My journey through the in-depth study of work by Boltanski, Salcedo, Richter, Emin, Bourgoeis and, indeed, others has helped me develop my thinking. This has, in turn, enabled me to create my own distinctive style, which, I consider, has generated my own uniqueness that I intend to exploit to the fullest possible extent in my future work.
Louise Bourgeois (25 December 1911 – 31 May 2010) was a French-American artist. Best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and printmaker.
Bourgeois’ work is very much confessional; she discusses her life traumas through her art.
‘Hours of The Day’ (Fig 31) is a fabric book made up of several pages of art that shows a time of waiting, depending on someone and needing them to return.
The sewn text from the first page of ‘Hours of the day’ reads ‘I am waiting for you, I will not abandon you, I can wait for you, I will wait for you, Do not abandon me’. This shows desperation and, perhaps, the need to not be abandoned again as she was, she felt, by her parents at such a young age. The use of sewing is very much a fixing process; joining the two parts and making them whole.
‘Sewing relates Bourgeois’ fears for separation and abandonment. Sewing is a joining together of pieces. It is a device that corresponds to alleviation of the fear of separation. If the cut is a wound, then the sewing brings things together, it is a form of reparation.’ (Celant, G. 2010, P. 19)
In my own work, the use of stitch, as well as text, is very common. I like to explore the way that text can affect the outcome of the art.
Celant, G (2010). The Fabric Works. Italy: Skira Editore.
In my more recent artworks, such as ‘Wedding Day’ (Fig 26), ‘Petal’ (Fig 27) and ‘Explosion of Colour…Life’ (Fig 28 – 30), I have begun to combine the use of text, photograph and paint or brusho, making multiple mixed media pieces. These have all very much been focusing on destroying images, deactivating their original purpose. A process that we have seen used in much of Salcedo’s works, though largely in a different physical appearance.
As you can see in ‘Petal’, I was still quite reluctant to ruin the photo; I have left the faces untouched by paint, really only painting a frame around the edge. This took many attempts with other pieces before this one. Whilst discussing with a tutor, I decided that I should try painting or drawing over the image with my eyes shut so I could not see what I was doing. My finished outcome was ‘Wedding Day’. Though a very simple piece, I found this experiment crucial to my artwork as it allowed me to see that manipulating a photo does not destroy it in any way: it just creates something new; a new perspective. In ‘Wedding Day’, the large crimson line down the centre really pushes the photo to the background, no longer making it the main subject, just a setting for a new piece of work in front. I intend to create lots more pieces like this as I feel it does not stand on its own terribly well, it looks like it belongs in a series. This perhaps could be a continuation for ‘Stolen Journey I & II’.
Following this, I found it much easier to manipulate my photos. I began destroying the photographs, ripping them, purposely trying to get rid of any significant details of the people in them. After sticking them onto my page, I started to paint over them: in some cases covering them completely, in others leaving them partially or fully visible. In some places, I have drawn over them and written or sewn in text. This can be seen in ‘Explosion of Colour…Life’.
Tracey Emin, CBE, RA (born 3 July 1963) is an English contemporary artist, known for her autobiographical and confessional artwork. Emin produces work in a variety of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, film, photography, neon text and sewn appliqué.
Emin’s large range of styles and mediums used is very similar to my own. She is so obsessed with creating art that expresses her feelings that she has no boundaries and will work with any material that helps her portray them.
I feel that Emin’s work shows great depth; she makes art to deal with old traumas, such as her childhood, her rape, her abortions and non-motherhood. Whatever she feels she creates, in my opinion, with great success, in a raw and sometimes uncomfortable manor.
My own work is reminiscent of Emin’s, not only in the style (mostly her text pieces, such as ‘Drunk to the Bottom of my Soul’ (Fig 24)) but also in the depth. I think my art is quite obsessive like hers and it is, in some ways, a good therapy for me, just forcing out my feelings through my art.
‘Keeping secrets is one of the most dangerous things you can do’, she says, ‘I’m interested cracking them open and revealing things – like Pandora’s box. Every time I do it for myself, I’m left with a lot more freedom afterwards’ (Brown, N. Kent, S. 1997, P. 36)
A good example of this is Emin’s ‘My Bed’ (Fig 25), which was created in her council flat in London during a four-day period of a serious depressive state caused by heartbreak. The bed is an aftermath of a nervous breakdown, featuring stained sheets, condoms, fag butts, empty bottles and worn pants. Not a beautiful scene, but very much raw and emotional, allowing large depth behind the artwork.
I particularly like Tracey Emin’s book ‘Tracey Emin: My Photo Album’ (Fig 23). Similarly to Richter’s ‘Atlas’, it shows a lot of personal images that she has taken throughout her life. I feel that both artists appreciate the true beauty of documenting through photography, as I do too.
In my own work, I do not feel it is as raw as can be seen in Emin’s work. I still feel like I hold back, as though I do not want people fully see how I feel. Whether I need to develop this or not is something I continue to consider. My current thinking is that, by leaving it as it is, I do not dictate a particular direction for the viewer to follow, instead I leave them space to develop their own thinking and bring in their own experiences/recollections. This, I feel, enables the viewer to connect with a piece more easily than where I give them the answer/finished product.
Sources Brown, N. Kent, S (1998). Tracey Emin. London: Art Data.
Gerhard Richter (born 9 February 1932) is a German visual artist. Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces.
In his series ‘Panorama’ (Fig 14 – 21), there are eight over-painted photographs displayed. They are of small-scale (6×4 inches) – the typical format of a traditional family album. Underneath their painted surfaces these photographs depict intimate moments of family life. I find it interesting that Richter had the ability to disfigure such intimate family photos.
When painting, especially in my overpainted photos, I feel like I am painting randomly and that I am not controlling the paint, however as we have seen in Richter’s works, certain actions and markings are made in specific places. I think, for me, this largely falls down to wanting an even composition, as in most of my works I find it very difficult to have an uneven piece: I always want the picture to balance.
I am also very interested in Richter’s book ‘Atlas’ (Fig 22), where he presents photographs he has taken throughout his life. In my own work, I tend to document a lot. I am a very keen photographer, but I feel that I enjoy the documentation side of it more than just capturing a typically ‘beautiful’ image.