Out of the Woods: The Human Landscape Rebecca Daniels
This is a very interesting article about the work of Clare Woods – it mentions her famous landscapes but is more focussed on her paintings of wounded WW1 soldiers.
I love the Francis bacon quote about leaving a trail of humanity through all his work, I think whatever else an artist does or doesn’t do, whatever their style, process or motivation their art should leave a trail of humanity through society and culture. Fundamentally, that’s what differentiates art from commercialised industrial product, and from commercial design.
Another interesting quote from Bacon is about artist’s not copying photographs but waiting till they are sufficiently developed to be able to use them critically.
Most of the rest of the article is about how Clare Woods uses found (photographic) imagery.
In terms of my practice it was a very good step to stop copying photographs. There will be a time in the future when I can use them as ‘just’ another source like a sunset, emotion, grain of pollen, or my interior world. I don’t think I’m there yet as the sudden intrusion of local colours and clearly defined shapes would be too much of a pull.
It was interesting how Wood had escaped her earlier large ‘landscape’ paintings using enamel paint because the process was in danger of making her a glorified conveyer belt worker instead of a creative artist. Her change involved using a new medium, oil paint, and it is fascinating how time and time again an artist’s medium defines and shapes their work.
I think all artists have a process which involves a stimulus and a reaction to it. That could be visual as in nature paintings, formal as in marks on a canvas or intellectual as in conceptual art, but it always involves a personal conversation/response to something other than themselves. But when this dialogue is lost and the ‘process’ becomes all there is art turns into commercial product; and artist into factory worker.
With regards to my own practice, it makes me feel like a child with a dressing up box trying on different roles. Another analogy might be a young actor wanting to work in lots of different fields… TV, film, theatre… comedy, drama… villain, hero and best mate. Artistically, I want to be open to everything and not be pigeon holed (typecast) into any one style. At the moment I’m enjoying exploring abstraction and reacting to the marks on the canvas, but if I had a wonderful day at the seaside I might want to react to the emotion or colours that it throws up… I might find a deeply moving photograph which I react to… or a close up detail in nature.
It may not be brilliant for developing a brand but at the moment I haven’t got a brand and I think my voice (such as my love of strong colours) will come through however I paint.
Clare Woods paintings are deeply researched and thoughtfully considered, and her stimulation is often a found image. But I feel my painting style is less conceptual/ideological/psychological and more intuitive and emotional.
June 05, 2020
[Hannah Brown and Rebecca Partridge in Conversation (2020) At: https://www.berlinartlink.com/2020/06/05/what-does-it-mean-to-paint-a-landscape-hannah-brown-and-rebecca-partridge-in-conversation/ (Accessed 23/04/2021).]
Hanna Brown’s work:
Rebecca Partridge’s work:
It’s obvious, but also very interesting, how an artist’s practice is so strongly reflected in their opinions about art, even when they are talking ‘generally’. In contrast critics seem move around the various artistic modes of productions much more easily than artists, the critics’ anchor seems to be more ideological/philosophical.
The article is quite slight but touches on the reemergence of landscape as a contemporary subject, its permanence (which I would dispute as it is heavily managed and changes all the time), and renewed relevance with the experience of lockdown.
Hannah Brown is showing her artistic roots in text based installations, as the titles of her photo realist (and from photographs) paintings are a conceptual device to contextualise her paintings. For example her painting above titled, ‘The field next to Tesco that is soon to be built on – 4’, makes it almost a site specific work and imbues it with contemporary political ramifications.
Rebecca Partridge’s titling is more general such as her, ‘Sky Studies’, as is her use of memory to paint realistic paintings of nature she has experienced. She wants to feel physically connected to nature and explores this in her paintings.
The relevance for my practice is that the more I look at realistic landscape painting the more I feel disconnected from this approach to nature. I connect meditatively with the landscape, have had many allotments and grounded myself in the seasons as I nurture small seedlings to harvested fruit and veg. But in no way do I want to paint a realistic, or even simplified, version of the landscape. Nor do I want to abstract or semi abstract landscape.
Landscape is a part of me, and I want to express it as part of my being, as John Hoyland did, in colour, not as any representation of something exterior that I ‘see’ or ‘think’ about.
I would enjoy looking at these paintings, but not painting them.
3. Dan Perfect
[Dan Perfect (s.d.) At: https://danperfect.co.uk/ (Accessed 27/04/2021).]
Dan was born in 1965 so is 9 years older than me and within my generation. I say this because age does make a difference, if only to the cultural milieu that dominates an artist… however much I love the work of younger artists there somehow feels to be a bridge I cannot span. I can appreciate their work but couldn’t make them. But with older artists there’s a different connection and I often feel I could conceivably produce that work.
Perfect’s training was: 1989-91 SAS Printmaking, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London 1983-86 BA Hons in Fine Art (Painting), Saint Martins School of Art, London 1981-83 DATEC in Art & Design, Chelsea School of Art, London.
With such a heavy print/design element I might expect his work to be graphic, and his early work is quite cartoony. For example twenty years ago he was making this:
Enter the cave with the ice waterfall, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 214 x 304cm, 2001
But in 2020 he was painting this:
The Dark Garden, Oil and acrylic on linen, 183 x 243cm, 2020
This style is fascinating and very attractive… I’d love to see it in real life. It’s a large painting and partly relies on physical impact, all we are getting here is a thumbnail of the overall design.
We normally look at a canvas ‘vertically’ as if we are standing up looking at the world and even a with a Rothko we are looking at ‘something’. Rothko’s painterly code may be abstract but we still have a ‘view’ with a direct link to classical painting. Pollack changed that by creating a horizontal canvas with the colours laid on it… not a ‘view’ of ‘something’ but a flat sculpture. I think Perfect is doing the same thing.
His colours and visual language are fascinating. Strangely, his visual language seems quite similar to his earlier work, he has a very graphic style, it’s just he’s just using it to tell a different story.
Even though there is a lot of overlaying all the colours are clean, more like screen printing than oil painting.
I think what I like about his painting is that it is not ‘about’ anything (at least not to me). There appears to be no intent. It’s not even a John Hoyland style personality capturing painterly conversation about mark making because it doesn’t appear to be about the painter’s personality. It feels like his painting is all about painting, or at least, all about mark making.
It’s wonderfully complex and perfectly balanced.
The palette could be from a landscape painting (all greens, browns and dark shadows) but the colours appear very bright, which is a weird experience.
I know very little about printing but as I always like printed images maybe it’s something I should look into when I finish my degree… and perhaps I could experiment with some printing techniques in my painting.
4. Michelle Dovey: (Her website)
[Michelle Dovey Artist – Contemporary Fine Art (s.d.) At: https://www.michelledovey.com/ (Accessed 26/04/2021).]
It’s very interesting looking at her work which is very colour based. I could see that if I resisted my paintings from Studio practice, simplified them and added gestural/painterly brushstrokes this is what they could become.
I like her style, and it’s something I may experiment with.
Looking at her website is also interesting as I’m reading Navigating the Art World, Professional Practice for the Early Career Artist [Delphian (2020) Navigating The Art World: Professional Practice for the Early Career Artist. (s.l.): Foolscap Editions.]. Her website is very professional like you’re shopping at John Lewis, with a link to her gallery, whereas mine (as a student/artist) is very friendly with lots of personality, and selling from my website.
Very interestingly, she also paints on a scale similar to me, so not large unaffordable canvases but between 60 – 1200 cm. It’s pragmatic, but making something I could produce, store and sell is a consideration… rather than itching to explode onto a larger canvas. I wonder if this is because, however colourful, her works are (at heart) traditional landscapes?
Her work seems to group into three groups and an addendum.
There are paintings that take ‘real’ shapes but are painted in bright colours with single colour ‘print’ backgrounds.
Old Man Elder Tree (Colourful Sausage Tree), 2015, oil on canvas,48 x 60 in/101.6 x 152.4 cm
The titles seem random/enigmatic which is interesting as I’m thinking about my titling at the moment.
This looks to me like it is all about colour balance and the sought of painting I could do. She has found an ‘intent’ by using the form of a tree, this is also a USP and a brand.I hadn’t thought of using a fixed form, the sort of form I could collect as a sketch, as ‘intent. At the moment I am working like John Hoyland and reacting to the colours/marks on the canvas, which is always a bit scary… and I think is about both the act of painting and identity.
Using the form of a tree takes that difficulty away and lets you focus on colour… and also, lots of people like trees. Indeed, she has exhibited for various tree groups.
2. Loose but traditional landscapes.
Big and Little Dog Trees, 2009, oil on canvas, 24×30 in/61 x 76.2 cm
A very traditional landscape that reminds me, a little, of an early Manet landscape I saw in the Sainsbury Gallery… I think it’s the combination of visual ‘impression’ and movement. Beautiful colour work with all the detail sucked out, replaced by gestural strokes, to give a wonderfully real experience of standing on the spot. Again the painting is contained in near perfect shapes.
I think I could really enjoy painting something like this. Or at least use it as an idea… I think I was stuck with my landscape painting and needed to loosen up my brushwork. My style would be different, but it’s definitely something I could explore.
3. Heavily abstracted landscapes that you have to work at to decode as a landscape.
Cleddau Oak High Colour, 2018, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm
Again… a small canvas. Interestingly a descriptive title for her least descriptive painting?
It could be read as having a horizon, but to all intents and purposes this is a ‘pure’ abstract. However, the more I look at it it is ‘formally’ (in a shape) enclosed. As different from, for example, a John Hoyland abstract.
I can see this coming from a landscape though it’s almost escaped into colouration. Considering my Option work on layering/mystery/leaving bare canvas it’s interesting to see how much bare canvas she has left, especially at the edges.
4. Addendum. An almost surreal simplification.
Peach Road to Fishguard, 2020, oil on canvas, 10 x 12 in/25.5 x 30.5 cms
This appears, to me, to be a radical shift in style (and not typical of her work). Strangely, this feels much more photographic to me in being a flat capture of a landscape. It may not have detail or local colour but feels much more ‘referential’ to a view, whereas her other work makes me feel like I’m there… and pull me into the canvas this pushes me out of it and makes me look at a view. As if I was looking at a photograph in a nature magazine.
5. Interview – with Elizabeth Magill, ‘Biographical Landscapes’, The Visual Artist’s News Sheet, Sept/Oct 2017
[Interview – with Elizabeth Magill, ‘Biographical Landscapes’, The Visual Artist’s News Sheet, Sept/Oct 2017 (2017) At: https://joannelaws.com/2017/09/04/interview-with-elizabeth-magill-biographical-landscapes-visual-artists-news-sheet-sept-oct-2017/ (Accessed 27/04/2021).]
Wikipedia: B. 1959. Elizabeth Magill is an Irish painter. She studied at the Belfast College of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art, and now lives and works in London.
The sky was all orange (2), 2021, oil and screenprint on canvas, 128 x 148 cm / 50.4 x 58.3 in
This is from the Kerlin Gallery who represent her. I find it very B & Q framed print time… hotel room or maybe even John Lewis? It’s mawkish and sentimental, like a commercial sub standard Peter Doig. Of course, it’s highly skilled, just empty.
Interestingly for her 20127 interview she selects a much less commercial piece of work, sadly there are no details on the painting in the article but I found some on her gallery website.
Elizabeth Magill, Return, 2016, oil and collage on canvas, 152.5 x 183 cm / 60 x 72 in
In the interview she talks about landscape as a vehicle to explore the language of art, possibilities of painting, and personal biography. And references a quote from John Berger where he says that landscape is a curtain behind which struggles, achievements and accidents can take place.
The opposite argument would be that the landscape we see is dictated by politics, economics and farming practice, more like a carapace hiding fleshy humanity than a curtain revealing it.
Transitions and lighting effects are another special interest of hers, such as just before night when the sky appears briefly very bright and the land very dark. She sees these as points of visual friction that shatter the certainty of time and place and open the possibility to new worlds. Interestingly Peter Doig is one of her cited influences, and he paints magical reality.
Texture (she says) is another character in her paintings, almost as if her paintings are novels featuring shape, colour and texture. Indeed, it can take her years to finish a painting, getting the texture just right. In her interview she lists many books as influencing her work, especially how the narrative delivers a strong sense of place and roots the viewer in another world. I couldn’t find any evidence of the craggy texture she talks about in her works I found online.
Looking at the paintings on her gallery and I can’t see any of the things she talks about in her interview in her paintings. In fact there appears to be some huge contradictions as she says she doesn’t use figures or buildings, apart from minimally, but some of her paintings are more narrative illustration than landscape.
However, in her interview she raises some important questions about landscape painting.
I think any landscape painting that is more than a gridded out photograph in local colours, and even then it is changed by being partly a hand process and in paint on canvas, is a vehicle for something else. A classic landscape might be a propaganda painting for the wealth and power of the owner; impressionism and cubist landscapes discuss the language of painting and how we ‘see’; expressionist landscapes explores personal biography; magical realism opens the doors to other worlds as surely as a science fiction or fantasy film.
Her interview makes me think about the ontology of painting rather than her landscape painting.
I think the definition of art is that it asks a question… it can do this in all sorts of ways… visually, emotionally, psychologically… by putting us in a new world or somehow tipping us off balance and taking us away from the everyday.
Commercial art can do this but it is more focussed on entertainment. It thrills, amuses and excites us and passes time in a pleasant way.
Nothing wrong with either, both are necessary and both feed off each – the ploys of avant garde art are now commonplace in commercial art… and Pop art borrowed heavily from commercial art.
My question, in terms of my own practice, would be why use landscape? But equally, why not? I think it all depends on what I want to paint and what my intent is.
6. Tim Stoner website.
[Tim Stoner (s.d.) At: http://www.timstoner.co.uk/www.timstoner.co.uk/Tim_Stoner.html (Accessed 28/04/2021).]
Wikipedia: B. 1970 Tim Stoner is an English painter. Growing up in London, he attended Leyton Sixth Form College. He trained at the Norwich School of Art & Design 1989-92, the Royal College of Art, London, and the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam 1997-98.
In the ‘About’ section on his website Stoner has several quotes, here is the first one:
Adrian Searle (The Guardian)
‘A ring of dancers in some kind of national costume dancing under the bunting in the street, and a circle of cabaret dancers in high heels, hoofing through a routine in blue, hazy stagelight. Outlined in fierce penumbras of light, in both paintings the figures are immobilised in some strangely incandescent moment. The paintings have almost no discernible surface, there are no gestures, the light is too fierce. The figures are coruscated silhouettes. The subject of Stoner’s work is light, and how painting both creates an illusory space and destroys it with its flatness. The figures imply movement and rhythm, but in painting this is impossible. The dance in painting – think Poussin, Renoir and Matisse – is always about this paradox between immobility and movement, time and timelessness. It is all just an accretion on the surface. What complex paintings they are. They make you realise what a rich, deceptive, unfinished business painting is.
I need to analyse it, but I really like some of his work. I think work that I connect to might give me a clue as to where my voice could lie.
These are all large paintings, so we’re not getting the physical punch of the original. What I can see on my monitor is a smooth surfaced 9 x 12 cm painting… a catalogue entry… or a thumbnail showing the design. I mention that because this style may, or may not, work on the relatively small canvases I use (around 60cm square).
The second painting, Road to Grazalema, reminds me of a pop art version of Vlamnick.
Strong colours (I like strong saturated colours) evocative of bright sunlight.
Planes of flat print like colour, and I like prints.
Loose but naturalistic shapes (he mostly abandons local colour for a ‘comic’ strip version of the colour… so will use green for a tree, but not a naturalistic green.
Fairly accurate shapes, though these are very loose
Graphic brushstrokes inside the shapes and flat planes of colour. I love the expressive possibilities of texture and brushstrokes.
It’s a fairly heady mixture that is somehow modern and very dated at the same time. It reminds me of early 19th century painting such as the Fauves and a very loose Nabis. And Dia de LosMuertes is tugging at my memory as it looks very like a painting I have seen.
His smaller work is very interesting too.
Exterior, 2016, oil on panel, 30 x 20 cm
At 30 x 20 cm this is much nearer (even smaller) than the size I might be using.
Exterior is heading towards abstraction, especially the figures which are almost geometric, and parts of it could be heron or Hoyland, but it doesn’t feel worked or process driven. And I love the way it captures atmosphere and light.
These links have been very interesting and set me a dilemma.
I stopped using photographs to wean myself off copying as I wanted to create not copy. I’ve been toying with gestural abstraction because I love being in the moment and the freedom of colour and form. And with my abstraction (which has/is basically playing with colour) I have loosened up my brushstrokes.
So far, I have been avoiding landscape because I couldn’t see any way of using my love of colour and being in the moment with any form of copying, or even converting. Although semi-abstract landscape can be wonderful there seems to be a lot of people doing it badly (maybe they think it’s easy?), that is the artist doesn’t seem to be present in the canvas and it degenerates into process, and an excuse for weak painting.
Also, I want my paintings to work without having a text to explain them, the opposite of Iain Andrews (though I would have a title). Exterior, above, works on its own, it’s immediate, emotive, gestural, abstract… and reaches inside me on both a figurative and meditative level.
So… I am in a bit of a quandary. I like playing with colour, love strong colours, love the freedom of gestural expressionism, love the creativity of having a conversation with the marks on a canvas, I love the language of print, love what you can achieve with glazes… but all that lacks intent.
I don’t mean intent in the sense of, I want to paint ‘X’ and this is how I’m going to do it. It is somehow getting to a point where I have the stimulation for a painting, but can then execute it in the moment without conscious thought.
If I could find some way of keeping everything I like about colour and gesture, and being in the moment, and somehow connect it back to landscape I may have found where I want to be. Albeit, I retain the right to go off piste and make something just for the fun of it… or even just because it looks nice, will give pleasure, and sells.
In the art versus entertainment debate I support both. They are both necessary and we all consume and enjoy entertainment on TV/film so why not have some on our walls, and why be embarrassed at creating it? I’m sure the screenwriter of Line of Duty doesn’t feel a lack of status because he’s not producing ‘Art’.
High and low art (there’s a snobby value judgement there for who decides what is high (valuable/to be respected and revered) and what is low (low value to be sneered at) art and why? Both borrow off each other… the avant garde is co-opted by propaganda art (advertising) and commercialism… in fact the avant garde could almost be said to be the R & D department of popular culture, and the commercial art is appropriated in ‘high’ art such as Andy Warhol’s use of the wire photograph.
Lots to think about when I get back to my practice.