Part 4, project 1, exercise 1: From inside looking out – view from a window or doorway (Prospect of a Roast Duck)

Updated on 18 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and contents).

11 October 2016. The moment I read the instructions for this exercise for the first time I knew that I would not want to go for a normal view out of our house, for reasons I explained in a previous post. I sat down to make a list of unusual views out of a house and decided that I wanted to concentrate on a fictitious view “out of” the door of our oven, on the environment where the future roast duck is still swimming happily in its pond, but inside our metal casserole dish.

In order to finally force myself to adhere to the instructions regarding the development of an idea I thought this exercise ideal. It will be quite challenging because of the unusual combination of pictorial elements: Conventional views out of rooms are usually transitions into the light, a view into my oven will be into an artificially lit interior, but also the quality of the light would need to be believably from outside. Coming to think of that the brilliant orange of a late evening summer sunset might serve both. What I saw in Caroline Walker’s work (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), especially her handling of hard transitions between light and dark areas might come in very useful here.

Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy (1877-1953, France) produced a great number of views out of or through elements of buildings, e.g. the gouache sketch “Open Window at Saint-Jeannet” (Dufy, 1926-27), “Interior with Open Windows” (Dufy, 1928) or “L’Artiste et son Modèle” (Dufy, 1929), in all of which to me the open window(s) make the interior somehow part of the outside. It is as if the salty breeze from the sea were wafting through the room. It took me a while to get used to his style of painting, but now I appreciate very much his subtle use of colour to produce a weird sort of aerial perspective, e.g. in “The Grid” (Dufy, 1930), which has become my favourite (Fig. 1 below).

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Figure 1. Raoul Dufy: “The Grid”, 1930, oil on canvas. Source: Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) [Fair use] via Wikiart
Looking at his work I think that the ethereal quality comes from, firstly, having the background slightly “shifted”, i.e. the blocks of background colour do not always coincide with the edges of objects, but seem to live a life of their own in a separate, lower picture plane, and, secondly, to have graphical elements do the same “on top” of all other planes. For the purpose of this exercise I will need to go and look further, since Dufy’s technique of linking the inside with the outside is diametrically opposed to my intentions.

It was very difficult to find, by Gwen John (1876-1939, UK/France), a suitable example for – as stated in the study guide “the gloomy claustrophobia of what lies within, and the stark emptiness of what lies without” – that was not a portrait in the first place. To me at least, e.g. her “A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris” (John, 1907-09) as shown below (Fig. 2) appears to be neither of the above, but is rather quietly happy. Her portraits again, while mostly of very composed women in bare rooms, rarely include the kind of physical view out, which I believe need to be looking for in preparation for this exercise. Her pleasant brushmarks and subtle treatment of light are something to remember, however.

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Figure 2. Gwen John: “A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris”, 1907-1909, oil on canvas. Source: Gwen John (1876-1939) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

12 October 2016. Clearer to place are the paintings by American realist Edward Hopper (1882-1967, USA). His “Nighthawks” below, was painted in 1942 (Fig. 3). Deceivingly simple in composition it is both a look in and out of a number of windows, including – probably – those belonging to the personalities of the people populating the counter. Hopper’s choice of subjects apparently was often inspired by movies (Doss, 1981) and “Nighthawks” does leave the feel of a film set. I do not feel too comfortable with his exact and clean brushstrokes, but will keep his handling of light as a reference when planning my look into the oven.

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Figure 3. Edward Hopper: “Nighthawks”, 1942, oil on canvas. Source: Edward Hopper (1882-1967) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
After having had another look through Vitamin P2 (Schwabsky, 2011) I get the impression that this subject is not much preferred by the featured artists. The inside and outside, physically and mentally, are mixed in a way to allow multiple interconnected possibilities of interpretation on the piece “I am into Shooting in Natural Environments” by Dana Schutz (*1976, USA) (p.270). Similarly, in the work on p. 224, “Lovers” by Surendran Nair (*1956, India), the view of the mountains appears to me to “seep” into the dark room by means of the swing door. Together with the deer the boundary between the inside and outside is dissolved. On a more straightforward basis, but nevertheless brilliantly executed, Martin Kobe (*1973, Germany) dissolves that boundary by creating phantastic buildings, which lack functioning walls or roofs (pp. 170-171). The elements appear to be hanging in mid-air, awaiting to be assigned their final role. Of course it is possible and not unlikely to over-interpret paintings, which do not want to be anything but views from windows, but the artist’s choice of viewpoint, materials and technique may betray subconscious throught processes. These may not always be clear to the artist and may nevertheless be true when felt by a viewer of a painting.

Since my own access to the subject will need a certain distribution of light, I had a final look at examples for similar strategies and came across Sangram Majumdar’s (*?, India/USA) wonderful “Window Study (Night)” (Majumdar, n.d.) and intriguing interplay of real and mirrored elements in “Light Steps” (Majumdar, 2013) (printouts from the internet in my sketchbook in Fig. 4 below). Lots of inspiration for the construction of my oven door!

First of all, however, off to some thumbnail scene-setting. I cannot resist using at least my pencil for the absolute beginning of finding a working composition (Fig. 5-6). I will, however, make several tonal sketches using the favourite view.

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Figure 4. Sketchbook – inspiration from Sangram Majumdar’s views on and out of windows
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Figure 5. Sketchbook – testing compositional options (1)
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Figure 6. Sketchbook – testing compositional options (2)

14 October 2016. With my painted sketches I did at first not know exactly how to proceed. For me paint-sketching persons is straightforward to imagine, but not for objects of everyday use or views from windows. So I had a look on the internet on how other artists do this. Many people don’t just paint, but they use a mix of drawing and painting, e.g. with this urban sketching example by Peter Sheeler (Sheeler, n.d.). But then I found the tutorial “The Painted Quick Sketch” (Mattabraxas, 2014), which set right my vague idea about the purpose and techniques of sketching with paint, especially that a sketch does NOT require to be painted fast. One of the most surprising lessons I learned there, by the way, was that warm light creates cool shadows and vice versa. And also that the correct colour is less important than the correct colour temperature, so I need to focus on the latter! Coming to think of that I may have been doing that already without knowing it. So, in order to get that aspect of the exercise right, I prepared two sketchbook pages, one with a white, one with an orange background and made some intuitive tonal studies (one monochrome, one coloured), in a style reminding of Majumdar’s approach with what in the end became a number of “stacked” ovens (Fig. 7-8). I quite liked how the original idea started to live a life of its own – which probably is at least part of the “liberating” effect my tutor mentioned when emphasizing the importance of sketching with paint.

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Figure 7. Sketchbook – monochrome study of stacked ovens
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Figure 8. Sketchbook – coloured study of stacked ovens

I can see that over the time I have become somewhat more proficient at placing colours in relation to others by constantly observing their mutual influences and adjusting as necessary, although there is ample scope for improvement regarding the relative weight of each coloured field.
The glowing light inside the ovens looks believable to me. In order to fulfill the requirements of the exercise, though, I will have to concentrate on the view “out”, i.e. have one larger oven at the centre of attention and some others, maybe, along the periphery. Next I will need to fit in an outside scenery with sunset pond and duck alongside some relevant research.

Inevitably, I had to have a closer look at key impressionist Claude Monet’s (1840-1926, France) “Water Lily Pond” (Monet, 1919) (Fig. 9). It is interersting that contrary to my intuition Monet used brushstrokes of all sorts to paint the mirror images of the trees and cloudy sky on the water. I believe that this technique of reproducing water works only in connection with the crisp outlines of the water lilies resting on the water’s surface. I will test it though for my duck pond (with slices of carrot to replace the waterlilies) and see whether the contrast to the stronger brushstrokes I use for my oven might be interesting to see.

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Figure 9. Claude Monet: “Water Lilies”, 1919, oil on canvas. Source: Claude Monet (1840-1926) [Public domain] via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

15 October 2016. In order to gain some overview over contemporary approaches to painting water lily ponds and ducks I had another look on the internet. To me the following examples were quite useful in deciding which styles to test: Susan Fowler (*?, USA), Fred E. Salmon Jr. (*?, USA) and Samuel Durkin (*?, UK) (printouts of all in Fig. 10-11):

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Figure 10. Sketchbook – water lily ponds for comparison
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Figure 11. Sketchbook – more pond and a duck

26 October 2016. This exercise takes ages to complete, the hospital thing has been intruding on us again with all its might. So far I am not too happy with the way my plan is developing, I don’t seem to be able to make a working connection. Somehow the subject seems irrelevant compared to what is happening to us in real life. The latter, on the other hand, is too strong for me to catch and build into my exercises, it effectively paralyses my imagination. So, coming as no surprise, my two boring sketches for the duck and pond reflect this irrelevance (Fig. 12-13):

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Figure 12. Sketchbook – first acrylic sketch of oven with duck added
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Figure 13. Sketchbook – second acrylic sketch

I know that I will have to learn to overcome this and to find a consistent method to allow the strong emotions to work for me, if I ever want to become a professional artist. In order to break through this paralysis, I started a large scale abstract sort-of painting alongside the final painting for this excercise, to use the energy derived from the former to to carry over to the latter. After having tried out this idea, I think that I found myself one successful technique to deal with unwanted intruding influences.

27 October 2016. Today I finished the painting. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the process from the start with a Mark Rothko-like glowing orange square and very rough sketching with paint, to using several layers of transparent glazing and the – to me – novel use of bright single colour brushmarks to create something like an impressionist view over my pond with the prospective roast duck. I can see that my mark-making has become somewhat more confident and consistent and I have mastered, roughly, the art of stepping back and considering the effect of an action before continuing to work. This allows somewhat more control over unthinkingly destroying what was worth keeping, but also vice versa, over hanging on to something without reflecting on its quality. Since the lighting conditions were highly changeable over the last three days, I found it very hard to produce photos with identical colours (Fig. 14-18):

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Figure 14
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Figure 15
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Figure 16
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Figure 17
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Figure 18

And now, finally, on with Part 4 …

References:

Doss, E.L. (1981) Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, and Film Noir [online]. Post script 2, pp. 14-36. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20091016091540/http://www.colorado.edu/finearts/erikadoss/articles/postscriptessay.pdf [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1926-27) Open Window at Saint-Jeannet [gouache on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dufy-open-window-at-saint-jeannet-t03565 [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1928) Interior With Open Window [oil on canvas] [online]. Private Collection. Available at: http://thrive.davidkanigan.com/post/39849744006/raoul-dufy-interior-with-open-windows-1928 [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1929) L’Artiste et son Modèle [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/impressionist-modern-art-day-sale-n09140/lot.184.html [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Dufy, R. (1930) The Grid [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.wikiart.org/en/raoul-dufy/the-grid-1930 [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Durkin, S. (n.d.) Abstract Mallard Duck [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.redbubble.com/de/people/samdurkin/works/9468336-abstract-malard-duck-painting [Accessed 15 October 2016]

Fowler, S. (n.d.) Water Lily Pond [oil on panel] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://susanfowlerartist.com/works/2310730/landscape-water-lilly-pond [Accessed 15 October 2016]

Hopper, E. (1942) Nighthawks [oil on canvas] [online]. Art Institute of Chicago. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942.jpg [Accessed 12 October 2016]

John, Gwen (1907-1909) A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris [oil on canvas] [online]. National Museum Cardiff. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Gwen_John%2C_A_Corner_of_the_Artist%27s_Room_in_Paris_%28Cardiff%29.jpg [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist Research: Caroline Walker [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein, 5 October. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/artist-research-caroline-walker/ [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Majumdar, S. (n.d.) Window Study (Night) [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/132152570288085454/visual-search/?x=83&y=83&w=334&h=334 [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Majumdar, S. (2013) Light Steps [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.sangrammajumdar.com/reconstructions/j3ho9mru3yovfzp38cxd7rgrg162lt [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Mattabraxas (2014) The Painted Quick Sketch [blog] [online]. Art Tutor, Liverpool. Available at: https://www.arttutor.com/blog/201403/painted-quick-sketch-becoming-better-artist-5-days [Accessed 12 October 2016]

Monet, C. (1919) Water Lilies [oil on canvas] [online]. The Met Fifth Avenue, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438008 [Accessed 14 October 2016]

Salmon, F.E., Jr. (2000) Lily Pond [oil painting] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.absolutearts.com/pdf/f/fsalmon/39082.pdf [Accessed 15 October 2016]

Schwabsky, B. (2011) Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting. Phaidon Press, London.

Sheeler, P. (2015) Untitled [watercolour sketch] [online]. Peter Sheeler, n.k.. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7331668@N08/16734391029 [Accessed 12 October 2016]

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Artist research: Susan Philipsz

Updated on 17 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

20 October 2016. And another Turner prize relation, this time Susan Philipsz (*1965, UK), winner in 2010, when Angela de la Cruz and Dexter Dalwood were both listed as nominees (Searle (2010), Tate (2010)). Philpsz used to be a sculptor and has been working with sound installations for decades now. In a Tate video interview (Tate, 2010) Philipsz explains how she is interested in the ways distant sound defines space and this effect is explored in the award-winning, hair-raising experiment using the undersides of the bridges of Glasgow and a quiet medieval Scottish song about a drowned sailer coming back to say farewell to his love. What a brilliant, deceivingly simple, moving idea! Another sound installation, “War Damaged Instruments” on show in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna this year (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 2015), is comparable in approach. In Munich Philipsz discovered a century old horns, broken during use in war, and arranged for them to be played again after a felt eternity in the empty rooms of the museum. Via the breath of a horn player, for example, she invokes the broken impression of a last post, taking the listeners into the collective memory of the battlefield. The distorted sounds coming from these damaged instruments remind us with great intensity of the sufferings inflicted by war.
As in my previous two posts on Dexter Dalwood (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a) and Angela de la Cruz (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b) I was greatly impressed at how these three artists, but especially Susan Philipsz, reduce the “noise” in their work to finally come up with something so pure that it goes straight to the heart. This reduction allows the visitor a large degree of freedom to fill the “empty space or time” with their personal response to the experience and thus complete the work of art in their unique ways. This is of course an intriguing way to connect with people and makes me think about the involved mechanisms. The work of reducing the amount of information is not a matter of leaving a hole to fill, but to provide just enough detail to allow people to get in touch.

I have just realized that in her research suggestions my tutor is taking me on a journey into the third and fourth dimensions defining our world and thus art. It makes my head spin with possibilities to discover my own way to put into reality the crowd of visions I have on my mind. “Looking out”, the subject of Part 4 of this course, has got an alltogether different meaning for me now.

References:

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (2015) Susan Philipsz – War Damaged Musical Instruments (Pair) [online]. Kunsthistorisxches Museum, Wien. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf2YzuTDVCA [Accessed 20 October 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Artist Research: Dexter Dalwood [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein, 19 October. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/artist-research-dexter-dalwood/ [Accessed 20 October 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) Artist Researc: Angela de la Cruz and an Excursion to the Turner Prize [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein, 19 October. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/artist-research-angela-de-la-cruz-and-an-excursion-to-the-turner-prize/ [Accessed 20 October 2016]

Searle, A. (2010) Turner Prize Winner Susan Philipsz [online]. The Guardian, London, 6 December. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/dec/06/turner-prize-susan-philipz [Accessed 20 October 2016]

Tate (2010) Turner Prize 2010 artists: Susan Philipsz [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/turner-prize-2010/turner-prize-2010-artists-susan-philipsz [Accessed 20 October 2016]

Artist research: Angela de la Cruz and an excursion to the Turner Prize

Updated on 17 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

19 October 2016. Another Turner Prize nominee in the list of artists my tutor has chosen for me to look at. So I suppose it is time to have a quick look at the Turner Prize, to see who they choose and how they reason their choice.

The Turner Prize has been organised at the Tate gallery since 1984 (Tate, n.d.) and publicised as problematic for a number of incidents and public outrage at the work of some of the award winners, e.g. “My Bed” by Tracey Emin (Saatchi Gallery, n.d.). Named after 19th century innovative and controversial painter J.M.W. Turner it was initiated however to do just that – raise the awareness for novel art work and fuel debate about art. It is awarded to an artist born in or working in Britain for “the greatest contribution to art”. So, if I understand this correctly, the prize is a recognition not for an outstanding achievement in an existing field, but for pioneering work along the twisted route of art development and appears to have been extremely successful in keeping the debate alive.

Superficially, the work of philopsopher and sculptor Angela de la Cruz (*1965, Spain and UK) looks mainly like three-dimensional investigations of the properties of cloth (enter her name in your browser for a first impression). I have to admit that I was at a loss when looking at her installations for the first time, but after having read an article published in The Guardian (Searle, 2010) I began to realize that they are caricatures of the art world itself and started to immensely enjoy the brutally subtle messages. De la Cruz has an admirable ability to literally wrap an art issue in canvas, handing over the parcel itself as the gift.
Having taken in her message, however, I wonder at how easy it is to have one’s ideas challenged when vulnerable.

References:

Saatchi Gallery (n.d.) Tracy Emin. My Bed [online]. Saatchi Gallery, London. Available at: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/tracey_emin_my_bed.htm [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Searle, A. (2010) Angela de la Cruz’s Brush With Death [online]. The Guardian, London, 10 April. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/apr/05/angela-de-la-cruz [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Tate (n.d.) What is the Turner Prize? [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/turner-prize/about [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Artist research: Dexter Dalwood

Updated on 17 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

19 October 2016. When comparing my own research to the refined, meticulously presented equivalents written by other Painting 1 students, I find myself in doubt where to place the emphasis in my own learning. As far as I interpret the instructions, we are not expected to produce research proper until later, and probably for a reason. As a biologist and weathered science communicator I am well aware of the requirements of scientific research, and therefore of its limitations. More importantly, I want to enjoy and learn from my beginner’s freedom to react spontaneously and emotionally to the works of art I am presented with and not deprive myself of the joy in moving as playfully as possible (which I find difficult enough in the first place) through a period of unchecked experimentation. This is why I decided to allow myself the risk to put a personal emphasis in my level 1 reports and this is where I am going to stay.

Dexter Dalwood (*1960, UK) appears to share some of his ideas with those I identified for Henny Acloque’s work (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a). In “Sunny Von Bulow”, for example, an oil painting made in 2003 and presented by the Saatchi Gallery like her he “weaves art-historical reference into contemporary popular conscience, adding gravitas and reverence of legacy to the transient limelight of today’s media culture” (Saatchi Gallery, n.d.(a)). Instinctively, I am very much drawn to Dalwood’s poignant use of symbolism (see especially “Bay of Pigs” from 2004 (Saatchi Gallery, n.d.(b)). Other than with e.g. Freya Douglas-Morris, whose symbolic language appeared arbitrary to me (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b), the position of each element, its colour and shape with reference to the rest, helps me connect with Dalwood’s works at both the emotional and rational levels. This may sound preoccupied, but I cannot help preferring art with a message written in a language I have in common with the artist. If I cannot decode a symbol, it becomes a purely decorative element, which is where it starts to exert an annoying influence (“It must be there for a purpose, so why don’t I understand?”). And this is how Dalwood explains his approach on the David Risley Gallery website: “The viewer must use their imagination to complete my images, so I create images that trigger memories, or play upon images they may already have in mind about certain events. I like the idea of painting something that you may know a little about – the date, the place, the person – but that you don’t necessarily have a specific image for. (David Risley Gallery, n.d.).
Exactly.

References:

David Risley Gallery (n.d.) Dexter Dalwood [online]. David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen. Available at: http://www.davidrisleygallery.com/artists/dexter-dalwood [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Artist Research: Henny Acloque [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/artist-research-henny-acloque/ [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) Artist Research: Freya Douglas-Morris [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/artist-research-freya-douglas-morris/ [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Saatchi Gallery (n.d.(a)) Dexter Dalwood. Sunny von Bulow [online]. Saatchi Gallery, London. Available at: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/dalwood_Sunny_Von_Bulow.htm [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Saatchi Gallery (n.d.(b)) Dexter Dalwood. Bay of Pigs [online]. Saatchi Gallery, London. Available at: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/dalwood_Bay_of_Pigs.htm [Accessed 19 October 2016]

Artist research: Henny Acloque

Updated on 17 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

18 October 2016. What a contrast to the work by Freya Douglas, which I looked at in my previous post. Henny Acloque (*1979, UK) works mainly on small scale formats and with her own symbolism superimposed on carefully altered background paintings taken from the old masters. To me the foreground added by her, the choice of colours and shapes, appear to mirror in a way, and enter into communication with, the layers of the background painting underneath. The Ceri Hand Gallery (n.d.) describes this as follows: “Eliminating all figurative elements from the original source material, Acloque enforces her own codes and systems to re-introduce ‘characters’ to the frozen worlds she paints.” In her recent paintings (Acloque, 2010-2016) this approach gained a new intensity by her dividing up the now larger-sized canvas into parallel strips and jigsaw-like round elements, all of which cause a tumultous chaos in my head. To explain this effect, I have to refer again to the workings of my own brain. I am bad at filtering information at the best of times (hence my partly “photographic” memory). On many occasions the sheer mass of everyday visual and auditory input feels overwhelming and I have always been trying to avoid such overload. This is probably why I tend to choose a more quiet style of telling my complex stories. Since regrettably I was unable to find background information on Acloque’s reasons for choosing this particular approach, I thought it would be interesting to speak to artists who work in such ways in order to get a firsthand account on why they do what they do, especially how they go about processing such a large volume of information in one painting and also to viewers to find out how they feel about looking at such works of art.

Again I am happy for my tutor to have suggested to have a look at a particular artist who at first glance has little to do with what I (want to) do. I appreciate now that what I learn by doing research of this kind is much more about myself than anything else.

References:

Ceri Hand Gallery (n.d.) Henny Acloque [online]. Ceri Hand Gallery, London. Available at: http://www.cerihand.co.uk/artists/19/henny-acloque/ [Accessed 18 October 2016]

Acloque, H. (2010-2016) Paintings [image collection] [online]. Henny Acloque, London. Available at: http://www.hennyacloque.com/paintings/ [Accessed 18 October 2016]

 

Artist research: Freya Douglas-Morris

Updated on 17 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

17 October 2016. I am not sure where to put the work of Freya Douglas-Morris (*1980, UK). Most of the paintings I found I have to admit seem arbitrarily rudimentary to me and the interpretations offered on her Saatchi page (Saatchi Gallery, n.d.) are difficult to extract from what I think I see. In an interview in “Elephant. The Art Culture Magazine” (Steer, n.d.) she explains the role her memory plays in her work as it “edits, adapts, heightens and loses visual information.” Maybe this explains, why her symbolic language appears so different to mine. My visual memory is near “photographic” and I have access to very detailed information from the images I retrieve from the past and then concoct new images internally from what is stored there. This characteristic of my brain can be quite useful at times, offering for example the option of never getting lost in foreign cities, but as I am becoming aware now as I write this, may be exactly the reason why I struggle with the developing process of paintings. It feels as if my memory braced itself against the willed changing of information. One of Douglas-Morris’s uncanny oil paintings, “All the Light” (Douglas-Morris, 2015), though, has a great appeal to me. It reminds me in style of the Austrian surrealist Arik Brauer. I quite like the ghostlike treetrunks and the ambiguous welcoming-rejecting mood of the forest as a whole.

While her overall access to painting feels diametrically opposite to my own I am glad to have come across Frey Douglas-Morris. In comparing internal mechanisms of reappraisal I have found some valuable hints regarding the limits posed by mental processes and therefore a chance to work at overcoming their restrictive power.
Off to a Tibetan monastery.

References:

Douglas-Morris, F. (2015) All The Light [oil on canvas] [online]. Lychee One Gallery, London. Available at: http://lycheeone.com/wp/Freya/ [Accessed 17 March 2017]

Saatchi Gallery (n.d.) Freya Douglas-Morris [online]. Saatchi Gallery, London. Available at: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/freya_douglas_morris.htm?section_name=paper [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Steer, E. (n.d.) 5 Questions With Freya Douglas-Morris [interview] [online]. Elephant, The Art Culture Magazine, London. Available at: https://elephantmag.com/5-questions-freya-douglas-morris/ [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Artist research: Paul Nash

Updated on 17 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

17 October 2016. Paul Nash (1889 – 1946) was an accomplished and versatile surrealist painter born and working in the UK and well known for his landscapes. In places his style appears naive with a deliberate distortion of perspective as e.g. in his interpretation-laden view from his studio “Landscape at Iden” (Nash, 1929). A particularly arresting painting for me is “Harbour and Room” (Nash, 1932-1936), which in the most innocent way merges the inside and outside view to result in a hard fact-based dream environment, which I cannot stop exploring in a way similar to graphic artist M.C.Escher’s (1898-1972) illusions, e.g. in the lithograph “Up and Down” (Escher, 1947). Nash sometimes however takes the term “landscape” quite far out of an original context, as in his collage “Landscape at Large” (1936) or in a completely different approach in “Battle of Germany” (1944), described as “an abstract aerial view of a bomb raid on a city”, which appears to radiate innocence as long as its the background is unknown (as in “Harbour and Room” above), but could hardly be more disturbing once familiar with its meaning (Fig. 1):

battle_of_germany_1944
Figure 1. Paul Nash: “Battle of Germany”, 1944, oil on canvas. Source: Paul Nash (1889-1946) [IWM Non-Commercial Licence] via Imperial War Museums
The above painting seems carefully planned regarding its overall layout, but at the same time loose and as if the detail had been developed while painting. Maybe I can learn from this – employ lots of care at the initial stages so as to be able to do the actual painting in sleepwalk mode.

References:

Escher, M.C. (1947) Up and Down [lithograph] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.mcescher.com/gallery/impossible-constructions/ [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Nash, P. (1929) Landscape at Iden [oil on canvas] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-landscape-at-iden-n05047 [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Nash, P. (1932-1936) Harbour and Room [oil on canvas] [online]. Tate, London. Available at:  http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-harbour-and-room-t03206 [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Nash, P. (1936) Landscape at Large [paper, pine and shale on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-landscape-at-large-t04161 [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Nash, P. (1944) Battle of Germany [oil on canvas] [online]. Imperial War Museums, UK. Available at: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/20104 [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Artist research: Grayson Perry

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

17 October 2016. Born in the UK in 1960 ceramic, quilt and cross-dressing artist and 2003 Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry derives his subjects from a world of sad experience far off my own tracks. What on the Saatchi Gallery’s website is described as “cosmopolitan folk art” (Saatchi Gallery, n.d.), appears to me to contain multiple intricately interwoven layers of storytelling. This is where a connection is made, because this complex storytelling is what I want to achieve in my own work. To me Perry’s unusual supports for his stories show strong commitment in going through the stages required to arrive at such results, see e.g. his tapestry titled “The Digmoor Tapestry” (Perry, 2016). Although his style has no particular emotional appeal to me, looking at his results gives me a great headache, because it is exactly this laborious process of developing a project which I am struggling with. I can only hope that I may not run into problems with OCA requirements at some point, because of the inalterable time constraints I am and will be facing for years to come.

References:

Perry, G. (2016) The Digmoor Tapestry [textile] [online]. Paragon Press, London. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/grayson-perry/the-digmoor-tapestry-a-4rZD1AfpgvCJJXvf-G8Z4Q2 Accessed 17 October 2016]

Saatchi Gallery (n.d.) Grayson Perry [online]. Saatchi Gallery, London. Available at: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/grayson_perry.htm [Accessed 17 October 2016]

Research point: Evolution of landscape painting

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

27 September 2016. How weird, starting Part 4 of Painting 1 makes me look back on the past eight months and I realise that I have lost my feeling for time. It feels as if I had just started this course and I have not yet made a working connection. No wonder, this recent past belongs to the most demanding periods of time I have ever experienced in my life and what we do is to try and survive from one day to the next. Part 4 probably comes at an awkward time, when I should be looking out from the inside, while I am mostly inside (mentally and physically). Also, autumn is coming and I hope to be able to complete my plein air paintings before the weather turns cold and wet.

9 October 2016. A bit more settled now into the new daily routine I feel fit to start Part 4 with researching the evolution of landscape painting, which, rather surprisingly at first, took as long as the 18th century to develop as a separate genre. On the other hand, the painting of landscapes with no other intention or purpose, religious or mundane, might be seen as a somewhat luxurious side-effect of increasing overall wealth. Landscapes as we are free to see them now used to be mainly dangerous grounds, on which the survival of the local population depended. Their delicate agricultural properties together with the effects of weather and climate, all of which make spectacular and dramatic elements of landscape painting, were then, understandably, rarely valued for their aesthetic qualities. Even I remember from my own 1960s’ childhood in Austria that the farmers we knew were extremely keen to set right, with admirable brutality, the romanticist view my artist parents held about a rural life in beautiful landscapes.

Landscape painting evolved nevertheless and since its beginnings has come up with a great wealth of the most wonderful and intriguing works of art. As with other new genres it was first developed by Dutch painters and as with the painting of interiors it was the rise of the merchant middle classes and their demand for affordable good quality paintings for their own homes, which sped its evolution. Pioneering landscape artist Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665, France) (Fig. 2) shifted his interest from historic to landscape painting, because he believed that it was possible to express emotion with similar effect via the properties of a landscape and prepared the grounds for an only slowly rising acceptance of this genre by the leading teaching institutions in the 18th century. His landscapes, as far as I could find out, were still always populated, following the long tradition of historical painting, but it can be felt that the landscape did no longer serve as a backdrop to some historical event. Roles appear reversed – people move in and use a landscape in a more or less natural way, but are not necessarily the main subject (The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.):

nicolas_poussin_kl
Figure 1. Nicholas Poussin: “Landscape with a Calm”, 1650, oil on canvas. Source: Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Still, it was only when the term “historic landscape” was promoted by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819, France), serving as a safety mark for official recognition of quality in the transition from historic to landscape painting, that academe came to change its hitherto rigid stance (The National Gallery, n.d.; The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.). De Valenciennes was among the first to ask students to sketch and paint outside as an essential element of their training (Oakley, 2015;  The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.). Plein air oil painting requires thorough preparation, though, and a fast, bold stroke in order to capture a mood or atmosphere before it changes. This is visible in an oil sketch by de Valenciennes (Fig. 2), which to me feels very modern and indeed his plein air paintings proved groundbreaking on the way to Impressionism (The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.):

pierre-henridevalenciennes
Figure 2. Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes: “Rome: Houses and a Domed Church”, ca. 1783, oil on cardboard. Source: Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
This development occurred at a time, when on the one hand the whole hitherto agriculturally dominated social landscape was being reformed by the full-blown Industrial Revolution, and on the other, photography began to exert a strong influence on landscape painting. It is not surprising then that the young genre changed and diversified rapidly. Idealized rural landscapes were gradually, but not completely, replaced by increasingly innovative and critical compositions and choices of subject. Groundbreaking among these was French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), eagerly studied at a later point by the Impressionist painters, especially Cézanne and Van Gogh, but also artists far into the 20th century (Galitz, 2009), see e.g. “The Stone Breakers” in Fig. 3 below in comparison with Paul Cézanne’s (1839-1906, France) “The House with the Cracked Walls” (Fig. 4):

gustave_courbet_018
Figure 3. Gustave Courbet: “The Stone Breakers”, 1849, oil on canvas. Source: Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
paul_cezanne_033
Figure 4. Paul Cézanne: “The House with the Cracked Walls”, 1892-1894, oil on canvas. Source: Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
With the rise of photography landscape painters learned to adopt previously unthought-of viewpoints, e.g. by cropping the landscape, providing unusual viewing angles or introducing novel types of brushmark, such as in the wonderfully fresh paintings of Canadian Tom Thomson (1877-1917, who died prematurely by drowning in one of the lakes he used to paint, University of Victoria, n.d.) (Fig. 5):

tom_thomson
Figure 5. Tom Thomson: Study for “Northern River”, gouache, brush and ink over graphite on illustration board, 1914-15. Source: Tom Thomson (1877-1917) [Public domain] via Art Canada Institute
Throughout the 20th century and up to now this process of diversification has been continuing, giving rise to a number of specialized categories such as “urban”, “cultural” and “industrial landscape” as well as landscape architecture (The J. Paul Getty Museum, n.d.), and with the advent of new media with an increasing cross-over of subject and technical approaches.
Below, for example, Wassily Kandinsky’s (1866-1944, Russia) famous blue rider (Fig. 6), allegedly eponymous for the rebellious “Blauer Reiter” expressionist movement, which was in existence for only three years from 1911 to 1914 but of huge influence (The Art Story, n.d.). For Kandinsky the colour blue was the colour of spirituality (The Art Story, n.d.), and the appearance of blue in both the rider and the landscape appears to me as a sign that Kandinsky may not have made a difference between the spirituality of man and that of nature, but that both are one, and that he may not have made a distinction at all between the rider and the landscape he moves in:

wassily_kandinsky
Figure 6. Wassily Kandinsky: “The Blue Rider”, 1903, oil on canvas. Source: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Edward Hopper (1882-1967), an American realist painter, on the other hand, explained that his main interest in choosing the subject below was no more than the wonderful distribution of light in the spectacular rocky landscape and that he paid no separate attention to the intrusion of man into and exertion of possible negative influences on that valley (14), as e.g. in “Road in Maine” painted in 1914 (Fig. 7):

edward_hopper
Figure 7. Edward Hopper: “Road in Maine”, 1914, oil on canvas. Source: Edward Hopper (1882-1967) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most accomplished 21th century Austrian watercolour landscape and cityscape painters is Bernhard Vogel (*1961). For a comprehensive overview over his work see his website (Vogel, 2017). From personal encounters (participating in one of his watercolour courses many years ago) I know that his incentive for choosing a subject is a pure aesthetic pleasure in what he sees. When surfing the web, I gained the impression that he appears to share his approach with the overwhelming majority of landscape painters working today (enter “urban landscape painting” in your browser and see for yourself). It was thus difficult to find a mainstream of artistic voices uttering a mild concern about, say, climate change, social decline in our megacities or the destruction of our rainforests. If they want to share their opinion, they do it with all their might and, of course, with the advent of powerful graphics engines the critical voices among the contemporary painters received an impressive tool to utter their concerns. The power of modern computers has been allowing the creation of hyperrealistic, overwhelming apocalyptic worlds (Qu, 2013) for some time, whose impact is probably hard to top by mainstream painting. To me, interestingly, the composition of these worlds appears to tie in with the origins of landscape painting. People surviving the desaster, i.e. after having been kicked out of Paradise, appear to operate before a backdrop of destroyed landscape.

Of course in our century anything has become possible, including the landscape itself serving as canvas for the relatively new phenomenon of “land art”, where artists express themselves in exchange with an existing landscape, from the very simple to highly elaborate pieces, as in Fig. 8 and Fig. 9 below:

spiral_with_anemon
Figure 8. Zeevveez: “Spiral With Anemon”. Source: Zeeveez (n.d.) [Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic] via Wikimedia Commons
chelsea_flower_show
Figure 9. Patche99z: “Land art in one of the show gardens, Chelsea Flower Show 2006”. Source: Patche99z (2006) [Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported] via Wikimedia Commons

For a visual overview over the development of landscape painting also see a slideshow provided by the Tate gallery (Tate, n.d.).

References:

Cézanne, P. (1892-94) The House with the Cracked Walls [oil on canvas] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Paul_C%C3%A9zanne_033.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Courbet, G. (1849) The Stone Breakers [oil on canvas] [online]. New Masters Gallery, Dresden. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stone_Breakers#/media/File:Gustave_Courbet_018.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

de Valenciennes, P.-H. (c.1783) Rome: Houses and a Domed Church [oil on cardboard] [online]. Louvre, Paris. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blick_auf_die_Umgebung_von_Rom.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Galitz, K. C. (2009) Gustave Courbet [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gust/hd_gust.htm [Accessed 27 September 2017]

Hopper, E. (1914) Road in Maine [oil on canvas] [online]. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/Edward_Hopper_Road_in_Maine.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Kandinsky, W. (1903) Der Blaue Reiter [oil on canvas] [online]. Stiftung Sammlung E.G. Bührle, Zurich. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Wassily_Kandinsky%2C_1903%2C_The_Blue_Rider_%28Der_Blaue_Reiter%29%2C_oil_on_canvas%2C_52.1_x_54.6_cm%2C_Stiftung_Sammlung_E.G._B%C3%BChrle%2C_Zurich.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2017]

Oakley, H. (2015) Favourite Paintings 5: Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes and Thomas Jones, Plein Air, c 1782 [blog] [online]. The Eclectic Light Company, n.k., 18 February 2015. Available at: https://eclecticlight.co/2015/02/18/favourite-paintings-5-pierre-henri-de-valenciennes-and-thomas-jones-plein-air-c-1782/ [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Patche99z (2006) Land art in one of the show gardens, Chelsea Flower Show 2006 [photograph][online]. Patche99z, n.k.. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chelsea_006_to_008.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Poussin, N. (1650) Landscape With a Calm [oil on canvas] [online].Getty Centre, Los Angeles. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Nicolas_Poussin_%28French_-_Landscape_with_a_Calm_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Qu, James (2013) “Oblivion” – 20 Epic Examples of City Destruction Matt Paintings
[image gallery] [online]. James Qu, n.k., 29 July 2013. Available at: http://www.psdvault.com/inspirations/oblivion-20-epic-examples-of-city-destruction-matt-paintings/ [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Tate (n.d.) Landscape [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/l/landscape [Accessed 27 September 2016]

The Art Story (n.d.) Der Blaue Reiter [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-der-blaue-reiter.htm [Accessed 12 March 2017]

The J. Paul Getty Museum (n.d.) Brief History of the Landscape Genre [online]. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Available at: https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/landscapes/background1.html [Accessed 27 September 2016]

The National Gallery (n.d.) Pierre Henri de Valenciennes [online]. The National Gallery, London. Available at: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/pierre-henri-de-valenciennes [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Thomson, T. (1914-15) Study for “Northern River” [gouache, brush and ink over graphite on illustration board] [online]. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Available at: http://www.aci-iac.ca/tom-thomson/key-works/northern-river [Accessed 27 September 2016]

University of Victoria (n.d.) Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History. Death on a Painted Lake. The Tom Thomson Tragedy [online]. University of Victoria. Available at: http://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/thomson/tragedy/indexen.html [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Vogel Bernhard (2017) Works [image gallery] [online]. Bernhard Vogel, Salzburg. Available at: http://www.bernhard-vogel.at/en/works/ [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Zeevveez (2013) Spiral With Anemone [landart] [online]. Zeevveez, n.k.. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Spiral_with_Anemon_%288496619437%29.jpg [Accessed 27 September 2016]

Artist research: Caroline Walker

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

5 October 2016. My tutor was right when suggesting to have a look at Caroline Walker’s work (*1982, Scotland). I instantly liked her use of perspective and light, which allows her paintings to radiate something very positive and calm, even in cases where the colour contrast is at a maximum, as e.g. in “Architecture of Leisure” (2016a). Many of her paintings are arranged for the viewer to observe the scene from a hidden point, from outside or inside a house or similar, often from behind a plant. This technique – which is also a good hint for my own approach to Part 4 of the course –  allows both the opening up of a scene to which the observer does not belong at the moment of recording and the description of the viewer’s imaginary surroundings. I also feel close to Walker’s style of sketching with paint e.g. in “Preparations V” (Walker, 2015a).
Having been asked by my tutor to try and find out about what makes an artist choose his/her subjects and why they work as they do, I went to see whether I could excavate some information before following the link she suggested. Apparently Caroline Walker will be featured in the third of Phaidon Press’s Vitamin P book series, due to be released in late October this year (Walker, 2016b). Too late for this post and since it seems to have become very popular for artists to have minimal websites, I had to go and look elsewhere. When reading a short biography on Artsy (n.d.), I was instantly reminded of a type of approach, which I already mentioned in several previous posts and to me seems to have somewhat dominated figurative painting for decades: lonely, introspective figures – women only in Walker’s case – detached from the observer, in equally desolate surroundings. The sheer number of paintings sharing this style makes me wonder why so many artists feel strongly enough about it to make them decide the phenomenon to be worth reporting, again. Is this what our time does to our social relationships or is the subject of isolation attractive enough as it is? I suspect that it may be a mix of both and of course the eerie detachment gives the viewer ample opportunity to speculate and place their own experiences into the void. In her artist’s statement published on the Saatchi Gallery website Caroline Walker explains herself about the why: “[] the female subject in painting [] is reconsidered through a female gaze []; the apparent depiction of a shared moment becomes a projection space or template for investigating both broader and personal notions of femininity.” (Walker, n.d.).
So I did not get it too wrong :o). And here is the link my tutor provided to an interview with Walker explaining her intentions, where she mentions the difficulties she had with the male-dominated Scottish and European painting tradition and her early love of seemingly harmless subjects with a somewhat evil twist (Walker, 2015b).

References:

Artsy (n.d.) Caroline Walker [online]. Artsy, New York. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artist/caroline-walker [Accessed 5 October 2016]

Walker, C. (2015a) Preparations V [ink on paper] [online]. Caroline Walker, London. Available at: http://www.carolinewalker.org/ink04.html [Accessed 5 October 2016]

Walker, C. (2015b) REALITY Artist Blog – Caroline Walker: Life, education and influences [blog] [online]. Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts, Norwich. Available at: http://scva.ac.uk/news/caroline-walker [Accessed 5 October 2016]

Walker, C. (2016a) News [online]. Caroline Walker, London. Available at: http://www.carolinewalker.org/news.html [Accessed 5 October 2016]

Walker, C. (2016b) The Architecture of Leisure [oil on linen] [online]. Caroline Walker, London. Available at: http://www.carolinewalker.org/architectureofleisure.html [Accessed 5 October 2016]

Walker, C. (n.d.) Artist’s Statement [online]. Saatchi Gallery, London. Available at: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/caroline_walker_articles.htm [Accessed 5 October 2016]