Ashraf Jamal, IAS Lies Seminar
Art and Lies, University College London, with Tamar Garb, 3 October, 2018
Ashraf Jamal, speaker at Art and Lies open talk, University College London
Ashraf Jamal introduced work by contemporary South African artists where the notion of deception is evident in their practice, and contextualised these ideas with literature and political ideas.
Jamal is a writer, critic and historian on South African art and culture. He introduced the idea of fakery and showed a photograph of a blue Aloe plant, explaining cryptic colour, a defence mechanism in the natural world to hide through camouflage. He talked about Virginia Wolfe’s interest in “the thing that lies beneath the semblance of the thing” and talked about the capacity to think and feel through art so that we can engage with the gravity that still exists.
He quotes from Mike Nicol’s book The Waiting Country, A South African Witness, published in the aftermath of the 1994 elections. ‘We lie to accommodate’, he says. ‘We lie because we think it does not matter. We lie because we think that in the face of so many years of misery, a lie that is for the good is not a lie at all. And we lie because we have no self-respect. We lie because we are victims. We lie because we cannot imagine ourselves in any other way’. He believes that South Africa is morally bankrupt, a “widening abyss of race and class” and thinks the education system is so perverted and has lost its way and international reputation.
He showed Ed Young’s “barbed word-works”, BLACK IN FIVE MINUTES and ALL SO FUCKING AFRICAN, that comment on what it is like to be black. He is a white farm boy from the heart of Afrikaner-land, Bloemfontein. Resistance art culture has resurfaced, and the boom in African art as a commodity made him angry. (The 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair was on at the same time in London).
Black consciousness, the kind that Steve Biko represented, was still seen as a “curiosity”. He would like us to be in a world that is free from race. One that connects rather than divides us, which is the “tipping point of being human” and mentioned a book called The Quiet Violence of Dreams by Sello Duiker. This is about a dislocated life in the big city, relentless, in post-apartheid Johannesburg. (The author committed suicide age 30.)
The true artist he suggested is after the problem: “The thing, the process, the energy, and not the solution. Truths are illusions and metaphors have lost their meaning.” Some artists refuse these “fraudulent fictions” and find a way to access our better selves. An example of this is Belinda Blignaut’s looped portraits that morph identikit prison record archives and merge them into one, slightly changing but mostly similar face. She “reconfigures personhood” and merges categories that once kept us separate by difference. So clever. Beautiful and unsettling. This work enables a lie, which we can accept. It “humanises” the way we see others and rejects “excessive codification”.
He suggests that good art is unlearning. Uncertainty. And in the case of Kate Gottgens’ small green painting, Prescience, “inhabits a place that never settles”. Her paintings “touch us, move us and remind us that at every turn we stand on shifting ground.”
On the train home I was so fired up and wrote in part paraphrasing Jamal’s ideas:
“I want my paintings to inhabit a place that never settles.
Because ‘sublimity has the power of liberation: will not be named, will not be contained’.
To take risks. To ask human questions. And the outcome needs to be uncertain.
Not to ‘fix’ things but to offer questions which open us.”
On 5 October 2018, Ashraf Jamal launched his new book in London, In the World, Essays on Contemporary South African Art.
Turner Prize, 2018
Tate Britain, 5 October 2018
Annotations by Forensic Architecture on Israeli police footage, from The Long Duration of a Split Second (2018)
The week before University started, I spent half a day watching the Turner Prize 2018 nominations. Two films in particular had me rooted. Forensic Architecture’s The Long Duration of a Split Second, which was about the Israeli army’s destruction of a Bedouin village. A time-line device counted down the chaos in real time whilst an uninterrupted sound of a horn continued throughout the film. It is a mixture of archive and reconstructed footage, combined politics and violence, and informs the work I am doing on post-apartheid South Africa. What is interesting about the work that Forensic Architecture does is that as a collective of lawyers, architects and filmmakers, who investigate human rights violations around the world, and expose them through the medium of film. It is their second nomination.
Tripoli Cancelled, (2018)
Naeem Mohaiemen’s film Tripoli Cancelled, is about a man who is trapped in a desolate, disused airport, and has been in this no-mans-land for 10 years. I found it a poignant and heart-breaking combination of memory and loss, as he tries to telephone his wife without success, dances with a mannequin, and sings a love song, so alone and so human, it was hard not to cry. I watched till the end, while many others walked out.
Artist’s Talk: Hanaa Malallah, Art and Vivid Ruins
22 November, 2018
If ever there was a more compelling reason to tell your own story as an artist, surely hers is. Personal and temporal from the start, she showed her first slide of her arm, which she introduced as a “found object”. A number is tattooed on it using a numerical system for her signature. This will change over time, in a process of decay and ruin. The more her story unravelled in burnt tatters embodying the fabric of destruction in her home city, Baghdad, the more intrigued I became.
War and destruction were a part of the everyday, for 13 years. She left Iraq in 2006 for a Fellowship in Paris, fully intending to return, but the war escalated and she never did. Her Ruins Technique is connected to her personal experience of nearly 4 decades of war and 3 international conflicts. Still, she says her work is not about a specific geography, but a comment on destruction worldwide and the inherent capacity for mankind’s violence.
Her sincerity, taking on the subject of conflict and violence during a war, is felt directly. She explained that if you live in a war-zone, have no electricity, and are fearful, war is visceral. I read somewhere else that she lived alone, which I related to, having lived alone in South Africa during the brutal years prior to elections, and was scared of being attacked.
A Moment of Light, 2015, Burnt canvas, cotton thread, glass and mild carbon steel on wood. 205 x 203 x 30cm
She found a way for the materials, the place of installation or the building in ruins, to tell the story in the liminal space that she says exists between the figurative and abstraction. When asked why her process involves burning canvas and thereby destroying materials she said “It is the tremor of terror mixed with pleasure to be survived.” I don’t think this translates that she is happy to have survived. I think she meant as an artist living in a war torn country, ruins, rubble, decay… many expressions for destruction, are her materials. And she said a few times, that they gave her pleasure.
Al Karada Biohazard, Baghdad, Iraq, 2016
Bio-hazard chemical symbol was created using toxic powder on the second floor of a building. It was made and documented, and three hours later, the building was destroyed and 400 people died. This is about art as witness, and protest. I have been thinking about my own experience of conflict, my work as a witness to this, and clarifying the direction I want to explore which exposes the truth as I see it about post-apartheid South Africa, a ruin itself.
Ribera, The Art of Violence
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London,
18 November, 2018
The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, 1644, oil on canvas, 202 x 153 cm
The horror of torture, presented in darkened rooms, flaying alive, (de-skinning), hanging upside down, or just hanging until the body dislocates from the shoulders, known as strappedo, was 17th Century practice, commonly seen on the streets of Naples. The visceral element described by dirty nails and rotten bloody teeth painted in theatrical compositions were both beautiful and horrific, and unavoidably haunting. In the painting, The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, the tortured man looks directly at you, the viewer, beseechingly, so you are involved from the start. You become the subject. Which is unnerving, as somehow you are unknowingly complicit. Innocent compliance is an idea I have been thinking about in my painting development.
“Ribera is a painter who can make you feel the physical presence of pain, the proximity of a violated body, the raw nightmare sound of an animal yell, pleading for mercy.”
The curatorial headphone exhibition guide suggested that Ribera was criticised for having a macabre interest in the mechanics of torture, and drew these contraptions beautifully, but the curators intention was to show his classical painting skills, a master, like Caravaggio, although more gory, and to show that violence is part of the human condition and an on-going contemporary subject.
Visit to Mark Fairnington’s Studio
Chisenhale Studios, 64 – 84 Chisenhale Rd, London E3 5QZ, 28 November, 2018
Located in East London, we gathered at the studio entrance to an old building, formerly a munitions factory during the war and a brewery thereafter. I like old buildings having had lives and stories before.
This was a great start to Mark’s Fairnington’s practice, most recently his Walking, Looking and Telling Tales project made for Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience. The work was based on walks in a specific site in Northumberland, where his collection of small paintings in dark frames was shown in the bedroom of an old building, Cherry Burn. It was about the history of the site and the history of landscape painting, with an idea of a sense of place told in a contemporary way.
Mark explained his practice method where archive-standard photography was applied using acid free glue to board and weighted down for several days. He spoke about “obliterating the image” by painting out the photograph. Unlike his other work, which was based on the print strokes of engraver and naturalist, Thomas Bewick, (1753-1828) these he said were different, and the images were slightly bigger.
Thomas Bewick, British engraver and natural history author
He spoke of working with several Institutions, Collections and Museums, including the Welcome Trust which has the crossover of art and science, a good library and funding for artist’s projects. The Imperial War Museum, The Natural History Museum, and Horniman Museum, to name some of the others.
I asked if the work he made with these institutions was shown in these museums and he said no, but that they were finding new ways to animate collections and were prepared to fund artists to do this research. As we are thinking about Unit 3 and how to go about using resources in London to establish contacts I was especially interested.
- Find a person you connect with
- Consider framing what you are doing contextually
- Consider the audience you want to show your work to
My relationship with the natural world is a deep connection and found Mark’s Natural History Collection fascinating. The Hummingbird Tree, consists of a grid using 500 photographs, a collection of 100 moments of one bird species. In his specimen paintings of insects, the image fragments as he works on a painting, which had been magnified using a powerful telescope.
The Hummingbird Tree, Oil on board, 900x 894cm
Researching Skilfully through Archives and Objects
Workshop: Eleanor Bowen, London College of Communication, 3 December 2018
Marina Rosenfeld, 1993, Tate Modern, Sheer Frost Orchestra
Since the Introduction to Unit 3, I have been interested in finding out more about how objects are researched within collections, in this case, London College of Communication’s extensive Stanley Kubrick Collection amongst others. We were invited to look at objects and respond to them, noticing the way a question is asked can affect an answer. One object in my paired group was a photograph of a model for the moon, for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey, Dawn of Mankind, which Joy Cuff won a Special Effects Oscar for, and the other was a diagrammatic plan for Marina Rosenfield’s Sheer Frost Orchestra, a stage production performance using 17 guitarists, each with a jar of nail polish on stage.
‘Making a New World’, John Akomfrah, Mimesis: African Soldier
Imperial War Museum, 6 December, 2018
John Akomfrah’s film Mimesis: African Soldier
‘Making a New World’ celebrates the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and part of it is John Akomfrah’s film Mimesis: African Soldier, which tells the unsung story of the contribution made by African, Indian and other Colonial power’s soldiers. It is a 3 part split screen installation, which shows 7 soldiers’ separate stories and links them to landscapes of their homeland, integrated with solitary, haunting images in greener parts where they fought, and edits these stories with archive footage. Akomfrah uses a technique of running water over images, which blurs them, suggesting their impermanence and fragility, an effective thread throughout. At the end, each soldier enters the same constructed landscape in a desert where a tree is bound in red cloth, and a chair awaits him. Each soldier’s life ends here, in slightly different ways. I looked up Mimesis and it means, “The deliberate imitation of the behaviour of one group of people by another group as a factor in social change”. English Oxford Living Dictionary (Online) Accessed 06/01/19
The Knock on the Door, Struggling Against Apartheid
Book Launch and Panel Discussion
Jewish Book Fair – Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, 3 March, 2019
I was invited to attend the launch of this book by my human rights school friend Lauren Jacobsen. Her husband, Keith Coleman, was detained and in solitary confinement for 5 months. His parents, Max and Audrey Coleman were instrumental in setting up the DPSC, The Detainees’ Parents Support Committee who helped families and detainees during the height of State suppression in the 1980’s when people were dragged off the street, out of their beds, unaccounted for, and tortured, often to death.
The panel at the book launch of “A Knock on the Door”
The launch comprised of a panel discussion about how ordinary people stood up to apartheid and are an inspiration in an on-going fight for racial justice, chaired by John Simpson, BBC World Affairs correspondent in the 1970/80’s, and included Keith Coleman, detained aged 21 for 5 months, his mother Audrey, (his father Max Coleman was too frail to travel but was at the helm of this organisation and a lawyer), writer of the book Terry Shakinovsky and Jonathan Rosenthal, The Economist’s Africa correspondent in the 1990’s.
The DPSC created a system that challenged the law and the police in particular by collecting evidence, archiving detail exactly, documenting interviews by powerful resourceful volunteers sympathetic to the plight of detainees and their impoverished families. This was during a State of Emergency where the State had extraordinary powers, both in the police stations and on the streets where the army patrolled the townships.
John Simpson: How did this all begin?
Audrey: Keith spent 88 days in jail without charge. To prevent the disappearance of people, from them fading away, we have tried to redefine these stories. Our strategy was political activism, not breaking the law, but we created a high profile internationally, which was very important. Ambassadors and diplomats gave us forums to speak at, and they supported us. The Star newspaper journalists protected us when we held peaceful protests. We provided a legal panel, but also tracksuits, shoes, and money. These people lived in the clothes they were arrested in, often for months. Keith was in solitary for 5 months.
John: What was it like to be in a black hole, alone?
Keith: It was a bright white hole. The light was on all the time. But I wasn’t naïve. I had been an activist from a young age and vulnerable to state action. I edited an anti-apartheid newspaper at university. I knew the arrest was coming. Others were detained a few weeks before me. I was taken to John Vorster Square, where people “fell” out of windows. It was a place of murder. And torture. A mountain of a man, Captain Struik, a torturer, was my interrogator. Max threatened him and said he “had better not touch a hair on my son’s head”. 155 days in solitary. Some of it felt very bad. Hole in the door for food. No watch. Nothing. A suicide-proof cell. A box. No time. No sound. No colour. To get through this I thought about the cause, and this kept me going. The police were after a big treason trial, 60 ANC people had been arrested and detained. I was not tortured physically.
John: Why did you write the book, Terry?
Terry: Because Audrey asked me to. I wanted to put a tribute in the book to Audrey and Max but they wouldn’t let me.
I worked through boxes and boxes of affidavits taken by the DPSC, and archived in the William Cullen Library at Wits University. 10 000 accounts of detainees stories provided a system for challenging Apartheid through the law, finding at times a chink in it.
John: (to Jonathan) Strange country South Africa? What was the state of white SA in 1990’s?
Jonathan: The context was the ANC had just been unbanned. Talks were going on in the 1990’s. There was a Human Rights Commission, which Max Coleman chaired which documented human rights abuses in 1990’s including state army militia Black on Black violence. HRC found out about these political deaths. It was an immoral Government trying to maintain pretence of the rule of law with detention without trial, There was no due process and fair treatment. Assassinations and disappearances still happened.
Keith: Capt Struik died at his home. He was responsible for torturing Neil Agate and Ernest Dupali. Both died in prison. He wasn’t brought to book. The ANC had been underground. Now the State went underground. There were Death Squads. David Webster was assassinated. Lauren defence? ***(Find out)
The State sanctioned the security police and they got away with what they did. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up but so much truth never came out. Testimonies were pre-emptive. So they had to testify. Others didn’t come forward. There is a gap in the truth. There’s more to tell.
John: Are you bitter?
Keith: I still have anger- friends were damaged, scarred. We won the struggle- a non-racial democratic SA. (Audience applauds) This heals wounds. This history is largely not talked about. The activists can’t tell their stories.
Cyril Ramaphosa: 11 months in solitary
Pravin Gordan: After the unbanning of the ANC, almost tortured to death. People have forgotten.
John: Do you have faith in the world? The modern SA position? Is this all fading away and being forgotten? Out of date?
Jonathan: The relevance now? State capture scandal is recent, thieves looting the state, Zuma, while Pravi Gordan tried to protect the national treasury. Charges were trumped up against him. They arrested him. He said he was not frightened. He had been tortured by the state before. Democracy was safe in his hands.
John: Is this just history?
Jonathan: In the current composition of new SA, internal opposition had experienced democracy. There were two cultures of struggle. It’s not a done story yet. Genuine democrats are trying to wrestle back control of the state.
John: Does it feel like the past?
Audrey: We haven’t addressed the trauma that society endured. The majority suffered. They are the adults today. The TRC didn’t go deep enough. Social welfare legislature should have counselling. The security police were confiscating family. In the 1990’s the worst effect on society was the destabilising of the ANC in townships where war was Black on Black. It was horrific.
John: It’s 25 years since the election and 25 is the median age. Some say it was better under apartheid. When is history lost?
Keith: The ANC didn’t maintain power of civil society. Redistribution didn’t happen, which was the ANC’s economic policy. And there was no democratic base. The electoral system wasn’t fair. There was conflict. The nature of transition is complex. We are living with the result of these decisions: reconciliation vs reconstruction. Peace vs economic justice.
Question from the audience: Jews disappeared in the struggle. Did Jewishness inform activism?
Audrey: The Jewish community wasn’t there. We received no support as a body. Churches supported and strengthened safety. When I asked the Rabi why he never joined, his answer was, “It is my job to study the Talmad.”
Keith: I was asked, “Is jy n Jood?” (Are you a Jew?) And replied, “What has that got to do with it?” “Jou vokken Jood!” and from then on, this was my name.
Audience: “If your children wanted to follow the path you took would you let them?”
Keith: “Absolutely! Your role in the world is to make it a better place. You make choices and you live by them.”
On 8 May we met up again and he told me none of the book launch was scripted. He didn’t know any of the questions. He said, after the last question, that he was overwhelmed with emotion. Appreciating the power of that, I asked Keith respectfully if he would like to paint his cell? And he said ‘Yes!” We will make a painting together.
This Keith Coleman’s idea jotted down in the restaurant in Soho after the Pieter Dirk Uys Show at the Soho Theatre.
He describes a lice infested bloodied coir mat. This was the only thing in the room, oppressive, dominating, suffocating. He wants to make a large painting so you can feel the space, be in it. The mat he says would be on the floor but painted into a small bit of the painting. He talked about the brightness. The light. The small window, which changed position a few times. I mentioned Tuyman’s Gas Chamber and his sensitivity to the subject, the scale and intimacy of it, but I didn’t show him. I didn’t want to interfere with his memory.
Keith shared what he wrote about his experience adjusting to solitary confinement in his cell. What he loved more than anything as a free man was the sound of silence. Coping with this in solitary confinement, it was the sound of his own voice, singing mostly, and whistling, that kept him from going crazy. And blowing smoke rings, watching them as they very slowly sank in the airless cell.
Durational Painting: gifting, grafting, hosting, collaborating
Sarah Kate Wilson, Wednesday 6 March
Sara Kate Wilson, Painting in Time, 2015
Sarah Kate Wilson gave a talk where she spoke about curating an exhibition where 12 artists who “challenge ideas of what painting can be” exhibited alongside her in ‘Painting In Time’ at the Tetly in Leeds in 2015. She described her idea of broadcasting a painting, which I found intriguing. At some point in a radio interview she was asked about her performative work. She stopped abruptly to do a demonstration where two people each held an end of silver sequinned fabric and wafted it. In the exhibition demonstration a strobe light lit the fabric every 15 seconds in a darkened room, which gave the impression of water being thrown in the air. On radio, this wafting sound was described as ‘ghost -like’.
Materiality of Paint
Seminar with Geraint Evans, 7 March, 2019
Michael Stubbs, the hand of the author is part of a painting’s indexicality.
The variety of approach was vast and yet the hand of the author, known as indexicality, was apparent across many painterly genres, from the poured marks stencilled in Michael Stubbs’ paintings using household paints to the yellow pollen landscapes of Wolfgang Leib, whose work I have looked at recently. We understand the relationship between photography and painting in the work of Manet, Degas, and David Reed, being the “Vampire’s kiss” which made painting ‘immortal’.
Being subjective, painting has a personal currency because of its connection to the author reflecting ‘how’ and not ‘what’ the artist sees.
The discussion that followed was about temporality within a painting and what this means being temporary and transient, embodying a sense of time. This is useful with regard to my own paintings where memory and history have a voice and where a sense of time is embedded within the painting.
Simon Callery, (2015) Wallspine (Leaf), Canvas, distemper, thread, aluminium and steel brackets, 206 x 236 x 84 cm
Lisa Millroy’s dress paintings, Off the Rails, 2011-2015 is another area of interest where a painting does not need to be a picture. Simon Callery’s physical paintings become objects that have a material presence where pigment becomes part of the work’s support, and where the physicality of making the work is evident. The three dimensional aspect of his work involves the viewer in a physical way too.
Sam Gilliam, Swing, (1969) Smithsonian American Art Museum
Sam Gilliam’s Drape paintings have a performative quality and are never hung in the same way twice. I have been exploring painting options off a support and these colour field paintings of 1968 at the Museum of Modern Art show an interesting treatment of painting as an object and a possibility for a direction for my un-supported canvas paintings. I like that they are suspended, which gives them impermanence, typical of life in South Africa. This reminds me of an idea I had which I discussed at my interview with Geraint, about painting on a parachute.
“His art is painting, but it’s also not painting. It’s sculpture — it’s also not sculpture; it’s architectural — it’s also not architecture. He’s really established himself in a unique way in the history of art through this form.”
Jonathan Binstock, Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester.
Paint’s inherent materiality with its varied intrinsic qualities, like Peter Doig’s flecks and lumps, and Anselm Kiefer’s landscape ruins of post-war Germany both have a language that I respond to, not just in terms of scale and physicality, but in the unease that these ideas communicate by the physical nature of paint itself, and in Kiefer’s case combined with clay, ash, straw, toys and clothing. I am thinking of using elements from the land itself as pigments in the Land Reform painting of the mother with a gun and a child.
Studio Visit, London, Monday, 18 March, 2019
Kimberley Gundle with the Maasai Mara in Tanzania
Kimberley Gundle, ceramicist, painter, clothing designer and philanthropist who travels to the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania and Kenya to make work about the Maasai Mara tribe. She returns to London with her drawings and makes ceramic sculptures of them, like precious cameos, referencing the tribal with the colonial. This work, Personal- Structures, Open-Borders was featured in the Venice Biennale several times, in 2013, 2014 and in 2017, and at Saatchi Gallery in the Collect International Art Fair 2019, which is where I met her. She gives back a percentage of her earnings, and so far has built a water project which supplies water to 500 people, a clinic and a kitchen.
Kimberley invited me to her home and studio today to talk about how she began working with the Maasai when she went to the Great Rift Valley for the first time on a charity hike. This relationship developed over a period of years. Walking around her bright, patterned and highly personalised house, and later her studio, Kimberley showed me the journey her artwork had taken, and the contribution to the community she had helped.
Cubitt Open Studios
8 Angel Mews, Islington, London, 11 May, 2019
Sarah Pickstone in her studio at Cubitt
Sarah Pickstone invited me to Cubitt Open Studios last weekend to see her new work and to discuss how the studios are run. It is a lively community of 32 artists, some of whom I met and discussed their practices. The studios are light and spacious and in a central location. They will only be there for another two years as development is planned. These studios can be rented over the summer period and this idea appeals to me if I need to work on a project in London in the future.
Sarah discussed her new painting which she says has “hints” of the Park work being about the Rose. She is interested in its heritage, and it surprisingly is not native to England despite the many emblems that use it, but is from the Middle East. We discussed her Park work in relation to my idea of scattered memory and they are painted on a light grey ground, which I never knew from photographs of this work. Interesting for me to try this as a cohesive indistinct base for separate isolated images of birds and plants in my gated community gardens.
Sarah Pickstone, The Rainbow, (detail), 2018, commission to celebrate the work of Angelica Kauffman RA (1741-1807)
This painting is the ceiling rose and the theme of it was based on Angelica Kauffman’s painting on colour theory, hence the rainbow, which is not apparent in this detail. I find Sarah’s painterly language exciting and “juicy”, embracing of the material nature of paint in its application of dribbles, swooshes and lively confidence.
Nicky Hoberman, Alphabet work on tracing paper.
I met Nicky Hoberman at Cubitt. She is also a South African artist living in London. I was especially interested in the ethereal quality of the tracing paper portraits and we discussed the MA Painting course at Wimbledon. She used to teach at Chelsea. Since meeting her I looked up her work and found this painting on-line. It is similar to my subject about painting a garden as an overblown fantasy.
Nicky Hoberman, Painted Flowers, oil on canvas, 196 x 366 cm, 2008.
Chelsea College of Arts Special Collections
Gustavo Grandal Montero, 15 May, 2019
Denise Hawrysio, Killing, Chelsea Special Collections
I met with Gustavo Grandal Montero at the Chelsea College of Arts library drop in session to look at some of the archive collection of artist’s books as I am thinking of making a book about memory and politics for my final show. I like the idea of the public participating in picking up and holding a handmade book, which is a personal exchange.
I had already photographed small details of a painting to use as layers in my book, so seeing Gerhard Richter’s books that already explore this abstraction made me realise I was on the right track. I prefer the personal handmade tactile quality I intend as a fragile work in the process of disintegration to the limited edition printed series which much of the collection is. I told Gustavo about my tomato box book cover in Letters Home, (2006) which he liked and called this “Freeing the Book”.
The handmade book that powerfully stopped me in my tracks was Killing by Denise Hawrysio. The red case refers to blood and out of this you pick up a book where the pages are covered in Cheetah fur. A small book tail, a slight movement of which, uncannily surprises. The whole book is just this fur. It feels dead in your hands. I felt responsible. The experience makes you ask questions about human nature.
MA – PHD
Chelsea College of Arts
Malcolm Quinn, Carol Tulloch and Robert Gadie
15 May, 2019
Having enjoyed the research element of the MA and the way this has informed a deeper knowledge of my subject in both an art and world issue context, I am considering doing a PHD. I read a couple of thesis in the Wimbledon Library and Acts of Endurance, A Creative Transformation In Times of Struggle in Contemporary Colombian Memory by Arango Velasquez, PHD 2014, especially resonated as Colombia’s political history is not unlike South Africa’s.
I prepared a document outlining my subject for PHD research as we were asked to do thinking it was going to be a workshop, but it seems once you find a supervisor, they will help with getting the proposal right for admission which is in October, and too soon for me. So far, having put in my key words of politics and memory, Goldsmiths pops up not UAL.
The Economy of Painting – Notes on the Vitality of a Success – Medium
Seminar with Geraint Evans, 12 June, 2019
Gerhard Richter, Gestural blur in squeegee abstract paintings from the mid 1980’s
In spite of the complex language, some of Graw’s ideas are rather reassuring as she maps out 6-7 areas where painting’s currency is bouyant having reinvented its liveliness and moved a long way from the pressure to justify itself as experienced until the 1990’s and early millennium.
In what she calls “vitalist projections”, she suggests that painting has a language and life of its own. It has an indexicality, it can point to something. A brush mark is the mark of the hand that made it, even when mechanical interventions occur, like in Warhol’s screen prints, or Richter’s abstract squeegee paintings, the phantom of the artist is still in the work. She calls this ‘the ghost –like presence of the absent author’, and even at times it mocks this capacity by undermining authorship, citing Polke’s early work as a reference. However because of painting’s physicality, the traces of the hand, or body in Yves Klein’s performance paintings, is there. Through performance painting gets charged with life.
Painting differs from other art forms, like photography and film, unless manipulated for instance in over exposure or scratches in Stan Brackich’s film Moth Light (1963), and Graw maintains when painting questions itself and its boundaries, it results in painting revitalising itself.
Francis Picabia, Natures Mortes, 1920
The ready-made is an example where the labour of the manufacturer enters the aesthetic in Francis Picabia’s Natures Mortes 1920 which integrates a ready made stuffed monkey. In the expanded field of painting, Polke’s Large Cloth of Abuse, fuses art, fashion and design. Text makes it a discursive object, a gown is an indicator of the body, and in touch with its maker.
Sigmar Polke, Large Cloth of Abuse 1968
Niele Toroni’s painting directly to the surface of the gallery wall in an exhibition space questions the institution and acts as an “epistemological agent”. We can learn from it. In this elastic notion of painting she included examples like Kippenberger’s use of artists to make film style posters of himself for self-promotion. Wolgang Tillman’s abstractions, Jeff Wall’s photographic work and Rachel Harrison’s 3D objects painted in bright impressionist marks, all go beyond the boundaries of a frame and came to be known as painting in the expanded field.
She discusses value of labour in Karl Marx’s theory where “value is labour in its congealed state”. In today’s commodity market Graw suggests there is no value without living labour. Painting regained popularity as it is a material thing, and which has life and labour stored in it. Social media commodifies our lives; our life events are marketed. Yet painting has value because it is saturated with the life of the author. There is a myth that by owning a piece of art it brings you closer to the author and in the case of famous artists the buyer thinks she has a bought a bit of his life and so will pay a high price for this perceived value and gave Ai Wei Wei as an example.
Finally the mark of the artist was noticed in the 15th Century paintings by Piero della Francesca’s saying one might ask if his dreams and fantasies are transferred into this work, thus imbuing the painting with his subjectivity.
Piero della Francesca,The Resurrection (1463-65)
Drip, Spray, Pour: A close look at Frank Bowling
Gallery discussion, Tate Britain, Friday, 14 June 2019
Panel: Amy Buchanan (Historian), Kimathi Donker (UAL Lecturer and Painter) Laura Castanini, (Modern Art Curator of Frank Bowling Retrospective ) and Spencer A. Richards, (Frank Bowling’s Brooklyn studio curator and painter)
Map Painting Series
I attended this seminar where Spencer A Richards described the past 60 years of Bowling enigma and passion for painterly process and where his emphatic disrespect of stupid questions.Richards has worked with Bowling foe the past 30 years. His process was discussed emphasising chance and accident which he embraces in the sheer materiality of paint and the tension between geometry and fluidity. He works on the floor on enormous un-stretched canvasses. I was especially interested in the silkscreen images of his family included in the ‘Map paintings’, inexact yet there, in their ghostly traces. It made me think of palimpsests, both personal and geographical, and my intention to make a political painting with traces of the past silkscreened onto canvas, painted over. The ‘Map paintings’ are great fields of colour that deal mostly with the Southern hemisphere and reveal the way identities are shaped by geo-politics and displacement.
“He has experimented with staining, pouring and layering, adopting a variety of materials and objects. His large, ambitious paintings are known for their distinctive textured surfaces and colourful, luminous quality”. (Tate Britain)
Drawing at the British Museum
Thursday, 20 June
Geraint selected about 15 drawings from the archives for us to look at, discuss and draw from. From the old masters, I chose to work from Raphael, but there were also drawings by Picasso, Kentridge and Rachel Whiteread. What I didn’t know was the masters drew from each others work, and I found this discipline so helpful anatomically, as well as using foreshortening, which helped in the drawing preparations for my paintings. It was also the most relaxing 2 hours in a place imbued with quiet history and respect.
Professor Eileen Hogan, Personal Geographies
Thursday, 27 June
Geraint invited Professor Hogan to talk to us about her practice and her solo exhibition at the Yale Centre for British Art, 9 May -11 Aug 2019.
There were probably three key things I learnt from her practice:
The first was her thorough investigation of a place or project in her extra-ordinary detailed sketchbooks. Each page was a work of art in itself. I have since bought her book Personal Geographies and studied them further along with the annotations, or colour references. I work in bits, usually pinned or taped to the wall, having always found a sketchbook too linear or constraining for the way I think and explore things. Hers looked so good it made me think I may try this in future, or at least collate my random pages.
Garden Museum, Lambeth Road (2018)
The second was how her local commute to her studio became her personal geography, walking through Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Holland Park and Edwards Square. She identifies lesser known hidden communal parks or residents’ only enclaves, and manages to take them over and make them hers. Identifying these places, she studies them in detail and has painted a London map where these almost secret locations are plotted. This relates to my work where the gated communities are secret gardens too.
The final and most striking aspect of Eileen Hogan’s paintings to me is her use of geometry to create a sense of depth in her landscapes. Whether railings in the foreground to give a sense of the landscape beyond, or the linear dug up flower beds behind a sputtering sprinkler, Hogan creates atmosphere using an underlay of wax, oil painting in moody pallets and finishes with drawn charcoal. She says she loves weather and this is evident in her atmospheric paintings of snow, mist and greenery enhanced by light.