the work of Anish Kapoor having seen his ‘symphony for a beloved Sun’ in Berlin 2 years ago and discover Rashaeed Araeen along the way.
LANGUAGE AND CONSUMERISM -12th January
This was a heavily theoretical lecture luckily based on interesting theories. I feel in a strange place with all this as I have a basic understanding of most of the ideas and feel that I should maybe look into all of them again in more depth but am not sure where to begin or which are the most relevant to my practice. I shall try to summarise the lecture in order to clarify for myself some of the main points.
Saussure and semiotics: identified the idea of individual visual signs needing context to create meaning. Eg a word on its own needs a sentence. Language consists of signifiers and these are a system of differences. eg you need a mother and a son to understand what father signifies.
Marx: That objects do not have an intrinsic value or price but the society decides what they are worth in terms of currency ie. social order prices objects.
Barthes: denotes=describes; conotes = empire or loyalty
Stuart Hall: Culture is the production and exchange of meanings; the giving or taking of meaning between society or group. (we looked at examples of these – polynesian map – aboriginal dreamtime painting)
Michel Foucault: The relationship between signifier and signified depends on social context. the ball is only a football within the game. The stone does not have the same meaning in a fight as in a museum. as in the work of Daniel Burren 1960-80 the work has to be put together and the whole takes it meaning from the relationships within the whole.
Modernism (exploring materials and processes).
Can be traced back to Monet – Impression Sunrise – investigates formal elements – colour/ form /shape /light etc Art deconstructs its formal language – ‘art for arts sake’ Clement Greenberg – modernism as a move towards self referential autonomy. According to Saussure Manet’s ‘Dejeuner sur L’herbe’ investigates the flatness of canvas. Foucault sees it within its culture, in relation to other work from the past. For Fouault each society has its regime: types of discourse (cluster of ideas) which it accepts and makes function as true. Marx would analyse this through its power structures. We also looked at how modernism looks to non western influences as in Henry Moore and at its own formal language. The photography of Rdochenko and Kertesz which is about exploring the process in the darkroom. We considered the way Kandinsky and Miró arrived at abstraction in relation to their earlier figurative work.
Foucault and the Body – a kind of surface on which society / regimes write their meaning and effects We looked at how ‘mad’ people and women in particular are judged also Velázquez’s dwarves.
Remaking something to deconstruct its meaning: Douglas Gordon making 24 hour Psycho (Hitchcock). Jasper Johns draws our attention to the US flag as a sign. Magritte representing a pipe to show us it isn’t a pipe (Cést nést pas une pipe). Simon Paterson’s Great Bear uses underground lines as different categories or Lisa Milroy groups shoes or lightbulbs. Barthes talks about the need for agreement on what constitutes meaning. Susan Hiller questions what is a hero in her ‘Monument to Heros’.
Trope = image or literary device, motif or cliché
The way in which images suggest meaning relates to codes. Here Deslandes mentions Bejamin’s ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ which I am reading at the moment.
Bar at the Follie Berger – suggests a waitress who is looking at you is actually reflected talking to someone in the mirror. A play on reflections and gazes which reminds me of Velázquez’s ‘Las Meninas’. The narrative of the scene is ambiguous.
Tropes of Warhol: Deslandes suggests these are inane, empty, skin deep fabrications. Here artists relate to comercial images not only in Pop Art. There is a tension between individuality and uniformity. Damian Hirst’s pharmacy is a Foucaultian dream in the way it reveals a structure and that this is determined by the societies approach to health. This is a discourse about health. This follows the Marshall McLuhan idea of the medium is the message too.
Lacan: deconstructs our identity according to opposites and we see again the mirror stage already discussed with Claude Cahun. Here Douglas Gordon uses Robert De Niro talking to the mirror in taxi Driver to show him stuck in that phase.
We look at artists working outside the gallery system such as Richard Long and Joseph Beuys. and Michael Kelly working with trashy dolls to underline the arbitrary nature of value (Marx). Finally I should mention the work of British artists Martin Parr (New Brighton and Ascot) and Grayson Perry (Vanity of small Differences) which speak of social class relationships which are very specific to their own culture.
‘Claude Levi-Strauss studied the customs, rituals, totemic objects, designs, myths and folk-tales of….the Amazon..not by analysing how they were produced and used in everyday life but in terms of what they were trying to say.’ – Stuart Hall,
POSTMODERNISM AND GLOBALISM 19TH JANUARY
Deslandes suggested that the beginning of postmodernism could be related back to Robert Rauchenberg in the 1950s, there is also an argument that the ideas can trace back to Duchamp. Most of the work we looked at was from the 90s onwards but I think the ideas and the context are the most important part of the presentation. According to Deslandes in the late 1980s the art world becomes cool and many people become more mobile – more foreign travel, education and art tourism. Artists also become more fashionable and less aloof and distant.
Baudrillard: talks about the saturation of signs and their disconnection from the signified. The signs are connected to a simulation as we have lost the connection to reality.
Debord: Détournement which is using images from other people – pastiche , irony eg. Yasuma Morimura who photographed himself as Frida Kahlo or Manet’s Olympia.
ludic imagery: images which relate to pop culture and fantasy and do not take themselves seriously.
We cannot understand the world – images of Andreas Gursky which deal with the digitalisation and overload of images. They become flat and overwhelming and incomprehensible.
End of manufacturing in the West: Our identity was about what we did within a community. We no longer have that connection. We tend to have more than one partner and move around, often working in different places. Some artists make things from no longer funcional manufactured objects (Bill Woodrow). Nostagia can also be seen in the work of Bernt and Hilda Becher (ex industrial buildings). This reminded me of Stuart Geddes. Artists also look at the end of other narratives such as the cold war. Industrial techniques used for artwork (very different function) for example Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North.
Changes in the role of the Artist Sherie Levine after Walker Evans – rephotograph an existing image by a photographer. Her point being the artist is not making, this seems like a direct descendant to Duchamp and very interesting to look at in the light of the Luc Tyman’s plagiarism case this week.
Eugenio Dittborn: makes airmail paintings which are folded up and posted around the world. I love this idea. The work is also very interesting he juxtaposes photographic images of the disappeared, childrens’ drawings
EUGENIO DITTBORN CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI
and paintings. Christian Boltanski also combines faces of concentration camp victims, their guards and random unknown folk to show how little we understand.
THE MARCUS COATES DEBATE
Marcus Coates is an artist who dresses up as a reindeer for example and professes to have shamanistic powers. The question was whether he is purely sending up Joseph Beuys’s performance or if he genuinely believes he is making an authentic intervention. In general the postmodernism is very skeptical and tongue in cheek. Gerald Deslandes is convinced this is Coates, tongue firmly in cheek whilst Angela Rogers suggests that he is authentic. I have only looked up one article so far and am really intrigued to know more
MAGICIANS OF THE EARTH (MAGICIENS DE LA TIERRE) 1989 PARIS
This exhibition marks a turning point in the globalisation of the art world. It included 50 western and 50 3rd world artists. It was an attempt to correct the post colonial bias and credit the non western artists treating them equally.
We looked relatively quickly at some nonwestern artists the most interesting:
Yang Chie Chan 100 layers of ink – this work stuck me as contemporary art with a strong root in tradition. As with Ai Wei Wei’s sunflower seeds there is a mixture of simplicity, strength and labour.
Santiago Sierra previously mentioned in this blog here 6 unemployed men and an 8 foot line (tatooed on their backs). He is credited as Mexico on the slide I wonder if his living there makes him non western.
who is also a Shaman but started using acrylics after Musiciens de la Terre.
Beautiful work using recycled metals – could see on original slide so I looked them up as I remembered seing some of his work before.
At the end of the 3 lectures we debated a little about where we are now. A lot of this was quite negative, that times are difficult. Grayson Perry’s quotation that being sincere is radical and the current climate insincerity reigns. We questioned whether it is possible to have an authentic voice. In the past being yourself and achieving your identity was a realistic objective but society has changed this we are all many things. There was a lot of talk about living in a decentered fragmented world where we live in a kind of flow. I refuse to be negative about it; many people are still making work which is meaningful.
Reading this book was a sometimes overwhelming task. An attempt to write a survey of contemporary art practice in which, as is wholly acknowledged in the book, it is impossible not to overlook some important figures or ideas feels almost absurd. It is clear from the outset that such an ambitious project in terms of range of practice will lack depth, therefore giving one the feeling of increasing the reading list rather than progessing. I am really pleased that I managed to read all the chapters including those which were of less interest to me and the way I work. It felt important that I am a little more informed about the type of work that I am least interested in and therefore knew and still know much less about. I also felt it was really important for me to make notes by hand and revise them. It helped me to get the bigger picture or should I say a bigger sense of what is going on.
The First Chapters – Popular culture and the quotidian object were like a summing up of some of the main legacies in contemporary art and touch on important theory – They felt like setting the scene and were reassuring if quite obvious, I felt she chose some good examples.
The chapters about (mainly) Painting – obviously these were of special interest – abstraction was probably more interesting in many ways as I learnt more from reading it. There were also some amazing examples of playing with space which I appreciated as someone who paints although it is far from what I do. The Brice Marden (71) stood out as did the whole idea of moving away from the artist’s physical touch. The work of David Reed and Bernard Frize was a great example of this and made me really aware of how important the physicality and sensuality of using paint is for me. The chapter on representation was far more familiar ground but a good survey and always good to see the work of Richter, Tuymans and Jeff Wall here which I find useful in my own development. On a personal level I would have liked some new references here especially more women.
Narrative chapter – There were good examples of ways of questioning narrative especially in the media but the work examined was mainly time based media and photography. This was slightly disappointing as the introduction to the chapter mentioned the traditions of history painting, personal experience and popular culture which I would have responded to more directly.
Deformation chapter – This chapter is pure enjoyment as it includes much art that I love, in spite of the fact that it does not really directly relate to my work. I am not going to list the influences, or the contemporary artists as I find it difficult to choose which to mention. The categorisation of grotesque, carnavalesque, abjection and informe was useful as a tool for analysis although it feels a bit simplistic it was appropriate for the nature of the book.
Body Chapter – as above an area I relate to but do not directly work in. I think both these chapters would have been useful to me in the 1990s when my work was still more textile based. However I still respond to these themes.
Globalism Chapter – Plenty of thought provoking stuff one quote really struck me from James Clifford the ethnographer that we should abandon the idea of culture as a fixed entity. Looking at artists as nomads, immigrants and exiles (even in our own birth countries) resonates with me as finding myself comfortable as an outsider.
BEST TWO CHAPTERS – Although I have notes and learnt much from some of the other chapters the final two were really the most inspirational and this was lucky as I was beginning to feel behind and stressed. Art and Politics starts with Goya and ends with some great examples of public art which were new to me. The anti monument and the floor pieces relating to slavery of Gunter Demnig and Conwill/Majozo/De Pace respectively. Slightly less convincing was the final paragraph about the twin towers. Whilst respecting the sorrow of New Yorkers I do not feel that this disaster is on the same scale as those previously mentioned.
Meanwhile Art and Audience felt like a very appropriate and positive ending to Heartney’s survey. Starting with Barthes’ 1968 ‘Death of the Author’ and Debord’s 1967 ‘Society of the Spectacle’ and the explosion of the self contained art object we move through the Situationists and Fluxus to the 1990s and Nicolas Bourriaud. I have come across him before but not really looked into his ideas. His 1997 book of the same name he defines ‘relational aesthetics’:
A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space. (pg. 113)
Heartney takes us back through the 60s and 70s leading up to Bourriaud and then on to Erwin Wurm the only artist here I was more familiar with but the examples here were new to me. I also discovered Thomas Hirschhorn’s Bataille Monument sited in a low-income neighbourhood of Kassel during Documenta 2002. In the middle of the chapter I was not so much drawn to the work as the process and production of it. However it ended on a high note for me with the final pages about community art projects. When I read about this type of work it gives me hope that I could find another way to make money and feel good about it. I need to read more about projects such as the ‘Kids on Survival’. I really do relate to this work much more. The enabling of these spaces excites me. Whitfield Lovell’s Echo 1996 and and the Living Museum (Dr. Janos Marton) make an inspirational ending to the book.
I wanted to make a start at thinking about PPP it has been in my mind quite a lot but I tend to focus on certain issues more than others and I am aware that it could start to become unrealistic. This is just the very beginning based on two slides from Caroline’s presentation.I need to continue this.
The following link leads to my pecha kucha:
Notes to the presentation:
1. Analogue photos of anonymous people. I started using these over 10 years ago, although what I do with them has evolved. I like the idea that these groups and individuals are unknown and forgotten but just as important as any other person. I am stealing an open narrative from them.
2. Drawing is central to what I do. I do not consider a grand distinction between painting and drawing and practically what I do is very similar regardless of media. Marlene Dumas is an influence as she works in a way which is between controlling the media and seeing what it does. I don’t want that control and love the idea that I don’t know what will happen with the media.
3. Edward Hopper’s empty rooms suggest an absent narrative: this intrigues me I like the protagonists to be out of view (or ideally as in ‘Las Meninas’ the audience. I have also experimented with layering the space without the people and then adding the people and then relayering the people. I need to go further.
4. Robert Delaunay (Tristan Tzara in the Reina Sofia) and Alice Neel (seen at the Whitechapel). Chosen for use of colour and handling of paint. Neel also seems to know what to put in and when to stop. I chose the twins as I have looked at relationships between two people. Also to make the point that I am not really interested in portraiture.
5. Potential for narrative: a large family portrait from Buenos Aires in the 1920s (stamped on the back). Included because with this triptych I went too far and continued to paint. I prefer it this way.
6. I sometimes walk to the Prado just to look at this painting. The Garden of Earthly Delights has so much in it. Hans Belting’s theory is that Bosch was imaging a ‘gap’ in the bible and what would have happened without the fall.
7. Munch also wonderful drawings, two figures in a landscape. My drawings for ‘couples’ series where I examine the nature of relationships between two people.
8. My ‘Couples’ – works which consider different ways of looking at relationships between two people using polyptychs.
9. Tom Lutz’s Crying examines the social history of crying and how differently this act is percieved in different times and places. Cecilia Roth in Almodovar’s ‘Todo Sobre mi Madre’ screen shot. Here I have to use digital imagery to make images. I want to consider how it is to cry in contemporary society I inhabit.
10. An experiment with the idea of crying miniatures.
11. The bed springs (where we cry alone or with the shrink) used to support the drawings on Korean paper (like tissues). I want to look more at reality TV as this is the other end of the spectrum.
12. Santiago Sierra at the Tate in London. He pays people an amount relative to the current value of something in their current situation for standing in the gallery to make us feel uncomfortable. In this instance homeless women a night’s hostel. Hugely criticised for being exploitative, I like the way he makes us aware of our complicity with the division of labour and our own responsibility as citizens. My work obviously does not do this (yet) but I find this inspirational.
13. Disappearing labour forces is something I grew up with in the England (eg. the miner’s strike) and is very present in the depopulation of rural Spain where mining and agriculture have disappeared. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to write proposals for projects in the community but not giving up.
14. Using a diagram to isolate individuals in their current labour (or lack of it) markets. This is me playing with new ways of representing the disolved community.
15. Using materials to separate the individuals. Here it is like a map each person their own canvas and the lines in charcoal on the wall. This is a continuation of the making day work.
16. Miguel Delibes’ ‘Los Santos Incocentes’ (The Holy Innocents) film by Mario Camus both from the 1980s. A novel and film which show a relatively balanced view of life of the rural poor. Delibes is very concerned with the lost connection with the land whilst showing the harsh reality (no education no rights). The film ends with the son arriving in Madrid and we are left feeling rather ambivalent as to his ‘progress’.
17. Whilst talking to Angela about how I had had the idea of making the lost workers communities subjects of ‘history painting’ she suggested I look at Mexican muralists or other 20th century utopian visions of the workers.
18. My forgotten workers
19. With the FFF project I returned to using textiles as a support. My first degree is in textiles so I obviously need to consider this ‘pull’. With these new experiments I really like the ability, and sensuality of, using acrylics instead of oils and the transportability. The ability to hang them like washing on a line is a potent reference too.
20. My current question about using my own people in the work. This is a photo of my mother and I which I have added to show I am going to try this although I am very skeptical about making self indulgent work.