The reality of juxtaposition.
It has been just over 3 months since my Degree Show at Wimbledon College of Art (UAL). I had so much planned once this was over, so many projects I wanted to get started but in truth I have been like a fly trapped in a milk bottle – buzzing around wildly but achieving very little. It has been said to me that in order to make progress it is best to focus on one thing at a time. This is all well and good, but I think for many of artists this is just not viable. I need to earn some income, I need (and want) to produce some art, I want (and need) to collaborate, exhibit and experiment. I also have a family, so hence have all the activities and responsibilities that entails. So my mission in respect to my art practice these days is to try and focus on just a few things at a time, and to try to relax into it more.
I have recently been playing with making small collages, physical and digital. They have tended to try and evoke a sense of place, a quick escape route in my head. One is based in Spain; Andalucia region. I have juxtaposed and transferred images of photographs I had taken on past holidays onto a solid oak wood block that I had previously primed with a mixture of rabbit glue and marble dust. It is relatively small; approximately 27 cm square. In keeping with my usual practice, I painted and drew upon this. I wanted the surface and image to be deliberately rough and incomplete in parts – as if an artefact with the surface showing through in places – like touching the walls of an old city, the heat of the sun bleaching the paintwork and drawing delicate cracks upon its history.
The other is a ‘New Zealand’ digital collage -in a wildish sort of state. I am from New Zealand originally but have not been back there for quite a number of years. Living in London, whilst I love it, there is a reassuring primal ruggedness about New Zealand which I miss and wanted to capture.
Oh dear. I still haven’t managed to include all the bits I have wanted to in my latest series of collages and painting. I have been easily distracted lately. This includes illness, my work in a theatre and the stress of having mice in the house (which I am ashamed to say I am ridiculously affected by). Anyway, these all contribute to the interruptions that affect my art work and perhaps that’s the theme for today’s blog post.
I have continued working on my series of small works involving people and pattern and have been trying to merge to some extent both the pattern and the images of the people. These are very much experimentations with varied levels of success. It often doesn’t feel like a merging but more a disruption of sorts. Is it that the collage of the person interrupts the pattern or the pattern on the surface cuts across the person? Is there perhaps an equal tension between the paint and the collage or maybe because a person is involved, it automatically triggers a recognition within myself that I cannot undo and detach myself from. There I am trying to disintegrate the idea of a person within the pattern, trying to get this idea of how we as humans are just part of an overall pattern but I find there is a natural resistance that I cannot ignore. I have managed to produce one piece of work which includes foliage and architecture as well and I am happier with this one, so I shall (hopefully) forge ahead and try to do more work like this and see how it goes.
There are various things that happen when I create my art, a place where my brain goes to, a kind of daydream. These imperfect patterns I have been creating which not only act as a backdrop to the collages I produce, but exemplify for me the various tropes and themes associated with philosophical ideas surrounding the fragment – juxtaposition, interconnection, absence, transformation, unity, exactitude to name a few.
I also think about other visual artists which my art may have been informed by. It is not as if I consciously make work trying to incorporate other artist’s ideas. It is more that as I make my work, another artist’s work may spring to mind as I think ‘oh, so and so likes to explore this kind of thing too’. An example of this is Sonia Delaunay. One might look at her art and see it’s a far cry from my own but she clearly used to get obsessed with creating patterns with lots of colours. Another is Paul Klee, especially his little block patterned watercolours.
I was intending to concentrate on pattern in my recent work but I also have become rather focused on colour. I have been scouring interior and building design books, specifically the icon style series (from different countries and cities) and looking at the variations of colour combinations – walls, accessories, doorways, plants for example and these have influenced the choices I have made. Interior design is my own particular fetish and ironically fetish is yet another trope associated with philosophical ideas about the fragment.
I have started to include collages of people within these patterns and colours. These are of people I have photographed as I make my journey on the bus to and from my art studio. Most of these people are on a journey themselves. The moment of their capture is transitory and elusive (I think of the photographer Saul Leiter here). Yet there is still a connection with the environment, with their surrounds, with other people and wildlife passing by. I like the idea that we are all part of the overall pattern and fabric of life, part of the ebb and flow of what exists and what doesn’t, no less or more important than anything else.
As of late I have been having a wonderful time in my studio creating patterns. Using watercolour, acrylic or ink on paper, these patterns have been far from perfect in their repetitions and accuracy but I have been trying to radiate a certain vibe or rhythm to the paintings. As I work, I consider the frequent themes in those ideas surrounding the fragment such as connection, juxtaposition, absence, transformation, fetish to name a few. I am hoping that some of those tropes filter through into the patterns that I make, be it unconsciously.
These are still works in progress as I will be collaging within them using images of people and perhaps wildlife as well a little later. I can’t promise I won’t get side-tracked into making more patterns as I find it incredibly absorbing and I find there is something rather interesting about that in itself. It is very meditative and satisfying creating colourful and repetitive dots, dashes, shapes and swirls with the occasional random brushstroke thrown in.
It is interesting to see how some pieces work better than others; they might have more movement, vibrate or somehow sit better than other pieces and it leads me to contemplate and interrogate as to what it is that is making this happen. It could be a clarity of shape against another shape or the effect and transparency of layering or simply the contrast of certain colours against another. Let’s see how I get on with the collaging within these works now and what they may add to the fray.
Much of making art for me is about trying things out. I tend to work in series of works where I am exploring particular ideas that have evolved from other art works I have created. Very often it may appear iterative, where it looks like I am going round and round in circles but it is in the minutiae where my creative head lies.
I have spent a considerable amount of time over the last umpteenth months focusing on collage and painting to do with the wildlife in my garden and my fragmentary and transitory connections with this wildlife. This has included a number of bird works, a fox, a moth, snail and a woodlouse.
In this latter work, my little woodlouse sits amongst a patterned background and environment and it is this pattern that is carrying me forward. Pattern is something that appears in all our lives, from our natural environment, to human routines, behaviour and our connections to things.
I am having a little play with watercolours and pattern (inspired by Paul Klee’s little watercolour works) and am interested in bringing in the human factor in terms of our relationship to pattern and our fragmentary existence. I am at the very early stages of this; my watercolour expertise is currently sadly lacking but I do like a challenge!
The art piece I show here is the inspiration for this new developing series – ‘The wandering woodlouse’.
My, where has time gone? It is something that seems to stretch in front of you full of opportunity and potential and then collapses and amalgamates behind you, becoming blurred and unrecognisable. I haven’t written a blog for ages. Can’t say why, don’t know why. It’s too easy to say there has been too much going on. Yes, there has, but that has never stopped me before. One thing for sure, is that I haven’t been in the studio much and that can have something to do with it. Anyway, I am back now and look forward to long summer days of musing and creating.
I have been working on some insect pieces; a moth, woodlice and a snail. This is following on from my other garden creature series using paint and collage. I continue to explore the idea of interconnection between man and nature, the sharing of space, the blurring of boundaries, how these everyday creatures float in out of our consciousness and how in turn there is a mystery surrounding how other creatures might perceive us.
With these pieces I am trying to portray this idea of creation and disintegration, juxtaposition and interconnection, the ebb and flow between the real and the imaginary, form and abstraction, absence and presence.