Artefact: Final Piece, Exhibition and Conclusions

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“Utagawa Diptych” installed at Oxford Brookes by the very helpful Ryan Quarterman.

This is the result of all my work. I feel the piece is pretty jumbled and has a lot of flaws but there are things I like too.

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On the right panel I have arranged all the night photographs in a montage. When I was taking them I was thinking about the idea of balanced compositions, interesting vanishing points and the new versions of Hiroshige’s floating world; takeaway stands, buses at night, the light coming out of a newsagents. The montage arrangement is for me a link to the use of series of in the work of Hiroshige; I would like later to link this further by making a collage that simply shows all of the pictures in a series like The Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido simultaneously in a montage grid.

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On the right I have placed a big old square of blue. I did this because I wanted to get that sense of balance that is always around in the old ukiyo-e pictures, particularly something like this;

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In the corner there is a rail ticket which is a visual reference to the red boxes with calligraphy that feature in the prints, then I wrote a little bit of automatic writing as another reference to the use of writing in Japanese art, relating to the stuff I had photographed.

Anyway I think this piece has some interesting stuff about it. I like the photographs and I was trying for a kind of interested constructed semi-painting of the kind that was prevalent in the 1960s, something like this;

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According to What by Jasper Johns

Obviously I’m pretty far from this. Visually I’m quite happy with the work. My main problems are conceptual and especially in terms of construction. I feel like my ideas were too muddled although I think this was exacerbated by having to write about the work. I am finding that I really dislike the idea of masses of writing in the gallery scenario. Why is it so hard for contemporary artists to communicate ideas visually?

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Installed in the Richard Hamilton Building- I put the sketchbooks out on a plinth.

Anyway my main problem is with the construction. The piece was thrown together very quickly as a result of the impending UCAS deadlines and it’s pretty rickety. I very stupidly mounted all the card and photographs on paper, then mounted that to foamboard, which meant there was a lot of crumpling, and the board didn’t quite match the frames. Small problems, but for me disastrous.

These were only heightened by the massive dampness of the OVADA gallery, where the work was finally installed.

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I can’t say the work fit in brilliantly although obviously it was a huge privilege having anything put into any gallery. You can see the crumpling. Anyway in conclusion I think this project was a good learning experience because I found some interesting new techniques and came up with some good ideas, but more importantly I think I found a lot of flaws in my work that need to be improved, namely poor quality construction and confusion of ideas.

 

Experimental Screenprinting

David Farrar, an ex student from Brookes and now a technician in printmaking at Glasgow School of Art, came to visit and do a workshop on screenprinting.

He showed us a few interesting experimental methods outside of the standard ink and silkscreen printmaking. One of these was to use powder paint rather thank ink, which creates a really interesting effect very similar to charcoal drawings.

Another technique was to cut out a paper stencil and stick it on to the front of a blank screen. Then different coloured inks were pushed through the blank silk on to paper. This creates simple abstract designs that can be used to make a large number of prints.

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“Artefact”: The Photographs

I picked up a camera and went out into the streets of Oxford and simply waited for something to happen. The resulting images made the basis of my final piece Utagawa Diptych.

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“Artefact”: Development Part Two

When confronted by a museum, art, for the viewer, becomes nothing more than a process of updating. The same invisible thread runs through everything, but remains elusive and unidentifiable in the process. Artists from each era try to grasp at this same thing, updating it to their own era, but somehow never quite identifying just what “it” is. The history of art becomes a long treasure hunt.

I was led back to an ongoing concern with influences; how does one update the work of their influences in a non superficial way? After all, art is a process of updating what has gone before. For instance, it would be very simple to take the most obvious stylistic element of Hiroshige’s work, which is his distinctive, angular style of drawing.

Image result for utagawa hiroshige edoSaruwaka-machi yoru no kei

To respond to something properly, the concern must be with the underlying, deeper qualities. Looking further into the works suggested several possible ideas for a response; the urban subject matter; the sense of highly structured composition; and the use of series, which as a whole, gives a greater impression of place.

Image result for utagawa hiroshige edoKinryūsan Temple at Asakusa

I don’t think so much of the Japonism of Manet or Van Gogh, as the true heir to the work of Hiroshige and Hokusai, as much as the works of street photographers. There are strong parallels between the focus on the urban world and the use of print, digitally and in the darkroom. In particular the work of William Eggleston or Harry Callahan, which has the same serene beauty and structured composition.

Image result for whistler japonismeDetail from Caprice in Purple and Gold by James McNeill Whistler

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William Eggleston, Untitled (Police Car, California)

“Artefact”: Development Part One

I started off with a new sketchbook.

The small Hiroshige room in the Ashmolean is a lovely place. I went there several times and made three copies from his prints. Very few people come in; it is small and has a bench. The ambience was very good for working.

This piece, “Suruga Street” was the stimulus. My immediate interest in his work came from his urban subject matter, something I focus on frequently. I began by drawing from the original prints to get a better sense of the works, to dissect them and find the key elements. I very quickly began considering what a contemporary response might look like.

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Project Number Ten: “Artefact”

This new project is being carried out with the Ashmolean Museum and OVADA Gallery, both in Oxford.

The brief, originally entitled “Crossing Cultures, Crossing Times”, is to make work reacting to artefacts in the Ashmolean collection. A jury composed of two representatives from each gallery will pick works to be displayed at OVADA.

As a regular visitor to the Ashmolean, I was excited by this brief. The only problem was what to pick to react to! The museum has an incredible and diverse collection.

My first idea was to take this eclecticism and reflect it in the work. I started drawing from heads from the most diverse possible source material to create a kind of mini-museum in the form of a series of drawings. This was the result:

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I went off this idea for several reasons. The time taken on each drawing would have to be much greater than these initial sketches, meaning greater individual works but less diversity, because the number of heads would have to be reduced. I also felt it would be good to do a project moving away from drawing, something I have already been doing extensively.

My search around the museum began again. I hit upon a small temporary room of works by one of my favourite artists, Utagawa Hiroshige, the 19th century Japanese ukiyo-e printmaker. I decided there and then that the project should be based around him.