A painting has to stand up by itself

©Stuart Bush, A section of ourselves as a commodified object, oil on aluminium panel, 80 x 120cm

Often I think a viewer looks at works of art and asks themselves why did the artist make this?

Understanding the original idea or intention of why I made it defeats my ambitions for this artwork.  Instinct led me to paint this painting.  With this question, my aims are never going to be clear.

Braque said, “the only thing that matters in art is what that cannot be explained.”

A painting has to stand up by itself – Related posts:

Is it essential to see a painting in the flesh?

A person viewing an artwork comes to see the work with their own unique background, knowledge, and history. Art does not have a purpose and function like a design. It is not essential to try and understand why I made this artwork. The artwork now exists on its own, and it has to stand up by itself.

Everyone sees things differently.  The best artworks in my eyes mean different things to different people.

Like Duchamp said, “the artist has only 50% of the responsibility and that is to get the work out, it is completed by the viewer.”

Creativity is instinctive, and it is buried within me.  I’m interested in this part of myself.  I am curious about exploring what I am hung up on.  I’m not in control of what comes out.

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I need to find my next painting in my last painting

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Rebound from a failed painting

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Rebound from a failed painting, Law of the jungle
©Stuart Bush, Law of the jungle, oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm
I was taught at school that everything had to be right.  I was encouraged to conform so that when I grew up I would make a good employee. Education was stifling.  I was urged to aim for perfection; however, I was a long way away from achieving that.  Sketching and doodling were discouraged, learning from failure was hindered.  As a consequence, I had no idea how to rebound from a failed painting.
When I started to learn to paint I use to stop, look and make a judgment about my progress. I worried I was wasting my time and making a blunder.  I hated being wrong. It is a struggle to complete a piece of work and I didn’t realise that I needed to keep working until the artwork was ‘finished’. If I stepped back too early l was not happy with what l had achieved.  It took me a while to realise that l needed to conclude the artwork, then reflect, review and try to acknowledge what didn’t work.

Rebound from a failed painting – related post

Painter killed by his own bad art
Then for years when l made a failed painting, it was like hitting a brick wall.  It would take me weeks to recover, to stop procrastinating and worrying. I would ask myself where did I go wrong? What lessons can l learn for next time? I’m not sure when l finally realised that a failed painting is a near win.  That each time l practised the experience allowed me to grow.
By learning from my near wins l slowly learnt that I could avoid the same mistakes.  The flourishing painter, Alex Katz said it took a thousand paintings to achieve his ‘Big Style’.  Michael Jordan, the highly successful basketball player, missed nine thousand shots in his career.  Thomas Edison, the prosperous inventor, said after inventing the light bulb, ‘I have not failed, I have just found ten thousand ways that didn’t work.’

Rebound from a failed painting – external link

9 Times History's Greatest Artists Made Bad Artworks - Artsy

If at first you don't succeed, celebrate - Tate website
The painting process needs to be inquisitive, open and free.  Before I start a painting l no longer think that what I intended will happen. I know if it fails that something else will happen instead. A painting with difficulties and flaws leaves the door open to the next work and the next work after that. It gets me closer to where I wanted to go without realising where ‘where’ is.
If the opposite was true and I had an idea first.  When I made it, it would be lacking in integrity, authenticity and a soul.  It would be stillborn.  It would be dead.  Like I feel about the painting ‘Law of the Jungle’ above.
I have slowly realised a failed painting has no negative impact on my long term career unless I let it. Thomas Edison stated that “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time.” Therefore l focus on the skills that persist past the painting, and look for the best option to create more choices.  There is no conceptual end, just a deeper rabbit hole.

Rebound from a failed painting – related post

What have I learnt from Alex Katz

What I see in Tal R’s paintings

Stuart Bush Studio Blog Tal R Red House, What I see in Tal R's paintings
Tal R, House red, 2018 Oil on canvas, 200 x 147 cm 78 3/4 x 57 7/8 in, © Tal R Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
Tal R’s painting practice follows the traditions of oil painting.  The artist walks the streets in Copenhagen near where he lives and works, looking for people, places and objects that appeal to his curiosity.  He looks for the moment that he feels is slipping away and paints its soul in vibrant and colourful paintings that at times float into abstraction.
Tal’s passion and exhilaration for paint clearly materialises throughout his work.  In each painting, he is learning about the endless curiosities with life and paint.  I see the pictures like a window into the inquisitive thoughts that are bouncing around in his head.
When I look at Tal’s paintings I easily relate to the places.  I understand some of the references; but at the same time, I’m often confused.  Tal often adds an object into his painting that doesn’t sit right.  By placing this almost ‘foreign’ object where it doesn’t belong, his paintings work at getting an unanswerable question into one’s mind.  He calls it ‘leaving the viewer with a stone in their shoe.’

Related post: What I see in Tal R’s paintings

I cried because I love you - 'A Fortnight of Tears' exhibition review
Marcel Duchamp commented that “the creative act is not formed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tal R, Rosa Road, What I see in Tal R's paintings
Tal R, Rosa road, 2018, Oil on canvas with artist made frame, 102 x 121 cm 40 1/8 x 47 5/8 in, © Tal R Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
We each come to his painting with our own way of seeing the world and pick up on different points of interest. Tal’s artwork then becomes about the paint, the artist, the viewer and their baggage.  These four elements are what is so attractive about Tal’s paintings. Tal does what all good artist do, he makes it look so easy.
Tal describing how his practice works,  “How I do it before I do it is, I work with all these motives, like figures and drawings. Sometimes they lose their vitality.  Then I put them away.  Later they appear in new forms.  So it is like being in my head.”

Related post: What I see in Tal R’s paintings

What I have learnt from Alex Katz
“All of these places that I paint they mean something and they also mean nothing.  These are places I am very familiar with. I walk past them many times.  It makes it much more easy for me to rhyme in those places.  Although it is about places in Copenhagen, it could, in fact, be about anywhere.  If I grew up in another city, I would rhyme on those places.” Tal R
“It is like trying to grab a fish, and it slips out of your hand. You should catch it and feel it is yours.” Tal R
Tal’s work can’t be explained purely by understanding the subject.  The forms and references only appear to on the surface, rhyming with other footnotes that are possibly out of the picture.  The real subject matter is formal qualities and paint.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tal R, What I see in Tal R's paintings
Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Tal RInstallation view, Victoria Miro Mayfair, 14 St George Street, London W1S 1FE23 January –23 March 2019© Tal R, Per Kirkeby and Donation Jorn, Silkeborg/ billedkunst.dk/ DACS 2019Courtesy the artists and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
Often Tal starts with an underneath layer of paint in a free-flowing thick impasto style. It is usually an intense colour in contrast with what goes on top.  The tones are often a little subdued, but they pulse and wobble due to the contrastive composition.  They dance for your eyes like a gymnast, filling you with hopefulness.

Related post: What I see in Tal R’s paintings

Kerry James Marshall, History of Painting
Tal doesn’t paint to give a complete account of the essential nature or direct likeness of an object. He goes for a ghostly like quality.  What is more critical to Tal is the success of those objects and colours as formal qualities in the painting.  He adjusts the flexible subject matter to create a visual harmony in their placement within the composition.  The intriguing forms and his unrefined strokes of oil paint encourage the object to float between figuration and abstraction.  This is the real subject matter.  It’s the skill of his image making that makes Tal R painting a success.
Tal steps into a space where all good artist go, into a spacious creative area and into a painting where time disappears, where he is at one with his creative innocence. He loses himself in his work, like a child at play.  Pointing himself towards what he is interested in, and the work comes out unforced and without plotting.  Tal is in a place where he is allowed to be true and where no effort is required.  This creative space is a place where we all seek to go.
Tal R was born in Isreal in 1967 and moved to Denmark when he was young.  He studied at the Royale Academy in  Copenhagen, Denmark where he continues to live and work.  His work is currently on show at Victoria Miro Mayfair, in a group show titled, ‘Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Tal R’ until 23rd March 2019.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tal , What I see in Tal R's paintings
Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Tal R Installation view, Victoria Miro Mayfair, 14 St George Street, London W1S 1FE23 January –23 March 2019© Tal R, Per Kirkeby and Donation Jorn, Silkeborg/ billedkunst.dk/ DACS 2019 Courtesy the artists and Victoria Miro, London/Venice

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Isle D'Hollander - in and out of abstraction

The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

The ultimate experience - Crashing Wave, Mary Heilmann, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
©Mary Heilmann, Crashing Wave 2011 oil on canvas 127 x 101.60 cm, All rights are reversed by the artist
At the Whitechapel Gallery in 2016, many thoughts rushed through my mind the first time I saw the painting ‘Crashing Wave (2011)’ by Mary Heilmann.  As I looked at the painting it evoked a special moment.  I remember being out on my body board on Manly beach, Australia, at complete peace with my surroundings.  The air was crisp, and the sun was bright as I pitched forward. I kicked with my flippers while paddling hard with my hands as I took off down into a crystal clear barrel wave. I rode the perfect wave, a foaming mass of white water.  The ultimate experience!
 
It was a weird feeling being out in the sea, which strangely had surprising similarities to painting in a studio.  There is the same solitude in painting when you’re standing with a brush in front of a canvas.  You’re in apparently harmless water, but there is the feeling that if you’re not alert, like one wrong move at the peak of the wave, you could end up scrambling to stay on the surface. The consequence being that you could get thrown around and washed out. Mental and physically rejected back on the beach or in front of a failed canvas.

Related posts; The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

What I learnt from Alex Katz
Mary Heilmann’s unforgettable painting combines subject with spills and accidents, runs and washes, that are akin to nature.  Although Hellmann only witnessed surfing as a spectator sport, she has captured its impression in the surface energy of her painting. Using a geometric structure, Mary invites you to have an aesthetic experience.  A remarkable vibrant experience that is enthralling, leaving the feeling that reality has been refreshed.
 
Mary highlights the need to be at one with what you are doing.  One mistake and it’s over.  In both situations, you can spend a lot of time thinking and waiting for the right moment; the right wave or inspiration to get started. Hoping for the world to move through you. Undisturbed by turmoil and disorder.  Aiming for a placid stream of serenity where things come together in the stillness.  When you are in tune with that stillness, incline your mind towards a majestic moment.   Confronting the sharpness of life as you harness nature and ride the wave of an idea back to shore.

External related link

Mary Heilmann's biography - artnet.com

As Mary Heilmann says, “Each of my pictures can be seen as an autobiographical marker. A cue by which I evoke a moment from my past or my projected future. Each a charm to conjure a mental reality and to give it physical form.”

 
Mary Heilmann was born in 1940 in California. As a student, she trained as a ceramicist and a sculptor. After trying to complete in an all-male environment in both these fields she struggled to get any attention.   Then Heilmann decided to paint. She had her first show in New York in 1970 at the Whitney Museum of American Art after moving to New York in 1968.

Related posts;  The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

Understanding the 'Oak Tree' in conceptual art via Russian Politics

An art collector’s role in society

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, an art collectors role in society, he has never been in love, he doesn't know what love is
©Stuart Bush, He has never been in love, he doesn’t even know what love is, gouache on cartridge paper, 43 x 24 cm
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, ‘David and Goliath, Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants,’ Gladwell considers how disadvantages can be advantageous.  I found his book insightful and it made me think about the art collectors role in society.
 
The book starts with the story about the conventional interpretation of the familiar biblical tale of David and Goliath.  In the story David is the symbol of the underdog. However, Gladwell explains in his interpretation, that there is another view of the ‘underdog’.

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Finding a love for collecting art
 
David’s sling is a devastating weapon.  It was one of the most feared weapons in the ancient world. The stone that comes from David’s sling and has the equivalent power to that of a bullet from a 45 calibre pistol.  It also sounds like Goliath is a guy who can’t see.  There are many suggestions in the story that Goliath is suffering from acromegaly which is a benign tumour on the pituitary gland.  The side effect of the cyst is that it can cause restricted sight.  
 
Gladwell explains the story is really about a big lumbering guy weighed down with armour. Plus, Goliath can’t see much more than a few feet in front of himself.  He is going up against a courageous kid running at him with a devastating weapon which has the power of 45 calibre handgun.  That is not the story of a so-called underdog.
 

Related post; An art collector role in society

Wishing for dyslexia - also inspired by 'David and Goliath' by Malcolm Gladwell
This can be related to being an artist.  As an artist you have to have the courage to stand and say, “I have a new way of doing things, and I don’t care if you think I’m crazy.”  As an art collector; they have to look for that craziness, if they want to find a David.   
 
On the face of it, every artist could be a David.  But by choosing carefully and looking for what is not apparent, the art collectors role in society is to recognise the advantages that an artist protrays in his work that will make him successful.  Once the advantages have been spotted by an art collector, the collector needs to support the artist and to root for them.  Thereby building a mutually beneficial relationship. 
 
“If there’s a Goliath in front of you that means there’s a David inside of you,” Carlos Rodriguez.

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How I see art contributing to society

What I have learnt from Alex Katz

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Alex Katz
Alex Katz Coca Cola Girls Timothy Taylor Gallery ©All rights remain with the artist and the gallery
What I have learnt from Alex Katz;  In 1973 Alex Katz had his first exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in New York.  At the same time, Abstract Expressionism was riding a wave of popularity in New York.  Katz believed and trusted that what he was interested in was of substance and significance, even though it went against the grain.

 

On first impression Alex Katz’s work appears to be about people and the landscape. However it doesn’t take long to realise that the subject matter is just the outer most boundary of the painting and Katz has a lot more on offer in his paintings.  Katz focuses on ordinary, everyday life as a subject, but his paintings are anything but ordinary.  The style, the present moment and formal qualities are the real focus of his work.

Related blog post; What I learnt from Alex Katz

What I see in the work of Jeff Koons

Even thought he received negative comments about his work from the likes of Clement Greenberg, Katz’s supreme confidence and clarity gave him the self-belief that his paintings could stand up against his peers.  He took on the Abstract Expressionists with their large canvases, and he tried to knock them dead with the power of his images.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Alex Katz
Alex Katz, Serpentine Gallery installation view 2016 @Alex Katz, All rights reserve with the artist
Katz’s paintings have a cinematic feel with bright, bold figures reminiscent of popular culture and commercial art.  By focusing on ephemeral moments and the everyday on the surface of his paintings, Katz’s found the space to develop a highly stylised painting shorthand.  By having his focus on the present, his work is always about the now. Meanwhile, other art movements came and went as the decades past.

 

The paintings are clearly figurative, but the spaces within the picture creates abstract elements. Katz’s, by simplifying the shape and form of colour in his pictures created a type of grammar that is abstract.  This grammar brings the composition together giving the paintings a spirit and energy.

Related blog post; What I have learnt from Alex Katz

I wish I could paint everyday

The surface of the painting is all done with a quick flick of his brush, allowing a vast canvas to be to be painted in under 5 hours.  The brushwork is simple, creating an almost naive shorthand that is precise and unfussy.  You can tell that Katz isn’t exaggerating about the 1000s of paintings he threw away in order to get the ‘big technique’ mastered.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Alex Katz
Alex Katz, Black Paintings Timothy Taylor Gallery, London 2017 ©Alex Katz, All rights are reserved by the artist
The style of painting allows for the simplest of effort to get the detail correct.  Using line and colour the whole comes together and takes centre stage.  The painting’s colour and its intensity stand out over the detail.  As Katz’s puts it, the ’style is the content’.  The outcome is a body of work that feels fresh with vitality. 

 

By understanding how Katz has removed the illusion of depth and focused on style and fashion and the light on the surface, I have learnt a lot about how Katz has a created an ever-changing image of the presence.  In 1947 Adolph Gottlieb said, “The role of the artist has always been that of image-maker. Different times require different images…To my mind, certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all. On the contrary, it is the realism of our time”. Katz’s paintings really have created the realism and the immediate presence of time.  The ordinary is flat, but it has an intensity about it that is stimulating and sensational.  Alex Katz’s has the right to be satisfied and self-assured, his work is always about the now.

Alex Katz; Coca-Cola Girls is currently on show at the Timothy Taylor Gallery in London until 21 December 2018.

Related blog post; What I have learnt from Alex Katz

The inspirational work of Egon Schiele

Finding a love for collecting art

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Inclination of form, finding a love for collecting art
©Stuart Bush, Inclination of form, oil on canvas
I believe finding a love for collecting art is about finding an artist with a kindred spirit to yourself.  Artists critique all areas of life, from nature to politics to the social system.  They look not just on the surface, but they investigate and ask questions in order to seek new meanings and associations.  
 
When I come across a work that l feel a connection with, I write down the artist’s name.  I also Iook for websites and galleries that exhibit the said artist’s work, and I join their mailing lists. I can then delight in opening my inbox and finding compelling communication.
 
My advice is to broaden your outlook and build up knowledge about different types of art.  By improving your understanding of art, it can help you feel more confident with finding a work of art to purchase.  It is easy to find images and text about artist’s work on the internet, and the information can prove to be very informative.

Related post to; Finding a love for collecting art

A painting has to stand up by itself
 
Understandably, there may be apprehension when starting an art collection.  Artwork can seem a hard thing to put a value on.  Negative thoughts of potentially wasting money can stop impulse purchases. But with careful research, you can avoid the feeling of making an oversight.  A website like artnet.com or a artist’s website can be a very useful place to start.
 
There are many different price points.  Owning an original painting will be at a different price point than owning a print.  It is all about what price you’re happy with.  Next is the question when finding art that you love, is to ask yourself ‘ls there anything more important I need to spend my money on?’ However, if you see an artwork that speaks to you, who cares what price you paid as long you love the work.  
 

Related post to; Finding a love for collecting art

How I see art contributing to society
 
There are a lot of people who look to others to say what is good or bad, valuable and valueless. Following the crowd is easy. On the other hand, sometimes a work of art just grabs you and you can’t stop thinking about it.  When art is this good, any research on the artist or the artist sales history can feel meaningless.  If you love it and the work is set at a reasonable price, the artwork strikes a chord, then buying the artwork straight from the artist can develop into a relationship.  A relationship where the collector is supporting the artist directly.   
 
This kind of relationship is beneficial for both parties.  For the collector, they are collaborating and directly engaging with the artist. The collector can aid and abet the artist to further explore and to realise projects.  For the artist, they appreciate advocates of their art, it boosts their self-belief and helps to finances more work.  
 
Finding a love for art to me is about awakening your senses. Who cares what is fashionable or what other people think.  I don’t think these concepts should be considered when someone purchases art.  
 
When art asks, ‘what is the meaning of this?’ and ‘what’s it all about?’  it makes life visible.  And I can’t help being intrigued.  
 

Related post to; Finding a love for collecting art

A painting has to stand up by itself
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A painters approach to street photography – Stuart Bush Studio Blog

©Stuart Bush, untitled photograph, A painters approach to street photography
©Stuart Bush, untitled photograph, A painters approach to street photography
I found the question of where to start as an artist after art school an easy one. I had a desire to capture something about now; the present moment in the city.  My camera seemed an obvious place to start. I picked up my camera and took pictures.  Cartier Bresson labelled it the “the decisive moment.”  I wanted to capture a split second of an ever-changing mad rush.  By doing so, I found a way to make art; I discovered a painters approach to street photography. 
 
My walk with a camera started with no intention of where I was going; not in my steps and not in my art.  Each time I went out with my camera, I spent more time reflecting on the photographs I took. Looking for a breadcrumb to follow.
 
Out of the hundreds of photographs, I knew there was a way forward. My own unique way forward. I know I was interested in something significant, but it was impossible to put it into words.  I was interested in elements of form, of architecture and individuals, and formal qualities of a composition.  Over time this vision developed into a kind of transcendence. A nowness of this specific point in time. Of my time and our time.
 

Related post to; A painters approach to street photography

The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
My camera works an extension of me, I use it as a tool to capture my artistic vision.  I am looking for the right something. When the right individual with the right background, in the right composition, comes together in the frame.  I hope to capture an emotion and feeling of being there. To add a sense of place.
©Stuart Bush, untitled, street photography, A painters approach to street photography
©Stuart Bush, untitled photograph, A painters approach to street photography
When I am out taking photographs is not essential for me to communicate with the people I am photographing.  I try to be invisible, I don’t draw attention to myself.  I very rarely use a direct likeness of the individuals in my paintings, only sometimes in my drawings.  If I was ever asked what I was doing which I never have, I don’t think people would understand. How can I explain I am capturing the randomness of life. This quest to me feels unique.  
 

Related links; A painters approach to street photography

Street photography.com
I paint what I photograph rather than exhibit the photographs.  The are many reasons why.  I have become less interested in narratives and less interested in the details of the image. I want to abstract something out of those moments. To strip away the visual noise, to look for something beneath, where people and the city emerge in a meaningful and surprising way.  At the end of the day, we all see and notice these fleeting moments.  I am trying to ask what does it say? What does it all mean?
 
A fated poise, a combination of colour, texture and cut of the clothes translates into our culture. Street photography can become quite obsessive. It takes dedication to capture that moment. That purely visual moment.  It is gone so quickly there is hardly any time to capture it.  I see it all being about chance. An accidental chance.  In that accident, it says something about being here on this rock in this moment of time, that I don’t think can be said in any other way.
 

Related post to; A painters approach to street photography

How I see art contributing to society

What it takes to paint something original

paint something original
©Stuart Bush, Strange Heart Sings, oil on board 30 x 40 cm
When I started out on my journey, like most art students, my ultimate goal was to communicate what I see.  I was inspired by other artist’s work. As a consequence, I wanted to make my own significant contribution to culture. When everything has been done before, to have any chance of achieving this goal, I realised it’s important to understand how to paint something original and unique. In this post, I discuss what I have uncovered on my artistic journey.
 
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains his thoughts about his ‘10,000-hour-rule’ as, “the magic number of greatness.”  Gladwell’s idea is that originality only comes after spending 10,000 hours mastering a subject.  This rule makes a lot of sense to me. It is helpful as a guide to appreciating what it takes to paint something original.
Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush Nobodies fault detail,
I believe looking is the most essential part of being an artist, especially for a painter.  Only after looking can you begin to realise what has been overlooked and then you can start to recognise what is already valued. Plus after reading about and viewing a lot of accomplished art you can start to understand the importance of making great art, and that originality is subjective. As I became aware of what art critics and sophisticated people thought l started to develop my own ideas about what was successful or unsuccessful. 

Related post; What it takes to paint something original

Jealously of other artist's work
This was the beginning of finding my own voice and my own unique visual ideas as an artist then an armed with a pencil, a blank sheet of paper and an open mind l can be transported to a place where ideas become instinctive, intuitive and spontaneous. 
 
I realise I am more likely to stumble across originality when I am making and taking risks. Accidents from unintended footprints, coffee cups rings, photocopiers, spills and other accidents all have their place. They happen when I least expect them and I learn as much from these apparent failures as I do from successes.  
©Stuart Bush, He has never been in love, he doesn’t even know what love is. Gouache on cartridge paper, 43 x 24 cm
 
Open creative sessions leave my thoughts uncovered and on display in their raw state and my ego is left aside. The energy and emotions in the preliminary drawings come from this outburst of freedom. They can be refined by repeating on another sheet. These ideas can be further explored and refined, but at that point, the conscious self comes back into the room.  The work from open-ended creation sessions can often be more prized than the problem solving finished work that follows. Getting this balance right is an essential part of painting something original.

External link; What it takes to paint something original

Is originality in art overrated? - Royal Academy of Art
 
After completing the preliminary studies l often don’t know the potential of the work. Often l store it away and revisit it at a later time.  This time away helps me to realise and appreciate its potential. I am always hoping to find an appropriate form that brings everything together in order to discover something fresh and insightful.  
Stuart Bush Studio, the rush
©Stuart Bush The rush 2016 oil on board 50 x 70 cm
Nevertheless, it is important to throw away what doesn’t work and quickly move on. This can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for an artist.  New work can be a shadow or an echo of what the artist has seen or experienced before.  Selecting, editing and reworking is an essential process that leads to originality.  The artist’s studio is a place for demolition, revival and transformation.
 
Chuck Close, the New York painter, has this to say,  
“We often don’t know what we want to do, but we sure as hell know what we don’t want to do.  So the choice not to do something is often more important than the choice to do something.”  
I have discovered that a problem creation process is much more effective in finding exciting and original ideas than a problem-solving approach.
 

Related post; What it takes to paint something original

I wish I could paint every day

Understanding the ‘Oak Tree’ in conceptual art via Russian politics

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Oak Tree, Conceptual art
©1973 Michael Craig Martin, An Oak Tree (1973) – All rights are reserved and are with the artist. 
 
Understanding the ‘Oak Tree’ in conceptual art via Russian politics
 
I have always had an intellectual curiosity about the principles and ideas behind conceptual art. In Michael Craig-Martin’s artwork, ‘Oak Tree’ (1973), I am interested in how he claims to transform a glass water into an ‘Oak Tree’?  How does the artist subvert people’s observations of the world?
 
I had fresh insight into understanding this artwork and mental concept after recently watching a film by Adam Curtis called, ‘How propaganda turned Russian politics into a circus.’ The documentary discusses and explains how Russian politics is using conceptual ideas from the art world to confuse people so that they are never sure what exactly is occurring.
 
Vladislav Surkov is an advisor to Vladimir Putin. Surkov was an aspiring artist who trained as a theatre director.  He has imported ideas from conceptual art into Russian politics and thereafter into Russian daily life.  

Related posts; Understanding the ‘Oak Tree’ in conceptual art via Russian politics

What I see in the work of Jeff Koons
 
This came to the attention of the UK after the Friday 2 March 2018 Salisbury attack.  Two men from the Russia military intelligence service, the GRU, entered the UK from Russia.  Police believe that the two men travelled during the weekend to Salisbury.  It is alleged that while they were there they contaminated the front door of the home of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Sergei Skripal is a former Russian agent who has defected to the west. Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury.  They had been poisoned with a chemical weapon called Novichok.   Later DS Nick Bailey also fell ill after going to their home.
 
In Curtis’s film, he explains that the Kremlin is very calculating. They intended to create a sense of confusion and falseness where no one is able to find the truth. This is similar to the way the artwork, ‘An Oak Tree’ attempts to create uncertainty.
 

Further reading on understanding conceptual art

Marcel Duchamp 'Fountain' (1917)
The initiator moves the truth, like in the Salisbury attack and in the artwork, to wherever they want.  In the ‘Oak Tree’, Craig-Martin tells the viewer the glass of water on a glass shelf is an Oak Tree. In the Salisbury attack, Russia completely denies they had any involvement in the poisoning. However, officials in the UK are confident that the two Russian suspects were involved.
 
‘Gaslighting’ is the next stage of the process. This is a form of intimidation and psychological abuse where the offender denies everything, leading the victim to doubt their own perception of events.  The offender then responses like a school bully, telling everyone they are imagining things and laughing at them.  Then he draws attention to something else in order to undermine them. In this case, the Russian foreign Minister tweeted a funny video of the UK Prime Minister dancing.  In the ‘Oak Tree’ Craig-Martin draws attention to the mental conception through the questions and answers.
 

Related posts; Understanding the ‘Oak Tree’ in conceptual art via Russian politics

A painting has to stand up by itself 
Last week the Russians released a film where the two suspects talk about their phoney interest in Salisbury’s history.  Their statement appears to come straight from Wikipedia. The Russians flatly deny any involvement. The outcome of this is that the UK officials to start to second guess their instincts. 
 
The whole Salisbury attack experience has given the UK and the world an insight into Russian daily life and the television they are allowed to view.  It shows to  Russian nationals who are thinking about defecting, that not only can the state find them anywhere in the world, but also that the state can leave traces back to Moscow.  If the state gets suspected or caught out they will then just laugh the problem away.
 

Related posts; Understanding the ‘Oak Tree’ in conceptual art via Russian politics

How I see art contributing to society
Just like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the French taunt the English outside their castle.  The Russian state is saying that we know that you know we did it and we have come up with this absurd response to further humiliate you.  
 
Michael Craig-Martin said about an ‘Oak Tree’, “I was trying to work out what was the essence of a work of art. I thought it had to do with suspension of disbelief. You get it in theatre – why not in art?”
 
The Salisbury attack is very similar to the ‘Oak Tree’ (1973) artwork but with much more humiliation and an affront to the viewer.
 

Related posts; Understanding the ‘Oak Tree’ in conceptual art via Russian politics

Michael Craig-Martin’s book, ‘On being an artist’ – book review