Fifty-eight

i. BUSY! The week before half term I had a job interview and a funeral. This week I had another job interviews. Burning the candle at both ends a bit but I’ll be sad when all this is done!

ii. Exhibition proposal…

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Plan 1.jpg

iii. Bristol trip. Centre for Fine Print Research. Fortunately I was in the South West for half term so I could go on the trip. As well as a wander through their research facilities we were introduced to a variety of PHD students. Whilst fascinating, very academic. Can’t see myself going down this route. Also visited Spike Island which was fun. Really nice to be a part of the trip and spend time with my peers.

iv. Symposium 2. Spending a lot of time preparing for this. Went well, actually enjoyed it, and think I delivered a decent presentation. My presentation was about… Nice to cross it off my list. “Disarmingly direct” Paul Coldwell

v. Rabley Drawing Centre. Visited Sara Lee exhibition. A bit stylised. However, there was a beautiful Emma Stibbons monotype from the London Original Print Fair. And the owner, Meryl, showed us her own collection in her home which was beautiful. Including a Hokusai (!) and a lovely little row of Sadie Tierney prints. These prints were made using jigsaws and routers. I mentioned that having seen the Michael Rothenstein prints at Clifford Chance, I’m definitely feeling a pull to start playing around with relief on leaving Camberwell.

Emma Stibbon,  Reine Dawn, Norway,  2019

Emma Stibbon, Reine Dawn, Norway, 2019

Sadie Tierney,  New York Series - Empire State EV6 F,  2019

Sadie Tierney, New York Series - Empire State EV6 F, 2019

Fifty-seven

i. Welcome back to uni. So many deadlines etc. With work and wedding and job applications, I am feeling quite daunted by it all though. going to try and remain calm and enjoy these final few weeks. Group Crit went well I think. I don’t recall any major criticisms just to keep going, sort out the presentation and then commit to it.

ii. Clifford Chance. Amazing visit but also very surreal. Michael Rothenstein (newfound enjoyment of relief with these linos. Maybe experiment with the woodcut on leaving uni? Dremel, routers and big tools.) Ralph Overill. Paul Wardski. Clifford Chance Prize. would be nice to join him.

Michael Rothenstein,  Bird and Dragonfly

Michael Rothenstein, Bird and Dragonfly

Paul Wardski,  Designed for feedom of motion from one room to another Part 1

Paul Wardski, Designed for feedom of motion from one room to another Part 1

iii. Zine, Michael Chance sent me the text that he has written for me about my pub prints for my publication. It’s brilliant. So thoughtful, funny and insightful. To think that he can write that much from my modest artwork is amazing. So encouraging. Can’t wait to put this zine together.

iv. BSA. Helped with the collection of the artworks. Went to visit on the opening weekend. Not a bad show, a mixed bag. Some exciting work. Nice thing to be a part of and my work looks strong. Fingers crossed for a sale or two.

 
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Fifty-six

i. I went back to school this week after the Easter break and have been making some more linocuts for the show. It should all come together but I’m definitely feeling a little anxious as to how much more time I have to make work and am aware that everything is about to get incredibly busy.

ii. I popped into London to visit two new Chantal Joffe exhibitions at the Victoria Miro galleries. The first (a small exhibition of self-portraits) was a little underwhelming but the second (mostly-large-scale paintings of her daughter Esme and her friends) was superb. Joffe’s paintings are routinely fresh and deftly capture the vulnerability of youth/ageing through relatively straightforward portrait compositions. Recently, I’ve been a bit worried about the scale and quantity of my exhibition work but, after seeing a couple of Joffe’s small paintings holding their own in large spaces, now feel reassured - it’s the quality of the work that matters.

Chantal Joffe,  Self-Portrait, 1st January,  2018

Chantal Joffe, Self-Portrait, 1st January, 2018

Chantal Joffe,  Esme in her School Shirt,  2019

Chantal Joffe, Esme in her School Shirt, 2019

iii. I always feel inspired after seeing Joffe’s work and, following my visit to Victoria Miro, began to consider my work post-Camberwell. Specifically, I will be moving back home and hope to get a bit more involved with local groups such as Bath Society of Artists and Bath Artist Printmakers. I’ve also got a handful of small shows and a couple of commissions in the works. If a project or opportunity comes up then I will pursue it but I’ve been so involved with my pub prints that I haven’t asked my friends or family to sit for me for ages. Broadly speaking, I really want to just spend some time making work about where I will be living and the people I am surrounded by. I just want to just spend a year drawing, painting and printmaking.

 
Emily and John,  2017

Emily and John, 2017

 

iv. I also went to visit the opening night of Seb’s exhibition, The Listener, a two-man show with Catherine Watson featuring collages, drawing and printmaking. The show was fun, colourful and well curated (the gallery also features a nice big Gillian Ayres painting on the back wall which I enjoyed). I admire Seb’s playful approach to making and his resistance to the fastidiousness of traditional printmaking. I hope to swap a work with Seb at the end of my time at Camberwell.

 
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Fifty-five

i. It’s been a long time since I’ve written on here. I’ve had a very busy few weeks using the Bath Artist Printmakers workshop during my Easter holidays. I got very anxious and frustrated halfway through as I began to worry about the quantity (rather than the quality) of my work: as soon as I start rushing, the work suffers. However, I have definitely made progress and resolved a handful of images for my final show. I can only put the time in and hope the show comes together successfully.

Two Men Walk Into a Bar,  2019, etching, aquatint and collage

Two Men Walk Into a Bar, 2019, etching, aquatint and collage

The Three Crowns,  2019, monotype and collage

The Three Crowns, 2019, monotype and collage

ii. I went to visit photographer Anthony Prothero’s MA show, Ipseity, at Four Corners gallery in Bethnal Green (Ant is my girlfriend’s step-brother and a friend). I was extremely impressed by the professional curation of the show: it was contemporary, concise and had a very clear theme/statement. Interestingly, Ant displayed some of his photographs in a staggered, salon-style hang which is something I plan to do with my work - I hope mine will look as professional…

Anthony Prothero,  installation view

Anthony Prothero, installation view

Anthony Prothero,  “He was just like you, you know? building up his portfolio.”,  2019

Anthony Prothero, “He was just like you, you know? building up his portfolio.”, 2019

Weekly Roundup 54

i. I’ve been seeing a lot of images from Rebecca Harper’s exhibition Chameleon popping up on my Instagram feed. Harper makes large-scale paintings of believable, everyday events (comprised of fictional and real reference material). Unfortunately I won’t be able to visit (it’s in Cornwall) but it’s exciting to see someone painting everyday scenes and getting a lot of critical acclaim for it.

‘I believe that art and life are synchronised, that we learn about life and its events by discovering ourselves, and that equally we learn about ourselves after having endured life… my works are a reflection of the time we are living in.’ - Rebecca Harper

Rebecca Harper,  Guys Hanging Out at the Pond

Rebecca Harper, Guys Hanging Out at the Pond

Rebecca Harper,  Dreaming of Another World

Rebecca Harper, Dreaming of Another World

ii. I’ve also been enjoying seeing images of Easy Peelers, an exhibition of playful, celebratory paintings by Nettle Grellier (another artist I follow on Instagram) at THAT Art Gallery in Bristol. Unfortunately I won’t be able to see it the show but I love the text she has written about it and feel it has an affinity with my work:

‘These paintings are about feeling a sense of intimacy and safety against the turbulence and disjointedness of Society in our restless world. That’s not to say I want these paintings to be about putting your head in the sand, but to unite in kindness and support for one another, and these paintings aim to show that by depicting expressions of tenderness and friendship.

Whilst the subjects are personal, I want them to be familiar to anyone… absorbed figures who are comfortable in the close presence of the other subjects. I like the bodies to fill the canvas and feel at ease with each other.’

Nettle Grellier,  Easy Peelers,  oil on canvas

Nettle Grellier, Easy Peelers, oil on canvas

Nettle Grellier,  Zesty Resters,  oil on canvas

Nettle Grellier, Zesty Resters, oil on canvas

iii. After a busy week I managed to get into the print studio at school this weekend. I began making monotypes but after a while got frustrated with my attempts as I could not get the press/ink/paper to work properly. I then grabbed a spare bit of lino and created the print below from a small sketchbook drawing. I’m really pleased with it and am excited about the possibilities of introducing relief printing into my final exhibition and continuing practice.

 
Michael at The Three Crowns,  2019

Michael at The Three Crowns, 2019

 

Fifty-three

i. I’ve managed to get into a bit of a groove at Bainbridge had another brief but productive week there. I’ve got used to the presses, I know what inks I can use, I can blast my music out - I feel relaxed and happy there. I am grateful to have access to such a lovely studio!

ii. We finished the term with a group crit. I showed the three works below and all were received really well - Jo and Leora seem excited by my work. I’ve got a lot still to make for the degree show but I know which processes to use and have settled on a vocabulary that the works will share. I haven’t yet decided how to display the works but should have plenty of time to test that next term. A good week.

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Fifty-two

i. After a productive afternoon printing at Bainbridge, I went for a drink with artist Frances Stanfield. Frances cofounded London Drawing Group and is producing a book about contemporary printmaking which I was asked to be a part of last year. I’ve followed her work for a while and it was lovely to finally meet her. I have begun to think about life after Camberwell and I hope to organise a group show with her next year.

ii. Frustratingly on Thursday the studios were shut for a first year assessment and the workshops were shutting early for staff training. Rather than risk a short and unproductive day I decided to go and see a couple of exhibitions before I stop coming into London for the research break. Piano Nobile have brought together paintings, drawings and prints from each period of Leon Kossoff’s career in a concise but exciting retrospective (Leon Kossoff: A London Life). I was fortunate enough to have the gallery to myself and spent at least an hour admiring and drawing from the work. Kossoff’s unwavering commitment to a life simply depicting and celebrating the everyday - through images of his family, friends and London surroundings - is both powerful and poignant. Just brilliant.

Leon Kossoff,  Portrait of Chaim No.2,  1987

Leon Kossoff, Portrait of Chaim No.2, 1987

Leon Kossoff,  A Street in Willesden,  1985

Leon Kossoff, A Street in Willesden, 1985

iii. I also visited Diane Arbus: In the Beginning at the Hayward Gallery, an in-depth look at the first half of Arbus’ career. The unusually-curated exhibition leads you through a maze of columns featuring intimate snapshots of New York and its inhabitants. The photographs are quiet, contemplative, intriguing and often funny. The themes of the exhibition are pertinent to my current work: like Arbus I am documenting encounters with ordinary people. The following quote is from Adrian Searle’s glowing review of the show:

‘More than provoking mere curiosity, Arbus teases our imaginations. Looking at her images we invent backstories and narratives we can never be sure of. She makes us stop and look, just as she did… What went through Arbus’s mind about their lives? What went through theirs as they paused for her? We can’t know. Everyone has a story to tell but we don’t hear it, though she makes us know it is there.’

Diane Arbus,  Boy stepping off the curb, N.Y.C.,  1957–58

Diane Arbus, Boy stepping off the curb, N.Y.C., 1957–58

Diane Arbus,  Lady on a bus, N.Y.C.,  1957

Diane Arbus, Lady on a bus, N.Y.C., 1957

iv. On Saturday I visited Tate Modern’s enormous survey of Bonnard’s work with dad (Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory). I’ve only ever seen a handful of Bonnard’s paintings in real life before and to experience this many at once (it felt like hundreds) was a revelation. The exhibition presents landscapes and domestic scenes which ‘capture moments in time – where someone has just left the room, a meal has just finished, a moment lost in the view from the window, or a stolen look at a partner’.

The extraordinary show got busier and busier throughout the morning (uncomfortably so at times) and I thought back to the Hockney retrospective in the very same space a few years ago. Bonnard, like Hockney, is sometimes considered overly sentimental, perhaps even self-indulgent. In his blog, my dad refers to a negative review of the show where ‘Bonnard is taken to task for not noticing historical events’ (two World Wars). In my research paper I referred to an article in the New York Times that suggested that, in a world of political and cultural tumult, it seems likely that artists might well react by ‘grounding their work in observable, human reality’. To create such sumptuous and celebratory paintings from the stuff of the everyday in spite of political upheaval, or perhaps because of it, is undeniably compelling.

Pierre Bonnard,  Coffee,  1915

Pierre Bonnard, Coffee, 1915

Pierre Bonnard,  The Table,  1925

Pierre Bonnard, The Table, 1925

v. We also visited the stunning exhibition Sargy Mann: Late Paintings at the Royal Drawing School. Mann struggled with deteriorating sight for years, losing it completely in 2005. Yet, despite his blindness, he (somehow) continued to paint. All of the paintings brought together for this extraordinary show were created after he went blind, made entirely from memory, imagination and intuition. The paintings - mostly large, group scenes of friends and family on holiday - are fresh, luminous and unselfconscious. Joffe says, simply ‘they just glow… they’re mind-blowing. The fact of him being blind is sort of irrelevant; it’s astonishing on some other level.’ I can’t begin to make sense of Mann’s process but the show was incredible. (Unbeknown to me at the time, I was photographed drawing at the show by his son Peter Mann!)

Sargy Mann,  Infinity Pool I,  2009

Sargy Mann, Infinity Pool I, 2009

Photograph by Peter Mann

Photograph by Peter Mann

Fifty-one

i. At the beginning of the year I was asked to teach Key Stage 3 art lessons for a term in the absence of a colleague. Whilst mostly enjoyable and rewarding, it has been exhausting. Hopefully it hasn’t impacted on my uni work too significantly. I now have a week off for half term.

ii. I started the holiday with a trip to George Shaw: A Corner of a Foreign Field, a small retrospective at the Holburne Museum. As an important contemporary, figurative painter, I find Shaw intriguing however, I don’t particularly like his work. The smooth, photographic style he uses deadens the imagery and the accompanying texts are pretentious. However, the exhibition itself was concise and well curated and I enjoyed the way a selection of Shaw’s drawings were presented (another idea for the degree show).

George Shaw,  Scenes from the Passion: The Blossomiest Blossom,  2001

George Shaw, Scenes from the Passion: The Blossomiest Blossom, 2001

George Shaw,  installation view

George Shaw, installation view

iii. I’m getting worried about the amount of time I have left on the course. Unfortunately last week I had tonsillitis and spent most of this week in bed, this week the workshops are shutting early for staff training and the next week there is a group crit... I’ve got a couple of sessions booked in at Bainbridge but it feels like this term’s practical time is already over! I still have over four months until the degree show and a plan is coming together (I will be rejoining Bath Artist Printmakers from April, I can use Bainbridge if I’m in London and I do have some basic print facilities that I can use at school). If I use my time effectively I’m sure I can make a lot of good quality work and pull off a decent exhibition.

Fifty

i. I spent the afternoon at Bainbridge Print Studios creating monotypes (two versions of the same image). I like bits of both and may well collage them together when dry (I think you can be a bit more playful with a monotype - the conventions and fussiness of traditional printmaking don’t apply in the same way). Following last week’s tutorial I visited Intaglio Printmakers beforehand to buy some black Charbonnel 55985 ink and some white Somerset Satin paper - the ink/paper/press worked beautifully and I look forward to making more monotypes in the coming weeks.

ii. Unfortunately Thursday’s stint in the workshop was less successful. The weeks are going so quickly and, although I’m spending hours and hours in the workshop, I am finding myself getting increasingly frustrated by my creations. I also can’t help but be aware of the time and money involved every time a print goes wrong…

Forty-nine

i. I had a tutorial with Jo which was both useful and encouraging. She seemed to think the work is going in the right direction and told me to stop doubting myself and the quality of the work all the time. Most of the tutorial considered how to display the work for the degree show. Jo didn’t like the idea of a framed, salon hang but agreed that ‘the work’ should be comprised of multiple etchings, monotypes and drawings. One idea was to create some large framed, pin-boards/panels on which to arrange the work (see below). Jo also suggested that I try and use the same colour ink and paper where possible to give the exhibition some uniformity. I hadn’t considered showing the work like this but I like the idea a lot. I now need to make much more work so that I can begin to consider a final selection in a few months’ time. The rest of the week was spent in the workshops. I’m getting a bit worried about the lack of time left but just have to keep making, enjoy the facilities available and trust that a body of work will accrue.

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Forty-seven

i. In recent weeks I’ve been increasingly frustrated with my tendency to over or under-wipe my etching plates. Over-wiping leads to patchy or pale areas of aquatint and under-wiping leads to overly grey prints. This week I worked closely with artist and technician Brian Hodgson to improve my technique and spent both days printing the same image (a recently-adjusted etching of my mum) again and again. By late morning on the Thursday I felt like I had cracked it and successfully printed (without assistance) half a dozen identical prints full of rich velvety blacks, bright whites and various greys in-between. I will try and exhibit/sell this print in the Bath Society of Artists show in May. Brian seemed pleased and I was delighted. It’s this sort of technical assistance that I can only get at college - a week well spent.

 
Mum,  2018-19

Mum, 2018-19

 

Forty-seven

i. Unfortunately this week I had an awful session at Bainbridge: despite having two heaters on full blast, the studio was freezing (it was so cold even my ink went really stiff and unusable). I managed to prepare some old zinc plates and do some drawing before retreating into a nearby café.

ii. Thursday was a lot more productive and I begin two new zinc etchings (see below). I’m enjoying the sugar lift but am increasingly dissatisfied with the actual wiping/printing of my plates. This is something I continue to struggle with and need to address.

iii. Thursday also saw the opening of our group show, Common Ground, at Lumberjack Café. Unfortunately I couldn’t be there to hang the show but it looked good and the private view was busy - a nice thing to be a part of.

 
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Forty-six

i. I spent another afternoon at Bainbridge with varying degrees of success. Whilst printing my monotypes the paper kept sticking to the plate and or printing with noticeable mottling (I think that either the pressure on the press was wrong or my paper was too dry). I worry the work is becoming too stylised and almost cartoony. It’s always disappointing trying to replicate the success of previous work…

ii. I had an encouraging group crit without any major criticisms and was advised to just keep making and to begin to consider the degree show. Somebody suggested that I try making monotypes in the pub but I argued that, even if I was allowed to bring ink into the pub it would change the dynamic considerably: rather than quietly observing, it would become an intrusive performance. It was also suggested that I look into bits of writing such as George Orwell’s The Moon Under Water.

iii. Prior to the opening of an upcoming retrospective, I’ve become a bit obsessed with artist Sargy Mann. The documentary below is brilliant and fascinating: what an extraordinary man!

Forty-five

i. This week was the first of term and it was great to be back in the workshops. Last term Paul Coldwell suggested that the colour in my work might not be working so, after churning out some unsuccessful, colourful monotypes I ended up making the black and white print below. I think it’s strong so it’s an encouraging start to the term. Predictably this success was short-lived and everything else I made was fairly weak. However, it’s nice not to be too worried and to just be getting on and making stuff. I will keep transcribing my sketchbook drawings into etchings and monotypes. I think that’s a good plan for the time being.

 
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ii. Below are some of my recent drawings from the pub. I’ve enjoyed sitting there with my sketchbook in my lap, watching the goings on. I think some of these drawings are good in their own right and strong enough to be exhibited alongside the prints.

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Sketchbook,  2018-19

Sketchbook, 2018-19

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iii. I attended the 60th birthday party of my family friend Stephen in Cheltenham. Stephen is a potter and, in a speech he was thanked for ‘contributing to the sum of good things in the world.’ What a lovely phrase.

Forty-four

i. Happy New Year! I have had a three week break from uni and work and spent a good deal of time drawing, reading, visiting shows and considering the upcoming term. I will share some of my drawings in the next post and use this one to instead discuss the contextual research I’ve been doing.

ii. I read the majority of Eric Fischl: 1970-2007. The bulk of the book, entitled Fischl on Fischl, comprises examples of the artist's work accompanied by his comments. Although I find a lot of his paintings pretty bleak, he talks about figurative painting and his career simply and articulately:

‘I came to a point… where I’d used up everything I’d been taught and none of it was really working. I began to make this transition to working from a content point of view. I thought maybe I’d just start from something more familiar, something that I knew.’

‘I was actually looking for frozen moments, for something where somebody’s gesture, the interaction between that gesture and its environment and what had caused it - all those things that created a poignancy that filled the room with meaning.’

‘I’ve found there’s a difference between a painting of one person, two people, or a painting of three or more people. Each ones puts the viewer into a very different relationship to the scene, to meaning, and to self… Three or more people becomes a social dynamic. It can be social within a family framework or literally social in which the viewer takes a more removed position, like watching people on the street; you’re just one of the many.’

iii. I visited Albert Irvin and Abstract Expressionism at the RWA in Bristol and loved it. The exhibition was mostly devoted to a retrospective of Irvin’s large, colourful abstract paintings but included works by the major abstract expressionist artists that inspired him (Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell, Newman), other leading British abstract artists (including Peter Lanyon and Gillian Ayres) and a room about Irvin’s figurative beginnings with the Kitchen Sink painters. The show was bright and celebratory and made me want to paint again. One thing I’ve realised at Camberwell is that I think more in terms of drawing and painting than printmaking - in that I’m far more concerned with picture making (composition, subject etc.) than technique (which shade of black ink or gsm of paper to use). I can see myself returning to drawing and painting with enthusiasm on leaving Camberwell in the summer. The show also displayed ephemera such as sketchbooks, paint cans and wonderful snippets of writing including this statement by Irvin reflecting on his time at Goldsmiths and his practice as a whole:

‘…trying during four years to learn something of the elements of my art, and realising, on leaving, how little one learns as a student and how much is left to be learnt for oneself in the dedicated ritual of one's own studio.

I have, at one time or another employed most of the idioms current in the language of contemporary painting in an attempt to build for myself a means of self-expression both personal and capable of communication with anyone interested enough to be a spectator of my work.

I show my work wherever and whenever I can and sell it to any noble soul who'll buy it. This happens too infrequently for comfort so I am obliged to teach, one or two days a week. I like teaching; it can be aggravating but on the whole I like it. And it gets me out of my studio for a bit, which is a good thing.

I have no plans for the future. The future is a series of jerks from one painting to the next, each one sowing the seeds of its successor..’

I found this particularly inspiring as I begin to face the prospect of leaving art school (for the second time) and figuring out how to maintain being an artist and making a living.

Albert Irvin,  Northcote,  1989

Albert Irvin, Northcote, 1989

Albert Irvin,  Bert and Betty,  c.2005

Albert Irvin, Bert and Betty, c.2005

iv. Dad and I travelled to Birmingham for the day to see the exhibition Maman at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. The show featured paintings and photographs of intimate interior scenes exploring the shared life of Vuillard and his mother. By ‘expressing the contemplation of beings and of things’ through quiet pictures of domestic scenes, Vuillard (alongside Bonnard) was labelled an ‘Intimist’. Whilst the paintings are modest in size and unassuming in subject matter, I found these depictions of everyday moments and familial relationships incredibly poignant and moving. Although Vuillard painted a very different type of interior space, I long for my work about the pub to feel similarly gentle, melancholy and intimate.

Édouard Vuillard,  After the Meal (Après le repas),  1893

Édouard Vuillard, After the Meal (Après le repas), 1893

Édouard Vuillard,  Interior with Seated Figure,  1893

Édouard Vuillard, Interior with Seated Figure, 1893

v. A comment in my formal feedback from November suggested that ‘your confidence in the validity of your path is now strong enough for you to progress with energy and ambition.’ I have been considering how my work might develop before the degree show. I definitely want to get back into making monotypes (perhaps upping the scale as in Harry Whitelock’s work) as well as continuing my painterly etchings (perhaps using areas of tone such as in Rachael Neale’s monotypes). I feel as if the work is definitely going somewhere, I just need to stay calm and enjoy it. Rather than going back anxious, I am excited to get back into a studio routine.

Harry Whitelock,  Totally Spineless And Shite I Know

Harry Whitelock, Totally Spineless And Shite I Know

Rachael Neale,  Seeking Shade,  2018

Rachael Neale, Seeking Shade, 2018

Forty-three

i. Christmas is here! I’ve now broken up from both school and uni until January. I will try and relax and catch up with a few admin jobs in my first week (updating my journal and website etc.) and then spend my second and third weeks off reading, drawing and visiting exhibitions. This time last year I was fumbling about trying to find direction for my work whereas I now feel much more confident. In a recent feedback tutorial Jo told me my work is in a good place to move forward next term which is reassuring and encouraging.

ii. As it was my last week in London for over a month, I decided to visit several exhibitions. The Drawing Year End of Year Exhibition 2018 at the Royal Drawing School is always a mixed bag but is always full of many incredible artworks (such as Charlotte Ager’s stunning Orange Horse Rider). However the expressive, playful and colourful work of Veronika Peat was my absolute favourite. My making time is often limited to either being in the print room or sketching in the pub. Next year I intend to make much more time for drawing both in the studio and in situ.

Veronika Peat,  Two Russian Guys,  2018

Veronika Peat, Two Russian Guys, 2018

Charlotte Ager,  Orange Horse Rider

Charlotte Ager, Orange Horse Rider

Veronika Peat,  Path of Batu,  2018

Veronika Peat, Path of Batu, 2018

iii. I was lucky enough to wander past Studio Prints, an exhibition of prints by Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Ken Kiff, Leon Kossoff, Celia Paul and Paula Rego, at Marlborough Fine Art. It was a privilege to see these works ‘in the flesh’ (many of which I have pored over in books). Although none of the prints were huge, many were much bigger than expected and I particularly admired their reliance on drawing rather than technique. The Kossoff and Celia Paul etchings were particularly good.

iv. Jo sent me an email about a talk on portraiture by Deanna Petherbridge at the Drawing Room in conjunction with their current show Close: Drawn Portraits. Although I couldn't make the talk, I did go and visit the exhibition which featured portraits by Frank Auerbach, Cézanne, Maria Lassnig, Picasso, Paula Rego and others. I enjoyed the wonderful Auerbach and Picasso drawings, but a series of recent pastel drawings by Paula Rego (perhaps inspired by Chantal Joffe) was particularly fresh and exciting.

Leon Kossoff,  The Table by the Window,  1982

Leon Kossoff, The Table by the Window, 1982

Celia Paul,  Pregnant Girl,  1991

Celia Paul, Pregnant Girl, 1991

Paula Rego,  Self Portrait III,  2017

Paula Rego, Self Portrait III, 2017

v. I finally went for a coffee with first year Liorah Tchiprout (something we’d been trying to arrange since seeing each other’s work in the symposium a few months ago). As well as discussing our practices, Liorah showed me a recent etching she’d made using sugar lift on steel. I had attempted this process back in my first year but could not get the sugarlift solution to adhere to the naturally-greasy steel plate. However, spending much longer degreasing the plate and using Camp Coffee instead of plum tree sugar lift yielded exciting results. I will buy some large steel plates and experiment further as soon as I’m back in January. It’s nice to be working alongside another figurative artist - it feels like I’ve got an ally in the print room. (We also discussed a possible group show at some point next year!)

vi. I was recently contacted by Lucy McGeown and Frances Stanfield (cofounders of London Drawing Group) and asked if I’d like my work included in a couple of books that they are producing with Ilex Press about printmaking and drawing due to be published next summer. I am flattered to have been asked and of course I said yes!

Forty-two

i. Last week, instead of going into uni, I travelled to Cardiff to meet artist and curator Liam O’Connor (he exhibits under a pseudonym: Casper White). I had enjoyed Liam’s work at the National Portrait Gallery earlier in the year and, following a crit at the end of last term, Dan Howard-Birt put me touch with him. Liam’s proposal for his 2017 BP Portrait Travel Award was to go clubbing in Europe, and photograph, paint and draw people ‘being in the moment’. I think there are a lot of similarities between his work and my current project about the pub. In a recent interview in CCQ Magazine Liam explains:

‘The feelings that exist in a night club, or a rock club are pretty timeless, in that they could’ve existed in the ’50s, ’40s, ’20s, and before that. I was looking at art collections, when I was in Germany, and they have pub scenes from the 1900s, and there are people with masks on, and there’s... frivolity. The artists aren’t painting them to say, ‘we’ve got bars’, but because ‘this is what’s happening’. And that’s where things happen; it’s where people meet – lovers, partners... prostitutes; it’s where people get together, split up; it’s where real moments happen. Later, the work became about these minor sensations, minor moments.’

Liam was generous with his time: we visited the National Museum Cardiff, G39 and his studio; and we spent the whole day talking about our work, Cardiff’s art scene and contemporary portraiture. He gave me lots of professional advice and said I should stay in touch. It was brilliant to be back in Cardiff (where I completed my BA) and Liam is a good contact to have made. An encouraging day.

Casper White,  Into a light (Mabli),  2018

Casper White, Into a light (Mabli), 2018

Casper White,  installation view

Casper White, installation view

ii. Whilst at the National Museum Cardiff we visited the Artes Mundi 8. In my final year at Cardiff, Theaster Gates won the award for a huge installation comprised of symbolic, religious-looking sculptures and then went on to split the prize money with the other shortlisted artists. This year I particularly enjoyed Anna Boghiguian’s A Meteor Fell from the Sky, a monumental installation about the steel industry and the communities affected by it. It was an enormous and playful show comprised of drawings, text, sculpture and painted cut-outs. I’m nervous about the idea of attempting anything too ambitious with the presentation of my work - I really worry it will look contrived - however it was exciting to see such an impressive and ambitious display.

iii. At the Artes Mundi, Liam and I discussed whether or not art always needs to be socially-engaged or political. I don’t think it does but, when making work about people and contemporary life, it’s almost unavoidable. An article was recently published by the Guardian about the rate of pubs closing. Celebrating the pub and its community feels relevant and necessary. I keep being asked (in crits and tutorials) what I want the viewer to think or feel in the presence of my work, and themes of gentrification, loneliness and community have been mentioned. I welcome the discourse but don’t my work to deliver an explicit ‘message’ for fear of appearing didactic or condescending.

iv. I genuinely haven’t been sure about how well I’ve been doing on the course and have felt anxious and stressed throughout. However I have newfound confidence having received my written feedback for Unit One this week:

‘Your confidence in the validity of your path is now strong enough for you to progress with energy and ambition. You have gathered a strong contextual underpinning to your practice an should now feel confident to make the most of Unit two without the anxiety of questioning your work’s relevance. You are highly engaged in your professional development and motivated in the pursuit of your work.’

Forty-one

i. This week we began Unit 2 in earnest. Unit 2 is defined by the Assessment Brief as ‘the resolution and presentation of your work according to your Project Proposal’ and, although we’ve been told to keep experimenting and not to start making for a show, we are now being encouraged to begin testing the presentation of work and consider where it might be going. At this stage I can’t see my path changing radically (I will make work about the pub for the duration of the MA) but, through making, reading and discourse hope to go deeper with my research in order to create an exciting and resolved body of work.

ii. In my tutorial and subsequent feedback, Paul Coldwell told me that my drawings are ‘complete’ and to be careful not to simply copy them. Although I agree to some extent, the artists I admire (Bonnard, Auerbach, Kossoff etc.) are able to use their quick drawings as an intermediate stage to larger, more impressive works. Tom Hammick often transforms tiny, notational sketchbook drawings into bold, striking prints. I believe I have the ability to do something more with my drawings than merely increase the scale of them.

Tom Hammick,  Copse,  2006

Tom Hammick, Copse, 2006

Tom Hammick,  Lasso,  2018

Tom Hammick, Lasso, 2018

iii. I’ve spent a lot of time at Bainbridge Print Studios and the Camberwell workshops transcribing my observational sketches into etchings. After my initial excitement, etching with aluminium at Bainbridge turned out to be quite frustrating: it’s not as clean as zinc and a lot of foul biting occurred (although I was rushing somewhat). At Camberwell, I slowed down and simplified the imagery, etching bold lines and shapes to denote body language and suggest narrative. Inspired by Tom Hammick’s etchings I also incorporated chine-collé. There’s still a lot of improvements to make but I’m having fun and can see myself making several prints in this manner.

 
Two Men Walk into a Bar  (detail), 2018

Two Men Walk into a Bar (detail), 2018

 

iv. Between 1963-65, Richard Diebekorn made a book of prints, 41 Etchings and Drypoints. He took zinc plates home and drew, from life, still lifes of the breakfast table, landscapes through the window and portraits of his wife reading. Through their simplicity, immediacy and cropped compositions Diebekorn offers us quiet, intimate snapshots of his home-life. Before the end of term I plan to prepare some hard ground plates to take to the pub over Christmas to work on directly.

Richard Diebenkorn,  #6 from 41 Etchings Drypoints,  1964

Richard Diebenkorn, #6 from 41 Etchings Drypoints, 1964

Richard Diebenkorn,  #7 from 41 Etchings Drypoints,  1965

Richard Diebenkorn, #7 from 41 Etchings Drypoints, 1965

iv. On Thursday afternoon I travelled over to the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair. It was a really strong show of contemporary printmaking featuring lots of familiar names and some brilliant work (Sadie Tierney, Jake Garfield, Paul Wardski and others). However, there’s a polite, technical, neatness found in a lot of printmaking which I find pretty boring - I liked the clumsy, painterly monotypes (by Marguerite Carnec, Daisy Jarrett, Tamsin Relly) best. I don’t want my prints to look too perfect and want the process to be clumsily visible.

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Daisy Jarrett, 2018

Daisy Jarrett, 2018

v. This week also saw the opening of our group exhibition at London College of Fashion. Because of assessment deadlines and an attempt to please everyone, the show ended up without a title, a boring poster and next to no advertising. However, I enjoyed hanging it with everyone and the show looked alright. We’re putting on another group show in January which I hope will be stronger.

 
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vi. A few weeks ago I received an email from painter India Bunce about my research paper (she wrote her dissertation on a very similar subject). Although I haven’t received my formal feedback yet, India read my essay and sent me the following message of encouragement:

‘Hi Sam! I am soo sorry it has been almost 10 days since you sent the paper. I have just finally found time to read through and it is great! I’m just reading it a third time ha. Feeling inspired and encouraged to paint - having a week of mega doubts about everything I’m working on (as per!). Such brilliant observations and research about LYB and Joffe’s work and how figurative art is seen right now. Love how you highlighted the value of painting everyday human experience. You clearly unpacked various subjects that I found really hard to concisely put into words - particularly about how portraiture has been dismissed as irrelevant but now it’s back on the scene. Thank you so much for letting me read, so interesting and encouraging!’

vii. On Friday I went to the pub with artist Seb Thomas. Seb graduated from MA Printmaking at Camberwell the year before I started and also lives in Reading. It was brilliant (and reassuring) to talk to him about his experiences on the course. Seb’s advice was not to worry about fitting in with the work of my peers and to stick to my guns and not change too radically. A good evening.

Forty

i. This is my last post before the Unit 1 assessment next week. It’s been a useful exercise to sort through and organise my work from the course thus far. I thought I was going to feel somewhat sheepish about my submission but, on reflection, I’ve made a lot more work than I thought and feel confident with where I want to take the project in the next few months. I look forward to my feedback in a couple of weeks’ time.

ii. This week I spent two long days producing test strips for etchings. (I had intended to do this two weeks ago but, frustratingly, there was no access to the acid room at uni due to issues with the ventilation system.) I also completed my first proper workshop session at Bainbridge Print Studios which is equipped for etching aluminium (as well as zinc and copper). This is an exciting prospect due to its inherent qualities (for example it doesn’t need an aquatint) and because it’s so cheap! I’m certain these test strips will become an invaluable reference in the coming months.

iii. I finished the week with a tutorial with Paul Coldwell. It was useful to talk about my practical work instead of my research paper or upcoming assessment. Paul suggested that it’s time I upped my engagement with the project and spend a lot more time drawing at the pub. He suggested I take plates in to work on directly and to consider how I might display them. One suggestion was to frame loads of drawings and prints and display them haphazardly (similar to Gilbert and George’s Drinking Sculpture). I then spoke about my lack of confidence in crits and tutorials (particularly as to how contemporary a body of work it is). Paul told me to stop worrying as I’m not there to seek approval and that I have to convince others of the importance and relevance of my work through its quantity and quality. He also suggested that it does link to contemporary life (the rise in loneliness, national identity, gentrification) but that these assertions should be made by the work and not me. Things to look into: Eric Fischl, Giacometti’s Paris Sans Fin and Gilbert and George’s pub works.

Eric Fischl,  Year of the Drowned Dog,  1983

Eric Fischl, Year of the Drowned Dog, 1983

Gilbert and George,  THE BAR No.2  (detail) ,  1972

Gilbert and George, THE BAR No.2 (detail), 1972

Gilbert and George,  installation view

Gilbert and George, installation view

Gilbert and George,  Balls: The Evening Before the Morning After - Drinking Sculpture,  1972

Gilbert and George, Balls: The Evening Before the Morning After - Drinking Sculpture, 1972

Thirty-nine

i. After nearly six months of work, I’ve finally handed in my research paper! It’s not a particularly long essay but it’s been a laborious process. At the start of my MA I proposed to explore the relevance or purpose of portraiture today and I now consider this satisfactorily resolved. I am happy with and proud of the finished paper. The following is from my conclusion:

Many artists have explored identity knowingly by ingenuously using the portrait ‘playfully, ironically, or parodically’. Yet through Yiadom-Boakye and Joffe’s honesty and sincerity one can experience directly the vitality, intimacy and vulnerability of human experience: ‘fashions in art come and go but there’ll always be a place for what is authentic, for what is true’.

Both artists are actively part of a new generation using portraiture to quietly subvert and adapt what has come before. Perhaps ‘in a time of chaos, there could be nothing more necessary - more defiant - than simply showing life as it’s being lived’.’

ii. Now that the essay is in, it is of paramount importance that I get back into a practical routine as quickly as possible. I’ve scheduled twenty hours at Bainbridge Print Studios before the Christmas break and there are several Thursdays devoted solely to workshop time. I’m going to have to capitalise on weekends at school and perhaps use the Bath Artist Printmakers workshop again at Christmas. Time to get making.

iii. Conversations about degree show fundraising/preparation have begun. It feels like a long way away but I’m certain it’s going to come quickly. Additionally, Thom has also arranged two small group shows for us as a year group in the next few months. The first is in a few weeks’ time at London College of Fashion’s exhibition and project space and the second is at Lumberjack Cafe in January.

iv. During my half term break, I spent a couple of evenings life drawing. I haven’t been life drawing in months and I loved it. Managing school, my MA and a social life means my time is often squeezed into a strict schedule. On moving back to the South West next summer, I want to slow down and find the time to attend life drawing and regularly go painting and drawing again.

v.  I exhibited a couple of works in the Bath Society of Artists members show. It was my first time exhibiting in the annual members’ exhibition, which ‘this year takes its lead from The Badminton Game, a painting by its current president David Inshaw RWA. Source explores the materials and ideas artists draw upon as inspiration for their work and will exhibit members developmental materials along with final works created from these sources.’ It was a decent show and I am happy to have been included.

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Installation view

Installation view