Artist research: Luc Tuymans

21 February 2017. Luc Tuymans (*1958, Belgium) is a highly influential contemporary artist, who helped to revive figurative painting at a time of its predicted demise. Tuymans is torn between the inadequacy of traditional painting in dealing with the complexity of the modern world and its attraction. After a bout of film-making he returned with a new view and techniques taken from his experiences (Tate, 2004). My tutor suggested to have a look at his work to add to my own research for my 3rd assignment piece, “The Shadow. An attempt at an illustration”. She gave me a copy of a very faint monochrome painting, “Window” (Tuymans, 2004) to interpret and see whether this approach might help me in developing my own work.
Tuymans is interested in a great number of vastly heterogeneous subjects (Tate, 2004). This makes my reaction to his work heterogeneous as well between being attracted e.g. by the composition and lighting in “Panel” (Tuymans, 2010) and being repelled, such as the indication of a bent or broken body inside the tight-fitting tricot in “Illegitimate III” (Tuymans, 1997). Many of his paintings are reduced either in colour or in content, some are mere hints such as his “Window”. In the film clip available on Tate (2004) he explains that this is his own way of depicting the inadequacy of memory. While I believe that my own memory is somewhat different from his (working with much more colour and often with an overwhelming amount of detail, which is part of the diffculty of my problem with “developing” projects), I do understand how such extreme reduction acts to push the viewer’s imagination and how this fits in with my tutor’s remark of having overworked my final piece(s). In an attempt to sort of outmanoeuvre my imagination I will try and have an additional go at my 3rd final piece with Tuyman’s approach in mind, with more sketchbook experimentation derived from memories of my associated photo of my shadow entering an old farmhouse via a window. I will, however, not dedicate this experimentation as part of a set of predefined steps towards a goal, but will force myself to have my idea hover at the back of my mind only.

References:

Tate (2004) Luc Tuymans [online] Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/luc-tuymans [Accessed 21 February 2017]

Tuymans, L. (1997) Illegitimate III [oil on canvas] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/tuymans-illegitimate-iii-t07408 [Accessed 21 February 2017]

Tuymans, L. (2004) Window [oil on canvas] [online]. Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. Available at: https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/nl/de-collectie/luc-tuymans-window [Accessed 21 February 2017]

Tuymans, L. (2010) Panel [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.] Available at: http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/luc-tuymanss-corporate-at-david-zwirner-new-york/ [Accessed 21 February 2017]

Part 4, project 5, exercise 1: Working from drawings and photographs – painting from a working drawing

Updated on 23 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

20 November 2016. Having to work high speed to finish Part 4 of the course in time. The requirements set out for the exercises in this project, luckily, are not very different from what I have been doing all along in one way or another, often combining a number of helping techniques (thumbnail drawings, larger linear, tonal and colour sketches, photographs, and more recently painting from memory or inventing an imaginary setting). So, what I might do is shift towards a more complex composition. There is a crowded corner in our kitchen at the moment with lots of beautifully coloured fruit and nuts collected by the squirrel in our family, i.e. my husband, which I would like to go for here and lay the main emphasis on painting from memory again. This latter method I have come to enjoy very much recently. It opens up a whole new world of compositional freedom together with ample opportunity to make a mess from which to learn.

22 November 2016. Here are my three sketches, the first two of which – pencil line and charcoal tonal sketch –  I made while cooking a fish soup for my son following the “Modified Atkins Diet”. My intention was to take what was there on the worktop and see whether I would be able to develop it into something worth looking at (Fig.1 -3).

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – preliminary line drawing, pencil
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Figure 2. Sketchbook – tonal sketch with willow charcoal
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Figure 3. Sketchbook – experimenting with colour

To be honest I was quite pleasantly surprised at the outcome of the colour sketch (especially the fish on the plate, which consists of nothing but a few semi-transparent brushstrokes) and will be trying to loosely follow this in my final painting.

Here is the sequence of stages through the final painting (Fig. 4-7):

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Figure 4. Layout on prepared background
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Figure 5. Blocking in and adding more layers of dilute paint

I very much like the strange effect of mixed dilute paint separating into its component colours while drying on the smooth dry layer underneath:

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Figure 6. Observing the behaviour of dilute paint on dry older layer, see plate lower in right corner

In the picture above on the plate with the fish the behaviour of the dilute paint can be observed while in the process of drying. There is no way in which the paint can be influenced during that stage. It is possible, however, to paint over a such layer when dry with paint straight from the tube – see the effect on the fish in the final painting below (Fig. 7):

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Figure 7. Finished painting

And here three details from the finished work (Fig. 8-10):

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Figure 8. Detail from finished painting (1)
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Figure 9. Detail from finished painting (2)
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Figure 10. Detail from finished painting (3)

24 November 2016. Answers to the questions in the study guide:

  1. I think that the combination of first investigating the subject by direct observation, followed by a linear, a tonal and a colour sketch provided a great deal of familiarity with the arrangement and lighting conditions that most of the actual painting developed without reference to the sketches. There was no additional information I would have required.
  2. There was noticeably more freedom regarding the process of painting without direct reference to the setup (it was irreversibly gone by the time of painting, most of it having been cooked and eaten). I noticed that I was a lot more relaxed than usual and I did not mind at all reconstructing something from my memory that may not have been there in reality. This effect allowed me to produce a composition that feels “whole” in setup, choice of colour and style.
  3. Overall I think that the approach worked quite well. It was the first time that I managed to maintain, roughly, the same techniques (apart maybe from the fish, which was better in the colour sketch). I like the brilliance of the chosen colours and the weird effect produced by using dilute paint, although I am aware that the latter is a bit rough in places. More importantly I feel that I am getting somewhere at last.

 

 

 

 

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]

Assignment 3: Lady in Pool

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

20 August 2016. A few days ago we were given a day off to spend at the local spa and sauna. The totally relaxed lady we found floating in the pool was so impressive that I found I had to try and make her the subject of my Assignment 3. Although she would probably not count as a true portrait with her face half hidden because of the extreme viewing angle, I just had to take the risk.

08 September 2016. The lady reminded me a lot of the work by Jenny Saville and in preparation I had a look at a large number of Saville’s paintings. Her wonderful delicate handling of skin tones is something to remember, although I know that my own approach is somewhat rougher and I do not want to avoid it on account of trying to copy someone else’s style. Also today I did some intense research on the science of painting pool water. There was a very detailed tutorial (at the time of updating this post the tutorial had unfortunately been taken off the web for copyright reasons and is available only if bought from the author (Mural Joe, n.d.).

15 September 2016. Today I started on the assignment by making a preliminary sketch in order to position the lady correctly, since foreshortening was very strong in her case. As in the exercises preceding this assignment I decided to avoid referring to any photos, in order to see whether my knowledge about human anatomy and memory imprint of the floating lady would be sufficient to produce a hopefully believable form (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – positioning the lady in the pool

Next I prepared an A2 canvas carton with a watery mix of blue and turquise (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2. Prepared background

23 September 2016. I noticed how my recent use of acrylic paper had let me forget about the qualities of canvas and the preparation of the background I wanted took me a long time. The smoothness of paper is something I have come to like, since it allows the production of fine detail with ease, while the roughness of the canvas I use leaves, at least at my level of expertise, more than a fair share of the outcome to coincidence.
On the finished background I quickly painted my lady as I remembered her without further reference to other work or photos. I also tried to see her from my caricaturist’s viewpoint, which proved extremely useful in the construction of a loosely painted first layer. My main goal was the creation of a form unusual enough to allow it not to be easily forgotten and in analysing this form to both find and emphasize, if necessary by exaggeration, the innate rhythm in the sequence of arms, breasts, thighs and feet, while trying to take great care in designing a pool atmosphere, whose orderly shapes and cool colours would make a hopefully interesting contrast to the lady’s well-rounded forms (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3. Developing painting – intermediate stage (1)

This painting is another one in which I found an intense communication to develop while working. A small change to one detail – and it was small changes throughout – would instantly cause my eye to focus on something else requiring adjustment in answer to the former. This experience is joyful and satisfying and, at least to my feeling, probably one of the most essential parts of a working painting (Fig. 4):

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Figure 4. Developing painting – intermediate stage (2)

Here comes the final result. It took me a while to decide, observing it under different lighting conditions, but I have come to the conclusion that I should leave it as it is. I might change my mind before I send my portfolio to my tutor, but for the moment I am very happy as it is (Fig. 5):

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Figure 5. Finished painting

For self-assessment please see separate post!

References:

Mural Joe (n.d.) How To Paint Waves Bundle [online]. Mural Joe, Flagstaff. Available at: http://learn.muraljoe.com/downloads/how-to-paint-waves-bundle/ [Accessed 12 March 2017]

Part 1, project 1, exercise 1b: Getting to know your brushes – landscape from memory

Post updated on 18 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

15 February, 2016. Last year I had a dream, in which I was flying, for the first time since my childhood. It was an incredibly vivid, colourful, 3D experience. I flew over a rocky ridge made up of Mars-coloured giant blocks. The ridge was bordered on the left side by a savannah-like landscape and dropped off to the right. It travelled more or less up to the horizon, where on its farthest outcrop there sat a giant, Mars-coloured chanterelle with two window-like openings. This is the landscape I have been planning to paint since the dream and I will take the opportunity to make a first sketch for this exercise (see Fig. 1 below):

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Figure 1. My dream chanterelle

I found it relatively difficult to capture a true likeness of my dream image, since it was only a second long at the time, during which I flew over the landscape at high speed. On the other hand I was free to fill the gaps with whatever my imagination came up with. I had lots of weird ideas reminding me of Hieronymus Bosch (The Netherlands, 1450 – 1516), whose incredibly imaginative work I love and whose 500 year anniversary is celebrated this year (National Gallery of Art, 2017). The most well-known of this works is probably “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (Fig. 2):

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Figure 2. Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, oil on panel, ca. 1480-1505, source: Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1450-1516) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

16 February, 2016. I decided, however, to leave the idea of a more extended version of my above sketch for later in the course, when my skills have improved.
In the above, in order to continue the experience gained in the mark-making experiment I tried to make use of most types of brushmark, except for the footprint-like marks often used for foliage, which I personally do not like for the evenness of the result. For me, most mark-making and the interaction with its results has been more or less intuitive so far, but I will start making a habit of observing closely and learning how to best translate into my personal painting language the effects of different marks, in particular by studying and comparing the ways of contemporary artists before attempting an exercise.
So, off to painting a piece of fruit next.

References:

  1. National Gallery of Art (2017) ‘Bosch, Hieronymus. Biography’ [online]. National Gallery of Art, Collection, Artists 17 Feb. Available at http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/artist-info.986.html [Accessed 17 February]