Research 1 – artists using loose paint and/or making monotypes

The task as described is not explicit and could be quite wide ranging so, to anchor my response, and because I don’t know any of these artists, I’ve taken the names listed in the brief and searched for examples of their work.

Annie Kevans

This link leads to an exhibition with the Fine Art Society in 2014 in which Kevans has focused on women artists whose work is

… consistently sidelined in major exhibitions and women artists are deemed only worthy as subjects within the secondary realm of feminist art history.

Text taken from the Fine Art Society’s press release, May 2014 and quoted on Annie Kevans’ own site

I applaud this. So often women’s talents are subjugated to those of the men who happen to be around them. The book, Ninth Street Women, describes this using a contemporaneous voice that energises the text and brings it smack into the present day. These illustrations of the default male are everywhere – expect perhaps in nursing where the counterpoint to the ‘Lady Doctor’ is the ludicrous introduction of ‘Edward, he’s a male nurse’. Remember authoress and poetess? And what about murderess?

There are no details on the site of how these particular paintings are made, but they remind me of some of Kevans’ prints so perhaps they are monotypes; perhaps she painted the originals and then printed from them. I can’t say I like them very much; the colours seem insipid and not reflective of the strength of these women, making art in a man’s world. That’s very much about my preferences though and other descriptions might include delicate and almost transparent so that only the key features are defined. In my constant battle not to over-work my pieces, this is something I need to take on board.

Kim Baker

These are on sale at this address and so I will assume copyright doesn’t apply, the link being plainly attached to the work, the site, and the artist. Accessed 2nd November 2020.

Baker seems to apply oils using a large brush of the sort you’d apply paint to a wall with, to make these floral pieces which actually I find quite stunning. This is from her site:

 She incorporates 17th century Dutch still life techniques with a Caravaggesque chiaroscuro and an abstract expressionist sensibility borrowed from the likes of De Kooning.

Her nature morte (still life) work seems to draw on the Dutch vanitas style of dark backgrounds and often quite riotous colours depicting all kinds of fruit, flower, insect, and small animal arrangements that clearly could not have been in the same setting together. Some flowers, for instance, were not in season at the same time as other but appear together in the vase, and how many mice or beetles are as cooperative as a paid model?

As a style, I am drawn to the idea of updating that work as Baker has done and again this is down to personal preference for colour, contrast, and impact.

Alli Sharma

This is a curious collection. Everything from cute ceramic cats, to zoo chimpanzees and what might be clips from films. What runs through them all, though, is simplicity of brush stroke – no wasted effort, no fiddling with detail; each gestural mark does its job, sweeping meaning into a curve or a flick without ostentation. For me, that’s aspirational and falls right into that need to be more economical about my working process. It looks as if bigger brushes might be the way forward.

Eleanor Moreton

The images here are loose and colourful which fits my preference range, but they also seem somehow indecisive, slightly weak as though they’re watered down in some way – and by this I mean the intent, the impact, not the paint. They are loose, which is another of my aims, but seem more like book illustrations than paintings, and rather one dimensional.

Geraldine Swayne

I’m not certain what a Faust image is but Swayne is clearly a rock chick of a painter! It’s hard to tell the size of these pieces, some of them made in enamels, but what strikes me is the way she makes something ordinary extraordinarily impactful just by her use of backgrounding or foregrounding, contrast or shape. The ‘Woman Red Background’ has a leaning tower of a model wearing black against red, but with light from a hidden source on her face and neck. She has a killer expression on her face too – keep me in this position five more minutes and I’m coming for you. Then there’s the wonderfully free ‘Seaside Poetatrix’ which just has to be a poke in the patriarchal eye, it’s so wicked. I think there’s sharp humour and incisive politics in these paintings and that appeals to me. And her style is deceptively easy going, again that appearance of effortlessness, like a champion skater making turns and jumps so balletic you can’t see the torn muscles and broken bones behind them. Another for me to take on board. And look at the common theme – simple, unfussy, economical, gestural.

David Bomberg

The Tate link only leads to one image, this one provides a more contextual back catalogue and to me the work could not be more different from the principles of the artists I’ve identified as preferences. This work seems very controlled, rigid, confined and constrained and not really living. There are some colours but I don’t find the palette attractive. In fact the whole group seems to me dull, dour, and rather tight.

Diego Velasquez

Image via wikipedia accessed 2nd November 2020.

The first Velasquez painting I remember noticing was Las Meninas (1656) and at that time it was because I thought he looked like Lawrence Llwellyn Bowen! To me, he seemed to have the same kind of flamboyance and by all accounts (Tim Marlow in his Great Artists series) he had the pizazz to get himself into the royal court, to paint that group portrait in one of the main rooms rather than a studio, and to include himself in it. He also seems to have discovered the use of lenses, if David Hockney’s analysis of light, perspectives, and relative positionings of subjects is a guide. There’s something attractively cheeky about what he does with his paintings, and again the colour and deep contrasts appeal to me. This time though, there is a classical style which was more about making a record than making art per se. Even so, Velasquez appears to keep his brush work relaxed and personalised so that there is life even though everyone is posed.

Gabriel, M. 2018. Ninth Street Women. Little, Brown and Company.

Hockney, D. 2001. Secret Knowledge: rediscovering the lost techniques of the old masters. Avery.

I have reviewed both of these books on Goodreads.

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