Giacometti’s endless strive for perfection – A review of Alberto Giacometti at Tate Modern (10 May – 10 September 2017)

Man Pointing 1947Bronze 178 x 95 x 52 cm Tate, Purchased 1949 © Alberto Giacometti Estate, ACS/DACS, 2017

The figure was a challenging subject after the war.  For many artists, it appeared an almost impossible theme and one that Alberto Giacometti felt he had to take on in his art. The Swiss sculpture, painter, draughtsman and printmaker savoured the challenge of confronting man’s inhumanity to man with such determination that he spent his life working towards this goal in an endless strive for perfection.  The exhibition at Tate Modern takes a fresh look at Giacometti’s modern art, asking questions about the success of Giacometti’s life work. In this review, I am interested in considering the competing advantages of working with a strive for perfection against settling for artwork that is good enough in a discourse that could help me with my work.

Alberto Giacometti 1901 -1966 was born in Val Bregaghn in Switzerland. He was the son of the successful post-impressionist painter, Giovanni Giacometti. Alberto Giacometti was interested in art from an early age, at thirteen he made his first sculpture of his brother Diego, and in 1922 he moved to Paris to continue his education as an artist. Giacometti was awarded the grand prize for sculpture representing France at the Venice Biennale in 1962. 

The exhibition space at the Tate Modern starts with his formative years when Giacometti depicts what he sees from life.  As the show progresses Giacometti experiments with cubist and surrealist sculptures such as Head-Skull (1934), Torso (1925) and Cubist figure (1926). The sculptures of this period have a real physical interaction; it is interesting to see that Giacometti is trying and struggling to get a grip of his extraordinary personal view of reality.  The angular sculptures take on and contemplate the space around the figure. A cheek bone is not directly represented as a cheek bone. Instead, Giacometti creates a poetic essence of the form.  This extract of essence allows the sculpture to be an object in itself, completely eye-catching and unmatched, different from anything else.

Woman with her Throat Cut 1932Bronze (cast 1949) 22 x 75 x 58 cm National Galleries of Scotland © Alberto Giacometti Estate, ACS/DACS, 2017

It is clear that Giacometti quickly realised that depicting only what he saw in life was limiting.  The concept of these sculpture came from an alternative source when he saw fully formed ideas in his head.  The forms have a power and force about them that relates to forms and shapes from primitive art.  They contain a real freedom as if Giacometti was grappling with a concept and trying to put it in his work.  It is a remarkably varied body of work.  To me the work shows Giacometti at his experimental best.  When he went for good enough and when he had not expected the public to see some this work.   For me, this was a real highlight of the show.

Later in his career, Giacometti dedicated himself to mainly depicting men walking and standing, as well as busts and nude women.  He became known for his sculpture of thin figures with, “just enough clay for the figure to stand up and nothing more.” This approach enabled him to pursue the question further as he considered the essence of man and his following work resonated with existentialist art lovers and collectors.

Very Small Figurine c.1937-1939Plaster, traces of colour 4.5 x 3 x 3.8 cm Collection Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris © Alberto Giacometti Estate, ACS/DACS, 2017

In his pursuit to capture the essence, Giacometti felt the need to limit access to what inspired him. A walk in the wood was too much for him to take in. A short walk looking at one tree at a time in Paris is all he felt he could cope with. Giacometti said, “Having a quarter of an inch of something, you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you had pretended to be doing the whole thing…by trying to draw a glass [on a table] as you see it seems like a fairly modest undertaking. But because you know that glass even that is almost impossible.”  By limiting his inspiration, Giacometti felt that it would give him a better chance of getting to the bottom of his goal and his continuous strive for perfection.  By limiting himself to only having a handful of models enabled Giacometti to focus on developing a distinctive visual language that everyone could recognise as his.  From this Giacometti felt he could go deeper into how, we, as individuals relate to others. He worked towards capturing the self-consciousness and the universal feeling of being alone in this world.

Each time Giacometti made a sculpture he always had a strong feeling of failure. Giacometti wasn’t  looking for a way to lie to himself.  He didn’t tell himself that what he was doing was good enough.  He was after perfection and anything else fell short. This disparity between his objective and his implementation opened up a breathing space for his next work, often Giacometti then repeated his previous piece. Even though he knew it was impossible to create a perfect response, Giacometti said, “All I can do will only ever be a faint image of what I see.”

Pierre Matisse, Giacometti working on Four Figurines on a Stand at the Tate Gallery,1965 © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2017

This later work grapples with getting hold of the essence of the figure and although this is where he truly becomes a master, the control of inspiration that he uses can lack some of this freedom of exploration. I have always had a high affinity with Giacometti’s work. In this exhibition I wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t focused on perfection. What if Giacometti had continued to make one-off pieces of experimental work through his career, producing work that is good enough rather than perfect?  I wonder what else Giacometti could have produced?

There is an energy that comes out of Giacometti’s work that makes his work compelling. It was interesting to watch a video of Giacometti at work in the exhibition.  He made heavily worked surfaces through squeezing, pulling, touching and pushing clay.  It was surprising watching his unconscious creativity and his obsessive restless movements as he worked on the form. Giacometti was fascinated by the head and eyes in his sculptures; he felt they represented the core of human beings and life. By getting the eyes right the rest of the figure he believed would fall into place.

Bust of Diego c.1956 Plaster 37.3 x 21.5 x 13 cm Collection Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris © Alberto Giacometti Estate, ACS/DACS, 2017

There is a lot to be said for comparing this to other artist’s practices. Mondrian’s repetitiveness allowed him to pursue his interest in how one shape of colour works in competition with black and white.  If Mondrian had only made one painting of a black grid with white, red and blue squares, it would of never have got to the bottom of his interest in visual order.  Without this repetitiveness, he would of never of been able to ask profound questions about the visual world and his belief that everything is an illusion. Mondrian thought that using repetition highlighted his belief that an abstract painting is truer to reality than a painting depicting the illusion of what we see.

Picasso, however, was well known for reinventing his art every few years, like his cubist works and blue period.  Picasso used new approaches to get to the bottom of his desire to depict his personal view of the world.  Matisse also reinvented his approach to making art several times, finishing his career with the biggest risk of all the cut out.  I wonder about these different contrasting approaches and wonder what approach would suit me best my practice.

In my eyes, failures are as valuable as successes.  Giacometti endlessly pursued, his search to find the universal poetic essence of a figure and the truth of our shared humanity. Giacometti did this by focusing on one tree in the forest at a time or one person in a crowd of millions.  Through this approach, he captured alienation and melancholy of life.  His engagement with searching for a truth that was always out of his reach lead him down a very restrictive path.

Woman of Venice V 1956Painted plaster 113.5 x 14.5 x 31.8 cm Collection Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris © Alberto Giacometti Estate, ACS/DACS, 2017

While it is admirable to focus intensely on, “a quarter of an inch of something.”  I wonder if Giacometti’s approach of limiting his inspiration and his endless strive for perfection or whether a wider body of experimental approach would suit my approach to art making?

Giacometti created a distinctive visual language with his thin sculptures of man that enabled him to find success in his lifetime.  Dreaming something up and executing it and working and stuff comes out are quite different approaches.  The lightning bolt of inspiration doesn’t strike on demand.  There is a lot to be said for starting to work and seeing what you can produce and where it takes you.

I think what I take forward for my practice from this Giacometti exhibition is that developing some kind of process is essential for removing too much thinking and self-doubt.  It is not hard to make art that looks like other art; the trick is making art that doesn’t look like someone else.  Giacometti achieved that.  Pushing your art to where no one else is working is a lot more of a quest than striving for perfection.  Problem creation with self-imposed limitations can easily be devised into a practice.  In that practice, it can be a positive decision to limit your inspiration or choices.  The only conclusion is in Giacometti’s approach is no matter what you try humankind is beyond human understanding.

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Live, paint, repeat

When starting as an artist rather than waiting for a big idea, I took my camera to the city. I took pictures of everything and anything that interested me. I just pressed and released the shutter. When l reviewed my photos, l realised that l was naturally discovering interesting material. My ideas came from living, painting and repeating.

When returning to the city with my camera, l followed my natural curiosity and my ideas deepened and expanded. At times it was hard to choose which way to take my work. It was essential to review and understand what l had. I took many directions but kept returning to taking photos of the city and taking them forward by painting them on canvas. The trick is not to give up Helsinki Bus Theory link.

I realised over time that my original idea was chasing some obscure knowledge through a simple process that I could repeat.

I feel like I have been painting the same painting for ten years as now I realise that my original ideas just got the work started. The original idea is still in my work but it has changed and developed in ways l could never have predicted. My work has grown to portray something unique that help us to understand our life on this earth a little better.

These seeds begin to germinate in many different directions like a plant does when it is attracted to light and water. It has taken many years for my original ideas and intentions to bloom into flowers. Now the interesting thing is not my original ideas or intentions. It is that l have found my way to communicate; my unique voice and inclination. As my work has deepened and expanded, it has lined up with natural talent, unlocking bigger ideas. Bigger ideas that l could never have predicted ten years ago.

The point of this post is that it is impossible to know where your practice as an artist will take you. One of the biggest challenges is learning to trust the decisions you make and to stop doubting yourself. Instead, l have developed confidence in my inner voice even when l can’t see where it is taking me.

My advice is to play, as there is no such thing as a mistake. Anything can lead to a breakthrough. If self-doubt is getting the best of you put your trust in a process and live, paint, repeat.

Over time when you review your work a way forward should reveal itself. Trust yourself and your creative process. Rather than paying attention to your own intentions, pay attention to what the work actually does. When the thinking and doing come together the work becomes more convincing.

Representational v abstraction

©Stuart Bush Hard to Concentrate, oil on board 30 x 40 x 3.5 cm
 
I remember watching the film Pulp Fiction, in that movie, there was a great power in the mystery of what was in the suitcase. In the film, we never find out. The mystery of not knowing was more powerful than knowing.  I see there is enormous potential for interpretation by the viewer.  I want to add mystery to my artwork so the viewer can interpret the work the way they see it.  The audience can bring their own intentions, baggage and ideas.   I want the viewer to look at the artwork and let their mind wonder.  
 
Representational art discusses drawing, handling of paint, skill, composition; it also can be used to communicate ideas and a subject.  The intention behind representational work is often clear for the viewer, but I have found it limited for discussing deeper philosophical challenges and felt it was holding me back.  
 
However, abstraction artwork is different in that is invites more commentary and mystery.  The viewer coasts across the surface trying to understand it and often falling short.  The viewer can often never be sure if they understand the artist’s intention.  The intention is often not what the work is about.  Instead while making the work the thinking and the doing are often inseparable where feeling and emotional responses are often significant in making the ‘art’ within work.
 
I want to create a space for instincts and accidents rather than the straightforward one-to-one representation. I want to feel and grab something real and put it in a painting.  I am interested in the space in the viewer’s mind as much as the space in the composition and the space that inspired the work.  Through an investigation of spatial structures in a pursuit of knowledge, I want to create a different way of looking and seeing the world.  I find it profoundly gratifying focusing on the place in-between forms; perceiving the image and watching it disappear into shapes, forms and space.  
 
The outcome is an artwork that is intended to work on many levels.  The clarity of the composition is comparable with the mark making: realising positive and negative, absence and presence in equal measure. The colours and forms produce and transmit a poetic meaning, an emotional state that invites interpretation. By creating an interpretation of space that cannot be communicated by words the work it acts a metaphor about what it means to alive today.  
 

Making better work than I did yesterday

©Stuart Bush, Strange Heart Sings, oil on board 30 x 40 cm
My idea of success is linked to what l have rather than what l haven’t.  It is common to hear of success being tied to financial wealth.  That isn’t success for me; profit does not drive my artwork.  I have the opportunity to discover who l am, to find my own voice, to find my true self through my art.  My goal is to make better work today than l did yesterday, it is as simple as that
 
I finished university in 2006 and when l look at my early paintings l can see l have taken small progressive steps each year.  Now over ten years later l know l have made significant progress. However, l feel as if l have been making the same painting for ten years, each time exploring my interest in seeing the body in space.  The concept of finding what my personal gift is and discovering my potential is more exciting than any material needs.  That is why l have chosen this life as an artist, or maybe it has chosen me. 
 
I see being an unknown artist as a positive thing.  It enables me to consider the long game, to build on each day and to go deeper to see what the ‘it’ is. Many of my paintings are built up gently in the studio.  Each painting supports the next one, thereby pushing me forward in a positive way.  I have a conviction, a commitment and the determination not to give up.  I believe strongly in what l am doing.
 
By doing art for myself, l can avoid criticism and avoid making commercial decisions.  This allows me to find a way forward without manufacturing art.  The art l make is more about emotions than constructions, more about art and poetry, and less about resolved ideas.  I want to make work for myself that l feel really passionate about,  l don’t want to dilute my work.  l want to make the decisions about what needs editing before the public see it.  I want my work to be the best that it can be.  I realise that this may divide the potential audience.  However, once the work is made public, it could potentially turn me into a public person. I’m not sure that l want that to happen.  I want to make work for a small audience that appreciates and supports my work
 
I am a figurative painter, and I want to get close to the source.  I want to make work within an intellectual framework inspired by my muse, my muse being my experience of the city. This framework is the key to the art within me, allowing me not to over thinking what l am doing and allowing me to initiate an inner response, thereby preventing me from being distracted by my head or my ego, competition with other artists or self-doubt.  Reflection comes later, after a period of time, when l can contemplate and think about what l have made.  
 
I want to make art is good as it can be. My competition is with myself and being better than yesterday.
 

Drawings in space

 
Forms in Space…by light (in time), an installation by Cerith Wyn Evans
Tate Britain Commission, all rights are reserved by the artist
Forms in Space…by light (in time), an installation by Cerith Wyn Evans
Tate Britain Commission, 28 March – 20 August 2017
 
When walking into the Duveen Gallery at Tate Britain in London, I was confronted with a juxtaposition of neo-classical architecture with a manifestation of neon lights in the space.  I immediately felt the needed to stop and gaze in awe and give myself some time to take it in.  Cerith Wyn Evans’s installation of apparently random curves, loops and lines is almost 2 kilometres long and is an exciting, surprising discursive experience that gives the viewer space to contemplate.
 
Cerith Wyn Evans was born in 1958 and started his career as an experimental filmmaker.  He now uses installation, sculpture, photography, film and text within his work.  Wyn Evans shows that drawing in space with chandelier sculptures of light influenced by concerns with space, melody, harmony and form is comparable to a piece of music or poetry.  The work is inspired by Japanese Noh Theatre, and Duchamp’s [=The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (the Large Glass)] of 1912 to 1923.
 
The installation has a chronological feel that is translating movement into form, where boundaries of perceived time and space overlap. The three-dimensional drawing invites you to deconstruct a journey of dipping arcs and twists through space.  
 
The sculpture appears to move as you move through the space. Distortion and torsion twist in space are like colliding systems and particles. Wyn Evans visited the Hadron Collider several times; I’m sure this must of made an impression.
 
Cerith Wyn Evan’s work is a materialisation of space and has a reservoir of possible meanings and ideas. The work creates a state of mind which is productive for thoughts to grow. The zooming trajectories collide with thoughts opening the mind of the viewer to complexities of life, creating a proposition to ponder your stream of awareness.
 
Forms in Space…by light (in time), an installation by Cerith Wyn Evans
Tate Britain Commission, all rights are reserved by the artist
Forms in Space…by light (in time), an installation by Cerith Wyn Evans
Tate Britain Commission, all rights are reserved by the artist
Forms in Space…by light (in time), an installation by Cerith Wyn Evans
Tate Britain Commission, all rights are reserved by the artist

Finding time for your priorities

©Stuart Bush, You don’t understand me series 1-4, 2015 gouache on paper
I recently watched a video on TED titled, ‘How to gain control of your free time’ by Laura Vanderkam.   Laura spoke about how we are always so busy, but if we come home and needed to resolve a situation like a broken boiler, we know we must prioritise it, and we always manage to find the time.
 
In Laura’s story, it took 7 hours to deal with the emergency, to clean up the mess and get a plumber to come and fix it. It is surprising to think that is possible to find 7 hours to deal something like this in a very busy daily schedule.
 
As I watched the video, I wondered how I could make better use of my time.  How much time do I spend in the day doing unproductive things that don’t work towards my goals?  If time is a choice and I take some time to decide what my priorities are for the long and short term I know l need to plan for the next year in advance and put these priorities over other requests for my time.  Then I can fit in scheduled time into slots in my diary and make sure my time is focused time.  Then the results will follow.
 
A final piece of helpful advice from the video to help manage your priorities is for when you receive requests for your time, rather than say, “I don’t have time because of X, Y & Z,” is to say, ”I don’t do X, Y & Z because they are not a priority.”  

Juggling a job, while being a parent and an artist

©2016 Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, (2007) oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
 
At times I have found juggling a full-time job while being a parent and starting a career as an emerging artist, very frustrating.  When I have tried to put in lots of effort in my art career, my family time and job has suffered this, in turn, has left me feeling unhappy.
 
I have read about artists, like Picasso and Matisse who decided to prioritise art at the cost of everything else in their life including their family.  I think the choices they made don’t suit me.  By putting my family first, it means prioritising family time and paying the bills.  Art has ended third on my list of priorities.
 
I have been frustrated for a while coming to terms with this.  Over time I have come to realise this gives me the opportunity to take more time, to make the art I want to make for me.  I wonder about the solitude if I was working on my own in my studio.  Of course, I realise that this wouldn’t be every day but thinking about this has made value my full-time job more, as I enjoy the social side of working in a team.
 
I love spending time and seeing my family growing up, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  I have meet artists making a living from their art where they have very little money.  The artist I have come across are unlikely to afford to buy a house or have a good pension.  I wanted to make sure I had a good income to allow my family to flourish and thrive.  I have reached the conclusion, by working full time, having a mortgage and good pension I can look forward to the time when my family are older.  I will be able to move my art up my list of priorities. I feel happy about this order of priorities, and I know it is the way it should be. I now accept it rather than fight it.
 
To fit everything in, I have to have some sort of order to my life, a kind of time management priority list of sorts. I prioritise my family life and job and my art making time fits in around that. I try to plan my year ahead and decide what my priorities are for each year.  I am working towards depth in my artwork rather than bereft. I then break down each week so that I can allow time for each activity.  I am only able to have a couple of art objectives on a weekly basis.  They typically are making artwork and writing my blog.  My other art career plans just have to wait.  
 
My next post is about finding time for your priorities, please subscribe to my RSS feed, newsletter or come back next week, so you don’t miss a post.

Contemporary painting versus constructed reality

©Stuart Bush, Nobodies fault, oil on board 70.2 x 50.4 x 3.6cm
I have certainly had the feeling that there is some wrong with the world and I’m sure most people have. I recently watched the film ‘The Matrix’ (1999) again after reading the Guardian newspaper article titled, ‘Constructed reality: are we living in a computer simulation?’  I think it is unlikely that we are residing in a computer simulation, even though some people think it is true. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla and Space X believes the probability that we are not all living in a simulated world is one in billions, but I think most people would not think too deeply about this argument. 
 
©The Matrix (1999) Warner Bros
The Matrix dialogue
Morpheus:  Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind – driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Neo: The Matrix?
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
 
I enjoy thinking about ideas that challenge what we believe to be true. It wasn’t that long ago we thought the earth was flat.  To try and find out what the purpose and meaning of life is and believe the simulation argument leads you down a rabbit hole.  I think it is impossible to verify and confirm whether it is true or not.  Life still matters, either way, we are still conscious and aware of our own existence, sensations and thoughts, we still have purposeful relationships and activities.  
 
A great approach is to follow your instincts by exploring, responding and make sense of this world.  Personally, the only way I can see to do this is through my relationship with making art. It feels natural to me through making art to look for a deeper level of meaning and value in our ordinary everyday lives. I am always looking for hidden depths of our deepest self.
 
I feel like I see the world differently and I see my ultimate goal as an artist is to locate and communicate this.  I would always feel incomplete if I tried to suppress this urge. It is a passionate engagement and something I have to do.
 
Braque said,”the only valid thing in art is which cannot be explained.”
 
Further reading:
Is our world a simulation?  Why some scientists say, it’s more likely that not.
 
Are you Living in a Simulation? By Nick Bostrom
 
The Matrix as Metaphysics by David J. Chalmers
 

Hodgkin says goodbye to absent friends – Howard Hodgkin exhibition review at the National Portrait Galley in London

Portrait of the Artist Listening to Music by Howard Hodgkin, 2011-2016, Courtesy Gagosian © Howard Hodgkin Portrait of the artist by Miriam Perez. Courtesy Gagosian.

Ever since I was interested in art, I have always seen Howard Hodgkin as one of my artists who’s work resonates strongly with me. In this review of Howard Hodgkin’s Absent Friends exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, I want to explore, understand and put into words (if that is possible) what it is about Hodgkin’s paintings that has managed to turn mere paintings into objects of contemplation and hold my curiosity for so many years.  At the same time say goodbye to another great artist; Howard Hodgkin died on 9th March 2017, two weeks before this show opened.

 

Howard Hodgkin was born in 1932.  He studied at Camberwell School of Art between 1949-50 and Bath Academy of Art between 1950-1954.  In 1985 Hodgkin won the Turner Prize and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale.  Since then he has gone on to exhibit across the world and has his work is in many private and public collections.

Mrs Nicholas Monro by Howard Hodgkin, 1966 – 1969, Private Collection, London © Howard Hodgkin

The art I expect to see at the portrait gallery normally refers to an anatomical likeness of a person in the traditions of pictorial realism.  However, in this show, the paintings are titled as portraits that capture a memory of a person and a moment as a dematerialised idea imprinted on the mind.  They are described by Hodgkin as ‘representational pictures of emotional situations’.  The paintings capture realism as a complete expression of individuality, of both the artist and what he sees.  Paint and colour refashions the world as he sees it.  Hodgkin sees more than an individual likeness; he sees how the light falls to create abstract forms of intense emotion.  He paints his thoughts from memory with swirls and splashes as a response to the flux of the world.  The paintings are like a recording that captures a feeling, that took place between him and the person in the title.

 

Hodgkin once said, “Painting is like putting a message into a bottle and flinging it into the sea,” Observer article, 2001.   Howard Hodgkin believed his paintings talk for themselves and often was reluctant to discuss the meaning behind his work.  He was always happy for the viewer to see and interpret what they like from his deeply cherished moments.  

Waking up in Naples by Howard Hodgkin, 1980 – 1984, Private Collection, London © Howard Hodgkin

The paintings are more like artefacts or an object rather than just paintings.  Hodgkin worked slowly producing a maximum of 10 paintings a year.  He laboured and agonised over them in an intense process, which is evident from the dates of the work and from listening to him discuss the torture he injured when painting.  His artistry clearly lies in making something that took years look like it was made in a couple of hours.

 

“It’s very hard to keep all the things going on in a painting, the feeling, the emotion, the memory; they have to turn into something else. The problem really is making the painting stand up by itself.  The memory has to turn into a thing, into an object. And that is a very slow process for me.” Howard Hodgkin, BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs.

 

It was always clear to Hodgkin when a painting was finished and complete, as it captured his original idea that triggered the picture.  He painted on used blackboards, kitchen worktop and old picture frames rather than canvas.  He liked pieces of wood that already had an identity and a life.  When walking through the chronological hung exhibition, it is evident to see how Hodgkin developed a confidence with colour through his career.  Each painting has a strong, unique, distinctive character of swirls, curves, dots and lines in vibrant pigment, a collision of pattern and forms.

The Spectator by Howard Hodgkin, 1984-87, Michael P. Green © Howard Hodgkin

The painting that sums up Hodgkin’s painting practice for me is ‘Mrs K’, 1966-7. It is a portrait of Jane Kasmin.  It reminds me of being in a dark room as someone enters from the far end through a closed door.  The sun floods into the dark room, and a bold form of a figure interrupts the light, as you adjust your eyes.  The painting opens up heartfelt sentiments of solitude and vulnerability.   The painting challenges your visual psychological space, it encourages you to learn something new about the world about what realism could be or should be.  In my eyes, the painting is a more accurate and truthful interpretation of human perception than traditional pictorial realism.  

 

The impressive show with many well-lit rooms of high-quality work was a pleasure to visit.   The exhibition delves deep in Hodgkin’s practice of painting, asking questions about our human construction of reality in this seemly meaningless world.  Every single one of the paintings in this show feels like a battleground between the artist, materiality and reality.  They are an expression of individuality of the artist and its subject; they are self-portraits of the artist and subject portraits wrapped up in one.    Hodgkin created paintings that outlast the subject and the artist himself.  A makeover of the world in paint, with the paint being the carrier of vibrant and radiant feelings. It is a joyful farewell to an outstanding artist.

Portrait of the artist by Howard Hodgkin, 1984-87, Private Collection © Howard Hodgkin

Drawing, The creative act

©Stuart Bush, I’m not mad at all, oil paint on paper

 

Allowing freedom in the studio for creativity exploration is essential. When I work on a plain sheet of paper or in my sketchbook, I seek to have an openness in my drawings that allows and embraces a large number directions and options that can be pursued. A chain of evolution takes place in my pictures over an extended period of time and patience is essential. Working on and towards a finished piece too early can make the outcome contrived and often can leave me frustrated.
This explorative phase is more like problem-creation stage than problem-solving stage. I am looking to generate new ideas to stimulate my visual imagination and leaving space for creativity and ambiguity. I have often found that without this freeness, the development and exploratory of my thoughts are restricted, and the work comes to a dead end.
With creative freedom in my drawings, my insight and intuition give me an inkling of what to do next allowing me to focus on specific issues and open questions. I can then remove certain details and concentrate on the whole by copying and repeating to expand conceptual ideas and structures by following a hunch.  
Inspiration is an essential ingredient and can come from chaotic and imprecise work made with an open mind or by viewing another artist’s work or for me, by being inspired by the city. Accidents and chance can lead to seeing embedded ideas in a different way. The freeness leaves space to suggest moods and emotions and enhancing abstract concepts. I often feel the need to revisit unresolved ideas and expanding on them. Sometimes this leads to radical changes and often, exciting new artwork.
It is always important to remember that overworking can remove the essence, spirit, the actual original thoughts, and potential. The outcome is successful when the liberty and pleasure are still visible. After all seemingly effortless art signifies greatness and shows the way forward for an artist who can then capture what is immaterial into the material.

©Stuart Bush, No exit, pen on paper 43 x 61 cm