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By: Anna Sullivan
My work explores layering through the medium of history. An aspect of my work is the presentation of self in everyday life. My practice is located in 19o4, this blog includes sketched thoughts and reflections, aspects of research and can serve as a window on process. It is virtually a work in itself.
# 11 [8 December 2012]
Me Then Now is quite demanding and its strength is showing forcing me toward a difficult decision: persevere or give up? I believe the work has value. The most readily accessible part is the making of ephemeral portraits on a street as I pass through to which the majority of the passive audience are indifferent, a small minority jeer and another minority enquire or compliment. In my earning capacity I am being pressured to dress in a conventional manner for such is the strength of the work that I have been told it will compromise my professional credibility. That my attire is part of the work that gets its meaning through longevity would be undermined by this and the work would end. My forays into the Live Art network have met with little interest and it has not been possible to make a connection with an established body or by my own efforts bring in a sustaining income. There are so many shouting for attention and my voice does not carry. Nonetheless I believe in the work.
So I am beginning to confront the possibility of ending a work that I am confident has much potential for addressing the role of history in culture and society whether in Architecture or Art. My aim is toward a deep understanding of Then through immersing myself as much as possible in Then. This means giving myself over to the work and in drawing out from within, giving that momentum and then allowing it to change me. In that is a work and from that comes work.
Watching “Scenes from an Execution”, written after my time but the choice of a friend and a very good choice, I was taken with the wonder of theatrical performance for the first time in quite a long time. It is so very creative, though outside my own practice I was buoyed by the performance. Standing before the Corot in the National Gallery I feel much the same. The play raised questions of the artists’ right to expression under patronage. This applies to Architecture as well as Art and seemed to conclude that taking the risk may cause embarrassment to the establishment, may bring censure, but an enlightened establishment will in the fullness of time recognise the value nonetheless.
# 10 [16 September 2012]
In truth I am overwhelmed, yet the approaching wave has not broken across the bow.
My work explores layering through the medium of history. This revelation coming to me as a fever grew to lay me low, brought on by relief and overwork. And in small part by the exclusion of certain work to tip the balance to one side (the unexpected outcome being a deeper interest in the means toward food and shelter). The balance has yet to return though its messenger, the desire to tip the balance quite far the other way, is most certainly here. Up shoot ideas (even in approaching Autumn), the desire to drink deep of the well, the desire to turn, they are all rising at once threatening inundation and release into the madness of glorious freedom. No. Task incomplete. But it’s only a little bit longer. Strong, must be strong.
And therein lies the tension: feeling overwhelmed and with the wave still approaching.
But what will happen when the wave breaks?
# 9 [14 May 2012]
From an ongoing collaborative work between the Artist and Photographers Morley Von Sternberg and Natalia Kubica.
# 8 [15 April 2012]
The current exhibition at the Guidhall Art Gallery Age of Elegance 1890 to 1930 includes a fine selection of works with the majority, fortunately for me, at the earlier end of the date range. I began with http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app;jsessionid=2A788ECD3C53CD1B6D3EE9D880EE20B5?service=external/Item&sp=M35223%3AT%3AF%3AF&sp=9313&sp=X
Miss E. Forbes in this broad picture conveys an Aesthetic sensibility in the principal figures in a landscape rendered in the manner of the moment.
A deceptively innocuous landscape by Mr. John A.A. Brown features ill-fed cattle that have wondered from their pasture into a crop, the central figure sneers at the viewer, as only cattle can, amidst a supremely controlled landscape showing detail in the foreground and colour only toward the horizon. Medium can be perceived in the sky through a pattern of brush strokes, and perhaps finger marks too. http://dorotheasharp.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/john-alfred-arnesby-brown-river-bank.html
Actually painted in 19o4 is The Heart of Empire by Mr. Nils Lund http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app?service=external/Item&sp=M35782%3AT%3AF%3AF&sp=9393&sp=X from the roof of the Royal Exchange looking West. This great city I call my home is spread out beneath hazy skies, the rooftops and street pattern more the subject than the street life seemingly far below. Beyond is the river and stark against brilliant cloud the dome of St. Paul's. It is a composition with a breadth of view that swells the heart with pride at the great achievement of this great city.
Evening by Mr. William Ingram http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app?service=external/Item&sp=M35569%3AT%3AF%3AF&sp=8924&sp=X is of a different feeling entirely. I cannot be sure why it has stepped forward so, for it is largely sea and sky alone and in such contrast to its near neighbour on the wall, but there is something sublime about the sea that has been evoked with the most economical of means heightened by its particular blue. The sky gives us the hour of the title suggesting rest and yet there upon the horizon a ship far from harbour. I would perhaps have left out the ship, but who am I to pretend to such a fine conception evoking feelings at once of desolation and hope and the great power and beauty of sea.
Opposite is a work by Mr. Frank Brangwyn, http://www.frankbrangwyn.org/home%202.html friend to my teacher Mr. Alfred East. Titled The Lord Mayor's Show in Olden Days http://www.bridgemanart.com/asset/6155/Brangwyn-Sir-Frank-1867-1956/The-Lord-Mayor's-Show-in-Olden-Days-c.1905-oil-o?search_context=%7B%22url%22%3A%22%5C%2Fsearch%5C%2Fartist%5C%2FBrangwyn-Sir-Frank-1867-1956%5C%2F868%3Flang%3Dfr%22%2C%22num_results%22%3A%22147%22%2C%22search_type%22%3A%22creator_assets%22%2C%22creator_id%22%3A%22868%22%2C%22item_index%22%3A1%7D it evokes the work of S. Caneletto and M. Matisse in its use of rich colour. A small canvas that looks back to an earlier time when such spectacles graced the Thames using a contemporary mode. Three centuries spanned in the stroke of a brush.
This was my second visit of which the foremost highlights I have shared, though there are many others, particularly those from the 1890s. We are fortunate these works are accessible and as an exhibition it follows wonderfully from the permanent collection of works exhibited upstairs. http://www.guildhallartgallery.cityoflondon.gov.uk/GAG/Exhibitions/CurrentExhibitions/Age+of+Elegance.htm
# 7 [27 March 2012]
The Museum of Domestic Art and Architecture has proven to be a wonderful resource
The collection includes a number of publications that will help to describe the Me Then Now home and studio to those who may be interested. My aim was to get to grips with the collection in order to plan my research more effectively. Communicating the scope and intent of the living and working space authentic to 1904 is important, a big task, and enjoyable, but important for raising interest and drawing support for what will be a unique living work of art. MODA has numerous journals for consumer and trade as well as wallpapers, paint colours, flooring and furnishing catalogues. The staff are very helpful and I look forward to continuing my research.
# 6 [25 February 2012]
I began at M. Cezanne, such vitality. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/paul-cezanne-landscape-with-poplars I picture him restless behind the walls of that big house, outside his brush dashes across the canvas, evidence of the palette knife, just enough to know it is a roof. And in this http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/paul-cezanne-the-avenue-at-the-jas-de-bouffan I find comfort as this quick study exhibits a similar degree of patience as my own work. The effect is admirable, engaging. It is not necessary to do more, it can be a mistake to do too much. But, oh, the confidence.
Next M. Corot. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jean-baptiste-camille-corot-the-four-times-of-day-noon He laid in a large area of an umber to give the darks of the tree, in some places thinly washed across to tone down the canvas. The sky descends from rich blue heavens to white horizon. Over the top comes green for trees, deep, dark green mostly over umber and generally covering. Little highlight. At the foot a man with a red hat, for scale, and scattered nearby red for flowers, from the love of painting. The trunks ascend, some outlined and infilled, some of these worked, though deftly, not necessarily carefully, and not laboriously, others just line. The top of the painting is just colour, dark, flat colour, the bottom has more time spent on it bit is still just dark flat colour. He was the first and his influence is great extending even to my own Mr Alfred East.
Onward to Mr Constable, it seemed right. That, no that, no this, http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/john-constable-the-cornfield . I've studied sketches for this work elsewhere and it has a wonderful informality. The far fields put in with a green tone then overpainted dry with a white-green. And yet the detail of the Church tower does not jar though clearly carefully put in.
And then pausing at Mr Gainsborough we have clearly stepped to a different school, http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/thomas-gainsborough-cornard-wood-near-sudbury-suffolk that owes a good deal to the Dutch painters of a century earlier.
And then to Salvator Rosa, whose virtues are so enthusiastically extolled by Mr Joshua Gilbert, bridging between Titian and the Dutch. And for all its claim to mythology http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/salvator-rosa-landscape-with-mercury-and-the-dishonest-woodman is a study of a tree.
Before leaving I must see Rubens, http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/peter-paul-rubens-a-view-of-het-steen-in-the-early-morning his country house. There is so very much happening from the undergrowth to the fields of the middle ground, and there, beyond, dots of dark green on lighter green effortlessly give trees in field boundaries. And in the foreground the horse once painted repainted and the uncertain suggstion of a cart wheel, perhaps in motion, in carriage of goods and chattels.
It is almost too much, so wonderful is the Nationl Gallery and then as I make my way out I am diverted to http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/piero-della-francesca-the-baptism-of-christ for the landscape in these Cinquecento works has drawn my attention since reading Mr Gilbert already mentioned. There is an entire world happening in these lands depicted, and usually in service of the narrative. Accuracy of depiction does not mean topographic study in these evocative works.
And so with a brief pause at http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/filippino-lippi-the-virgin-and-child-with-saints-jerome-and-dominic I make my way out satiated and stimulated, and comforted. What a treasure is the National Gallery for the student of painting. The great masters inspire and inform, their techniques discernible to the patient eye and their effects uplifting on a Friday evening.
I hope too I was able to deliver some nice pictures to the other visitors as I made my way through, the painter of 19o4. I travelled through 400 years of lanscape painting, and the gallery became the site of contemporary performance practise.
# 5 [10 February 2012]
To have an English language for English churches is the aspiration. Perhaps out of habit the most common language employed for new churches in the 19th Century was based on Gothic. As an English style, particularly the Perpendicular Gothic, it was suited to the English Church. Of a later language the architecture of the Renaissance had closer association with the Roman church, both sharing roots in antiquity, though the scientific mind behind the great Anglican Cathedral of the Renaissance developed an English classicism as the most appropriate architectural language for the 17th Century replacement of the Gothic St. Paul’s.
Widespread church building through the 19th Century included the Catholic churches of Pugin who found the Gothic the most appropriate language. Both Anglican and Catholic lay claim to the Gothic. The later 19th Century saw refinement and development of the Gothic language and in contrast to it the development of the Free Style arising from the Arts and Crafts Movement.
But what of the planning? What of context? A different language for the city and the country? The scale? The budget? Or even the purpose? Is the Church to reflect its congregation?
Absolutes are hard to establish, there needs to be instead a rule-of-thumb, some guideline to serve as a point of departure for the process and expression.
To take the Gothic, considered an English architecture though its great age was when the Church was the Roman church. So perhaps instead one should look for historical precedent in the years following the break with Rome. But the later Tudor and subsequent Early Renaissance are more characterised by domestic architecture than Ecclesiastical. It is with Wren’s City Churches following the Great Fire of London of 1666 (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=115784177921406587387.0004676262a9f91faf177 ) that a concerted effort is made toward developing a style for the English Church. But the hand of Wren and those of his office was strongly influenced by continental classicism and the hand of Inigo Jones as well as responding to small budgets and periodic difficulties in sourcing materials.
Where some stand tall in Portland stone some are of red brick, a material that is reminiscent of Tudor building and as English as York and Lancaster. St Benet Paul’s Wharf (http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/Details/Default.aspx?id=199790 ) employs red brick articulated with stone dressings. There is no trace of the Gothic, instead an understated Italianate tower and round arched window heads. Internally the nave is a barrel vault articulated with plasterwork while the side aisles are minimally articulated ribs at the gallery level. The detailing is a language of restrained classicism. Nearby is St Andrew by the Wardrobe (http://www.standrewbythewardrobe.net/history/ ) in a similar language though of a more opulent interior. Both owe a good deal to Wren’s acquaintance with the Italian Renaissance classicism but the language is more austere, however there is a richness. It is found in the carving of plaster and wood focused at altar and screen with some limited ornamentation to panelling. There is painting and gilding and some limited use of rich materials. The light coming in through mostly clear glass in large windows falling onto walls and ceilings painted white with oak panelling fills and is somehow subdued. The effect is of a restrained intensity of feeling.
The Arts and Crafts principle of sincerity of craftsmanship can find expression in the building of a place of worship but is more suited to a rural location such as All Saints Church Brockhampton (http://www.brockhampton.com/church.htm ) designed by Mr Lethaby and assisted by Mr Wells with local craftsmen. It is subdued, of its place and of itself and inside elegant, uplifting and comforting. A town location would require language for a place of worship on a busy commercial street. Is there some scope in the Free Style to meet this need that coupled with the interior feeling of Wren can serve?
# 4 [3 December 2011]
Today I made my way incognito to the West End to do some shopping. Some gifts are from places incompatible with MeThenNow. One department store used to be a more pleasurable experience but from the threshold onward I found the shelves piled high and closely grouped, the narrow gaps between full of people reaching over each other grasping, turning, returning again and again. Upstairs was less crowded but there seemed to be an atmosphere of anxiety amongst the shoppers. I made my way out into the hectic street all noise and bustle. Before long I had reached the limit of my endurance and could only wait for the 'bus, my trip generally unsuccessful. I am perhaps out of place in that environment. It was once my everyday environment and yet today I find how I live as 19o4 has changed me. That environment is not for me, the world I am making suits me better. I wonder if others enjoy that environment, or merely endure it.
# 3 [23 October 2011]
Within the frame of the work the question 'why are you dressed like that?' is grossly impertinent. However it is an inevitable part of the work. When taken out of the safety of the gallery it is open to comment, though the most satisfying are those who merely regard the picture they see favourably. Of course without knowing their minds one has to assume a favourable response. And of those who do speak most do give a kind word. Some are unpleasant, they perhaps think they know, their minds are made up or are merely closed. They are a minority though perhaps consider themselves otherwise. With those who ask a question there is the difficulty of knowing what answer they want, and I have few clues in that short sentence to inform my answer. And I do so very much want to give an answer that satisfies. The work has so many facets that can engage an audience that nearly everyone that inquires can take away an enriching experience. I always have the highest aspirations.
# 2 [15 October 2011]
Why do I paint? Am I trying to communicate something, or share something like a view or a feeling? I find the palette of colours appeals to me, it is a landscape palette full of yellows and blues. I am not the outdoors type and yet I find myself standing in the cold with brush in hand. I value my privacy and yet I have strangers looking over my shoulder at half-finished studies. Greater discipline is developing so that my work outdoors is study with the aspiration of recording form and colour and the lie of shadows but leaving the craft to be done indoors. In the studio I take my time on a larger canvas than used for the study in hopes of conveying some landscape feeling. Yet it is not quite topographic production and not quite abstraction. And of course it does not sell. I have yet to encounter an established outlet for the work and my meagre resources can only hire out-of-the-way spaces. My work is unconventional, traditional, landscape is the province of the hobbyist. And yet I continue to paint and here connect with the performative aspect of my practice, as 19o4, where I am the 'Lady Painter' of Then, sometimes termed Paintress, seen by the Gentlemen of the profession, those who govern, as an enthusiastic amateur but not capable of producing anything but decorative work; this considered perjorative. So it is not for money and it is not for reputation. It is for making. It is for the progress of change as one colour is mixed with another to become a third. It is for the feeling of the paint on the canvas, the feeling between the brush and the canvas. It is for the appearance of the palette during the work. It is for the total absorption in the task. Where once there was raw canvas and tubes of colour this picture now exists. But to what end? What determines selection of one view over another? There is perhaps somthing pure in being without requests for this or that view, but then without the challenge of commision there is just the walking around in circles, but then there is no one to disappoint. "It's beautiful" can be a reflex for the flummoxed polite and more than anything I should not like to disappoint. so why do i paint? I paint because I must. Is that reason enough? Where does that lead?
Understanding has come to me later than some and I expect this comprehension to continue. For various reasons outside the conventions of progress through this society individuality has provided me with an opportunity to explore what social freedom here can mean; an artist of 19o4 living Now using oil on canvas, drawing and a little photography as part of Me Then Now: a life of Then lived Now.