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

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Oak Tree, Conceptual art
All rights are reserved and are with the artist. ©1973 Michael Craig Martin, An Oak Tree (1973)

Michael Craig-Martin’s book titled ‘On being an artist’ is a collection of thoughts and notes that he has written over his career. The book is written in an informal style, making it easy to read.  They range from chapter titles such as, ‘On advice for aspiring artist,’ to ‘On British attitudes to contemporary art.’  Michael presents an interesting and insightful account of a young artist finding his way into the contemporary art world.

Michael who was born in 1941 studied Fine Art at Yale University for Art and Architecture.  In 1966 Michael crossed the Atlantic and started a new life in England.  To support his artistic practice Michael started teaching.  The highlights of the early part of his career include the artwork ‘An Oak Tree’ (1973) and teaching artists such as Damian Hirst, Julian Opie and Gary Hume at Goldsmiths.

Michael Craig-Martin book ‘On being an artist’ – related links

Understanding the 'oak tree' in conceptual art via Russian politics

Amazon book link

Michael’s clear and concise explanation of conceptual art while discussing, ‘An Oak Tree’ (1973) is one of the many interesting parts of the book. He points out that mistakenly many art critics try to see a literal concept rather than treat as a poetic idea.  The artwork creates a suspension of disbelief and highlights how conceptual art doesn’t exist in the object itself but in the mind of the viewer.  As a mental concept ‘An oak tree’ like all conceptual art, it is a trigger to encourage contemplation.  The work highlights how art creates a place inside your head where you can go on your own to process the world and its complexities.

Michael has established a highly successful international art career.  Throughout the book, Michael gives a very honest account of the highs and lows of being an artist.  I found his frankness and openness thought-provoking.  However, Michael says with all sincerity, “I would never advise anyone to become an artist. If you have another option, take it.”

As an artist myself I found Michael’s personal account and practical information is very informative.  I enjoyed the clear and concise ideas and concepts, which are explained in a friendly and helpful manner.  I am sure the book would also be interesting and engaging for anyone who is interested in the life of an artist.

Michael Craig-Martin, ‘On being an artist’ – related book reviews

Breakfast with Lucien - Book review

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 when a viewer looks at works of art they ask themselves, ‘why did the artist make this?’ However I believe that understanding the original idea or intention of my work defeats my ambitions for this artwork.  Instinct led me to paint this painting.  By trying to understand my instincts my aims are never going to be clear.

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.

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?

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

Everyone sees things differently.  I believe that the best artworks mean different things to different people.

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

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

I need to find my next painting in my last painting

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 the 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’s paintings 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

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

Isle D'Hollander - in and out of abstraction

Painter Killed By Critique Of His Own Bad Art

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Painter Killed By Critique Of His Own Bad Art
©Stuart Bush, You don’t understand me, part 1-4, gouache on paper
Most artists share the same fear and dread, a bad review!  You think it’s all over.  It makes you feel reluctant to share your work. I can imagine the day a museum curator knocks on my studio door with good news, and there is no answer.  The bell keeps ringing….
The curator keeps trying to get an answer until he/she realises something terrible might have happened.  Eventually, they gain access to find me dead under an incredible amount of bad art.  So much so that they can just see two feet sticking out of the bottom. Do they run for help? No, they are horrified by how much bad art they can see! The curator puts her hands up to her face and runs out screaming, “My eyes. My eyes!”
Later they removed the mountain of bad art that has been building up in my studio for years. They find me laying underneath it all like an ill-fated hoarder. My tongue hanging out the side of my mouth and I have a newspaper in my hands.  The newspaper is opened on an art review. Instead of saying what I  hoped for, “Oh my god, this artwork is the next best thing,” the reviews says, “Stuart Bush, what is this crap?”

Related posts; ‘Painter Killed By Critique Of His Own Bad Art’

Jealously of another artist's work
How my mind can multiple my worst fears is ridiculous…  However, at least my creative imagination is good for something. I am certain I am not alone with these feelings of self-doubt. So I was curious about how other artists deal with a mountain of failed art. I decided to read, research and discuss this subject with other artists.  I eventually came up with this list to avoid this absurd tale actually occurring.
What to do when you have too much bad art. Starting with the most severe;
  1. My first idea comes from Michael Landy’s Breakdown, where he destroys everything he owns, even his artwork. My next artwork could be to document the destruction of my own work.
  2. The next idea is to destroy every unsuccessful painting straight after completion. Then cut up the canvas so no one is able to see my latest catastrophe.
  3. Of course l could work out what canvases I can repaint over. This could be a case of trial and error to see what works or doesn’t work.
  4. To save space, I could take the canvas off the stretchers and roll them up. Then recycle the frame by stretching a new canvas on it.
  5. My last idea is not to date my paintings. Maybe in time, I will realise they weren’t that bad. It may be possible to sell them as current paintings.

External link; ‘Painter Killed By Critique Of His Own Bad Art’

The death of the artist and the birth of the creative entrepreneur

It is surprising that destroying artwork is common practice.  It is natural selection. Only the strongest will survive. The highly successful artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye destroys her work at least three times a week.

“I know generally after a day of working on something whether it is working or not. Out of either pride or feeling, I wasted a whole day on something, I will often keep it until the next day.  Come back, look at it and destroy it.  I hate leaving things in the studio that I am not happy with.  Because I have this terrible sense that if something happened to me that night, and this was the last thing I did, my dealer will turn up at the studio and say ‘Well, she must have meant this one to go in.’ ‘She is not here anymore, but this looks all right.’  I don’t want anything there that someone might think I intended to keep it.  So I always feel like I have to make a decision and chop something up at the end of the day. But there is this thing that the light has changed throughout the day. Maybe I am not seeing it right.  Maybe l should wait until the next day until l can see it in daylight and be absolutely sure it is bad before l get rid of it. I have gotten to be very brutal. I am extremely quick to make a decision that something is wrong and get rid of it.  Like I said it happens a few times a week at the moment. More than a few times a week actually,” she says laughing.

Related posts; ‘Painter Killed By Critique Of His Own Bad Art’

Understanding the 'Oak Tree' in conceptual art via Russian Politics
My last thought on the ‘Painter Killed By Critique Of his Own Bad Art’is that as an artist if you want to make a living from your art and you don’t want to fill up several skips, you need to get over this fear of judgement.  It is not possible to making a living if you don’t move past the feelings of self-doubt.
As well as spending time painting and creating your artwork, it is essential to promote your art. To talk to collectors and galleries and exhibit your work.
I have come to the conclusion that if l have a pile of work that I am not selling. I need to ask myself, why? Is it because I am not spending enough time promoting my work?  I need to be brave, put my fears to one side and plan an exhibition as soon as possible.  Or this absurd tale may come true.

Related posts; ‘Painter Killed By Critique Of His Own Bad Art’

I love my work more than what it produces

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

Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled, 1996 Oil on canvas, 41 x 29 cm, © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
There is something very solitary about Isle D’Hollander’s art. She paints modest and subtle paintings that float in and out of abstraction.  In this review of her exhibition at Victoria Miro in Mayfair, I want to discuss her work as she immerses herself in the now, and interpret the open questions she asks through painting.  
 
D’Hollander’s paintings are like a form of mediation with Belgian landscape; as she tries to capture aspects of the illusion we see.  The uncomplicated studies are painted from memory after long walks and cycle rides.  They have a tranquillity resembling the gently, rolling, green landscape. They are instruction us to be more present with regards to nature, to notice and to look at what is behind our reality and life.

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

Kerry James Marshall, The History of Painting
 
D’Hollander uses paint to try to find herself.  Her painting ‘Untitled,’ 1996 hints at abstraction however is entrenched in reality.  It is painted with soft thin layers of paint referencing the landscape even though it rejects most of the detail.  The sombre tones of the painting are like a lightly applied mist.  Words really don’t do this tender little painting justice.  It grasps at feelings and emotions that evade commentary.  The quick studies appear to be completed without doubt or hesitation but as a painter, I feel the deep insecurities that lurk under the surface.  
 
In Untitled 1992-93, in the back room of the gallery, perception is everything as representation completely recedes.  Like her other paintings, it needs time to look at and investigate in order to get a sense of it. Her paintings are intended to be mysterious.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled, 1996 Oil on canvas, 41 x 36 cm, © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
Through abstraction, the paintings to try to portray more than realism can offer.  Therefore, grasping at timeless primitive forces and going beyond what is visual.  Different weights, different velocities of marks add to the overall effect.  Wet and dry marks, with a brush, a palette knife, a cloth or by using fingers stimulate an emotional response.  Like a musician composing harmony and using dynamic configurations for pitch, tempo, and space.  The tonally graded colours work to give emotion like an eloquent drama.  The colours and forms depicting the impact of modern life on the human soul.
 
In 1907, Wilhelm Worringer wrote, “The tendency to abstraction is a consequence of people’s deep insecurity about the world.” Deep insecurities and uncertainity about the world is motivation for many painters and artists.  As a painter, I use paint to try to access the deep meaning that is indeed hard to describe.  Like D’Hollander, l work and strive towards a poetic quality.  
 

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

A review of Sean Scully's work
 
D’Hollander sadly committed suicide aged 28.  I do hope the lack of recognition in her life had nothing to do with the choice to take her own life.  During her life, D’Hollander had only one solo show. It is  sad to think that painting wasn’t able to keep her in this world for longer.  
 
D’Hollander discounted the importance of what she had achieved.  The body of work she left behind from 1989 to 1997 shows a maturity that doesn’t reflect her young age.  Her artwork is interesting and exciting with each painting asking a different question about why things need to be different.
 
 
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out of abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled, 1996 Oil on canvas, 47 x 40 cm, © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
In Neil Gaiman ‘Make Good art Speech’ he talks about what you need to be thick skinned to have a life in the arts, in this world, it’s shame that D’Hollander didn’t hear it.
 
“a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.”
 

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

Tomma Abts Serpentine exhibition review
The small paintings are so full emotion and feelings. With their own unique rhythm.  As a body of work, there is energy running through the paintings.  An enquiry into what painting can express.  With representation partly left behind, the painting goes beyond what realism can offer.
 
The life of an artist is very precarious.  D’Hollander left this world leaving these poignant painting, in some way making life better for all us.  They help us understand that there is more to what we can see.  It is a real shame she isn’t here her to celebrate some of the love and appreciation before departing.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out of abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled 1992-93 Mixed media on cardboard 71 x 100 cm © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
 
 

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

Review of 'All too human, Bacon, Freud and a century of painting life'

 

Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

Kerry James Marshall, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Underpainting), 2018 courtesy of the David Zwirner Gallery
Kerry James Marshall, the American artist, is increasingly being recognised as a significant painter and modern master.  His work confronts questions about what is represented in art and more importantly what has been left out.  In this review of Kerry James Marshall: History of Painting at David Zwirner’s gallery in London, I want to look at the way Marshall uses in-depth knowledge and understanding of art history to inform his work and inspire a new generation of artists.  
 
Kerry James Marshall was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in Los Angles.  He currently lives in Chicago.  At the beginning of Marshall’s journey to becoming a successful artist, he started, like most students by learning to copy.  He studied a wide range of art from the great masters from European history to abstract expressionism and pop art and all the essential work in-between.  As a result of Marshall devouring and truly penetrating what had gone on before, he developed a broad theoretical understanding and technical skills.
 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

A review of Sarah Sze's exhibition at Victoria Miro Gallery, London
When it came to choosing his style Marshall had an informed understanding.  He decided to work with a deeply felt, intense narrative style that he learnt from grand European history paintings. Marshall felt this style of picture making is familiar to many people and would be the best way for him to help derive meaning from our lives.  
Kerry James Marshall, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Large Colours) (2018) ©Kerry James Marshall, Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner
The painting titled, ‘Untitled (Underpainting)’ 2018 highlights how Marshall has learnt to evaluate art. It is a painting of African Americans children enjoying and learning about art in a museum.  It references many great works like Samuel Morse’s, ‘Gallery of the Louvre’ (1831-3). A painting where rich, white people are enjoying a rich visual field of pictures in a gallery.  The African Americans figures in the picture are having a great time, enjoying looking at grand paintings made by American Africans.  The narrative blatantly challenges how the identity of African Americans are displayed. 
 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

A review of All too human, Bacon, Freud and century of painting life
Kerry James Marshall said, “When most people go to a big museum like the Louvre, it reaffirms their idea of what real art is supposed to look like. And if you keep going to the Louvre and Tate Britain and you don’t see black people in those pictures, then you don’t think black people belong in these kinds of pictures… People need to start thinking that these pictures belong in those places, too.”
 
Portrait painting is often intertwined with character, wealth and status. In Marshall’s portrait paintings we see the world with fresh eyes. In ‘Day and Night’ 2018, he asks us to stop and consider our oversimplified misconceptions.  Marshall’s paintings, ask the viewer to look into the eyes of African Americans, to reconsider the opinions, stories and stereotypes they have been given. To re-evaluate what is valuable, neglected and demeaned.
 
‘Untitled (Large Colours)’ 2018, is a competent abstract painting that deals with the language of painting where discovery and execution happen simultaneously.  It discusses the emotional impact and essence of art.
 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

Tomma Abts Serpentine Exhibition
 
Marshall’s auction series of works is about the commercial value of art.  It is based on the prices of art at auction. Marshall is understandably asking questions about the importance of art considering he recently sold a painting for £15.6 million at auction.
 
Kerry James Marshall, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Kerry James Marshall History of Painting (May 16 2007), 2018 courtesy of The David Zwirner Gallery
This month Marshall has been named the most influential contemporary artist in the 17th edition of the ArtReview Power 100.   This shows that he has become an inspirational figure to a new generation of artists. Marshall leads the way encouraging them to believe they too can be successful and have their work in these critical artistic establishments.  
 
His approach of starting at the beginning and learning everything of importance has been instrumental in Kerry James Marshall’s success.  With the simple goal of wanting to make the best painting he could, Marshall followed the proven track of many artists. Marshall paints as a form of activism to promote, challenge and ask questions about how people from his background are portrayed.  Now with his painting is institutions around the world, he steps forward as an inspirational artist trying to rebalance the objectivity of art intuitions.  Marshall leads the way to change the way art and art establishment conducts its view of the world. 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

A review of Sean Scully's work

The influential work of Francis Bacon – Stuart Bush Studio Blog

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Hopes and Fears, The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
©2016 Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, (2007) oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
When I was starting out as an artist, I was having trouble with feelings about the purpose of our human existence. I related to Karl Marx talking about the problems of consumerism and the alienation of labour. Marx stated that if you are cut off from the fruits of your work, then you are cut off from your creativity, and you lose your sense of self. This introspection on existentialism and the influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter as a creative outlet for my thoughts.
 
I realised I was happiest when I was making something.  It needed to be something for me that doesn’t have the main aim of making money.  I feel that this is one of the main problems with the western consumeristic society. People often lose connection with their output. They complete a task just to make money, just to survive. I believe the goal of making money causes psychological problems with our individual purpose and happiness.
 

Related posts: The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter

How I see art contributing to society
During the process of making art, I feel the artwork becomes an extension of me. I get closer to my deeper self.  Through painting, my purpose stretches out before me. I realised no one else can make another painting precisely the same. No-one else has my thoughts. This powerful idea that I am unique and I can communicate what I feel really resonates with my heart.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Francis Bacon, Figure at the base of crucifixion, The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
©Francis Bacon, Figures at the base of crucifixion 1944, 1 panel part of a triptych
After learning about Francis Bacon at art school, and seeing Bacon’s work at several exhibitions in London, including his major retrospective at the Tate in 2008, I saw the way forward. I immediately related to his work and understood it.  As Bacon puts it, “art is about trying to make something out of the chaos of existence.”
 
To enable me to communicate my feeling of angst and estrangement with the world, I realised I could paint the figure in the city. Since I grew up in the country, I found the city fascinating and it is where I felt increasingly heighten feelings of alienation.
 

Related links: The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter

Tate interactive tour of 2008 Francis Bacon exhibition
 
I was in a trance by the power of Bacon’s large canvases. Bacon depicted the complexity and chaos that was going on around me and inside me.  His paintings focused on the invisible forces that underlie me. I strongly relate to the feelings of angst and disorientation.  
 
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, The Kingdom, The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
©Stuart Bush, The Kingdom, oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
I realised Bacon wasn’t only interested in directly painting a representation of life. He wanted to heighten the viewer’s feelings. His paintings were created by using raw instinct and chance.  Often there is a single figure in Bacon’s paintings, the individual that creates a tremendous force that twists, contorts and stretches out.  Bacon’s striking depictions stirred my emotions with the immediacy, and with the deep and lasting impact of his art.
 
I deeply related to Bacon’s paintings and felt painting was the perfect way I could communicate my thoughts.  What I like about Bacon’s approach is that he is not trying to understand the human condition, Bacon realises he cannot.  If he could explain it, there would be no reason to paint it.  Bacon was instead trying to get you to feel what he feels.  He portrays a figure, not as an educated, cultured, pillar of the community but instead as nothing but a raw piece of meat. It is direct, honest and compelling.  Francis Bacon explains it eloquently, “the job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”  Francis Bacon had a tremendous impact on me.  Inspiring me to follow in his footsteps and to become a painter.
 

Related posts: The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter

The inspiral work of Egon Schiele - Stuart Bush Studio Blog

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

A review of Sean Scully’s work by Stuart Bush

A review of Sean Scully’s work by Stuart Bush – ‘Uninsideout’ exhibition, BlainSouthern London until 17th November

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Sean Scully review Sean Scully, What Makes Us, 2017. ©Sean Scully Courtesy of the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet
In a career spanning 6 decades, Sean Scully in 2018 has 10 solo shows around the world, including an exhibition of sculpture at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park until 6 January 2019.  During this review of Sean Scully’s work at ‘Uninsideout’ exhibition at BlainSouthern in London, I want to discuss Scully’s approach to the use form and colour and the intensity in his work.
 
The Irish born abstract painter Sean Scully grow up in London.  He later moved to New York where he established a studio.  Sean’s work explores a grid structure as a way to interpret the urban and natural landscape.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Uninsideout, 2018, Installation view, ©Sean Scully, Courtesy of the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet
Sean’s initial interest in art came from viewing Van Gogh ‘The Chair’ at the Tate every weekend for 6 weeks. The painting profoundly moved Sean. He admired how the painting was honest and direct. It lit a spark in Sean and lead to his early work.

Related blog posts – A review of Sean Scully’s work

Tommas Abts Serpentine exhibition
 
Sean’s approach to painting has a similar intensity to Van Gogh’s ’The Chair’. He responses to thoughts and emotions with genuine integrity. Sean’s grid structure enables him to capture the rough, falling down feeling of the city. The muted light and the geometry grid facilitates a way to capture the unique beauty of the subject.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Sean Scully review
Sean Scully, Uninsideout, 2018, Installation view, ©Sean Scully, Courtesy of the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet
Sean Scully explaining his work, “I am paraphrasing nature, I am making the grid which is an intellectual framework, that we have invented, in order to order our cities.  I fill it up with information that is already in the world.  From the sky, the trees, the rivers and so on, all those sensual forms of information are gathered into the work to inform it, to enrich it, to bring it into the human spirit.”
In advance of the act of painting, Scully carefully works out the drawing of the grid and his palette of colours. This takes away many decisions while painting, and leaves space for a surprising amount of freedom in the making. Scully can focus on the noise, movement and pattern of the surface.
 

Related blog posts – A review of Sean Scully’s work

Understanding the 'Oak Tree' in conceptual art
The paintings are inspired by the cityscape with blocks and forms, or by horizontal lines forms a natural landscape opening up space for interpretation and mystery to the viewer.  Unlike conceptual art, where the intellectual idea is clean and has a resolution, Sean’s paintings are like open questions allowing the viewer’s mind to wander across its surface. This is because the thinking and doing are in-separatable, it causes the viewer to always fall short of understanding the artist’s direct experiences that inspired the art.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Sean Scully review
Sean Scully, What Makes Us Too, 2017. ©Sean Scully Courtesy of the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet
Scully has a sensitivity to colour.  His palette is inspired by the colours of nature and space around him. They are always finely calibrated colours, consistently hushed and sombre tones echoing the landscape. There is always a sense of the material in the work.
 
In the painting ‘What Makes Us Too’ (2017) he uses a brighter palette of colours.  This work inspires thoughts of the exuberance and rhythm of contemporary urban life, including sexuality, lipstick and power.  This series of work, as a result, is more decorative than his usual work.
 

Related external links – A review of Sean Scully’s work

SeanScullyStudio.com
Scully has said he doesn’t like using unsophisticated bright or brash colours. He much prefers rich, refined tones. Colours that are not there to make an encounter happen.  The colours in Scully palette come with their own natural, highly developed meaning which is delicate and complex. They are less dominating and with subtle degrees of graduation.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Landline Near Blue, 2018, ©Sean Scully Courtesy of the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet
I really enjoyed seeing the varied body of work in this exhibition at BlainSouthern.  Through focusing on the surface, Scully is able to reduce the decisions he has to make. This way of painting leaves space to focus on the two crucial aspects of his painting practice. The first is the intensity of the art.  Through having many of the decisions worked out in advance, Scully can concentrate on the distinct characterises.  The precise meaning is brought into existence by amplifying how powerful and intense the painting is.
 
The other important aspect of Scully’s paintings is about how two things come together through a visual intelligence.  As Scully explains, “This really is the human problem how we come together.  How do the things in the world come together.”  As Sean Scully says, “Abstract art really is like music without words.” Scully’s paintings allude and invoke the way we experience the landscape as a mental state rather than a conscious effort.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Sean Scully review
Sean Scully, Landline Near Blue, 2018, ©Sean Scully Courtesy of the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet
 

Related blog posts – A review of Sean Scully’s work

Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy