Eric Fischl was born in 1948 in New York City, his suburban upbringing and career as an internationally acclaimed American artist is presented in his book ‘Bad Boy’.
Fischl shares his deep wounds when discussing his personal relationships, especially with his depressed and alcoholic mother. These troubling experiences made their way into his artwork creating a dialogue about his personal wounds and ironically they ultimately lead to him getting into trouble.
The death of Fischl’s mother inspired the work he became famous for. It is interesting that after his first solo show in New York at the Edward Thorp Gallery in 1979 and the following success lead to him ‘going off the rails’ as the book title suggests and he enjoyed success a little too much.
Fischl’s book is informative and helpful to other artists. There is interesting advice and tips about how to deal with the process of being a successful artist and he discusses the issues and ideas in his work.
Eric Fischl says in the book, “Painting. Is a process that guides me back through complex experiences that I didn’t have words to describe or understand. It relieves feelings and memories and brings them forward with clarity and resolution. Each one of my paintings is like a journey, a process to excavate nuggets of emotion, artefacts of memory, the treasures buried in my unconscious. My imagery evokes feelings that were once too painful to ephemeral or too embarrassing to articulate or even to remember.”
Eric Fischl’s ideas are well developed and considered as you would expect from someone who has had international success as an artist. He uses clear, convincing and honest language. I think the book is a good read and has lots of information and advice about dealing with life an artist. I enjoyed reading it and strongly recommend it.
In my painting ‘The Pursuit of Truth,’ I was interested in exploring the composition of an image. A composition is usually referred to the arrangement of elements within a work of art. An artist arranges the different elements into satisfactory relationships creating a sense of balance and pictorial harmony, while exploring rhythm, scale and movement. The composition of an image is instinctive; when it is done well it has remarkable power and originality. It can make you feel alive, and question; What is this?
Resolving problems when mixing the wrong colour
I was trying to make a particular grass coloured green that would work well with other colours on my painting. I mixed cobalt blue with cadmium lemon. Instead of arriving at the colour I hoped for, I had a dullish green mix on my palette which I was not happy with at all.
To remedy the problem I spent an hour or so creating a new colour swatch for my studio wall. My first task was to make a value scale of each colour with white. I extended this with a set of colour swatches with blues and yellows in value scales.
This task gives me knowledge of my palette and the colours I could make which can be further expanded with other common colours that can be mixed together. I realise that the task of doing these tests swatches helps to fit it in my memory which makes the process of choosing the right colours to mix together a lot easier. It certainly helps to make me feel more confident and decisive when using colour.
‘The Pursuit of Truth’ is for sale, if you have any questions please contact me here
A thought came to me back in 2013 if your not happy living in the real world, create an alternative for yourself, a different way of looking at the world an ask yourself some deep questions;
What are the forces behind living things?
What does it means to be human?
How do you paint an antidote?
How do you paint a scream for help?
The outcome is a parody of human nature that looked behind the mask of our society at the underlying aggression and attitude, randomness and cruelty of the world.
In this preparation piece before the final painting on canvas, I considered how my idea was going to work. I had this idea about using newspaper to form the architecture in the background and in this prep work I simplified my idea. The quick mixed media sketch was very helpful when it came to making the final painting.
When I made the painting I was surprised how challenging it was to create the newspaper collage. It took a very long time to get it right. I became very determined to make the newspaper look like the building and architecture by using the lines of print and edges of the newspaper. I am very pleased with the final outcome.
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I made this work “The Crystallisation of a scratched memory ” in 2013. I was inspired after visiting the Gert &Use Tobias exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary in 2010. I used the rapid shutter function on my camera to capture the moment and followed it with a series of drawings and paintings. It was a unique, experimental piece of work and l enjoyed using many of the techniques and skills l developed during my degree course at Wolverhampton University. I also painted ‘Walking that Clown Walk’ at about the same time.
Productivity in the studio has always been a problem for me. I’m sure many people can relate to this in their work environment. It is very easy to not be working on the most important things. While reading ‘The Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield l found the chapter titled ‘Refining Time’ very intrigueing and it really did help in the battle to increase productivity. This section suggests that you split your time into three groups. Best result days, preparation days and rest and recreation days.
Rest and recreation days (R&R days)
Rest and recreation days are essential to get the right balance in your life and should be just as important as eating well and exercise. The book suggests that on R&R days you should not do any work related activities, including emails and reading work related documents. And even if possible have some days away from the children. This way you are ready and refreshed, and you can work harder and smarter on your best results days and not feel guilty that you have work to do.
Preparation days are all about doing the planning, groundwork and laying the foundations in place for your best result days. Preparation days are the days when you carry out the not-so-important tasks but ones that still need to be completed to make sure that your best result days are extremely productive
Best results days
The book proposes spending more days on best result days. These days are when you do the most important work which will give you the highest payoff for the time you invest. If you schedule more of these days and hold yourself obligated to having these days you can produce better results.
This method of working is definitely a good way to obtain a better balance between work and rest days.
My work looks as it does not because of a choice I have made, it is what I am naturally drawn to.
While I was studying at the University of Wolverhampton one of the many modules was to paint and draw in the streets and in public space, in the ‘plein air’ style. En plein air (French pronunciation), or plein air painting, is a phrase borrowed from the French equivalent meaning ‘open, in full air’.
I enjoyed the challenge and I became reasonably competent at it. However, painting plein air style can be time-consuming and would not work with the ideas l had in mind. It also felt too contrived for me and I wasn’t drawn towards working that way like I was towards photography.
I studied photography at Illinois State University in the US and at Wolverhampton University. When I left university I know that photography was something I wanted to continue. I was drawn and attracted to using photography as it was something l seemed to have a natural talent for. When l started walking the streets with a camera, l was originally looking for a way to use the camera as a sketchbook. I don’t remember when I came across Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography but it must have around the same time because it has had a profound effect on my work. I believe that l visited the 1998 National Portrait Gallery exhibition in London where Henri’s work was on show. Photography in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s eyes was; “a means of capturing what he famously called the ‘decisive moment’ when the balance of a composition or the look on a face said something special about time, place and the world we live in.”
I realised it was a way for me to capture an ephemeral moment of time that says something significant. I didn’t know what that significant thing was when I started but I realised this could be the beginning of by practice as a painter. The exploration of what is significant in these fleeting moments could possibly be uncovered in a lifetimes work as a painter.
Over time I now understand a little more that I am naturally drawn to painting the relationship between the individual and the city. Making and defining images that are important to everyone and that are significant in terms of human beings by using our great human perception.
With consumerism at the forefront of western society as a purpose to live, we live to work, to earn, to consume, is all a major part of our lives. I find myself drawn to expressing an alternative view through my art.
Although some see painting as being based on traditional values as a limitation to address contemporary issues, I believe that it offers me the challenge of finding new meaning, creating new insight and capturing people’s imagination in a unique way. Even though some might see this as naive, as nothing is truly original anymore in this postmodern society.
Another reason why I paint is when I am painting l would never get a chance to see what it would be like if l did something else because I can not undo the last mark. The process of painting is addictive. I’m always hoping for improvement and possibly perfection, but always realising that it is unattainable. The question nearly always arises; do I risk spoiling it or do I start a new painting?
I am a risk taker and painting suits my way of working and what I want to communicate. I think this is why Francis Bacon destroyed so much of his work, he liked risk.
This painting titled ‘A pocket full of dreams’ is intended for us to just for a moment to stop and think, pulling back the curtain, to consider what it means to be human. By reviewing the influences we allow in our minds our bodies, like the clothes we wear, all creates the consuming lifestyles we choose.
I am going to try to answer these question in this post
How has my art evolved?
What are the common threads?
What has stayed the same?
What has changed a little
and what has a lot?
To start with I am going to give you a whistle stop tour of the changes in my art to show how it has evolved. In 2004 I started considering ways to deal with the negative effects of consumerism through art.
I immediately knew I didn’t want to celebrate its over bright, flashy and showy side, the way Pop Art mirrored consumerism, for example the 57 varieties of Campbell Soup. Warhol’s pop art mimics the production line by using repetition. He was trying to tell us about the times in which we live. Campbell’s tomato soup, is available to everyone and you can have this too but it is a trap, it’s a prison.
I went through a period of considering whether creating edgy work would be a good way to create a new body of work.
It took me a long time to realise that the minimalist artists also had disdain for consumerism. Minimalist artists presents a contrary and opposing view in the way their art deals with consumerism. Art works like Carl Andre, Equivalent V, mimics the emotionless and blankness of consumerism. Life has become dominated by consumerism and we are its submissive servants.
As I worked to find a subtle way to deal with consumerism in my work I considered this as a response to minimalism.
What are the common threads? What has stayed the same? What has changed little?
The common thread throughout the work have been how I have started each work. They have all started with street photography. From there they have also always had a relationship back the original photograph they came from.
And my final question was what has changed a lot?
What has changed a lot is my understanding of art. I think the explanations of Andy Warhole and Minimalism highlights that.
‘A study for being normal 1’ (2006) ‘Blind boy’ (2007) and ‘The Kingdom’ (2009), are currently available for sale.
My review of Rana Begum – The Space Between at Parasol Unit, London
This is Begum first solo show in a public institution in the UK. It is very interesting to see how different artists approach a similar topic using their own take and ideas. Begum’s work requires the viewer to react to it, to move and look at it from different angles to see the play of light, colour, reflections and shadows created by the art work against the backdrop of the gallery wall. Similar to the way you look at architecture in the city against the sky line
My favourite work in this exhibition is the ones featuring the straws.
I liked how simple the concept was. I could imagine an art student at a degree show presenting this work. This comment could be interpreted as criticism but it is not meant to be one. Sometimes,often, the simplest things work best.
I also really enjoyed the simple coloured forms with wire No 624 M drawing 2015, No673 M drawing, 2015 and No 62, M Drawing 2016 made from powder coated mild steel and paint on mild steel sheet. The spatial playfulness is compelling it remind me of Justin Hibbs exhibition Alias_Re_Covered recently at Carroll / Fletcher. Another artist that is worth a closer look.
I’m not sure that all this work is completely original but what work is? We all borrow and steal, and are inspired by what we see.
Duchamp said ‘the artist has only 50% of the responsibility and that is to get the work out, it is completed by the viewer.’
In my understanding of contemporary art, the Duchamp quote that the work is completed by the viewer is a really important. Often I think viewers look at work and immediately ask themselves why did the artist make this? What is he or her trying to say? Asking an artist to explain what his art means in my view defeats the ambition of the artist.
The person viewing the work comes to see the work with their own unique background, knowledge and history. It is important to understand that art is not like design where everything has a purpose and a function. Trying to understand why artists make the work in the first place is immaterial. The art work now exists on its own, and it has to stand up by itself.
Everyone sees things differently, people make their own connections. Two things are put together and they create meaning. Once the artwork is made it has to be completed by the viewer, with their imagination. The best artwork in my eyes means different things to different people.
I remember drawing as a child and really enjoying it. All it took was a single positive comment to keep me going back for more.
I still crave approval when I make work now but I have to deal with it in a new way to enable me to make work as an adult. I have to convince myself when I am producing work that it is good enough. By working and focusing on the process of making rather than thinking too much I can still be productive. If I think, I procrastinate and I stop working, so I don’t. If I stop working on piece of work I need to find another piece of work or idea to work on and keep busy.
After my recent visit to the Serpentine Pavilion designed by Architect Bjarke Ingels, I thought about my son an how inspirational this building could be to him and other younger viewers especially ones who loves Lego.
When I got home I showed my 8 year ago son the photos I had taken of the pavilion and I hope to take him to see it. I explained how the architect may have used Lego and looked at the way it stacks and interlinks to come up with the concept of the Serpentine. I hope that next time he plays with his Lego his mind might starting imagining all sorts of wild possibilities. These possibilities are endless and he should avoid getting stuck by thinking too much like I do, wondering if it is good enough.
If you’re in the Hyde Park area of London l fully recommend the short walk into the park to see it, it is on until 9th October.