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.
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?
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.
Andrew Bracey – Observing Gallery Behaviour
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.
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.
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.