Finished painting, wall, and Artist Statement

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ARTIST STATEMENT:

My work is a psychedelic and surreal wash of varied, bright yet contrasting colour. I used acrylic paint, because acrylic is much easier to spread quickly and easily, to create large areas of seamless colour. I painted it on a board rather than a canvas because sometimes the small criss-cross patterns of the fabric of the canvas shows through, particularly with thinner application of paint, which would spoil the effect. It was painted in a smooth, flowing way rather than dabbing the brush or moving it quickly. The base colour was applied quite quickly, without much thought but the swirling patterns were done afterwards with much more consideration and patience.

The text that inspired my painting had many themes, including self-expression, emotion, colour. This kind of work enables the artist to simply reveal what is within them, without being distracted by things like gender, religion, or politics. It is self-expression in its purest form. There is no real message behind the work; it is purely an expression of how I was feeling when I painted it.

It may suggest different emotions to different people; for example, the brilliant orange may suggest anger to some people, and maybe love or passion to others. The contrasting colours should suggest more than one emotion, perhaps even a conflict between emotions. In some ways, I want this piece to stand out, to be different, and challenge orthodoxies. It differs from much art in that there are no expressions of people, faces, or even objects whatsoever. There is only colour.

In my research, I looked at abstract expressionism; Jackson Pollock’s work in particular. I believe the final few lines in the text I was given summarise Pollock’s work wonderfully: “FEEL, SEE, DO.” When I first read these lines, one of the first things that came to mind was Pollock’s painting No.5 (1948). This painting is clearly the result of an artist simply doing and feeling without much thought, and the results are extraordinary. I have also looked at a surrealist artist called Robert Beatty, who is famous for designing album covers. I discovered his work because of the cover he designed for Tame Impala’s album Currents, one of my favourite albums. The swirling, flowing patterns he creates not only mirror Tame Impala’s swirling, kaleidoscopic sound perfectly, they also somehow mirror their quite emotional lyrics. The lyrics describe a personal transforming following an event like a break-up, and Beatty mirrors this by creating straight, flowing lines that transform into a chaotic, churning mess. Reading What Painting Is by James Elkins was a huge inspiration as well. His claim that “painting is alchemy” is fascinating: he makes the excellent point that there is no ‘science’ behind painting, only blind experimentation, and that the only way to learn how to paint is doing the activity itself. Again, this relates to the “FEEL, SEE, DO” idea in my text – in some ways, this line encourages me to paint like an alchemist.

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Painting, part III

One of the first decisions I made about my painting was the size of my board. I went with quite a large one, 110x90cm to be exact, because the crux of my text is that the piece needs to have impact, and a large board is often a good place to start with this aim. I chose to use acrylic paints instead of oils because I find them easier to cover large areas with bright colour quickly.

My painting underwent quite a large transformation very early in the process. My initial idea was to paint a dam bursting, but instead of water gushing out, there would be a swirling, psychedelic river of various different colours. The idea was that this would represent the release of emotion that my text described, so the piece would be a metaphor for a sudden and uncontrollable release of pent-up feelings. I started drawing this idea out with charcoal, but then I started to wonder if viewers would actually understand this visual metaphor, and if the text called for the use of metaphorical imagery at all. One of the lines in the text read simply, “unadulterated emotion,” and another read “Let go of control.” After consideration, I decided I wanted the piece to be a wash of bright, powerful psychedelia, rather than including any oblique metaphors.

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In the spirit of “let go of control,” I picked three intense colours and applied them somewhat randomly to the board, to create a starting point.

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The “dripping” patterns were inspired by an image of a close-up soap bubble that I looked at for my mood board.

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As the painting progressed, the complexity of the patterns slowly increased. Some patterns were allusions to the soap bubble image, but most were free-flowing and random strokes.

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I began to add some flowing, multicoloured “drip” patterns (seen above and below), which include all the colours used in the piece and aim to give the piece a sense of dynamism. It also changes the piece up from the otherwise quite constant and unvaried patterns it features.

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Painting, part II

EXPERIMENTATION

Before starting my painting, I devoted a few hours of studio time to experimenting with media, concepts and the size of my board.

Media is of course really important to consider, so I decided to try and simply get the feel of certain types of media. Below is an experiment I did with oil paint on paper. It is only a random wash of colour, because my text demands a really loose, intuitive style. I found the oil I used quite thick, especially without the use of turpentine, and quite hard to spread quickly.

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I thought that quite a good way to experiment with ideas and themes was to take a few texts that other people had and do a five-minute painting in response to each. This also helped me practice working quickly. Shown below is one of the texts I looked at…

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…and shown below is my response. This was painted in acrylic, and was an experiment in the use of monochrome. This is not too relevant to my text in all honesty, because it demands strong use of colour, however I feel that the black captures the emotional values of the text very well. Also, I found acrylics much easier to spread than oils.

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The next piece of text (above) expresses the unfairness of picking a flower just because it is pretty. It’s a very emotive piece, so to personify the flower I depicted it bleeding profusely like a human would.

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I then decided to experiment with a few ideas concerning the text I was doing my painting on. Shown below is one idea, which depicts a mess of black and orange drips. I think black is definitely a good colour to use, because juxtaposing it with red and orange creates a good sense of opposition and conflict, which has a big impact.

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Shown below is another idea. This one is more relevant to my text because it was painted with little control or thought. It lead me to realise that red and black definitely work well together, as they create an intense and powerful contrast.

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Painting, part I

Before I began to paint, I decided to gather some imagery together to use as a mood board. I read the text I was given over and over while listening to Pink Floyd, which helped me think of relevant and exciting images to inspire my painting. I found some of these images on Google and put together a mood board – shown below are the images I used.

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The cover of Tame Impala’s “Currents,” designed by Robert Beatty

This artwork by Robert Beatty came to mind almost immediately when I read the text. The chaotic mess of swirling purple lines at the bottom of the piece remind me in particular of the line, “Let go of control,” because the lines seem to have flown arrow straight for a while and then they utterly lose control and descend into a churning mess.

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No.5, by Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock’s work could have been made for the text I received – the line “feel everything and think nothing” sums up his work perfectly. Pollock’s pieces seem like they were created solely by feeling, without any thought at all, and the results are incredible.

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Soap bubble, close up

I was so surprised to find out that this is what a bubble looks like close-up (above and below). It is one of the most strangely beautiful things I have ever seen. They look like a multicoloured, dripping mess of paint – perhaps for my painting I could let the paint drip and flow by itself.

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Soap bubble, close up

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Blood vessels

The first two lines of the text: “Red, /Dark as blood,” reminded me of words such as “veins” and “nerves,” and actually these things create some quite fascinating patterns.

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The Crab Nebula

The text reminded me of the word ‘supernova,’ which I typed into Google, and this image of a nebula came up. I found the colours and patterns related really strongly to the text.

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Lightning

The lines “explode” and “this is bigger than you and I” brought to mind some kind of natural or godlike phenomenon, such as lightning. Lightning’s crazed and beautiful appearance fits the themes within the text very well.

 

 

 

 

Imaginary Artwork – Writing

I was really excited when I received this assignment. The brief was to imagine an artwork that does not yet exist, and describe it in 150-300 words. These texts would eventually be randomly and anonymously given to someone else to inspire an actual artwork. I immediately knew this was going to be a fascinating project to complete; it’s like two artists collaborating on a single artwork via the medium of writing. Shown below is the text I wrote…

     “A man sits on a bed in a gloomy room. The curtains are shut. The room is lit only by a small, dim desk lamp, which is on the floor, laying on its side. This makes its amber light shine upwards, giving the room a somewhat eerie quality. Indeed, the man would probably look like he was telling a scary story right now, if he was not red-faced and crying profusely. 

     The lamp is not the only thing that has fallen over. In fact, the room is in an utter turmoil. Books, clothes, shoes, papers…everything is on the floor. The desk, a huge, squat, bulky affair, is overturned and devoid of all its drawers – they too are strewn wildly about the room, and are all totally empty. What was once a laptop lies broken and scattered about in a chaotic mass of wire and plastic. In the centre of the floor, there lies a full-length mirror, shattered into tiny pieces, leaving the man with hundreds of reflections of his wretched self staring at him.

     The man’s face is gripped in a primal expression of fear, and his grey suit is soaked in cold sweat. He is probably thinking about the seven years of horrendously bad luck that now lie ahead of him. Not because he broke that mirror, no, because of what he did not manage to find in his frenzied ransacking of his own bedroom. The one critical device that might have saved his life. He was out of ideas as to where it was; and now that he had lost it forever, he knew his charge exactly. He knew it was all over.

     He knew they’d be here soon.”

I chose to write a short story, rather than write a set of instructions for the other artist because after the creative writing workshop in week 6 I felt inspired to write stories and poems. The story was inspired in part by the 2nd Harry Potter book, particularly by a scene in which Harry’s room is ransacked by Ginny to find the diary of Tom Riddle. I felt that a short story is the best way to describe a scene because it enables the other artist to engage with it more and imagine the emotions involved more clearly. It was really fun to write, because I could see the artwork clearly in my head, and I wondered how it would translate from mind to words, and from words to a painting.

Shown below is the text I received…

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I was quite blown away by it upon first reading. I enjoyed reading it; it could not have been written in a more powerful way. The short sentences and use of repetition had a huge impact. The surrounding notes, or afterthoughts, made it even more amazing to read because it was like the writing had a dialogue with itself, exposing more and more aspects of it.

Upon second reading, I realised that while the text was impactful, I had absolutely no idea how I would respond to it. The text demands something totally abstract, which is an art form I was only just starting to get into. I read the text over and over whilst listening to Pink Floyd on full volume, and this started to give me ideas – the experience reminded me of things like psychedelic patterns, space, and explosions. I started to realise that the text had basically invited me to simply paint whatever I wanted, without anything to distract me. This is a hugely empowering thing.

 

 

 

Manifesto project, part II – making

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For the manifesto project, me and my classmate Tilly decided to follow on from what I was doing for my political print project. We continued with the “anti-Trump” theme, and our manifesto was essentially a piece that called him out on some of his most stupid and problematic remarks. The square, hand-drawn style of it was in part inspired by Red Alan’s Manifesto, by Grayson Perry – we believed this kind of style is more relatable to people than the commonly used constant typeface of many political manifestos.

It was done in black acrylic to make the writing clear and stand out, yet look somewhat rustic and imperfect.

Below are the quotes we chose and how we responded to them.

“I will build a great wall (…) and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.” Donald Trump, June 2015

Our first reaction to this was “what an unbelievably childish thing to do.” It is extremely petty to make Mexico pay for such an enormous and costly project, and suggests incredible arrogance, such that he thinks he can do whatever he likes. We immediately thought it’s as if he thinks he is playing SIM City.

“It’s really cold outside (…) we could use a big fat dose of global warming.” Donald Trump, October 2015

We were pretty annoyed by Trump’s total lack of perspective here – he tweeted this from New York in winter, obviously forgetting that arctic ice sheets are decreasing in area every year, putting all the wildlife in there in danger. Obviously the tweet was a joke, but we thought it a wildly insensitive one, and we summarised our objections to it with the line “tell that to all the polar bears” to question his lack of perspective.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best (…) They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.” Donald Trump, June 2015

We were doing this manifesto project shortly after recordings of Donald Trump bragging about sexually abusing women had emerged, so we found it ironic to say the least that Trump would accuse people of being “rapists” when he himself seems to think sexual assault is okay.

 

 

Manifesto project, part I – Initial ideas

For the manifesto project, I collaborated with my classmate Tilly. We found that a fantastic text to read in preparation for the project was Harriet Baker’s “10 Game-changing art manifestos” (1). It is a fantastic guide to different visual styles, different writing styles and content that are used in artistic manifestos. It was fascinating to see how some manifestos are purely text-based, while others include both text and imagery.

One of my favourite manifestos was the Guerrilla Girls’ manifesto (shown below). It is very simple, its point is clear, and the use of vibrant colour and bold font give the image lots of impact.

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Untitled – Guerrilla Girls (royalacademy.org.uk/article/ten-game-changing-manifestos)

Shown above is another manifesto featured in the article, “Red Alan’s Manifesto,” by Grayson Perry. The style of this manifesto sets it apart from the more common style used in political manifestos, which typically involves a bold, constant typeface such as “Helvetica.” This handwritten one is much more relatable; it has no overtones of power or authority, it seems like a manifesto written by the general public, for the general public. It is more easily understood by the majority of its audience. Myself and Tilly wanted ours to be handwritten for the same reason: we felt that the handwritten approach is more approachable for the majority of people. This is consistent with the very nature of our message: we want the general public to unite against Donald Trump, and what he represents.

Since we wanted it to be relatable, we decided to simply choose some of the most stupid things Trump has said, and reply to them with cutting, sarcastic comments, because this is how a lot of people might respond to them. We hoped this would provide a harsh, funny, and relatable critique of the man.

  1. Baker, Harriet, April 2015, 10 game-changing art manifestos, online at royalacademy.org.uk/article/ten-game-changing-manifestos