Part 2, project 6 – painting in the round

Exercise 1.5 requires the construction of a number of large objects based on items from the initial table arrangement. These will need to remain in place and will be physically painted.

I have to give this a miss for practical reasons of space and the inadvisability of having wet paint accessible to cats. Items wouldn’t stay in place and paint would be distributed around the house. It’s also outside my physical capabilities due to injury and a degenerative condition affecting my hands.

I can address the reading and research elements though, and consider what I might have done had it been a realistic proposition.

Jessica Stockholder 1959 –

I’d really like a transcript of this video because I find Stockholder’s development of ideas difficult to follow. It’s beginning to concern me too, that there is very little evidence of challenge generally when artists (and writers) talk about their thoughts and ideas. No one says, ‘what do you mean by that?’, or ‘how does that work?’, never mind, ‘I don’t think that’s possible the way you describe it, so …’, and ‘how are you evidencing that?’ My suspicion is that this derives from the essential subjectivity of the material whereby there rises to prominence a stratum of people who become arbiters of what is good or collectible. Nothing wrong with that (although see Blurred Lines; inside the art world [2017]) but it does lay the evaluation system open to aspirational suggestibility. People are quite reasonably reluctant to challenge for fear of appearing stupid, and when almost everything is open to interpretation, the temptation is to follow the lead of the most powerful influence.

I listen to episodes of The Verb (BBC Radio 3) with Ian McMillan whose disparate guests are encouraged to discuss not only their own work but that of others, and to consider how particular forms of poetry, memoir, or fiction affects them. Ian poses his questions like a journalist; they lead, set the scene and frame the kind of response that’s required. I’ve never once in years of listening, heard a guest tell him, no it didn’t make me feel like that at all. Instead, each person in turn picks up the theme and elaborates on it, thereby generating a body of opinion derived entirely from a few words uttered by the man in charge.

This is social pressure in action. The need to conform, to not rock the boat, to show you’re ‘on the team’ and not inclined to contradict the Main Man, to ‘get’ what everyone is saying. I’ve been present at meetings like this, or observed them at conferences, and felt I could almost hear the cogs whirring as the next person to speak tried to figure out what to say that doesn’t upset the thematic apple cart. I think it’s an inevitability where subjectivity predominates, but I don’t think it precludes challenging anything you don’t understand. Sometimes you find the person making the utterances doesn’t understand them either and you can work towards a decent clarification to mutual benefit.

As to the piece Stockholder is talking about in this video; I would probably take a few minutes to look at it in a gallery but I doubt I’d stay long. While I like the colours, the arrangement and application of found objects makes no sense to me. I don’t know what it represents, what its communication with me is supposed to be, or how to get a foothold on its raison d’etre.

Phyllida Barlow 1944 – is a different animal altogether – these are grand, tumbling, unbalanced, semi-chaotic pieces that remind me for reasons I’m not sure I can pinpoint, of Theo Jansen’s extraordinary Strandebeest constructions:

I absolutely love these ‘creatures’ because of their weird elegance, their apparent self-volition and will to move in this absurd coordination of Heath Robinson limbs. Barlow must surely have seen these somewhere because her structures look to me just as capable of movement. Her creatures though, are much more private and freeze in place when we come in the door. We’ll never see them clamber or dance or march with all 53 feet on the left setting out together.

So if I were able to make sculptural pieces and paint them in situ, what function would the paint have?

I think it’s probably apparent from almost everything I’ve done so far that colour is important, and I know when I’ve glued pieces of card and corrugated packaging, string or film, to something like cartridge or cardboard, I’ve used the colour to enhance and reveal the shapes, to allow for troughs with surprises (like eyes) in them, and peaks that could be tangled debris or foliage, or even something architectural. Paint, to me, is part of the tool kit and although it’s also my primary communication vehicle, it’s not averse to sharing that function with other more structural elements. To drive an elegant car, you need an elegant road.

Katharina Grosse 1961 –

The overwhelming reaction to this is, why is she not working with light? These colours are laser-bright and flood their space like the hypnotic psychedelias of a rave. It looks as though she uses masking devices too the way digital painting apps do, although clearly those came originally from the physical world. I like the grand scale and the inherent ambition each piece seems to have. It’s not hiding, is it? It’s assertive and challenging – I’m here, so what? get over it. I don’t think I can go along with the idea that colour is the female, less clear, less intelligent aspect of painting while the concept, line, drawing is the male, more intelligent part. Ah, those manly misogynistic 17th century academicians, gotta love ’em.

Would I do work like this? Absolutely I would, but with lights.

This is made in Flamepainter then imported into Rebelle for more static marks.

Flamepainter is like herding cats, a law unto itself, but it makes some remarkable images which depend on the fact of additive digital rather than subtractive physical colours. The white lines are very thin ribbons of Flamepainter brush work, and the black marks are in Rebelle’s watercolour function with added water and the tilt facility pointing upwards, hence the vertical bleed from some of the marks. When I can figure out where the video capture function is on this new machine I’ll make a short demo.

Filmora has a screen capture function.

Conformity. This is a very handy explainer Conformity in Focus Groups | qualitative | group norms | behaviour (researchbydesign.co.uk)

Flamepainter and Rebelle painting software are made by Escapemotions.

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