Blog Posts by Month and Title

General Overview of Work

Major non-show work

REGARDING RICHARD LONG

The Making of the Regarding Richard Long:

Despite my reservations about the ethics of the Richard Long pieces, the visual impact of these massive discs of slate cannot be underestimated. The day we spent together at Houghton Hall was very pleasant and triggered plenty of interesting dialogue between our group of lecturers and students. The character and personalities of our group all had an impact upon the day. The painting: "Regarding Richard Long" is to be a record of the day, and the interaction between our group, each other, our thoughts and the works themselves. I have been developing ideas about "thought" lines, or lines of meaning and attention. These lines ( usually thinly masked out areas of a drawing or painting) are used to draw attention to a layer of meaning, or to signify human attention or thought within the motif. The painting will have members of out group looking at the the Richard Long sculpture, "Sky Moon" with thought and attention lines signifying their attention at that moment. The sky, magnificent, disinterested and unaffected by our trivial thoughts gazes down in the same manner it has since time immemorial.

Regarding Richard Long, unfinished Oil and dutch metal, Jennifer Sendall

Regarding Richard Long, unfinished Oil and dutch metal, Jennifer Sendall

 

WATER, VORTEX

The Making of the Water Vortex: 

The Concept. Following on from my themes of portals and view, and building upon my earlier work in cinemagraphs and my own concept paint-o-graphs. I had already looked at skies, the air, now I wanted to look at the notions of the other elements, water fire and earth. The dish was painted with reference to plein air work, where I observed the colours and movement of the sea. the work I most closely referenced was this portion of a painting I had done in Wales the year before.

The projections are a collaboration with  Frédéric Vayssouze-Faure, whose website is Wavegrower.tumblr.com. The final live projection is in fact a different one.

 

FIRE

Fire was the next element I wanted to work with. Taking a similar dish I again constructed an imaginary scene, yet one that drew deeply from my previous experience of cloud painting. I have never looked into a vortex of fire, but I have learned how clouds form and reflect light, and how colour changes as it recedes from it's source. I am, through my plein air, observational experience, been able to interpolate the scene. Unlike the collaboration with Frédéric, I commissioned the embers to my specification and had them built in Houdini particle generator.

 

THE BANKER

The Making of the Banker:

The Banker is Amy, who works in wealth management in the city. I chose the rather stark vampiric pose and simplicity, with a modern window cleanly cut from the background. i enjoyed using the cement texture and negative shapes to help form the drawing, which is in charcoal and chalk. I actually prefer the earlier version, and even like the masking tape on the surface.

Following are other pieces, experiments and trails with the image making of clouds and masks. 

IMG_2080.JPG
IMG_7581.JPG

Overview of Work in Show

The works are a considered set, to be shown together. Complementary, they are able to stand alone. 

THE ATHEIST.

The Making of the Atheist:

I wanted to create a portrait of Jessica that reflected her personality and character. She is a very thoughtful and deep thinking person, interested in science and the world of reason. She is an atheist and is keen to share the freedom from oppression of religious belief. I decide to paint her in a contemplative state, I rather liked the echo it bears from my monastery painting, which I used to help inform the textures and mood of this painting. I wanted to echo religious iconography and painting by including gold embellishment, which takes the shape of particle collisions as recorded during the work at the large Hadron Collider as they search for the Higgs Boson particle.

This painting is built upon the foundation of the Bigallo Monastery which I painted last year, the window echoes another piece based on my Brno visit, which dealt with imprisonment.

IMG_5210.jpg

The Brno piece that helped inform The Atheist

IMG_7472.JPG

LONG EXPOSURE

Like The Atheist, Long Exposure reveals something about the figure in the environment. In the darkening sky he sits on his haunches, patient yet tense, hand poised waiting for the exposure to complete. He, like every photographer before him, will find the scene and the light will be impossible to capture. As I painter I have included the gold leaf to signify the brilliance of the light against the dark sky and dimly lit landscape.

IMG_1446.JPG

Controlling the value of such a painting was the major challenge, to keep the details, low lights and highlights suppressed within the larger value scale was vital to retain the brilliance of the golden sky. His glasses and the lens of the camera pick up a hue not found within the painting, hinting of more outside the frame.

I used the gold here, not as an embellishment but as an integral part of the scene.

 

EUROPA.

The Making of Europa:

Kate is a half English half Italian, and has been devastated by the Brexit vote. Her boyfriend is half Mexican, half Norwegian so she has a keen sense of the value of international relations. Here she is depicted in the financial district of London, with the obvious connotations for the British economy. Kate wears a halo of the European flag in gold in the finished version of the painting, and she leans towards us from above, superior and above nationalist small mindedness. Her halo resembles and echoes religious iconography, which sits in stark contrast to the steel and glass structure behind her. 

 

SKYPOOL.

The Making of the SKYPOOL:

I was inspired to attempt something developed from my earlier experiments with paint-o-graphs. I found the vibrant glow of projected light upon a painted surface very appealing and unusual, and wanted to make a more subltle and designed version.

Reflections, domes and the elements combined in my conceptual "back boiler" along with images I had collected below. Ideas about non religious yet sacred feeling art had already begun to appear. My satellite dishes looked like baptismal fonts, and I liked the idea of us looking down on the sky. Just as Hubert Damisch has explored the notion of the celestial sky, with the unwothy human underneath, I wish to elevate us to Gods, looking down, the domes that soared about us are now those we look into beneath us. The support for the dish became a challenge. It had to be not obtrusive, yet had to support the notions of quality, the font-ness, yet not be a font. I found some concrete like boards, and constructed a scooped plinth, embellished with gold, like a church stone. The dish appears to float above, like a flying saucer or sting ray. A single large steel sphere sits in the middle, reflecting the surrounding environment and incorporating it and any viewer into the work. The parabolic shape creates a peculiar sound effect to those standing around it. 

Falling leaves, inspired by the original film, have been created ( again in Houdini) blow across the sky. The effect is very atmospheric, and cannot be appreciated in the video. The lighting is lower than it appears, and the dish glows. 

IMG_4200.JPG

THINKING ABOUT THE HOLISTIC GALLERY EXPERIENCE.

As a result of my recent reading and thinking with regard to Relational Aesthetics, I decided that I should think about the space in which I would show my work, and how the conversations would go within the environment, triggered by my work. Of course the visitors , some assessing my work, all bring their ideas and contexts into the room. I realised that in order for my work to be fully successful it has to engage and facilitate guests in creating a work that was much bigger than the pieces I had hang upon the wall and placed within the space. For others to bring their ideas and add to what happens in the space is both exciting and open ended.

Early studio view, works just getting to "know each other"

Early studio view, works just getting to "know each other"

Creating the works to be shown within a large studio space was instrumental in allowing me to view the works as a set as they developed. i did not work one piece from beginning to completion, but instead developed them all incrementally, even at times using the same colour mixes on the palette. This allowed the pieces, despite having an individual nature, also have a familial relationship. I was able to think carefully about the height of the plinth, how it would affect the view of the paintings. "Skypool" developed an "Anish Kapoor inspired" steel sphere in the centre, which allowed the paintings to have a presence within the work, joining the visitor in a metamodernist mash -p of work, reflected work and viewers all within the same space. Talking across "Skypool" made me realise that the dish, being a parabola, had some interesting acoustic qualities. I was reminded of my original park soundtrack from the Brno film that was the inspiration for this piece. If I am able I shall run the sound from within the sculpture.

Later studio view, works developing an inter-relationship with each other.

Later studio view, works developing an inter-relationship with each other.

I've always had a sense of disquiet regarding the format of the White Cube....but have never taken the time to reflect on why and if there was any basis for my feelings. Certainly as a landscape painter light is both my enemy and my friend. My hat, which prevents bright direct light from entering into my eyes, is essential if I am to keep my pupils dilated in order see subtle colours and judge relationships.

It was only by reading Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows I began to think a little more deeply about my apparently irrational dislike.Tanizaki's writings (his most important works written in the 1920's) are lyrical and meandering, as he find himself uncomfortable and with many of the aesthetics of the modern age, white tiles and porcelain toilets and electric lightbulbs and streetlights. He praises Japanese architecture and it's effect on the light of the interior

“The light from the garden steals but dimly through paper panelled doors, and it is precisely this indirect light that makes for the charm of the room. We do our walls in neutral colours so that the sad dying fragile rays can sink into absolute repose”

— Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

And Tanizaki again describing an old Sumiya teahouse in Kyoto:

“On the far side of the screen, at the edge of the little circle of light. the darkness seem to fall down from the ceiling, lofty intense monolithic, the fragile light of the candle unable to pierce its thickness. I wonder if my readers know the colour of that darkness seen by candlelight....It was a repletion, a pregnancy of tiny particles like fine ashes, each particle as luminous as a rainbow””

— Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

The love of shadows in the West is well recognised ...the beauty of chiaroscuro relies absolutely upon the scuro, the shadow, for it's impact. The National Gallery in London as well as many of the older galleries have retained the deep greens and reds of the Victorian era, but none that I know of have deliberate muted neutrals. With the rise of Impressionism and electric light, and an explosion of pigment colours newly available to the artist, the appreciation of the subtle aesthetic and artistic value of the shadow was much reduced.

The Irish art critic Brian O'Doherty writes about the phenomena of the White Cube at length, and it seems to sit diametrically opposite to Tanizaki's ideals.

“Unshadowed, white, clean, artificial-the space is devoted to the technology of aesthetics. Works of art are mounted, hung, scattered for study.Their ungrubby surfaces are untouched by time and its vicissitudes. Art exists in a kind of eternity of display, and though there is lots of “period” (late modem), there is no time. This eternity gives the gallery a limbo-like status; one has to have died
already to be there. Indeed the presence of that odd piece off furniture, your own body, seems superfluous, an intrusion. The space offers the thought that while eyes and minds are welcome our occupying bodies,are not - or are tolerated only as kinesthetic mannekins for further study. This Cartesian paradox is reinforced by one of the icons of our visual culture: the installation shot, sans
figures. Here at last the spectator, oneself, is eliminated. You are there without being there - one of the major services provided for art by its old antagonist, photography”

— Brian O'Doherty, Inside the WhiteCube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space

Perhaps that is what I dislike about the White Cube, the impersonality, the rejection of the human and the reality of bodies and presence. O'Doherty also states that it has become " For better or worse it is the single major convention through which art has passed"

In terms of my Gallery space, then I have decided to reject the notion of the white cube. Although I have been unable to negotiate the painting of the walls a softer colour than white,  the space will be semi-lit, the light entering obliquely. This is a better backdrop for my work, being semi-painting semi-projection, requiring the lower light to be viewed at it's best.

Unlike the White Cube, with it's dazzling lights, the iris is allowed to open, and subtly of vision is achieved. Is it any wonder that we prefer low lighting for a meal, for romance or an evening of good music?  Does not the contraction of the iris occur when we are stressed or angry, or enlarge with love and emotion? Which emotion would I prefer people to have when viewing my art?

 

 

Churchill Fellowship Application

The following text is taken from the Winston Churchill's Memorial Trust website, and supporting material. These excerpts will help me in making an application for a Fellowship. (bold emphases are my annotations)

The Purpose of a Fellowship Churchill Travelling Fellowships offer a unique opportunity for individuals to travel overseas, to bring back fresh ideas and new solutions to the issues facing us today, for the benefit of their profession, their community, and the UK as a whole. When we award a Fellowship, we hope to enable a number of opportunities:

• An opportunity for experiential learning – the primary purpose of a Fellowship is to give individuals the chance to learn at first hand from international practice.

• The beginning of a learning journey – the Fellowship journey continues beyond the four to eight weeks of travel. It inspires Fellows to become leaders, experts, and innovators, building on their learning to develop new models and better practices back in the UK.

• A catalyst for innovative thinking and fresh approaches – the learning from a Fellowship is shared and used by others and can help to inspire new ways of working and new ways of thinking back in the UK.

• A global conversation – Fellowships help to develop ongoing international relationships through which learning and practice can continue to be shared. Initiating this global conversation creates a two-way exchange of ideas and sharing of skills.

 The award of a Fellowship can have a profound impact on individuals, who return with a greater belief in their own abilities, as well as benefiting others through the new ideas brought back to the UK. Often a Fellowship serves as the key to unlocking an individual’s potential. It can accelerate their career, developing them as a leader in their field of expertise or as a role model, and continues to be a motivating influence long after they have returned from their travels. 

Winston Churchill considered that his extensive travels had been a hugely positive influence in his own life, and he believed that face-to-face contact between nations would lead to better harmony and trust. With his prior seal of approval, the Trust was set up as his living memorial on his death in 1965, so that British people, from all walks of life, could experience the benefits of overseas travel. He believed they would be inspired and enthused to make their own valuable contributions, not only to British life, but to global understanding. This ethos has remained unchanged for over five decades. We have now awarded more than 5,250 Travelling Fellowships, and are constantly humbled by our Fellows’ dedication to bringing positive change to their communities, with their passion, determination and innovative thinking. Many initiatives have been instigated, particularly over the past five years, to ensure that our Fellows and their work are further supported. An example of this is the partnerships we have developed with other organisations who have front line expertise, or who fund activity in areas of mutual interest. This allows our Fellows to access new networks and share their findings as widely as possible with others. We are enormously grateful to our partners and to our supporters for the many ways in which they contribute so much to our work. In addition to our general Fellowship categories, each year we introduce new topical themes which reflect current and often complex challenges facing the UK. Migration, Mental Health, and Enterprise in its widest form, are current areas of focus. It is now more than half a century since the Trust was established, and we are all proud of Winston Churchill’s enduring legacy, but we continue to look forward – to ensure that his living memorial remains relevant in today’s world. In 1922, Winston Churchill said: “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Our Fellows reflect this sentiment – whatever their chosen path, they invariably demonstrate tenacity, drive and deep seated passion for developing and improving their professions and their communities, and thus the UK as a whole. This continues long after they have returned from their initial fact-finding trip.

My plan for a travelling fellowship would be to go and research fully the evidence based materials, production methods and techniques of application for painting in oils.

My extensive reading upon the subject of painting conservation has revealed that the science of archival painting materials and methods is now better known than ever before. Yet, paradoxically, contemporary painting methods seem unaware of good practice. Since the supposed "death of painting" the skills and technical expertise required are barely to be found in our universities and colleges. Yet artists have continued to paint, but they are not painting well. It would appear that much of 20th and 21st Century painting is literally falling apart due to poor technique, and the situation is set to continue unless something is done to intervene.

As the ateliers and art academies of Europe were declining and new forms of art were taking over, the skills and techniques that had been preserved for generations were going out of vogue. However, there were a few Americans who had come to study in Europe who took those skills back with them to the States. In small ateliers and apprenticeships, these skills were preserved and are the foundation of the huge growth and interest in traditional methods that has spread across the US and Canada, and Europe.

Next month I am meeting with George O' Hanlon (an oil paint technologist and producer of historically accurate pigments), from the USA, whilst he is in London to discuss my application for the Fellowship and to hopefully make arrangements to spend some time researching at his facility in New York. During my time there I also plan to visit Grand Central Academy NY, one of the largest traditional painting schools. After that I plan to travel to Florence to visit the three art establishments that claim to have had the traditional painting skills handed down to them through an unbroken line of apprentices. 

Through this research my proposal will be to disseminate the ideas through a dedicated web presence specifically to assist artists and universities to re-engage with good practice. I would also seek to deliver seminars and workshops to further support the work.

My final submission will include professional evidence-based quotations and links to support the factuality of my proposal.

Creatives Responses,

A little thought map that helps me to know where I am:

IMG_0622.JPG

Below is a photo I took whilst at Houghton Hall. It is so distant from the thinking and reasoning of the sculptures, their meanings, the history, the relationships and complexities with my fellow humans. Here is the link to my former existence, a child, barefoot and wild on another continent. There, on that hot land, despite the rising and setting of the sun,  life seemed outside the passage of time. A pile of dust around a hole was a great and exciting mystery, to have a stick of stiff savannah grass pushed to dislodge whatever creature was within. What could be more important than that...to have awe and wonder? It seems that this world does not exist here in England, but it does, it is I that have changed. I have adulthood, responsibility and the whole stupid human-centric mess we "civilised" creatures have made.

IMG_5630.JPG

Critically Reflective Mid term Review

 

I am continuing to develop plans for my final set of paintings. Although I did make a final jug study painting, the appearance of clouds, both visually and metaphorically overshadowed the jug motif. I continue to explore my thinking in terms of the non verbal, and non "signed" visual language, one that requires a meeting of consciousness at the point of viewing the painting. I am leaving the ideas of balkanised genres behind, and am exploring ways in which the thoughts, character and preoccupations of people can be conveyed in a new and exciting way. I am exploring the idea of people within the landscape, not as distant figures but active, thinking, relating.

My Time Traveling Tea Hut has been refurbished and is allowing me to immerse myself again in the local landscape, away from the comforts of home, the relationship with the air, the weather, the light is so much closer, more dynamic and engaging. 

I am particularly enjoying studying and collecting skies, both in my memory, photographically and in painting. 

My questions were on how I could produce work that has both meaning and has visual impact, without being too dictatorial to my audience? Work that communicates clearly between mine and another human consciousness? By gauging feedback I can assess how my work is perceived, and decide how much ambiguity is desirable. I want to discover what elements the human perception finds most engaging. It would seem from the feedback I have received that people prefer higher levels of realism than I expected. Paradoxically they seem most impressed when my work "looks like a photograph" which I know it does not, but this is the accolade given. My reading Splendours and Miseries of the Brain, regards the study of  Neuroaesthetics has indeed shown representational and figural work supplies more information and triggers higher level of brain activity in the viewer. In studying why I find photorealism unsatisfying, yet paradoxically enjoy high observational realism I realise that that the brain even in realism is constantly making decisions on what is and is not important to the image to elicit a response. This the camera cannot do. Some of the questions I asked myself, about levels of realism and the viewer I naively thought I would find answers to. However it has become clear the human perception, so closely link with culture, memory and expectations, that I am better pleasing myself, and then gauge to how many it is successful.

I have continued to deepen my understanding of technical expertise in paint materials and good practice. So much so that I am making a Churchill Fellowship application to further my knowledge and I am meeting with George O'Hanlon for training in September when he is in Europe for a couple of weeks.

My visit to Madrid to see the Sorolla show and the Prado was richly rewarding. I was particularly impressed with the qualities of surface that I observed and am trying to put into my work. The Immediacy of Paint Symposium also opened up ideas about surface, facingness and frontedness that was something I wish to consider in my work.

The work of Brad Kunkle has made quite an impact upon my thinking about my work. I was impressed on the effect the gold and platinum leaf in his paintings added another layer of visual effect, and one that specifically denies digital and book reproduction.

I have been experimenting with Gold Mussin leaf and medium.

Alongside my development as a painter I want to expand my art beyond making and into the “being” of an artist. I have been exploring the "being" nature of an artist. I have explored creative living methods such as Kon Marie method ( The Magic of Tidying) Csiikszentmihalyi's idea of FLOW, and in taking Nootropics designed to enhance brain functions, and micro electro stimulation. I have become an ethictarian ( only eating food that is humanely and ethically produced)

I have enjoyed the deeper study I have made of Metamodernism, and plan to follow and indeed engage in the development of this way of thinking. Reflecting on my discoveries and experiences in phenomenology, transdisciplinarity, I used this text as an example of writing to attend a conference on phenomenology:

Stillness in The Noise

 

Like a startled Snow White running through the night forest of frightening trees, I ran from one philosophical and and leering theorist to another, turning this way and that, unable to comprehend the landscape or find my way in the dark.

Like Snow White, the morning light brought calm and rationality. The trees were just trees, and I could choose my path.

I read enough critical theory now to understand that there is much disagreement amongst theoreticians. There is a particular divide between continental philosophy and analytical, as well as a divide between early continental phenomenological and later anti-phenomenological theory. I have learnt that dialectic argument is roundly challenged. Late continental philosophy, which seems to be the favourite school of thought for Postmodern artists, is by no means accepted as rational or provable. 

Deleuze, Guattari, Barthes, Foucault have all been criticised for arguments so convoluted that they make no sense. “Intellectual Imposters” by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmount reveals that, from a scientific viewpoint,  Lacan, Derrida and Kristeva all use terms about which they do not have the faintest understanding. Appropriating terms across disciplines with insufficient understanding causes confusion. Kristeva may know what she means, but her language fails her.

Professor Susan Rowland’s recent lecture on ‘Dionysus and transdisciplinarity, or the role of imagination in research’  helped me to understand the term Transdisciplinarity (expounded by theoretical physicist Basarab Nicolescu) which delineatesthe problems that compartmentalisation of academic disciplines brings. Their exclusive vocabularies have created a situation where even common words have different meanings. This makes cooperation and mutual understandingdifficult, and division and competition result. Transdisciplinarity encourages re-integration and exploitation of the places between traditional disciplines, and the dissolving of boundaries.

Transdisciplinarity may help the situation between the humanities and science, which seem to be at odds with each other. I have been following a group and artists, writers and philosophers, called the Alpine Fellowship, which is specifically looking at the place where science and humanities are in conflict. I am making an application to join them for their conference later in the year.

My reading of “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari has revealed that, in order to function in large societies, we collectively believe myths that give us purpose and social cohesion. There seem to be better and worse myths, much of organised religion had caused war and harm, yet a belief in human rights, another myth, has helped mankind. There is the myth of a story, or an archetype, which can help us understand our world.

In pondering these matters I keep returning to the notion of framing, looking through a portal. This can be a framework of many modes of thought, of critical theory, of political bias, of gender, to name a few. It can also be a function of time and memory, place or imagination. As an artist I ama myth-maker. I have the freedom to create worlds, to frame them in the world of my projected imagination.

These thoughts were very much in mind as I created my artworks. The two pieces formed in response to the Czech residency both followed the idea of a frame or portal. The circular”Lens”, revealed the distortions that inhumane imprisonment have on our perception, the dark shadows and gloom hide the crimes committed there, too awful for me to comprehend or depict. The “Window in The Wall” attempts to link the incarceration with the notions of hope and connection, we all live under the same sky, regardless of our current state. I was pleased at the crib to see that “Window in the Wall” communicated it’s meaning, and with the benefit of the feedback I was able to strengthen the message and image accordingly. 

The jug series of drawing and paintings did indeed help me from a technical and experiential frame of reference. What was unexpected however was my clarifying of the actual mental processes going on as I paint. As someone who does not primarily function in linguistic mode, I found it very useful to constrain myself into thinking and recording the process as I worked. 

As the jugs project progressed onto larger pieces, my considerations of viewpoint, the frame through which I look, the multiple angles and temporal shifts started to come into play. The discovery of disrupting panoramic photographs led me naturally to investigating the tenets of cubism, and helped me form a new appreciation for Duchamp, and Braques. I was able to push my work further by reflecting on the work of Morandi and Uglow. My work took a rapid turn upon viewing Goya in Madrid.

Every stage of my work this has revealed new ways of working and thinking. It’s a little unsettling to be in such a state of flux, yet I am satisfied with my progress.

I have deepened my understanding of the networks functioning in the growing field of representational painting. I am following and engaging in the debates about the theoretical frameworks for developing artists in this genre.

Through my understanding of Metamodernism, I am letting go of the need for absolute truths, whilst enjoying the search for my authenticity and truth.

Notwithstanding all the “thinking” that critical enquiry requires, a fact remains the act of artistic creation, when I am in full flow, is wordless, concept less. It is a state of being, of being present, of observation without judgement. These are the tenets of Ekhart Tolle’s popular philosophy. I have not made much reference to it in my reflective journal. There is so little to say beyond a few signpost phrases such as “Being in the Now” “Letting go of the ego, the self”. Tolle’s books are essentially repetitive, just sufficient to guide the reader to stop reading, and try the practice. 

The practice is everything.  I suspect the same may be true for art, after all that we say and do, in the end they are only signposts, they are not the experience of the journey, and they are certainly not the destination. The map is not the territory.  This my art-making state.

It is unfortunate that the thinking required to record in a reflective journal is the very action that prevents the non-egoic state of presence. Reflection builds the ego, and so it has to handled with caution and humility

 

Artists lament and dilemma:

How to be systematic? Criticality? Contexts in critically engaged art and the bigger pictures? The temptation to author our own history, to write our own critiques and beat the critics to it, is ubiquitous. We anxiously try to control the perception of ourselves, we make self-negating statements under the guise of thesis and antithesis, and avoid derision by saying nothing.  Despite Barthes , and death of the author we desperately want a voice.

 

Share

Socio-Political Challenges

 

Paying artistsit seems there is a negative reflexive process going on within the education of artists. Conceptual art, for all that it had offered to the Artworld, is notoriously difficult to sell at anything but the higher end of the market. Therefore, those that have not been particularly successful must find a living elsewhere or go into education. In education these same artist will tend to educate and reproduce other artists of the same ilk.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/11/end-british-art-school? Article in NewStatesman

I was thinking.... is there any meaning in the falling into disuse of Christian Churches and the use of these decommissioned buildings as centres for the Arts?

Does it suggest that as we lose religion as a framework for our understanding of ourselves that the artworld and culture offer something to fill the space? Maybe religion is and always was a cultural pattern with attendant art forms ( literature, poetry, music, visual art and architecture)  and this is merely the acquisition of empty cultural space by another cultural form?

I haven't yet read Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, but I have read around the subject of memes, a contraction of the Greek mimeme, meaning imitated thing, and is used to denote a unit of cultural behaviour of idea transmitted by imitation from one person to another, in a manner that can replicate and mutate in a broadly analogous fashion to genetic. The idea is somewhat contested in scientific circles, but I find the idea useful in describing the threads of artistic and philosophical behaviour and ideas.  It might be particularly where the meme is a simplification of an idea and is repeated without a deep (or any) understanding the underlying science/philosophy. Obviously memes can be useful or destructive.

My work with the Sumi Ink Club (see article on The Bridge Project) is a good example of an artistic meme. An artistic practice and form was created and is successfully imitated and repeated. The use of the internet here cannot be underestimated. What historically could become a local phenomenon, and an artisanal traditional art/craft practice, handed down from generation to generation, can now travel rapidly creating a new international, interconnected "tribe".

I think the changes to society because of the interconnectedness of the internet far surpasses that of "information", our whole understanding of who we are, and who are our peers, and how we fit in the world, are as yet unrealised in their scope and impact. It's hard to see what this will mean from the "inside" of the experience.

Most major religions offer a story, an understanding of how and why the world is. They have been the motivating forces behind countless works of art. As a confirmed atheist I am not immune to the beauty and power of ecclesiastic architecture and soaring paintings and sculpture, despite my horror at what Christianity has done to man. I find Wagner musically thrilling, but despise his ideology. It is clear to me that ethics and great art are not inextricably linked, but I would prefer that it were more so, and for myself it must be.

This brings me back to my quest for a overarching theory for my work. I want it to be Great Art,  but not at the cost of being Good Art (ethical), or even Very Good Art ( inspiring higher ways of being). In fact I would like to produce Great and Good Art , with some Great and Very Good Art thrown in. I never want to make Cynical Art, and would rather make a painting of a white jug that sold for £200 that was exhibited proudly in the entrance hall of  21, Cedars Park Road, Dunstable, than an £2000 piece that took me away from authenticity. (Don't offer me £2,000,000 though....I'm only human and I've got a family and budget to balance )

I certainly want my work to reflect those principles that will lead to the greater good, and I don't want to shy away from making such commentary on others, despite the risk of being wrong.

I think that if my art  absolutely needed to have the accompanying text describe in detail "stuff" about the work so the viewer can "get" it I have, in my books, failed.

 

The environment ...we're going to have to catch up:

In early 2014 Julie’s Bicycle published a national survey of attitudes and actions on environmental sustainability across the UK arts industry. Over half of the 350 respondents were not Arts Council funded.

The findings were fascinating:

• That leadership was coming from the middle of organisations, not the executive level – in other words those people tasked with measuring and managing their impacts.

• Boards are dis-engaged.

• Climate change is the lowest business priority in a range which includes audiences, finances and artistic content.

• The sectors that do the most on environmental sustainability consider themselves to be doing the least and vice versa.

• The organisations that are leading the cultural sector are almost all from the Arts Council reporting cohort.

Our conclusion is that the Arts Council initiative has been a success, and that the conditions for leadership – a confident, doing community with a common evidence base and increasingly diverse responses – are in place. Which is just as well because, as the science makes abundantly clear, much remains to be done. At the time of writing the scale, type and quality of artistic responses to sustainability and climate change is unprecedented. 2013/14 will be recognised as the year where the science coalesced into an appalling tale of human neglect and carelessness which seemed to be greeted with indifference and apathy. But actually it takes a while for difficult information to compost into fertile material which will transform problems into solutions. And culture needs to change, the values that underpin our lives need to place climate change and sustainability as the cornerstones of our future. The arts have a huge part in that shift and are well and truly making it happen.

 Sustaining Creativity: National survey of attitudes and actions on environmental sustainability in the creative industries, Burns Owens Partnership, Julie’s Bicycle December 2014

Digital lens, multi-viewpoints, Aqualens

As in the photographs below my start point was the jug studies as I looked at multiple viewpoints through time.

My focus started to move away from the jugs and to skies, windows, portals and lenses.

I started to also think about reflections and mirrors. I though of Anish Kapoor,  Aqualens garden ornaments

Artwork and Photo Jennifer Sendall

Artwork and Photo Jennifer Sendall

Simlarities and differences.  Contexts of dissemination. Audience.

Artwork and Photo Jennifer Sendall

Artwork and Photo Jennifer Sendall

TemperaPainting.jpg

The Aqualens garden sculpture:

aqualens.jpg

Chora, Alpine Fellowship theme 2017

Mind Map of ideas on this Theme is available in the Hard copy format

I have made an application to join The Alpine Fellowship for their conference in Venice. I met one of the founders, Alan Lawson at TRAC ( The Representational Art Conference) in California two years earlier and have been following the development of the fellowship since. They hold an annual conference, and request a 3 minute video as application to join them. Below is my slightly longer version:

Unfortunately the conference times clashed with the MA final weeks, so I need to apply again next year. They produce a series of videos of conversations and texts which explore the critical themes surrounding representational work in our current times. It has served me as a point of departure for my research, and offered access and links to philosophers and thinkers that I may not have known about otherwise. The theme of this year's conference "Chora" with a special focus on the landscape gave me great food for thought and reflection. As a painter of the landscape, and as a plein air painter I enjoy a special relationship with the process of painting within the outdoor environment. The painting produced during the filming of this video was accepted to the Royal Society of Marine Artists and is being exhibited at the Mall Galleries, London during their Annual Show in October 2017.

An introduction by Prof Roger Scruton is as follows:

We are an association of writers, artists and scholars who wish to define and pursue our common interest in the humanities. As we see it, the world of scholarship has been fragmented by specialisation, has lost some of its vital connection with the arts, and has also retreated before the advance of scientism. Many questions confront us in our attempts to imbue our lives with meaning. Some of these are scientific questions, concerning the function and evolution of the human brain, the nature of the cosmos, the ultimate structure of the matter from which we are composed. But some of them are not scientific questions, since they do not seek to explain the world but to interpret it. The world is our world, imbued with the aspirations through which we aspire to a total conception of its meaning. Questions surround the phenomena of consciousness, beauty, morality and the sacred; the meaning that we seek and find in art and music; the poetic use of words and the power of metaphor. They are not scientific questions, and the attempt to squeeze them into the mould of scientific theory leads all too frequently to caricature and even nonsense.
Our Fellowship is neither a dogmatic sect nor a career path. We are a diverse group of people who enjoy the life of the mind. We want to release the imagination, so that it can flourish again according to its own innate principles. We would like to explore the boundary where scientific explanation stops and the true humanities begin. Our goal is to encourage meetings, discussions, publications and performances that will bring together those who share our concern for the future of the intellectual life, and who wish to restore the links between philosophy and culture. We reach out to creative people of every age, who want something better than the education that has in so many ways put a barrier between them and the real knowledge that they are seeking – especially in the arts of painting, architecture, literature and music. Most of all we want to explore and learn from imaginative worlds, to turn away from the things that reduce and demean us, and to restore confidence in our human capacity to transcend the obsession with ephemera.
— http://alpinefellowship.com/foreword/

The Theme for this years conference is introduced here:

The Alpine Fellowship 2017
’Chora’
Reflections on landscape

In the Timaeus Plato refers to the Chora as ‘that which gives space’, as the site of the event in which things take their shape. This sense of the shape of things, a sense of their taking, losing, solidifying, exhibiting and hiding certain forms and shapes, will be our main concern this year. We will ask whether there is such a thing as a coherent style in this day and age, or whether there is, to paraphrase the art historian Sedlmayer, ‘a loss of the middle’: is this age characterised by the striking absence of a coherent guiding principle present in our buildings and objects? A historian of the middle ages could relatively easily read of such a guiding style from the churches of the time – what are the objects and buildings that carry such centrality today?

We will ask about the landscapes that we have created to surround ourselves with, or the landscapes that we have been allowed to inhabit. A landscape is also always a mindscape: it is a reworking of the natural world as a picture of our fears and longings. The study of landscape emancipated the art of painting from the human figure and turned our eyes both outward to the world in the art of Corot and Turner, and inward to consciousness in the art of Van Gogh and Cézanne. This fusion of the world and its observer can occur in poetry, in painting, in music, in abstract argument. It forms the background to the philosophy of the later Heidegger, who referred to Plato’s Chora with the German term Lichtung, as much as it is the foreground to the music of Sibelius.

But our landscapes today are no longer visions of nature. Through video games and special effects the masters of digital imagery have created new worlds, which transcend our comprehension. What does it mean to create landscapes and objects which we can travel to, and increasingly inhabit, virtually? What makes a landscape real?
— http://alpinefellowship.com/af-2017/

I have found the somewhat conservative, Christian bias of Prof Scruton, alongside the traditionalist thinkers of the (largely American) philosophical schools he appears to align with somewhat troubling. Perhaps I am taking too broad a brush with my concerns, it's something that will need further study and attention.

The representational community in the US does, from my personal observation, seem to fall into two camps. On one hand we have those that reject Modernism and Post Modernism, and have great nostalgia for traditional painting, as well as "old time" traditional values. They may be polemical in their rejection of a great deal of the art of the 20th Century. Those in this camp are often Christian, and may have very conservative sense of morality and political leaning to the right. My conversation with some of these artists has become quite uncomfortable. Despite some protests that they want to keep their art world free of politics it is clearly quite firmly embedded in the discussions and forums I have encountered.

Those in the other camp are not concerned with tradition except in the manner in which it can inform new representational work, and these artists use traditional art's craft and aesthetics only as a way to inform and facilitate work. The new Representational Artist seek to integrate the skills and achievements of former movements in the creation of forward-looking artwork. These artists include those that work in digital formats and outputs, and have an inclusive rather than exclusive attitude to what is part of their Artworld.  Certainly the admission at the end of the theme recognises the new nature of the digital.

Shingle Street, Panoramic photograph by Jennifer Sendall

Shingle Street, Panoramic photograph by Jennifer Sendall

As a Metamodernist, I find myself much more naturally aligned with the latter.  Metamodernists are never purists, preferring the integration or oscillation between former schools of thought. I do better to integrate the lessons of the Modernists, Post Modernists, with say the Pre Raphaelites, Renaissance or Fauvists, rather than rejecting or deconstructing them as the Postmodernists would. Photography and digital manipulation is welcomed as tool, yet rejected as a master. Obviously one cannot mash the whole of art history into one thing and hope for anything good, discretion has to prevail. It seems foolish to support either the total rejection, or the complete return to former art movements. We live in our times, our contexts. We have tools at our fingertips never before enjoyed, we have access, at least digitally, to the art world on scale and depth never before enjoyed. Surely our best work will be that which takes full advantage of what the past offers fully combined with that of the present?

Proffessor Scruton has a long and distinguished career, and it is not surprising he has stuck to his traditionalist guns. Other members of the fellowship are much younger with currently less illustrious careers, and hopefully the fellowship will not become entrenched in the traditionalist thinking.

 

Houghton Hall

I took a trip to Houghton Hall, Norfolk. Well-known for the contemporary sculpture gardens, it is set in typical bucolic English country house setting. Like many stately homes who have had to find ways of attracting cash flow through providing a spectacle of some kind to enhance the visitor experience, Houghton Hall has opted to bring or commission renown sculptors work to the grounds and house. The lions of Longleat, Woburn Safari Park, and Alton Towers theme Park are a few examples of the creative ways the landed gentry have tried to keep a hold on their property and maintain the estates.

It is interesting that the large sculptures by Richard Long (otherwise well known for his long walks and way-marking land art) chose not to challenge the ordered landscape but sat within the sight-lines and formal shapes and structures of the gardens. I suppose they reflected the site, and were specific in that respect. I felt they worked visually and aesthetically, but the impression left was one of conformity, of sustaining the ownership of property that was arguably stolen from the people during the acts of enclosure. Now we have to pay ( and pay well)  just to look at the land that was stolen from our ancestors. Unless of course you are actually landed gentry yourself ( in which case, ignore my comments, I am available for commissions.....) I preferred his sculpture within the house where the rocks rise up jaggedly from a smooth floor, and completely disrupts the interior space. Long's drip paintings ( a type of painting I particularly dislike for it's reliance on chance and limited output) might be a more acceptable form of graffiti defacing, destructuring and challenging the power infused environment.  For all that, though I do not like to see work on older properties that create a defacement, even if he has remained within the stone arch structures, but it is clearly just a matter of personal taste. Perhaps I am guilty of being a bit contrary.

Below is a photo of Richard Long's Full Moon Circle, with course lecturer Dr Jane Watt and some students looking at the sculpture

IMG_2371.JPG
IMG_1169.JPG

Above and below are within the work Sky Space Seldom Seen by James Turrell.

IMG_7258.JPG

My previous interest in the "view through" the portal, window has again been piqued by this work of Turrell. The whole structure serves to support and facilitate the gaze upon a patch of sky, through a clean cut window open to the sky. The platform is raised about the ground by about 25 feet, so further isolating the sky experience. The viewer/participant is enticed into a meditative state as regarding the sky as it slowly changes to the disembodied sounds of the surrounding woods and birdsong. I wondered if we were actually listening to a soundtrack, and had to go outside to check if it was the actual environs I was listening to.

As I contemplated the sky, I returned to the Park in Brno, Czech Republic, where I had made my film of the sky, with the shedding leaves from the trees. There I contemplated how we all live under the same sky, needing to breathe the same air. I thought how, rich and poor, sick and well, imprisoned or free, we all live under the blue dome that arches over our home. The sky's openness, lack of constraint and boundary serve as a metaphor for freedom. The idea of sky, of clouds and the blue dome, remain a motif of great interest to me.

The Framing, cut isolate simplyfy

The Framing, cut isolate simplyfy

The openness of the sky is contrasted by the need, or desire to isolate or frame it to make an art piece. If we do not do so we are just looking at the sky. Some form of isolation, framing, context is what makes it a work of art. Above I have made a piece that, like the Turrell piece takes a clean cut out of the landscape and presents it to the viewer. A restricted colour gamut further simplifies the piece. The viewer is left wondering what happens outside the view presented, they also may wonder why it has been cut in such a way? Why are the 'normal' conventions of a picture ( ie a rectangle) not there?

Despite my reservations about the ethics of the Richard Long pieces, the visual impact of these massive discs of slate cannot be underestimated. The day we spent together at Houghton Hall was very pleasant and triggered plenty of interesting dialogue between our group of lecturers and students. The character and personalities of our group all had an impact upon the day. I have started a painting, which I call "Regarding Richard Long". The painting is to be a record of the day, and the interaction between our group, each other, our thoughts and the works themselves. I have been developing ideas about "thought" lines, or lines of meaning and attention. These lines ( usually thinly masked out areas of a drawing or painting) are used to draw attention to a layer of meaning, or to signify human attention or thought within the motif. The painting will have members of out group looking at the "Sky Moon" with thought and attention lines signifying their attention at that moment. The sky, magnificent, disinterested and unaffected by our trivial thoughts gazes down in the same manner it has since time immemorial.

IMG_1353 2.JPG
IMG_2652.JPG

Kelvingrove, Glasgow

A visit to the Kelvingrove turned up this beauty of scientific mechanics. Another image is impressed on my creative centres!

IMG_0575 3.JPG
IMG_0804.JPG

The painting above is by one of the Glasgow boys and was directly influential on my work below.

WelshCottageSendall.JPG
FullSizeRender 13.jpg

B7 Artworld, Awareness of Professional Contexts

 

Transdisciplinarity, 

Artworld

Popular culture, Credits, Burning Man, Films. Outsider Art. Everyman art.

Cross pollination

Bourriaud and post production, Ted Talk re appropriation. Money, for the struggling, for the greedy.

 

Artworld. The many villages in that world, my attempts at integration, my own transdisciplinarian journey. The museum and top gallery world, biennale, the jobbing painter, the portraitist, the still life painter. Plein Air painting. Community artist, art therapy. Hobby teaching. Affordable art. Art as an investment vehicle. Shades of grey. The functional art, digital production entertainment, decor. Popular culture, film pop video, memes, credits self-produced work, the availability of creative software outsider art. Where is the line, is there a line? The elitist attitudes yet the importance of high art. A paradox. Vivian Meier the photographer.