i. First week back. Hours in the studio attempting to use colour. Paul Coldwell suggested that colour might not be helpful. Made this black and white print. It’s really good. Encouraging.
ii. Unsuccessful, but churning them out. Use these to rework or adapt for etchings. Nice not to be worried and just cracking on and making stuff. I keep having moments of doubting my work in comparison to that of my peers. It’s not worse, it’s just so different to theirs. The only figurative artist in my year… But this is the work I want to make, I’m not going to change it now.
iii. Drawings from the pub. Enjoying it, some of these drawings are good in their own right. Try and get more at half term/weekend etc.
iv. ‘Contributing to the sum of good things in the world.’
i. Happy New Year! I 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 like a painter than a printmaker (in that I’m far more concerned with the composition of a picture than which shade of black ink 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 make a living.
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 described a very different type of interior space, I long for my work about the pub to feel similarly gentle, melancholy and intimate.
v. There are several exhibitions opening in the coming months that I am really looking forward to including Bonnard at the Tate Modern, Sargy Mann (curated by Chantal Joffe) at the Royal Drawing School and Diane Arbus at the Hayward Gallery.
vi. 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. However, rather than going back anxious, I’m excited to get back into a studio routine.
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. Firstly: The Drawing Year End of Year Exhibition 2018 at the Royal Drawing School was a mixed bag and featured several incredible artists/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.
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. The essays in the catalogue also looked excellent and would have been helpful a few months ago when writing my essay (I will pop back in the new year for another look and to buy the catalogue).
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!
i. Last week, instead of going into uni, I travelled to Cardiff to meet artist and curator Liam O-Conor (also known by his 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.
ii. Whilst at the National Museum Cardiff we visited the Artes Mundi 8. The Artes Mundi frequently slips into worthiness with international artists asked to make work responding to ‘the urgent issues of our time’. However, it can also be inspiring, exciting and surprising: 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 Ken Kiff-like 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 been 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.’
i. This week we began Unit 2 in earnest and, as such, I’ve left a small gap after the end of Unit 1 which means that this post is quite large and encompasses two week’s worth of information. 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 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 understand his point, 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, concise prints. I believe I have the ability to do something more with my drawings than merely increase the scale of them.
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.
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.
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.
v. This week also saw the opening of a group exhibition at London College of Fashion. Because of assessment deadlines and an attempt to please everyone, the show ended up with no real title, a boring poster and next to no advertising. I enjoyed hanging it with everyone and the show looked good but if we had let one person curate the show, rather than attempting to organise it democratically, I think we would have had a much braver and exciting exhibition. We’re putting on another group show in January which I think will be stronger.
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 now also lives in Reading. It was brilliant (and reassuring) to talk to him about his experiences on the course (as well as about music, film and art). 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. He likes my work and we discussed the possibility of show in Reading next year. A really good evening.
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 its importance and relevance through the quantity and quality of the work. He also suggested that it links to contemporary life (such as possible associations to the rise in loneliness) but that these connections can only be made by the work. The work is fine, I just need to make more. Things to look into: Eric Fischl, Giacometti’s Paris Sans Fin and Gilbert and George’s pub works.
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 where I can 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 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.
i. Jo warned us not to neglect our studio practice whilst we write our research papers but I just don’t have the time get in the workshops as well. I also feel so out of any sort of practical routine that I know I won’t be able to get back into one until this essay’s handed in.
ii. We finished the week with a group crit that was fairly positive. I think people agree that there’s mileage in my current work but it can get a bit wearing having to justify every single decision I make (colour, composition etc.). I just want to get this paper finished so I can get back to making.
iii. I followed up on a prize I was awarded earlier in the year: a year’s use of Bainbridge Print Studios. I signed a contract, completed an induction and booked in some printing sessions over the next few weeks. Luke Wade, a Camberwell alumnus and skilled etcher, will also be there on Wednesday afternoons which will no doubt be entertaining as well as educational.
iv. Thursday was devoted to Symposium 1, a series of short presentations by all MA Printmaking students summarising our practices. It was reassuring to look and reflect on the last year and realise how much progress I’ve made (and I think my work looked strong). There are some really exciting figurative artists (Liora Tchiprout and Liliana Romero) in the year below. Perhaps there may be opportunity to exhibit with them in the future? It also helped me to think about why I make the work I make. Both artists reference their cultural heritage (Jewish and Columbian respectively) in their work. I’m a white, middle-class man from the South West. Making work about my experiences (via the pub and other portraits) may seem less politically-charged but it’s certainly no less authentic.
v. On Saturday, I spent the day visiting galleries in London with my friend Beth. We briefly popped in to see Babes in the Orchard, Rachel Mercer’s small group exhibition at Mercer Chance. Geraint Evans (who exhibited a few weeks ago) and Michael Chance (the next and final show) and both brilliant artists but tend to have a slightly damning outlook on the world whereas Rachel’s paintings are always playful and joyful. Sadly, it was probably my final visit to Mercer Chance (they close for good in a couple of weeks’ time). I’m grateful to Rachel and Michael for the support they’ve shown me over the last couple of years and wish them well with whatever they do next!
vi. We also visited the Photographers Gallery to see Silver Lake Drive, an exhibition by Alex Prager. Prager makes filmic photographs and short videos that reference Hitchcock and Film Noir. The work throws you into the middle of complex narratives but never reveals the whole story. Jo has spoken about narratives in my pub images - perhaps this is inevitable given the subject matter. Also on display was Tish Murtha: Works 1976-1991, a series of documentary photographs that offer ‘a tender and frank perspective on a historic moment of social deprivation and instability in Britain’ including several of a pub in Newport. The photos were bleak but also honest, poignant and surprisingly tender.
i. Back to uni this week. Reflecting on my first year, and rereading my project proposal, I don’t think I’m doing as terribly as I often thought last year. I intended to develop painterly printmaking through etching and monotypes, which I’ve done or am beginning to do. Lithography was a dead end but at least I did attempt it. I also wanted to explore the contemporary context for portraiture which I’m doing through my research paper. It’s slowly coming together but I’ve still got lots to do. I’m looking forward to getting it over with, getting back in the workshops and upping my game a bit. It’s going to be a busy, but hopefully really exciting, year. I’ll also try and keep this journal going regularly again.
ii. On Thursday, I visited the private view of Surface Worlds: Reflections in the City, an exhibition by my friend Geraint Evan. The exhibition explored themes of class and consumerism through drawings (and soundscapes) made from the shop window reflections of Oxford Street. I admire Geraint’s ability to capture the minutiae of everyday life. He elevates the mundane through intricate, brooding charcoal drawings. An impressive show if a little pessimistic.
iii. I was drafted in, last minute, to accompany a four-day art trip to Venice with school. It was absolutely exhausting but the kids were good, it was fun to get away and I saw some brilliant artwork (Tintoretto, Veronese, Morandi). I’m feeling slightly panicked now as I was banking on using that weekend to make some serious progress with the research paper…
iv. The Shrewdness of Apes, an exhibition my Camberwell alumnus Jack Fawdry Tatham, is currently on show in the student gallery at uni. The exhibition showcases a series of etchings that have been influenced by the natural world and human relationships. The show is fun, witty (Adam and Steve is an incredible title for an artwork!) and technically brilliant. It’s also a good reminder that I definitely want to get better at etching. I began to get somewhere at the end of last year by using aquatint, sugar lift and spit bite. Now it’s time to really push and develop those techniques - I want to get really good!
i. Last week I visited All Too Human at the Tate Britain for my third and final time. Having stared at and drawn from the enormous Auerbach and Kossoff paintings (again) I'm feeling a real pull to (as mentioned in the last post) up my ambition, push myself and go bigger somehow. I also paid a bit more attention to Michael Andrews' complex Colony Room paintings packed full of people interacting. Andrews believe 'people at parties are not doing anything other than being themselves... Different body languages and postures stand for different ways of engaging with the world, some more controlled and self-aware, others more spontaneous.’
ii. Before the end of my summer holidays I managed to squeeze in a couple more visits to The Three Crowns to draw. I haven't spent as much time at the pub as I intended to this summer. Once my research paper is out the way I can solely focus on this body of work.
iii. The holidays are nearly over. Unfortunately I didn't advance my project as much as I had hoped to but I have made lots of drawings and taken quite a few photographs at the pub which should keep me going in the short term! I had to cancel my Bath Artist Printmakers membership a bit earlier than planned but I have emailed Bainbridge about getting my induction completed as soon as possible. I've also got back in touch with Tom Hammick who said I can visit him for a tutorial before Christmas and Casper White has emailed me about a studio visit either in London or Cardiff. I'm now definitely ready to get back into a routine and get on with some work.
i. I'm over halfway through the summer and I've managed to get quite a lot of work done but, as expected, trying to juggle so many different things (see last entry) has meant that its been bitty and sporadic. I spent the last ten days on holiday in Scotland (via Leeds and Manchester) with Becky which was wonderful. It was lovely to get away and read, walk and draw. I'm off to a festival this weekend and another in a couple of weeks. I'm very aware that I need to get back into my work soon…
ii. We spent our first two days in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe and also managed to visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to see Emil Nolde: Colour is Life. Nolde was one of the most influential German artists of the twentieth century and the challenging exhibition did not shy away from or excuse the artist’s political beliefs and anti-Semitic views. It was an extraordinary show of brash, raw, colourful paintings and prints of dramatic landscapes, bizarre portraits and raucous bar scenes (which I will look closely at in relation to my own work). I loved it.
iii. On our way back from Scotland we stayed in Manchester specifically to visit Chantal Joffe: Personal Feeling is the Main Thing at The Lowry for my research paper. It was a brilliant, joyful show of of intimate, awkward and relatable paintings of everyday life. I made pages and pages of drawings and notes as part of my essay research. Before we left for Scotland I emailed Leora the abstract for my research paper and, as well as some criticism and advice, she finished with 'I think you're well on the way'. I feel encouraged and informed and ready to get stuck in.
iv. At the beginning of the summer I left Instagram for a month. I think Instagram is an incredible tool but it's very easy to start comparing yourself to others (specifically those I consider my peers) in terms of quality and output and consequently wind up feeling inadequate and disheartened. The break was useful as on returning to it I felt inspired by playful, confident and exciting work by artists such as Ella Squirrell, Holly Froy and Matthew Cotton. On returning to uni in October I want my work to be bigger, braver and more experimental.
i. To round off the year, Paul Coldwell led a group crit and shared his opinions on the second year final exhibition. He told the second years (and us) not to lose their ambition, to get their work out there ('With every piece of work on display, something may happen. With every piece under your bed, nothing will happen.'), and to figure out where they see themselves in the future (exhibiting, teaching, writing etc.). It was inspiring to see Paul challenge the second years about life after Camberwell and refreshing to see someone in an art school offering advice on the practicalities of a career as an artist.
ii. Uni is finished for the year and the summer holidays have fully arrived! It's going to be a bit of a juggling act trying to manage a social life, driving lessons, visiting exhibitions, painting, drawing at the Three Crowns, using the print studio and working on my research paper. No doubt it'll all come together but it seems a bit manic at the moment!
ii. I've begun collaging and re-working photocopies of my sketchbook drawings from the pub. It's an enjoyable and playful process recreating interactions between locals and working out compositions. These may lead to more drawings, prints or even paintings - how do I ensure this work doesn't end up too illustrative?
iii. This week I experimented with etching (instead of making monotypes) during my time at Bath Artist Printmakers (I can see this project being comprised of various printmaking processes, drawings and maybe painting). The print (overleaf) contains elements of sugarlift, soft ground etching and aquatint. It's a bit of a mess technically but contains some exciting mark-making possibilities worth exploring further!
i. The term (and year) finished with a group crit of our interim show led by Dan Howard-Birt (who helped us curate the space a couple of weeks ago). Although the day was not without debate and criticism, I felt my work was well received and that Dan was particularly encouraging. He talked about the important roles pubs play in communities and suggested I not shy away from nostalgia with my imagery (and to look at Hogarth, Edward Ardizzone and Ruskin Spear). Coincidentally, he also mentioned the display by artist Casper White currently at the National Portrait Gallery (that I mentioned in the reflective journal a few weeks ago) - Dan is good friends with White and is going to put me in touch with him and maybe even bring him into uni to give me a tutorial. It was a superb way to finish the term: I feel like I'm onto something and that there's mileage in the work.
ii. I had a tutorial with Leora about my research paper on contemporary portraiture (specifically in relation to the work of Chantal Joffe and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye). I have some ideas as to its theme and structure but it all feels very vague and unfocused. Leora suggested I keep reading around the subject for the next few weeks and to try and identify a question by mid-August. I don't think she's too worried about me just yet!
iii. Leora also suggested I look at the book ‘The Everyday’ (part of the Whitechapel Gallery's ‘Documents of Contemporary Art’ series) in relation to my research paper as well as my overarching practice. The following quote is from the introduction (I feel like it could be a useful read):
'The rise of the everyday in contemporary art is usually understood in terms of a desire to bring these uneventful and overlooked aspects of lived experience into visibility. For some, this turn to the ordinary leads to a recognition of the dignity of ordinary behaviour, or the act of stating simply, 'here is value.’ - Stephen Johnstone
iii. Thursday evening saw the opening of Camberwell's MA Visual Arts Summer Show. The second year printmaking exhibition was ambitious and bold, the catalogue was stylish and I loved the box set of prints they put together with the tutors and visiting artists. It's reassuring to see the progress the second years have made since October and I can't wait to see how we get on in a year's time!
iv. The second year exhibition is curated and displayed in a very cool and contemporary manner whereas our interim show is understandably a lot more visually straightforward. I know that the tutors work with the students to hang the work and I'm curious how my work will be displayed next year. Casper White's NPG show is a small exhibition of paintings and drawings accompanied by a sculptural element (a scattering of lighting gels) that manages to successfully unify the works. How do I exhibit my work in ‘a contemporary way' without it appearing contrived?
i. This week, instead of going to Camberwell, I went back to Chippenham to start my project about The Three Crowns in earnest. I visited Chippenham Museum and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre to begin looking into its history but didn't find anything. I did, however, find out that local historian Jan Harvey (someone I vaguely know from the pub) is exploring the history of The Three Crowns. I will attempt to meet up with Jan to ask her about her findings. I then spent two evenings at The Three Crowns making some drawings.
ii. I took these drawings to Bath Artist Printmakers to attempt to make a new work for the interim display. Because of the exhibition’s imminence I began to rush and the day was unsuccessful. Fortunately I have other work that I’m happy to show.
iii. This week I also finished at school for the academic year. I cannot wait to have more time for drawing, reading and visiting exhibitions. I'm off to London next Saturday to see the Rodin show at the British Museum, then later in the summer Emil Nolde and Jenny Saville in Scotland and Chantal Joffe in Manchester.
iv. I was emptying the kiln at work on the last day of term and some of the crude, colourfully glazed objects inside reminded me of the work of sculptor Jesse Wine whose 'playful ceramic objects and still lifes give form to the peculiarities and rituals of the everyday, drawing on our shared experiences.' Last year I visited Sludgy Portrait of Himself at the Museum of Cambridge, an immersive exhibition exploring folklore and tradition which drew together sound, museum artefacts, artworks from Kettle’s Yard’s collection as well as new sculptures by Wine - it was absolutely brilliant. I've only just begun this project and can't think too seriously about its final presentation just yet, but experimenting with sculptural forms and finding interesting things to do installationally could be really exciting - a sudden thought worth recording.
i. We spent Wednesday morning with artist and curator Dan Howard-Birt provisionally curating our interim display with MA Book Arts. It was interesting to find links between, and discuss the curation of, a whole load of quite disparate work. Dan guided us through the process and I think the display will look smart. However I can't help feeling that my work doesn't quite look at home - it is the only figurative piece in the show. Does it stand out or not fit in?
ii. I went to visit the Royal College of Art 2018 Show. I thought the printmaking exhibition was impressive (the painting show was underwhelming). A lot of the printmaking work was ambitious and bold especially in its scale and display. I was particularly impressed by the work of Shinyoung Park and Alice Irwin. I aim to be braver and more adventurous with my work heading into my second year and next year's final show.
iii. It's been a productive week: curating the interim display, planning the next few weeks, reading and sending emails and letters to Chantal Joffe and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye for the research paper etc. I remember Jo telling us at the beginning of the year that during the MA there would be times of inactivity but I can't help getting frustrated with my recent lack of making. Next week I'm heading back to the South West to make drawings in the pub and I can't wait. I'm out of practice and feel disconnected from the work. Bring on the summer!
iv. I also finished my etching course at the Royal Drawing School. I may not have made any resolved or impressive works but I have learned lots of little skills (including multi-plate printing, sugar lift, better ways to use colour and a new way of using chin-collé). I've really enjoyed it and hope that these skills might later appear in my own work or teaching.
v. Although I am excited about making new work, I need to consider the contemporary context of, and my rationale for, my work about the pub. Group scenes automatically suggest a narrative and although it's documentary I'm not making reportage illustrations nor do I have a particular point to make. I've been looking at paintings such as Michael Andrew's Colony Room, Leon Kossoff's swimming pools, Chantal Joffe's fashion week studies and younger contemporary painters. I must explore this further.
i. I want to clarify my use of the word 'clumsy' in the last post: I recently listened to the podcast 'The Importance of Being Clumsy' by Jonathan Jones. Jones states that the genius produced by artists Cézanne, Picasso and Auerbach begins in clumsiness and awkwardness and that these artists are 'immersed in the physical world and obsessed by the physical presence of things’. A pleasing description.
ii. On Wednesday, I visited the BP Portrait Prize predominantly to see work by Casper White who won last year's BP Travel Award for his proposal to create works about music fans in clubs and concert venues in Berlin and Mallorca. White made paintings of his friends dancing in the nightclubs as well as drawings of them hungover the following day. The body of work is concise, bold and playful - especially in the context of the BP Portrait Prize (even more polished, photorealistic and boring than normal). White and I follow each other on Instagram - I might get in touch to ask him about the project over the summer.
iii. I also went to visit Howard Hodgkin: Last Paintings at Gagosian Gallery. These paintings are records of the last moments that really mattered to him and as a result the show was incredibly moving. In 1984 Hodgkin said 'I don't care about mortality in the slightest, but I certainly want to beat time. I certainly want to defy time... the point being that really they should be like memorials, that's what paintings were.'
iv. Artist Victoria Ahrens gave a talk about her practice which deals with political and historical narratives as well as the physical nature of printmaking. Ahren's practice and PHD is particularly research-heavy. I'm not sure my work will ever be so intellectually complicated but if I'm going to continue making work about The Three Crowns (which has been a pub since the early 18th Century) then undertaking some historical research about the town, the pub and the people involved could be an interesting starting point. I'm not sure what this would necessarily add to the project but perhaps finding out is the point.
v. I had my final tutorial of the year with Jo who seems encouraging about my current work. Next week I'm heading back to Chippenham for a couple of days to start the project by make some drawings in the pub, speaking to the landlord and visiting Chippenham Museum and Wiltshire History Centre. I hope that by October I will have a wealth of source material to draw upon (drawings, photographs, interviews etc.). I now know what I want to do and am eager to get on and do it!
vi. Jo also suggested I be braver with my printmaking and drawing and to consider not always being limited by the conventions of the rectangle. Specifically she mentioned visiting an impressive drawing by Patrick Metcalfe in the Camberwell BA Show (made as 'a recognition of the privilege afforded... as white, British male' full of images of colonialism and popular culture). Ignoring the interesting and complicated subject-matter, it was presented as a sprawling, large-scale, sculptural work. I intend for my work to be more playful and experimental in its display.
i. I spent the vast majority of this week hanging the school's end of year art exhibition which unfortunately meant that I didn't get into Camberwell and had little time for anything else. The exhibition is strong and I'm proud to look at all the students' work from this year. Although quite often exhausting, I have a really good job! Now that it's done I can focus on my studies again.
ii. I did manage to get into London on Thursday afternoon to visit the Bainbridge Open on its penultimate day. It was an excellent show and I particularly enjoyed prints by Alice Macdonald, Euphrosyne Andrews, Juliet Scott and David Ferry. I've found it reassuring and inspiring to see my recent work exhibited and holding its own in the context of contemporary figurative art (at Mercer Chance in March) and now amongst examples of contemporary printmaking.
iii. I also met up with Lucy Bainbridge (founder of Bainbridge Print Studios) about my prize: a membership with Bainbridge Print Studios and use of their facilities whenever I want for a year! I will probably start in September/October and use it on Wednesday afternoons when the studios are shut at university. This should allow me to keep up with the making time that I miss on Tuesdays and could be an enormous help as I head into my second year.
iv. I have been experimenting with multi-plate, multi-colour printing at my etching class at the Royal Drawing School. This week my favourite print was taken from a plate (printed in blue with a surface roll of flesh pink) originally intended to add tone to another plate. I think my painterly marks using sugar lift are a lot more interesting than simple line drawings.
v. I spent Sunday afternoon in Oxford and visited the Ruskin's BFA and MFA Degree Shows which was full of bad video art and installations. There were some substantial and engaging sculptural installations but almost no printmaking, painting or drawing. Really underwhelming.
vi. I also visited A Slice through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings at Modern Art Oxford. These drawings communicated some fascinating ideas, were beautifully presented and highly skilful. However, I find the precise photorealism often present in contemporary drawing cold and uninteresting - I prefer my drawing (and perhaps all artwork) to be clumsy, honest and human.
i. On Tuesday afternoon I went to visit Artists First, a group of 16 disabled visual artists with learning difficulties based in Bristol. Artists First has been working together since 1988 and to mark its anniversary has been looking back and making artwork about the people and events that have shaped it over the years. We talked about our work and the reason artists make portraits. The possibility of me returning to run a printmaking workshop was discussed. I had a really good afternoon.
ii. I recently rejoined Bath Artists Printmakers for the summer and, because I was already in the South West, decided that I'd get more done there than at Camberwell this week. I made a couple of large monotypes (experimenting with layering and collage based on drawings and photographs of the The Three Crowns. It was fun, playful and a step in the right direction. I may well exhibit these in the interim show. It also quickly became apparent that I need to make a lot more drawings and gather new source material over the summer. It could be a really exciting project.
iii. Whilst I was at Bath Artist Printmakers the editor of Pressing Matters visited about a possible feature about the group in the future. He chatted to me about printmaking and took some photographs of my work. I need to remember to get in touch with him about future exhibitions/next year's degree show.
iv. I spent the weekend exhibiting in the Whiteknights Studio Trail, an arts trail in Reading sponsored by the University of Reading. It was pretty boring weekend but I did manage to sell a couple of pieces…
v. Unfortunately, because I was hanging work on the Friday night I was unable to get into London for the private view of the Bainbridge Open and have since been informed that I won the Bainbridge Print Prize! I will visit the show next Thursday to find out what the prize is. I am surprised and obviously delighted.
i. On Wednesday we had a meeting to present and discuss our initial ideas for the research paper. Jo often asks me to question the contemporary relevance of my practice so I have decided that I want to write my essay about two of my favourite artists at the forefront of contemporary portraiture: Chantal Joffe and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. It was suggested that I try to arrange interviews with both artists (coincidentally someone on my course told me that Chantal Joffe is her neighbour!) and, although I need to specify a question in the next few weeks, the general ideas were well-received and encouraged.
ii. The majority of Thursday was taken up with Symposium 2, a series of presentations by the second years about their current practices. It was fascinating and reassuring to see how much their work had developed and moved on since the first symposium back in October.
iii. The symposium also reiterated the need to develop a 'project' (more specific and outward-looking than just portraits of friends and family) in order for my practice to have a focus and a purpose for the duration of the MA. On Tuesday I made a quick monotype of Jake from a recent trip to the pub. Making this and reflecting on my tutorial with Emma Stibbon last week, I have devised a plan for the next few months (although it could end up lasting longer). I am fairly itinerant at the moment (probably one of the reasons my work has been all over the place) and yet my local pub the Three Crowns is somewhere that I have a real fondness for, regularly make a point of visiting, and have made a few works about before. The Three Crowns is a traditional community pub full of weird and wonderful regulars and, in the same way that Alice Neel depicted the citizens of her New York neighbourhood or Leon Kossoff painted his son's swimming pool, a series of works based on its everyday goings-on and inhabitants might be a project that I can really get my teeth into.
iv. I then went to visit and draw from Teniers the Younger's A Man holding a Glass and an Old Woman lighting a Pipe at the National Gallery in a room devoted to 'Scenes of Everyday Life'. I can't wait to further explore Dutch tavern paintings, Michael Andrews' paintings of the Colony Room or contemporary paintings and prints of pubs and bars by artists such as Alice Macdonald and Ben Westley Clarke. Contextually it is going to be a rich and exciting project!
v. I have arranged to rejoin Bath Artist Printmakers next week and plan to spend two long days next week churning out some initial monotypes based on photographs and sketchbook drawings of the Three Crowns.