Project Number Five: “Towards Abstraction”

The brief this time is to investigate abstract painting, in particular the process of moving towards abstract art and painting techniques in general. As a device paintings are to be made of objects submerged in a jar full of water; this distorts them and encourages an abstracted approach.

Image result for cezanne mont sainte victoire

Simplified forms, multiple perspectives, planes of pure colour? Crazy old Cezanne should have know this would never catch on… wait.

It’s great to start painting properly again as I’ve had something of a lull, focusing on drawing and photography more intensively for about six months. Learning more about painting techniques and improving painting was one of the main reasons I decided to do a foundation course.

I’ve already learned some important new techniques. Firstly when using oils on paper the paper must be primed with gesso or vinyl matt emulsion. Secondly when using watercolour or watery acrylic it is a good idea to stretch paper over a board. I did both of these things last night with some sheets of A2 thin card.

Image result for mondrian tree

Mondrian’s handy how-to guide to becoming a crazy spiritual abstract artist. 

This morning I started right away. I began as ever by looking to the work of previous artists and finding the work I admired, and more specifically and importantly why I liked it, and even more importantly how I could steal from these artists in a non superficial way.

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Picasso 1910- Portrait of Ambroise Vollard. Figure still notably present.

I focused in particular on transitional artists between figurative and abstract painting. I looked at Cezanne’s late works and the transitional Cubist paintings of Picasso and Braque when forms began to be abstracted to the point of obscurity. These Cubist works are some of my favourite pieces ever, but I should probably move swiftly on. Mondrian was another artist who I felt typified the progression towards abstraction, with his works neatly moving on from one another to the point of pure abstraction. Malevich and other geometric abstract artists like Bridget Riley were my favourite purely abstract artists.

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Picasso 1911-12- Ma Jolie. There’s a woman in there somewhere.

We were set the task of making quick studies so I decided to launch into an investigation of processes and experimentation with different styles. From my research I think I much prefer geometric abstraction, or very very organised looser abstract pieces.

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Malevich- Suprematist Composition 1916.

I experimented with some very geometric Suprematist style constructions and then focused on making Cubist constructions. I simplified the forms in the water, moved them around into geometric constructions, and then did a study in the vein of the 1911 paintings of Picasso and Braque, moving the jar around and painting the different perspectives. It seems to me that the process of painting multiple perspectives was one of the main routes to pure abstraction.


Some very clear influence here… Malevich, El Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy etc.

Weirdly I seem to have worked backwards throughout the day, beginning with very simplified forms and then gradually complicating the constructions.


Moving into Cubism, reconstituting and simplifying the forms. Some influence of the American Stuart Davis here.

It was great to work in oils, with which I have only made two paintings in the past. I realised the medium was much less daunting and more forgiving than I had previously thought. Mixing the colours in particular was great fun, as I only used tubes of red, blue, yellow, black and white. Tomorrow I think I’ll have a go with some acrylics.


Working in the classical Cubist style of 1911-12, Braque and Picasso. Trying to decode the processes and methods of the two artists and move towards something original. “Three Studies for a Still Life with Pound, Blue, Cannon and Champagne Cork”.

While I think these studies (and they are only studies) are ultimately very derivative, I think creating derivative works is an essential part of the artistic process, and is essential to moving towards creating something original, which I hope will happen later in the project. All great artists to my knowledge have had a derivative phase, especially the abstract artists I researched for this project.

Last but not least the jar itself, firmly planted in good old material reality.





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