patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Archive for July 2011

facilitating the aesthetic encounter

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I have written before about the role of the curator in facilitating the aesthetic encounter (I borrowed the term from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick E. Robinson, The Art of Seeing) and sometimes gone on a bit about how some people seem to be able to see optical effects (for want of a better term) more easily than others.

wave

I noticed something similar on holiday recently, in relation to a ‘natural’ occurrence. When this wave breaks you see a miniature rainbow in the spray. Some people could see it easily as it occurred, some could see it when it was pointed out to them, others just couldn’t see it even after it was pointed out and with repeated viewing. But then, they could see it when re-presented on this short video.

I wonder if it would it be correct to say that the curatorial skill required to facilitate the experience is that of pointing/describing,with some interpreting and little, if any, of judging.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 30, 2011 at 7:05 am

Long ago: Mali Morris at Angel Row Gallery Nottingham

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It was May 2002 and I was walking in Nottingham, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed the name ‘Mali Morris’. She had been one of my external tutors when I studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent, many years earlier so I stopped in my tracks. An exhibition of her paintings was being advertised at The Angel Row Gallery (now replaced by Nottingham Contemporary). Around this time there had been a number of painting shows at this gallery that I liked (I thought then, and still do now, that painting is so much out of fashion, especially abstract painting, that it is difficult to see any, if you’re not in the capital at any rate).

What a show it was! Here are pictures of two of the painting that were on view

Mali Morris, Pale Yellow Curly Clearing 2001, Acrylic on Canvas, 61 x 77 cm, Image by courtesy of the artist

Mali Morris, Ripple 2000, Acrylic on Canvas, 21 x 41 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

I was expecting large paintings. For me, at that time, ‘abstract’ and ‘large’ tended to go together; it took me a while to realise that these two terms could be disconnected. These paintings gave me some good reasons why. Pale Yellow Curly Clearing, 2001 was the largest one in the show (there was one other with the same dimensions) and still a modest size at 61 x 77cm. They didn’t need to be any bigger, in fact part of their power (my perception of them was that they were powerful images, though on prolonged viewing they became something much too subtle for that word) was their smallness. They had an immediate appeal and they seemed to draw me in for closer inspection. It really felt like the paintings were exerting this power over me.

Every Autumn, near where I live I see kids jumping up or throwing sticks into horse chestnut trees. We think of the agency as being with the kids: they jump or throw. But year on year it’s different kids, same tress. Maybe in the system of tree-kids, it’s the tree that acts, putting out conkers each year always draws the kids up into the trees.

anyway I was drawn in, and when I got up close I found that simple though the images were they rewarded prolonged attention. The colours were doing something, but not in the sense of direct excitation, somehow it seemed indirect. They slowly unfolded, yet each one in a different way.

I chose the two above for contrast. Of course there are distinct similarities, you could say that the image is the same: monochromatic, with a circular shape against a ground, framed inside an almost square rectangle. And this would be loosely true for all the paintings that were in the exhibition. But look at the differences! Yellow and blue are very different in hue and tone. They do very different things. Yellow seems to expand, whereas blue seems to contract. The painting behave differently. In Pale Yellow Curly Clearing, and I think the title refers to the act of clearing away the paint to allow what’s underneath to show through, note how that particular way of placing, painting, clearing away, leads to a picture that behaves in that specific manner. Whereas, Ripple, 2001 ripples, and it was made by rippling, with a ripple or some such a comb-like instrument. And it’s just enough, any more and we would be looking at another painting, with another way of operating, and in each case this particular painting would have been lost.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

Character, Letter, and the Misbehave – Mel Prest (via )

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I keep coming across blogs and photos of the paintings of Mel Prest. I am impressed by her work

Character, Letter, and the Misbehave – Mel Prest Brent: You have a penchant for Travel, often for the more exotic places on this globe. You return home, go to the studio, and take out your notes… what are these notes? Mel: I like to be completely immersed while I’m traveling—so this means not putting a frame/ lens/ color on paper between the experience and myself. Sometimes I take little snapshots with my phone, or quickly record video of small moments with my cheap camera. On this trip to Sene … Read More

via

This blog was the one that sparked my interest.

There’s also this You Tube video that is a good introduction, referring to a show in 2008

and I found this blog interesting, about the paintings and about Mel Prest as teacher, from a student’s point of view.

Best of all is Mel Prest’s website. I highly recommend the animation page; check it out!

Here’s hoping for a show of her work in the UK sometime soon.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 23, 2011 at 7:30 am

the monochrome as system

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I am enjoying the book Monochromes, from malevich to the present, by barbara rose

monochromes

created and edited by Valeria Varas and Raul Rispa, first published on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid 2004.

I tend to feel dubious about a book that starts out with the words “this book takes an innovative organizational approach”. If it’s that innovative surely they don’t need to tell me. Although they make the mistake of bringing my attention to it, it is innovative; it is organised so that it interconnects, like a system.

One organising principle is the use of colours as theme, black, red, blue, gold and white. I like that the cover is reminiscent of Yves Klein’s famous International Klein Blue.

Barbara Rose credits Klein with the discovery of the power of the monochrome to displace attention from the art object to the exhibition space, emphasising the interdependence of artwork and context. This is one of the ways in which the monochrome could be thought of as systemic. Also, artists who make or have made them often employ a systems approach to producing the work.

Many years ago, for possibly a whole year (and painting every day) I painted little else but monochromes. I was young, and some people would criticise me for ‘painting like an old man’ (“this is the kind of painting I would expect someone to do at the end of their artistic career “).

Way back then, I thought I was making ‘content free’ paintings. What became interesting in the long series of monochromes were the subtle differences between each one. The paintings were best seen together (as a system) and those subtle differences started to look less and less subtle after all. The patterns that connected them were as much to do with the differences as they were the similarities. I got into the habit of always showing them in pairs, I can’t believe now that I had overlooked the autobiographical content: being an identical twin myself, I experienced first hand that what becomes more interesting than the similarities between twins are the differences, much more easily noticed when they are together than when they are apart.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 21, 2011 at 7:44 am

My Interpretation of (an extract from) The Fetishism of Commodities by Karl Marx (via rhetorical pens)

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I thought this was entertaining as well as enlightening. It’s a great example of of what you can achieve by combining text and pictures.

My Interpretation of (an extract from) The Fetishism of Commodities by Karl Marx Marx with pictures! The Fetishism of Commodities – Karl Marx Click on the above link to download the power point. Here’s a sneak preview: … Read More

via rhetorical pens

It reminds me of those ‘Introducing…’ and ‘…for Beginners’ books from Readers and Writers and Icon Books

Could Rhetoricalpens ‘book’  be even better than those? (Rhetorical question, though if you want to answer it in comments please feel free.)

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 19, 2011 at 7:37 am

David Harvey on the Communist Hypothesis today

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Interesting article at Rheomode: David Harvey on the Communist Hypothesis today suggesting that contemporary attempts to revive the communist hypothesis favour horizontally networked as opposed to hierarchically commanded systems, and that this represents a convergence of Marxist and anarchist traditions harking back to the collaborative situation between them in the 1860s.

Slavoj Zizek concludes his book First as Tragedy,then as Farce with a chapter entitled The Communist Hypothesis, in which he argues that the revolutionary process is about repeating the beginning again and again, and that, rejecting any sense of continuity with what the Left meant over the last two centuries, everything should be re-thought, beginning from the beginning that Badiou calls “the communist hypothesis”.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 18, 2011 at 7:08 am

Seeing Angel and People by Mali Morris

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I have been interested in the paintings of Mali Morris since she was a visiting lecturer and tutor at Trent Polytechnic when I was studying Fine Art there a long time ago.

Angel and People 1979, Acrylic on Canvas, 180 x 171 cm, Purchased 2009 by Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, with the assistance of the Derek Williams Trust, Image by courtesy of the artist

It was through her that I got my introduction to abstract painting. She was a wonderful teacher. What I remember most about her was her openness to everything as far as inspiration was concerned. She encouraged me to look at work that I would never have thought to look at, and to see patterns that connect very disparate genres.

I learned from her (whether she actually said it or not I don’t know – I have a very good constructive memory) that a shape drawn and ‘coloured in’ is very different to shape that is allowed to ‘find itself’. Even if she never said it I can hear her saying it when I paint even today.

I just telephoned the National Museum, Cardiff to find out whether her Angel and People, 1979, is currently on display, and although it is not, they have kindly agreed to take me into the store to have a look at it when I visit in August!

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 17, 2011 at 7:46 am

Quarante Huit Quai d’Auteil by Winifred Nicholson at the Hepworth, Wakefield

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When I visited The Hepworth, Wakefield recently I was particularly interested in three paintings in the Hepworth in Context gallery, all painted n 1936. They were Composition C (no.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue, by Piet Mondrian, Forms on a White Ground,by John Piper

and Quarante Huit Quai d’Auteil by Winifred Nicholson

Winifred Nicholson, Quarante Huit Quai d'Auteuil, 1935 Oil on board©Tate, London, 2011,©The Trustees of Winifred Nicholson, Courtesy of Hepworth Wakefield

The title refers to Winifred Nicholson’s address in Paris, where she lived from 1932-8. She went there specifically to learn about abstract art. There she befriended artists such as Piet Mondrian, Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp and Jean Hélion.  Around this time she wrote in Circle that ‘[t]he nature of abstract colour is utter purity – but colours wish to fly, to merge, to change each other by their juxtapositions, to radiate, to shine, to withdraw deep within themselves.’ She claimed that the painting was about colour and the shapes could take whatever form they wished. This sounds like an approach to abstraction that I learned  from Mali Morris many years ago, where you place the colour and allow it to suggest its own form. This requires a ‘dialogue’ with the painting as it develops.

It seems now to relate to a metaphorical language pattern I have come to know from NLP, as a ‘selectional restriction violation’ where, for example, an inanimate object might be ascribed qualities that it could not logically have, e.g. “my bed is missing me”.  The painting is considered to have a life of its own, it suggests and leads, it converses with the painter. This process of projection, I suggest, induces a natural trance state in the artist as s/he works on the developing painting, and is part of the ‘content’ of the abstract work. The question I have is whether in viewing the painting (so long as we actually look at it rather than just walk by) do we enter a similar trance state?

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 12, 2011 at 7:04 am

Second star to the right and straight on until…

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In my continued quest to find abstract art outside of London, I find myself in the centre of Swansea, where, opposite the Dylan Thomas Theatre,

dylan thomas

just a few hundred yards from my Hotel, I discover…

mission

the Mission Gallery, once a seaman’s mission, now a bodacious space (dude) for contemporary art.

There will be abstract paintings here from late in July. And right now there is a most excellent show of sculpture by Ben Rowe entitled Second star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning. If you know that the directions to Neverland referred to here, are also quoted in one of the Star Trek movies, then you are very likely to get all the other references in this exhibition. The sculptures are themed on popular sci-fi/fantasy films, mostly from the 1980’s, films I loved too, like Back to the Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Entering the gallery I am struck first by the light in what would have once been a church sanctuary, and then by the smell. Incense? No, MDF – the material from which these sculptures are crafted.

mission gallery

Mission gallery, Ben Rowe, Second star to the right and straight on until morning, courtesy of the artist and Mission Gallery

Batteries are not Included, is a keyboard with wires from it attached to a totem-like object. The reference is not to the Disney film of the same name, but to Masters of the Universe, the art work being a replica of the ‘mysterious cosmic key’.

In the centre of the dome shaped sanctuary is the time-travelling phone box from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, reproduced in MDF monochrome, looking like all the colour has been drained out of it, as it is just about the de-materialise.

Bogus Flux

Ben Rowe, In a Constant State of Bogus Flux, 2010, reclaimed MDF, Image by courtesy of the artist and Mission Gallery

The sculptures in this show are modes of transport, as simple as a door or a portal or more complex like the flux capacitor or the time-travelling phone box. And they are sculptural metaphors for art, as a means of escape into an alternative reality. The gallery space, whilst existing in the ‘real world’ at the same time presents a door into another one.

There is something ironic in the reproduction of hi-tech gadgets, looking so plausibly like they would be capable of transporting us to impossible locations, yet so clearly in MDF:  even if the ‘real’ versions were able to do so, the replicas lack any such potency.

To borrow Elull‘s terms, mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, are the artworks imitations of a (fictitious) technology, itself both imitation and compensation for (real) technology?

Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning is showing at Mission Gallery until 24 July 2011.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 10, 2011 at 6:18 am

Two Picasso Shows

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I read two blogs recently about Picasso exhibitions and the system conditions in which the paintings were being viewed. Forest Knolls, blog is about a show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. I was interested in the comment about making do with a photo of the exhibition poster because photography inside the gallery was prohibited, hence the picture of the giant poster of the small painting (an image of an image of an image).

My own photo above, a few years old, shows people looking at (and photographing?) a Picasso painting of a girl looking at her own image in a mirror (an image of an image of an image). This was at the Picasso Museum in Paris. I believe that cameras were allowed. (On the subject of photography in gallery spaces there’s a brilliant blog here by Rhetoricalpens)

The other blog, at The Painting Space is about the first time a Picasso has ever been shown in Palestine. Buste de Femme, 1943, is at the International Academy of Art. Two years in the making, this exhibition is an “exciting opportunity to build a new international cultural dialogue in the occupied territory of Ramallah”. The conditions in which the painting will be viewed are very different to the two examples above. As well as the big system condition of occupation, there is also the sub-system that only three people at a time will be able to see the painting, in a purpose-built viewing room, so the picture does not get damaged by the humidity.

The blog includes a short film of Slavoj Zizek in conversation with the organisers. He has some really interesting things to say and he tells some great stories. I am not always sure I can connect them to the subject of the exhibition (one of the many things I love about his work).