…..and my critical evaluating views on my own learning
“Just because you have a figure, that doesn’t mean you don’t realize it’s also an abstraction. It’s also a painting, it’s also a thing on a wall.” marlene dumas
I would like to give my tutor credit for this opportunity to explore and learn, as she suggested I look at these artists after Part Four. I feel I have in a big way found artists with whom I can really connect to develop my own practice of painting. I learn how works of artists and all the influences in my life interacts with my own learning and development as an artist. The fact that I had to work in a new environment for the last few months brought so much other influences into my work practice. I am an expressive person, but also deeply value my need for inner calmness and lots of private space when I work. Reading and researching the works of other artists is inspiring, but I have also learnt by now that it is important to deal with the learning in ways of how I relate to the works and work processes of these artists I find inspiring. I find it difficult to sometimes be exact in this process, but with my tutors ‘nudging’ I do think I am becoming a better ‘thinker’. I do find that I get carried away whilst busy with a work and that the outcome as asked from me during this course, then get lost. This particularly happens with my lack of skill to work with energy, scale and flow. I understand the need then to record more accurately at first. It is something I can develop more over time, or consider changing certain processes of my painting practice, adding drawings or collage into my work, use blown up or cropped photo images, digital print. I learnt from Marlene Dumas to expect this ”problem” to stay with me during the rest of my working practice and that is what is should be about – to create with, about, around, because of the problem.
My tutor suggested I look at this artist’s work to see how it resonates with me. This contemporary painter is very much involved in the painting surface within and beyond the canvas. She uses mark making alongside explorations of colour, structure and technique in her work. I related to the work as it is organic and abstract,having lots of layers and painterly actions, which is filled with real emotions such as frustration, joy, fun, as well as anger.
I see in the work that the artist is dealing with a combined approach to illusion, response and composition. I like her soft colored palette and the paint process that indicate depth through handling of flat colour, glazes and oil mediums. She is surely a gesture with attention to mark-making, like distruptive movements/removing of layers, I would say like De Kooning. During her MA exhibition at Manchester School of art, it was commented “……To this end, the paintings exist for themselves when apparent understanding breaks down.”
Joan Eardley (1921-1963) is one of Scotland’s most popular twentieth century artists. Her powerful and expressive paintings transformed her everyday surroundings, including the rugged Scottish coastline and Glasgow’s street children. During her lifetime she was considered a member of the post war British avant-garde, who portrayed the realities of life in the mid-twentieth century.
She painted on location, often during wild storms. I love her textured preparations to her surface she painted on, which was done with oil and boat paint mixed with newspaper, sand and grasses on hardboard.
My work for assignment 4 was also a textured ground in which I used sand and seagrasses. I think the small work below, done on velum paper also captures some of the beach and stormy weather, due to the materiality of the surface of the vellum.
This is a South African born artist whom I have known for a long time. She currently lives in the Netherlands. Her works can be seen as portraits, but it is more as representation of a state of mind. Themes central to Dumas’ work include race and sexuality, eroticism, guilt and innocence, violence, loneliness, death and tenderness.
I have decided to take more time to study her practice, as I immdediately had an understanding of why my tutor thought my work could relate. I am sensitive to emotions and the representation of this as textures of form. In a video on the Het Stedelijk Museum she says she does not paint people, she paint images (beelde) What seems amazing is that I have never looked at her work practice and style as something that would touch me. I used to found her work confrontational, but new there was great expressiveness. She is one of very few woman having had the opportunity to have a solo exhibition at Tate and MoMa. I was so excited when I read she was also very fascinated with De Kooning, as well as her taking to expressive writing – I think this changed my ‘relationship’with her! I recently read that she had an exhibition where E Much’s works were also displayed and will look into that and try and bring the learning into my work.
Drawing is very much part of her practice of gestures and moods, where form and content falls well together: titles and text also become part of associations within her work. I learnt that she understands how to bring atmosphere into her work bu use of limited color choices. Gesture, and how paint can from its inherent capabilities enhance this, is as important as subject matter. This is what I have experienced when learning about De Kooning. She look at history painters and themes as well as the Avante Garde for inspiration and learning throughout her career. She values color, and on the Tate website I read the following quote: “Marlene once said, “You change the colour of something and everything changes”. She prefers to work from photographs and media images rather than real life. She use pre-existing pictures and re-examines them in a way which brings out their inner reality, which resonates very well with me. I enjoy her sharing of how artist over history have identified with pertinent figures in history, for example like with Christ – art works taking on themes like forsaken-es, being solo, loneliness….it reminds me of the Yellow Christ by P Gaugin 1889.
Above is a screen-grab from a video of a visit to Marlene Dumas’ studio during Het Stedelijk’s exhibition of her series, called The Burden of the Image, with that image shown here below.
Her work process includes drawing as well as painting with thin layers, like washes where she would rub or wipe out areas, or by staining areas with liquid mediums or solvents. Her palette and style consistent, and her work has a sense of erotic messiness or surreal creaminess. It is almost verging on the border between reality and illusion. This is also which makes her works quite recognizable. I like this action of the artist being brought explicitly into her own work. I find that her work is thoughtful and really a sensitive reflection of human conditions, which mostly comes from her background, being born in apartheid South Africa and then living as an artist in the post modern era.
Looking at the exhibition where Dumas interprets Edvard Munch I came upon some reading materials I found useful. The works of Munch was selected by Dumas in order for a display of a dialogue with her own work and took place at the Munch Museum in 2018/2019. She saw similarities between them; said that she always wanted to paint love stories, and found that Munch was doing that. She learn to view him as a Modern Artist who, uses like, her, transparent brush strokes, the unpainted canvas and had an interest in text/language. I could also view a video talk with her about the exhibition on the website of the Munch Musee ( ) She has been interested in Munch for a long time and a visit to the museum during 1981 with her particular interest in his work Alpha and Omega. She feels the viewer also see what have been heard – the story in the text has an impact. She mentioned the energy in Munch’s work is important to see – find it in the surface of the paint. A comment she made, really impacted me:”…. It is not the subject matter that makes a painting dead, you paint it dead…” We can get so stuck in rules, which was made by people, so why not change them? She likes his sketchy almost unfinished works for this reason. I also took to my heart some of the writings by Munch, example, he said…not all of his works are confessions and that his work is not morbid, one should find humor. Dumas at the end of the conversation reads from a book she put together, and here I found her writing very touching and would really like to read this in my own time. (Moonlite where she talks about how Munch painted nature) I take away the idea how what I see is so very much coloured by my own experiences and that I want to share that in my work. I am aware that Marlene Dumas wants her work to convey conversations, much like movies.
Medical photography, and in particular dermatological imagery, is often assumed to provide an objective, and functional, representation of disease and that it can act as a diagnostic aid. By contrast, artistic conceptions of the images of the body tend to focus on interpretative heterogeneity and ambiguity, aiming to create or explore meaning rather than enact a particular function. In her 2015 retrospective exhibition at the Tate Modern, South African artist Marlene Dumas questions these disciplinary divides by using medical imagery (among other photographic sources) as the basis for her portraits. Her portrait ‘The White Disease’ draws on an unidentified photograph taken from a medical journal, but obscures the original image to such a degree that any representation of a particular disease is highly questionable. The title creates a new classification, which reflects on disease and on the racial politics of South Africa during apartheid. Though, on the one hand, these techniques are seemingly disparate from the methods of medical understanding, features such as reliance on classification, and attempts at dispelling ambiguity, bring Dumas’ work closer to the history of dermatological portraits than would usually be perceived to be the case. In considering the continuities and disparities between conceptualisations of skin in dermatology and Dumas’ art, this paper questions assumptions of photographic objectivity to suggest that there is greater complexity and interpretative scope in medical dermatological images than might initially be assumed.
Looking at her work process one sees a huge amount of attention to the subject, which is mostly a photo image. There is intense focus whilst representing complex conceptual images in a very meticulous manner. One can call it intensive labour -developing a drawing in grey tones with graphite. On Tate’s website I read the following quotation from the artists own description of her work process: “The images are not from observations of nature, but are ‘found images’ from old magazines, books and photos. Thus they are already flattened and a step removed from nature. My work lies between intimacy and distance.” and ” I see drawing as thinking, evidence of getting from one place to another. One draws to define one thing from another … I work with a single image … The intention is to make a fat, full form.”
Her composition operates according to two principles that govern pictorialism: that unless directed otherwise we read an image from the lower left toward the upper right, and that the eye is drawn to areas of light, which in this work are unmarked areas of the acrylic ground. Celmins establishes a grayscale with the darkest areas anchoring the image at the lower left and the lightest areas lifting us to the upper right. As the image gets lighter, almost as if the picture were evaporating, it seems to rise as much as it recedes; in fact it only recedes because our mind tells our eye that it should see an indeterminate depth of space.
In a video talk ( Nat Gallery Elson Lecture 2006) she said she considered photos as dead material which she enlivened when she puts it in another context and by the fact that she made it. She let the broken up image, not in strokes, give the surface a kind of engagement -paper and graphite. talking back and forth. 1968 – working more, getting the image and surface closer (12×15 – small, carry a long way, they project out) 4jr later more exciting. They’re really non compositions, but I compose them on the work itself, that’s what composis it. How you go up to the edge are very considered. The marks are modest – no personality, only touch, no expressive – organisers of space (real/illusionistic and adjusting those) the idea is when you look the work of art and how its made, becomes more real, than what you remember about the ocean. Her interest is to keep you engaged in the image that’s in front of you which has nothing to do with your memory of the ocean. It has more to do with the paper, the pencil and the artists sense of organisation, her sensibility of what she thinks art should be, a kind of Philosophical feeling about what it should be. (cezanne pointed it out – nature is nature, art is art – the joy is in seeing a person’s effort – everything resides in the art/the object itself…. it is in the aesthetics, to be discovered, ignored, always there is evidence.
For me this is where the work becomes subject – one’s thinking about what is in front of you becomes an investigation into form. There is no hierarchy of the composition on the surface, it’s more about the plane, the surface of the sheet itself. Lean physically into/over her work – strong touch, no eraser in the drawing. Talking about Mondrian and a painting of the sea – he found a certain quality of the sea, the vastness, the horizon – he compress it into the frame/surface of the canvas.
She talks in another video (soundcloud of National Gallery, Elson Lectures. 2006) about looking, to fix the image in memory (complicated) remembering, drawings with graphite for 15 years… different stones, decided to re make them in an art context. re describe it again through my body, an eye test, how much can you see, look, remember, then you paint, you look again -that’s the spirit in which I look at it. not replica, its invented and other is found – in a replica you try to make it look like,,,this was done with conscious attentions and trying to whittle your own ability to see – you look, you see, you participate.. see how it was made,, you ask, was this worth it — a criticism, a kind of purging, a joy – that you have something that you can connect to in such focus, concentration,,,a test.
Below is a work I started based on observation from a photo I took in Dubai. I used a grid method to put the objects in the picture as close as possible to the truth. I started reading a book, To destroy Painting, by Louis Marin. Here the discourse is on the work by Poussin, Arcadian Sheperds ( Et in Arcadia Ego) and Caravaggio’s Head of Medusa. I refer to it in the sense that the work I am doing is also a representation of an object which is absent, but not lacking. It is a moment that I try to capture, just as Veja Celmins does. Emotional feelings are excluded, sunlight do affect the work, as it shows value, the landform, like sand and rocks and the plants form the important information I need to keep in mind.
I realize that this is a work in progress, as it takes effort and focus to stay with the truth. I need to work analytically and stand away regularly in order to evaluate.
I chose to add her work practice in this blog as I feel related to her figurative painting style. I relate to her use of flesh, drama and boldness in her works. I also see her growth due to putting in the hours of work as well as honesty of raw emotion. During most of the formal feedback from my tutor she questioned within context of the work I presented my own preferences as a painter and generously shared names of artists, links to their work. I battled with critically evaluate this process. I loved the research topics and it made me inspired as well as sometimes despondent in terms of my own efforts and lack of skill. In terms of painting styles I realize that I am comfortable with color, bigger brushes and abstract ideas of paint. I relate to bigger works with impact and drama. I learn it is not just about the paint sensation, I want to ‘make a picture’…….and image.
I went back to a video of Jenny Saville after her exhibition at Gargosian ( https://youtu.be/ut6q6Yys94o). Saville started with an abstract area on her canvass and focussed on this throughout the painting process. There is so much learning here that will keep me busy. She started from an abstract viewpoint and then attempts to hold on to that area and start creating a self portrait. She used photo copies of his self portrait close by, finds the way how he blends light areas with paint to turn up volume as she describes his use of light and shadow. She shows how one can almost deconstruct his works, break it up into areas of learning opportunities. Here she shows areas of limited ground with impasto coming through which reminds of Beacon. I love how she brings history into contact with modern work and see her own learning. I also resonate with the idea of staying figurative in her work, even though she uses abstract ideas of paint sensation and texture of the materiality.
I also learned from her practice of using her own body for many of her paintings. She sees it as a reliable source, always available, as well as the fact that this takes the artist into the work, not just the viewer. Her formative experiences with art is related to history of art and the classic masters and she was very much focussed on painting, but having strong feminist feelings about woman as artists. She understands the power of pushing boundaries… images of flesh of the human body. One of her latest series of work is called Ancestors. It is a collage like figures. She refers to tradition, but is very contemporary. One see a figurative and abstract work in one painting. She uses pictorial images but describes a modern interpretation of figurative art.