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By: Nicola Tassie
Documenting a year of hosting six regional artists at Standpoint for our visual art development residencies. Alongside studio project, presentation and talk, Standpoint offer resident artists a programme of meetings and visits with curators, artists and writers to develop their practice and career. This blog will be written by Standpoint artists and visiting artists. Join Facebook group Standpoint Futures for updates on events.
# 43 [3 November 2011]
Milly Thompson has just visited the studio. As usual I talked through my older work and then moved on to the newer pieces I have been doing at Standpoint. She felt that what I (maybe the work) projected most of all was a grappling with the guilt of painting, something common around painters, after all it makes little sense to paint as a contemporary artist, and yet for so many of us it is the driving force.
She was fantastic with being harshly critical about my work in places of our talk. She was especially critical of Clout which is perhaps the piece of work that I have been known for. She felt that this work could easily be misread and taken as a gimmick and seen too much as being isolated and 'liked' by people because it has an sign/image that they recognise. She also felt that the new work is far to close to a cheap and nasty poster manipulated on CAD and sold to be pretty on the wall. Something that pulled me up short. She felt that the work was more successful when i became both less referential and less reverential to the original paintings. she felt this was closest with one of the newer works where i had broken free of the figure and the edge.
in terms of moving on, she stressed repeatedly several things. Firstly the absurdity for making rules for myself for work, that make for a practice that has a project based mentality rather than a holistic approach. She thinks making things so logical holds me back somewhat and is almost certainly right. The rules if they need to exist should only be there to get things started. She thinks I should take a year off from being logical and felt the most logical thing for my practice is to be illogical for a big space of time; to let things happen rather than predetermining them. She felt with this then my work could really go somewhere, but at the moment is too often stifled.
We talked a lot of the relevance of painting and how I should focus on perhaps the most pertinent reason to be painting at the moment; that if it being a place where one can slow down and retreat from the business and bustle of the everyday contemporary world. She felt that maybe I should really retreat from the world of twitter, Google and mobile phones when in the studio. This was made in response to me telling her that I do not drive and that because i walk everywhere then I see things that might normally be passed over if one was traveling at speed. She felt more than anything that my work and a painting practice allows for a slowing down. This also makes logical sense in an illogical way of my feeling towards work such as Clout and Various Titles and how I am now more interested in making selections from these than displaying the mass as I have previously done.
Finally she feels that I should focus on being a painter more, letting myself do what I want to do with paint, rather than thinking of others, or a theoretical response to the validity/death of painting. I am conscious that I am far far away from a Stuckist attitude to painting and I am uneasy with the recent revival in purely abstract paintings, but letting the paint and gesture come to the fore could make the work become more personable and more interesting. She pointed out that it took two hours for me to talk about the activity of painting, when I said how i have achieved a gestural mark with gouache paint and felt I should let this come out far more often. Can I get over the guilt of that though and would I be happy with it?
# 42 [2 November 2011]
I have just had a studio visit from Ingrid Swenson who runs Peer. I feel fortunate to have spoken to her as they are currently showing a fantastic updating or re-evaluation of John Smith's The Girl Chewing Gum, which is one of the best shows I have seen during my time in London.Peer as an organisation is a very thoughtful one and Ingrid was the quite naturally of the same nature. We started by talking about John Smith and also the prerequisite discussion about Richter. I then talked her through lots of previous work, and then what I have produced on the residency, i imagine she had to digest a lot of rambling, but made many insightful comments at the end.
We talked about why I am almost battling with painting/being a painter and she asked why I can not just accept that I am and let things go from there. I do not have to be like Sisyphus and carry painting on my back. It is so interesting that this comment is coming up a lot in London, where there is a lot of painting and yet I perceive in Manchester I have to justify a reason to paint. She felt it was also ok to take away control form the work and to let things go far more, she felt I almost try to be intellectual (her words!) about the work and maybe I should let things happen. We talked of what is it that makes Richter or Chris Marker so great and how she things a lot of it is how natural their work is, that there is not struggle, but how it has been made naturally. She mentioned how the trinagle motif does contain the allusion to Modernism, through Buckminster Fuller and cubism that I referred to, but perceptively she also said of how it also harks to the doodle. She felt, and almost certainly rightly, that I should let the forms I paint become more like doodles in their attitude.
Towards the end we talked of two of the shows she has responded to most warmly recently, Richard Tuttle at Modern Art and John Thompson at Anthony Reynolds. She felt that they both offer an antidote to the monumental art that is somewhat invading the London galleries at the moment, there was a quiet reflectiveness in these two shows that played against the brashness of a lot of work seen out and about.
We did not talk so much about the film I produced ( you can see it here ) and i wonder if this is telling? However this did seem to get a good reaction from my students who visited this morning, maybe the lightness and humour was something they related to, or the anarchy of fighting in or running through the gallery appealed to them. It was interesting talking to them about the importance of the studio and the residency as being a testing ground for practice and how stepping outside a normal pattern can allow yo to take risks and try things in your practice form another position and stance. I think it was god for them to see me making mistakes and to see the importance of wrong avenues taken with the work that build into successful works. This is certainly something I want to take back. I took them down Brick lane, via the amazing bagel shops to revisit Wilhelm Sasnal at Whitechapel which really is a phenomenal show. The opportunity to return to these shows is important and something I shall miss about London.
This morning Mike and myself did the first of three colours on the lithograph. i am very excited, it is so far from the immediacy of paint, but something that certainly appeals as a process. We hope to apply the 2nd colour tomorrow.
# 41 [27 October 2011]
I was at the doors of Haunch of Venison as they opened this morning to see the Frank Stella show. He was a college favorite, but i have seen so few of his works in the flesh. This was a real treat, to be able to go back and forth between paintings and periods in his career and piece it together; and also in complete peace, with only one other person in attendance for the whole of my visit. Like so much painting (and very very obviously) the surface completely changes when you get up close. The bleed and pencil marks and even colour differentiation in the surface of the older compass and concentric squares work made the work so much more human. There is a great room with three relief works that are exactly the same in structure and completely different in colour, material and direction of the planes. This is something I have been attempting to do with focusing on the Virgin at the Rocks by Da Vinci in two paintings I have done at Standpoint (one more to go). Each one takes the same section of the painting to paint over and each one creates a different feel by the difference in composition of triangles and more tellingly the colour.
However it was with two later huge canvases that Stella truly stopped me in my tracks. I am not sure if these are not his best paintings that I have seen, they are certainly close. They feel a little like an artist, who has become an old man and who no longer gives a fuck what others think, but is going to do what he wants to do (like Sigrid talked of Titian in the National gallery last week). These are enormous surfaces of perhaps twelve feet square and covered with an extrodinarily complex system of marks, both flat and raised and of a huge amount of colours, textures and depths. These paintings truly zing, always an excellent mark of a god painting. The most odd thing about them is that despite the chaos of the imagery clashes, they are true moments of calm once you focus, the eye in the storm and this, to me, is an excellent analogy of our contemporary life.
Between time in my new studio in the gallery i have also popped out to see some shows in the surrounding area whilst I decide what to do next with the composition I am working on. I went to Kenny Schachter’s Rove where he has photos by Bill Wyman ( some moments of a good photogrpaher, usually when he is not trying to be one like in his portrait of Marc and Vava Chaagall, he is a better bass player though!) and Dan Rees at Jonathan Viner gallery, which I just did not get. Then on to the excellent John Smith show at Peer, his reworking of the iconic Girl Chewing Gum in both the film and ebay trail is superb in it’s attention to detail, truly a gem. I then went to see the Oliver Laric show at Seventeen, including an amazing frame made out of the board used to cover broken windows, perfectly in keeping with the delicacy of the orchid photograph it housed.
Now back to the studio, I am trying to get the painting I am working on up onto the walls by tonight, hum ho.
# 40 [27 October 2011]
So the show is now up in the gallery space, i say show, but it more like a halfway point between showing stuff I have been making since i arrived and an exhibition. To combat the feeling of it being too much of an exhibition i have decamped the studio upstairs to the small ex-secretary’s office at the front of the gallery, where passers by can look in on me painting (or drinking cups of tea). I decided to do this early on after comments from the directors of Standpoint that it was nice to see an artist in residence not having their head in a laptop. I think this comment cursed me and my laptop as it entered it’s coma soon after, still more time to paint.
I managed to edit the film i was making down from fifteen minutes to just under one and a half minutes and i feel much happier with it. I think before i just had raw footage and it now feels like i a have started to do something with it. Surprisingly the work which i am most interested in now the work is up is the smaller postcard pieces, that are propped on a shelf, with thick impasto paint. They are nowhere near there, but certainly have potential to take back to Manchester. Matilda has often said during the residency that is funny how the work that is produced in an almost offhand way can become the more successful work.
I spoke with Peter who I shall be in conversation with tonight about our respective work (he is in the gallery next week so it will be interested to compare our shows, we are certainly different painters). I am looking forward to our conversation, he purposely stopped our conversation short yesterday, so that we did not deaden it too much for tonight. I believe he is someone who will give a very honest critical response to the work, and like Sacha and Dave will pull out new things for me to consider.
# 39 [25 October 2011]
My laptop is still in a coma, i hope not a terminal one, so the entry from the second week still remains in limbo. I have been based in the studio lots, time is passing too quickly, and I want to have something worthwhile to show to people on Thursday. I have been completing a second version of Leonardo's Virgin on the Rocks, started painting on the acetate for a lithograph print and started some more thickly painted pieces. I have also been in the gallery office grappling with final-cut to create a new film piece. Some interesting things are happening as a result of my time here that I can take back to Manchester and build upon, whilst some will remain in London.
I have just had a studio visit from Sacha Craddock and am currently digesting the dense conversation. Early on she asked why I asked to talk with her, I replied for two major reasons. i knew i would get a completely honest view of my work from her, one that you all too rarely get outside of art college. Secondly when I first met her (in her capacity as my MA external) she spent one minute looking at the work, before proceeding to pull out everything I had not considered/taken for granted, and thus all that was missing within my work. I believe she is such an incredibly astute person that the same would happen again 10 years on.
She said incredibly obvious things about my work, things so obvious i have not considered them and are, as such, not obvious at all. Firstly and perhaps most importantly is the fact that at present i am only ever considering the reproduction of the painting and ignoring everything beyond the frame. She felt, rightly, that i am too respectful of the edge and that this creates too strong of a (tonal) difference between the border and the picture itself. This is something I should not ignore. I have to acknowledge this space and maybe this will create the 'other' that I am after.
At present I am ignoring too much the context of where i am getting the work from - the book, print or poster - and for the paintings to succeed i have to bring this into the work.She talked of an early Wallinger work where a night light lies underneath a propped page of a book. We talked of how this creates a tension between the two sides of the page (and the images on each respective side) and also the acknowledgment of the three dimensionality of the book. I show her some of the transitory paintings I made last year where i cut away aspects of the reproductions of paintings in auction catalogues. Quite often in these there is a tension created between the two sides, either from a translucency of the paper revealing the 'hidden' other image or how more directly one cut figure form one painting interacting with the painting on the other side of the paper. She appeared to react positively to this work and i think here lies the tension that the recent work needs.
We looked about earlier moving image work. In The Jump she felt I was being too referential to the source and by extension the photograph. When i let the paint do the talking (she suggested a relationship to Munch) it was all the more successful. UnMasterclass was too much of an aside for her and not concideredenough (why is the book in shot?, why is everything so wrong?, why so small?). I was interested to get her view on this work as this was what Dave Hoyland responded most warmly to.
The film I am editing at the moment she was also not so convinced by. She suggested i need to fuck about with the footage more, break it up, more like the cubist-esque triangulation i am dealing with in the painting. I should use time in film like i use surface in paintings to a far greater extent.
I have got so much from this visit, the sort of comments and insight that will linger when i am back in Manchester.
# 38 [23 October 2011]
So this is a little funny for me to write/you to read as my second blog entry on my laptop, which has decided not to work since Thursday. Lots has happened since I last wrote my last blog entry, but we shall assume that you shall read this, if interested, when my laptop is fixed and I can upload.So skipping nearly a fortnight of activity.....
On Friday I spoke to Fiona MacDonald. via skype. She is currently on a British School in Rome residency, which sounds as incredible as I have imagined. We caught up with our respective residencies and she was a good sounding board for my experience so far. I do not believe i was the same for her, as i had a couple of glasses of wine too many at the book launch of a friends graphic novel. Nicola Streeten's 'Billy, Me & You' is an incredible achievement and well worth reading. Find out more here http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/oct/15...
After too small of an amount of time in studio I went to meet Cathy Lomax and Ali Sharma at Transition Gallery. We had a fantastic conversation, primarily about our respective views on painting, both other peoples and our own studio activity. This is one of the most eye opening things about being in London. I have probably had more conversations in a fortnight in the big smoke about painting, than several years in Manchester. I shall have to think about why this is when I return and make efforts to do something about it, as the conversations I am having are proving fruitful. Our conversation focused at the start (after talking bout Sluice art fair) with a discussion about Richter. We had a good debate over our difference in opinion of his abstracts (mine-what is not to like!; Cathy-he stops being interesting with them!).
This carried on to question whether Richter is a good colourist or not. There was something interesting that was raised in the Buchloch talk I went to early in the residency where he responded to a question by T.J. Clark over whether Richter's abstracts are not more associated with American rather than German culture, a central construct to Buchloch's argument. He said no (after a pause), that they could only be produced by and in German(y), primarily because of their colour, which he believes is very German. This was something I had in mind when viewing the show and later talked about with Cathy and Ali. There is something in Richter's use of colour in his abstract works, which is akin to the shell-suit one often sees in Berlin or the Burossia Dortmund football kit, but whether this cultural or not I still am not convinced by. The conversation continued in this vein, but focusing more on my own work. A lot was discussed about generosity within my work, something Dave Hoyland felt there was a lack of, which Cathy and Ali disagreed with. This finally led to a discussion of a conceptual approach to painting, I wonder if this is something that painters and non-painters both find equally baffling and is something I find intriguing.
I left Transition to meet my partner and two year old son from the train to show them London, as this is the first time for Ben in London. Over the weekend there have been visits to Coram fields, The Natural History Museum, The V&A, The Museum of Childhood and The Serpentine. Anri Sala is really worth seeing, a magical coming together of video, with associated live sound in the gallery. A saxophonist duets with a film or a self-playing snare drum bangs quietly with it's film twin. My little boy particularly liked a musical box, both live in the gallery and in the hands of a man wandering the streets).
I am now back in the studio, editing a film I plan to show on Thursday and working on top of three postcards, with a far more impasto application of paint than before. I have also just seen Mike and will have to modify my idea for the print. I think this is probably for the best and will hopefully create a more successful and surprising piece.
# 37 [21 October 2011]
Andrew Bracey in discussion with Peter Ashton Jones, artist and co-founding editor of painting magazine Turps Banana
Thursday October 27th
Andrew will also be presenting work in progress at Standpoint Gallery over Thursday 27th and Friday 28th October, 12-6pm.
# 36 [7 October 2011]
27 October 2011 12-6pm: presentation of work in progress
27 October 6.30-8pm Andrew Bracey in discussion with Peter Ashton Jones, artist and co-founding editor of the painting magazine Turps Banana
28 October: presentation of work in progress
Andrew Bracey is intrigued by how we understand and navigate painting. Exploring the medium through film, animation and sculpture, he often employs a historical context through incorporating found traditional imagery within his practice. Sourcing reproductions of specifically figurative paintings, Bracey draws our attention to the classic archetype of twentieth century gallery display and changes the narrative through applied paint.
Combined with this Bracey is interested in exploring the space in which we encounter and engage with painting. During the residency he intends to appropriate scenes from films which represent a gallery experience that do not follow expected behaviour, exposing how various characters interact with the space in comparison to normality of a gallery visit.
Andrew Bracey is the last artist to complete a residency at Standpoint, as part of the 2011 programme.
Bracey graduated with an MA in Fine Art from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001 and has since exhibited widely in the UK and Europe. He is currently a Senior lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Lincoln and a member of Suite Studio Group in Manchester. Recent solo exhibitions include Animalation, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, 2009; Frames, Mid Pennine Gallery, Burnley, 2007; Freianlage in Supernature, Transition gallery, London, 2007; Freianlage, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 2007. Recent group exhibitions include Creekside Open selected by Dexter Dalwood, APT Gallery, London, 2011; We Are All in This Together, Bureau, Manchester, 2011; A Horse Walks into a Bar, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, 2010; Meanwhile in Manchester, Lombard Method & Grand Union, Birmingham, 2010; Unrealised Potential, Cornerhouse, Manchester, NGCA, Sunderland & Void, Derry, 2010; Global Studio, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 2010.
Andrew Bracey will also be exhibiting with Castlefield Gallery at The Machester Contemporary on 27 – 30 October.
This special two-day presentation is part of Andrew Bracey’s participation in Standpoint Futures Development Residencies designed specifically for artists based outside of London. The presentation will include a discussion at 6.30pm with Andrew Bracey on Thursday 27 October, and an opportunity to meet and talk to the artist at any time during the two days.
The residency’s chief aims are to provide high quality, individualized opportunities to develop an artists practice and career, and to integrate London and the Regional UK art world to promote dialogue and interchange. Please see residency blog to keep up to date with the progress of each residency http://standpointfutures.tumblr.com/
Further information: Matilda Strang 0207 739 4921 / email@example.com
# 35 [7 October 2011]
Thursday saw me complete my first painting, a (nearly) sacrilegious painting over of Leonardo’s Virgin at the Rocks, I hope that something new is visible in the master’s painting by my additions. Only time can tell. I also met with the Standpoint resident artists over tea and cake and a most interestingmöbius-strip like conversation, punctuated by Milo, Peter Jones’ very fine dog’s, stinky farts. After this was the rather odd experience of editing the press release with Matilda for a body of work which is still in the future, something is written, I wonder if it will portray the work I end up producing or if like Buchloch’s talk (supposed to be on chance and intention in Richter’s abstracts) will end up completely differently.
I went to 2 private views last night, out of god knows how many, on first Thursday’s marathon of openings. Sean Edwards was at Limoncello, a gallery I really like for their consistently high quality of artists and shows. I then went around the corner to hear a talk by a long seen friend, Simon Burton, at Arch 402 gallery. Simon said something particularly arresting during his very frank and honest talk about the importance of being unfashionable. This is something I have often thought about and it was interesting to hear his thoughts.
I write this early on a Friday morning at Vulpes Vulpes, the very friendly environment in which I am staying. In a few minutes I shall get the bus to see the Richter show for the first time (I want to get there early to beat the queues) before going on to the studio. Then next week bizarrely my residency moves to Venice for the week where I shall most certainly soak up an unindigestible amount of art. Right I better go and catch that bus.
# 34 [7 October 2011]
Where to start? I have been at Standpoint since Monday and looking back it feels a little like a whirlpool of activity has taken place in adjusting from life in Manchester to the big smoke; a whirlpool that very quickly feels normal. I intend to make the most of being in London and all that it offers, without letting the daily practice of being a painter slide away. Which takes me nicely to the fact that I am fortunate to be in London just as the major Richter retrospective starts and to visit this repeatedly is a luxury my manic-multi-gallery packed day visits rarely allows. On Wednesday I went to a talk by Benjamin H. Buchloch at Tate on memory and repression within Richter’s work. One thing has stuck in mind and made it’s way to the pub-based debate in the pub after the talk with friends. Buchloch stated that all the themes and ideas contained within Richter’s oeuvre could be traced back to one painting, Tisch (his ‘first’ painting produced in the West). He went on to maintain that in fact all artist have this one work that contains all their practice’s ideas and any subsequent works are unnecessary except to confirm this one work. I am pretty sure Richter would disagree with this. A Facebook post confirmed that many artists are appalled by this idea – “lazy arti historian crap, sorry”, “What a terrible thought to have to carry with you into the studio everyday - sometimes, but not always, theory can be terribly caustic to practice” or “So flawed and subjective a statement, as to be meaningless”. My own thoughts are that this is an interesting notion, but one for critics to worry about, not artists or else we would all give up now after only being able to reach check mate with their work. However I also wonder what my Tisch might be?
Anyhow back to the residency. The work I plan to produce over the 5 weeks I am here is a continuation of recent work in which I have been replacing the figure in reproductions of classical paintings with a hand painted geometric abstract mass. I intend to focus on the familiarity of the National Gallery’s collection of paintings and use and visit this wonderful place extensively. So on Wednesday I spent a few hours wandering in the labyrinth looking anew at these works and listening in on tours for paintings by Veronese and Massys. I shall be returning to the National regularly during my time in London.
Around the National I also went to several neighbouring galleries and this idea of infusing myself with art whilst in London is vital to be getting the most out of being here. So I also managed to catch the last day of Gordon Cheung’s show at Alan Cristea (I particularly responded to a still life painting which seems to suggest a new line of enquiry), Raqib Shaw at White Cube (art with one purpose, to be bought by billionaires with no taste), Phylida Barlow at Hauser & Wirth (every bit as fabulous as everyone is saying) and Charles Matton at AVA (fabulously intriguing miniatures of studios, libraries and other curious spaces). Then the studio, every day the studio.
Standpoint is a leading artist-run gallery and studios based in Hoxton, London. Standpoint Futures is a new residency programme. It is supported by Arts Council England and our regional partners: Arts Council Wales, ARC, Spike Island, Castlefield Gallery, Eastside Projects, Outpost and Peacock Visual Arts.
Fiona MacDonald is curator and project leader, Matilda Strang is residency coordinator.