Abstract expressionism at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Over the years of visiting art exhibitions, few exhibitions have had such an impact on me as the Abstract Expressionist exhibition did at the Royal Academy.  I was staggered by the amount of impressive and inspiring works.  The first few galleries are hung in chronological order, then the order in the galleries changes and the work is hung related to styles and approaches, some rooms have work by more than one artist.  This changing approach works well as it easy to understand the relationships and contexts between the works in each room.
In one of the largest rooms, I found two of David Smith’s sculptures and one of Jackson Pollock’s drip painting next to each other, it was a stimulating experience.  David Smith’s sculptures ‘Hudson River Landscape’ 1951 (welded painted steel and stainless steel), and his ‘Star Cage’ 1950,  (painted and brushed steel) sat opposite Jackson Pollocks’s drip painting ‘Summertime number 94’, 1948, (oil enamel and commercial paint).  What was so intriguing and absorbing was how the lines in the three different works were so alike.  Pollock’s dancing splats of paint over the surface were heightened and intensified by the Smith sculptures. I have always delighted in interesting and complex spatial compositions and having these works next to each emphasised their associations.   While Smith calls his work, ‘drawings in space’, Pollock presents his as ‘energy and motion made visible, memories arrested in space’.  This juxtaposition of two and three-dimensional space was enlivening, inspiring and delightful to experience.
Jackson Pollock, Blue poles (Number 11, 1952), 1952. Enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas, 212.1 x 488.9 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016;

 

David Smith, Star Cage, 1950. Painted and brushed steel, 114 x 130.2 x 65.4 cm. Lent by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. The John Rood Sculpture Collection. © Estate of David Smith/DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2016
David Smith, Star Cage, 1950. Painted and brushed steel, 114 x 130.2 x 65.4 cm. Lent by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. The John Rood Sculpture Collection. © Estate of David Smith/DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2016;

 

Later l found work by Frank Kline.  I always appreciate looking at Franz Kline’s work and this was the first time I had seen ‘Vawdavitch’ 1955 and ‘Andrus’ 1961, (both are oil on canvas).  I enjoyed the simplicity of the subtle change in the colours and the spatial harmony.  I think Kline’s work has a strong relationship with poetry and music.  When I look at Kline’s work it always amazes me how ‘less is more’.  I always think of the Mies Van der Rohe quote when looking at reduced and distilled work where simplicity is beautiful.   It looks like Kline used a wide brush to create ‘Andrus’ 1961, he uses a few simple brush gestures in layers of mars black, cadmium orange, crimson, cerulean blue and deep purple mixed with different amounts of white.  The simplicity is intriguing and really sparked my imagination.
Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955. Oil on canvas, 158.1 x 204.9 cm. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Claire B. Zeisler 1976.39. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016. Photo: Joe Ziolkowski;
Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955. Oil on canvas, 158.1 x 204.9 cm. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Claire B. Zeisler 1976.39. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016. Photo: Joe Ziolkowski;
If I had a criticism of the exhibition it would be that you need more time to see everything, I found it challenging to select only a few pieces of works to discuss in this review as I really did feel blown away by seeing so much artwork of such a high standard.  After a couple of hours, l needed a break.   Having spent so much time with the works I have mentioned and looking at some of the pieces by other artists I felt guilty walking past further great pieces of work because I felt my eyes and brain needed a rest.  It would be great if you could revisit the exhibition on the same ticket on a different day.  I would happily go again.
If you would like to read more, there is a interesting review here on the Saturation Point site written by Paul Carey Kent, after visiting this show and the at the Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao: 3 Feb – 4 June 2017 and comparing the shows.

Refining my studio time – part 2 – The Law of the Jungle

©Stuart Bush, The Law of the Jungle 2015 oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm - £3000 + shipping enquiry
©Stuart Bush, The Law of the Jungle 2015 oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm – £3000 + shipping enquiry
After listening to Tim Ferris’s podcast the other day I checked out one of his recommendations and read ‘Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule‘ an essay by Paul Graham.
Paul Graham describes the difference between two types of time. Makers schedule and the Managers Schedule. I like how his simple explanations defines the two; Firstly Managers Schedule’s are cut into appointments around an hour long, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter for a single task.
While the Makers Schedule, is generally scheduled for about half a day sessions, as an hour is only normally enough time to get started.
This is all fairly obvious so far, it gets interesting when the two meet in daily life. As an artist you need to work with both schedules, to be productive in the studio and for meetings or social time.
A meeting in an artist’s day can really affect the productivity in the studio. Being aware of this helps me understand how to plan my studio time and business tasks for the week. It is important to plan for each day and review the plan the day before. I try to work out 2-5 tasks to achieve and with an understanding of how creativity works it is then possible for me to overcome procrastination and to be a lot more productive in the studio.
When working on business tasks or managers tasks as an artist, it is important not to let these stray into your studio time as this can be a time and energy killer.  Studio time needs the creative, open mind. We need to be in a relaxed, less purposeful mode where we are more contemplative and playful, allowing our creativity to take over.
Whereas Business tasks or managers tasks generally require a closed mind as there is little creativity.  By batching business tasks or managers tasks into blocks of time, they can be done away from the studio.  Putting emails, social media activities, meetings and admin tasks into a preplanned time slot just like the studio time means greater productivity.  Doing business tasks often makes the artist a little bit anxious and without humour. There are lots to be done to become a successful artist and overlapping the Makers time, and the Managers schedules can be counterproductive.
Unfortunately, business tasks or managers tasks have a way to find their way into the studio at times. For this, I recommend reading the book, Eat that Frog by Brian Tracey, and consider his helpful suggestions for removing distractions.

What do I love about being an artist?

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 1, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 2, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 3, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 4, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry
There are many reasons why l wanted to be an artist. But the main attraction is the creative process. As an artist l can take an idea or a hunch and using my creativity and skill, which has grown over many years, bring the concept to life. The process of turning an idea from a thought to something of significance takes a set of unique skills mainly involving play and experimenting with what works best.  The whole process and journey is a stimulating challenge.  Once the idea if finally completed, once l am finally satisfied, it becomes an object and an initiator of further ideas for both myself and the viewer. Completing a project gives me an enormous sense of achievement which even overcomes any of the exhilarating ups and downs along the way.

Karl Marx talked about the problems of consumerism and the alienation of labour. He states that if you are cut off from the fruits of your labour, then you are cut off from your creativity and you lose your sense of self. I think this is one of the main problems with the Western consumeristic society. People are not in touch with the output they make or the completion of the tasks they carry out. I believe this causes many psychological problems with our individual purpose. During the process of making art l get closer to my deeper self, the artwork becomes an extension of me, my purpose stretches out before me. No-one else can make another exactly the same, no-one else has my thoughts.

This is an interesting thought provoking short video on Karl Marz on Alienation and about what makes us human.

Being an artist and being creative connects us directly with being human, and that is the main reason I love being an artist.

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Book review – Eric Fischl’s ‘Bad Boy’

©Stuart Bush Blind boy (2007) oil on canvas 50 x 70 cm
©Stuart Bush Blind boy (2007) oil on canvas 50 x 70 cm – £650 + shipping enquiry

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.

©1981 Eric Fischl, Bad boy, oil on linen, 170 cm × 240 cm - All rights reserved by Eric Fischl
©1981 Eric Fischl, Bad boy, oil on linen, 170 cm × 240 cm – All rights reserved by Eric Fischl

Composition and mixing colours techniques

©Stuart Bush, The pursuit of truth, oil on board, 50 x 70cm
©Stuart Bush, The pursuit of truth, oil on board, 50 x 70cm – £1000 + shipping enquiry

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.
blue-and-white-swatch
Blue and green coloured swatch
‘The Pursuit of Truth’ is for sale, if you have any questions please contact me here
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Engaging with madness of the human condition

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.
©Stuart Bush, Walking that clown walk - prep work
©Stuart Bush, Preparation drawing before ‘Walking that clown walk’ painting
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.
©Stuart Bush, Walking that cat walk 2013 oil on canvas 100.3 x 130 cm
©Stuart Bush, Walking that clown walk, oil on canvas 100.3 x 130 cm – £1400 + shipping enquiry

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Refining my studio time – part 1

©Stuart Bush, The crystallisation of a scratched memory, oil on board, 70.2 x 100cm
©Stuart Bush, The crystallisation of a scratched memory, oil on board, 70.2 x 100cm – £1000 Enquiry
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.
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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
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.

Crystallisation of a scratched memory is available for sale, enquiries, please click here

What I am naturally drawn to?

©Stuart Bush, I have been looking for something to believe in (2007) oil on canvas, 126 x 71 cm
©Stuart Bush, I have been looking for something to believe in (2007) oil on canvas, 126 x 71 cm – £1300 + shipping enquiry
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.
©Henri Cartier-Bresson, photography of Alberto Giacometti https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12684959
©Henri Cartier-Bresson, photograph of Alberto Giacometti https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12684959
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.

Why do I paint?

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.

©Francis Bacon, Figures at the base of crucifixion 1944, 1 panel part of a triptych
©Francis Bacon, Figures at the base of crucifixion 1944, 1 panel part of a triptych
©Stuart Bush A pocket full of dreams 2010 oil on canvas, 120.4 cm x 160.4 cm
©Stuart Bush A pocket full of dreams 2010 oil on canvas, 120.4 cm x 160.4 cm – £2,500 + shipping enquiry

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.

Ways of dealing with consumerism: how has my art evolved

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.

©Stuart Bush, A study for being normal 1 (2006) oil on canvas 51 x 71.5 cm
©Stuart Bush, A study for being normal 1 (2006) oil on canvas 51 x 71.5 cm £376 + shipping enquiry
©Stuart Bush Blind boy (2007) oil on canvas 50 x 70 cm
©Stuart Bush Blind boy (2007) oil on canvas 50 x 70 cm – £650 + shipping enquiry
©Stuart Bush, The Kingdom (2009) oil on canvas 150 x85 cm
©Stuart Bush, The Kingdom (2009) oil on canvas 150 x85 cm – £2800 + shipping enquiry

 

©Andy Warhol, Campbells soup cans 1962
©Andy Warhol, Campbells soup cans (1962)

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.

©Stuart Bush, Walking that cat walk 2013 oil on canvas 100.3 x 130 cm
©Stuart Bush, Walking that cat walk 2013 oil on canvas 100.3 x 130 cm – £1400 + shipping enquiry

I went through a period of considering whether creating edgy work would be a good way to create a new body of work.

©Carl Andre, Equivalent VIII, 1966
©Carl Andre, Equivalent VIII, 1966

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.

©Stuart Bush, A section of ourselves as a commodified object 2016 oil on aluminium panel 80 x 120 cm
©Stuart Bush, A section of ourselves as a commodified object 2016 oil on aluminium panel 80 x 120 cm

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.

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