Review of ‘All too human, Bacon, Freud and a century of painting life’ Tate Britain

 
Stanley Spencer, All too human, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Stanley Spencer, 1891-1959 Patricia Preece 1933 Oil paint on canvas 839 x 736mm Southampton City Art Gallery, Hampshire © The Estate of Stanley Spencer/Bridgeman Images
‘All too human, Bacon, Freud and a century of painting life’ at Tate Britain, begins by following British painting after the Second World War. At this time in our history rumours about what had happened during the Holocaust were trickling into the media. During this period many books and essays were written as people tried to come to terms with what had taken place. This experience encouraged intellectuals to look inwards and ask hard questions about the purpose of human existence. 
 
It was complexing to hear about the atrocities and then to consider how humans could behave in such a way. The central theme of this exhibition looked at what British representational painting achieved during this period. Artists including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer, Alberto Giacometti, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, R. B. Kitaj and David Bomberg amongst others explored whether painting life as it is had any answers. They took on the battle through the depiction of the figure, the flesh and the surrounding. The painters were asking, how after this experience, could art depict man with any conviction.  
 
Francis Bacon, All too human, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Francis Bacon, 1909-1992 Portrait, 1962, Oil paint on canvas, 1980 x 1415 mm, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen. The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection/Winners of the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS, London.
The lead curator Elena Crippa, and assistant curator Laura Castagnini from Tate Britain, laid out the show in chronological order. The hanging of the show highlights how the artists were influencing each other. The relationships and rivalries between teachers, mentors and friendships runs throughout this exhibition. The whole show contains approximately 100 works tracing the startling impact of this shocking time and the coming effect on following generations.
 

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Picasso paints what he knows rather than what he see
 
In the first room, I was drawn to the works of  David Bomberg and Stanley Spencer. David Bomberg painted the rugged landscape of worn-torn cities capturing the light on structure and scenery. With his speciality handling of paint he tries to get a grip on the subject, simplifying what he saw. He records memories and emotional states in almost abstract shapes. Meanwhile there is forcefulness of the work of Spencer.  He paints a representation of the life, of a person in the flesh. The direct and honest painting opens up the sitter to the viewer. The painting becomes about looking more deeply at the painting itself and the process of applying it. 
 
Lucian Freud, All too human, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Lucian Freud, 1922-2011
Girl with a White Dog 1950-1
Oil paint on canvas 762 x 1016 mm © Tate
Freud, ‘In Girl with White Dog by Lucian Freud’, 1950-1 sees life for the mystery it is. Freud highlights the estrangement and coldness of the body. He once said, ‘I want the paint to work as flesh does.’ It indeed does that under his intense observation. The romance is undoubtedly removed, and there is a feeling of distress in the compelling moment of the life of his sitter.
 
Frank Auerbach, All too human, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Frank Auerbach, born 1931 Head of Jake 1997 Oil paint on board 613 x 508 mm Private Collection © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
In Frank Auerbach’s painting, ‘Head of Jake,’ 1997 Auerbach tries to find a new way to depict life and capture the horrifying experience. He uses shapes and colours as symbolism to show what he saw. He created a vibrant, profound visual language that extends beyond the outer appearance. There is deep emotional charge in thick impasto style penetrating loss and depths of physical structures into evidence of the forgotten moments.
 
Francis Bacon, All too human, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Francis Bacon, 1909-1992 Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud
1964 Oil paint on canvas 1980 x 1476 mm The Lewis Collection
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS, London
Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
A lot of the work in this exhibition is influenced by the existentialist view that we live to suffer. Francis Bacon’s ‘Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud,’ 1964 depicts going beyond surviving and suffering through painting. Bacon sees art as “about trying to make something out of the chaos of existence.” He looks into the human condition like we are carcasses. He focuses on our alienation and disorientation of the visible world to stir emotions and tell the truth about the darkness of human characteristics.

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At the end of the exhibition after seeing many great revealing and fascinating works of art, I felt I had learnt something about our purpose as humans in this world. For me, this exhibition highlights our existence while words can only fail to define it. When words are used to try and explain the physical experience they often come up short. Painting and art, in general, adds to our understanding in a substantial and meaningful way. Any outcome to these big questions without art is missing a truly more profound understanding. 
 
Celia Brown, All too human, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Cecily Brown, born 1969 Boy with a Cat 2015 Oil, pastel on linen 1092 x 1651 mm Collection of Danny and Lisa Goldberg © Cecily Brown Photo: Richard Ivey
The show concludes with a Lynette Yiadom-Boakye painting, ‘The Host Over a Barrel’ 2014 and Celia Paul ‘Painter and Model,’ 2012. Yiadom-Boakye invites the viewer to construct their own view of what she sees and ask questions about what painting is. While Paul’s meditative self-portrait captures herself as an artist contemplating and scrutinising her own form and presence as a painter of life.
 
I thoroughly enjoyed what this exhibition says about the human experience. This exhibition to me says yes to life. It questions life’s purpose and is like going into therapy. I would be interesting to know what the impact would be on an individual who has lost his way in life and whether they would say yes to life after visiting the show.
 

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The inspirational work of Egon Schiele

The inspirational work of Egon Schiele, Stuart Bush Studio
Egon Schiele, Green Stockings, all copywrites remain with the artist

One of the artists that I found the most inspiring as a student was the inspirational work of Egon Schiele. At aged 16, Egon enrolled in the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He died at the young age of 28. In those few years, he made some of the most enduring and intriguing work. I am very interested in understanding what it is in Egon Schiele’s work that encouraged me to follow my interest in art.

Egon Schiele was known for drawing mainly portraits and self-portraits. He worked in a striking graphic style that challenged the notion of beauty. Egon had a concise way of working, similar to a poem to conveys rich experiences and emotions.

It would be easy to have a fleeting look at Egon drawings and mistake them to be only about sexual arousal or pornography, but that misses the intent and the reason why I am drawn to his work. Egon not only shows sex as beautiful, but he also demonstrates how he questions and adores life through his work.

Egon was a prolific artist making over 3000 works over his short life. There is satisfaction from the artistry, extracting something from the seductive delights of life. Each one has an intensity and beauty capturing our physical existence and our desperation in being a person.

Related links to the inspirational work of Egon Schiele

https://www.theartstory.org/artist-schiele-egon.htm

Egon showed a unique and anguished look at our situation. I enjoyed the cropping of the frame with low direct angles in his drawings. The tortuous crooked fingers and appendages ask questions about our function, design and purpose. Each artwork generating meaning in its own way I have really enjoyed returning to look again at the work of Egon Schiele. I understand why his work gave me a purpose to be an artist. Egon Schiele’s fact-finding mission to record evidence about what life really with anger, sexual frustration and bewilderment helps you to remember how you saw the world as a young adolescent. Creating a porthole to a greater understanding of the human condition and the beauty of life.

In Egon’s drawings, he cultivated his own unique view to add to deepen our understanding of life. I continue to find his work easy to identify with and through writing this, I have a better understanding of why I followed the path into becoming an artist.

Please share with me the artists that have given you direction, purpose and sense who you might become. I recommend you check out Egon Schiele’s if you haven’t already.

Related links to the inspirational work of Egon Schiele

https://www.egon-schiele.net

What I see in the work of Jeff Koons

 

I wish I could paint every day

Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush, Nobodies fault detail, I wish I could paint every day

I wish I could paint every day…

Every day I paint I have an adventure into the unknown.
 
Every day I am excited by the possibilities in the work.
 
Every day I paint I enjoy the production of novelty the most.
 
Every day I paint, I decide what I want to work on the night before.  My unconscious mind thinks and contemplates it overnight. The next day I effortlessly to know where to start.
 
Every day I paint I don’t make it overly complicated.
 
Every day I paint my studio has to be free from distractions so l can get into a creative flow and stay in it. I get completely caught up and saturated in what I am doing.  The painting leads the way, my hand and brush are in control rather than my brain.  I have a deep involvement with the activity and time becomes distorted.
 
Every day I paint, it is not clear what needs to be done. The solution is elusive and an accident. Only when I am in a flow of creativity, unconscious decision making takes place. I surprise myself and produce work I am happy with.
Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush Nobodies fault detail, I wish I could paint every day
Every day I paint, I try to be satisfied when the work is complete. If I put unnecessary pressure and stress on myself and let my perfectionist outlook win, the results are never good enough to meet my standards.
 
Every day I paint I hope something good will come, but if it doesn’t I don’t worry. Whether it is good or bad, that really doesn’t matter.  When I finish, I always turn the work towards the wall and quickly move on to the next task.
 

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Drawing the creative act
Every day I paint I consider the work from previous sessions and give myself feedback. This enables me to move forward. I have to decide which ideas can be developed and which direction to take and then l know what to work on during the next session.
 
Every day I paint I am unsure if I am getting anywhere.  Often I take one step forward, two steps sideways and one backwards.  Every little while I stop and look back. Over months and years rather than days I learn something new and l know l am growing as a painter and as a person.  
 
Every day I paint I am not interested in money and fame.  It’s the pursuit that counts, not the attainment.  I always enjoy and have fun within the process.
 
Every day I paint I work towards achieving something meaningful. My lifelong ambition is to make a significant contribution to culture.  In doing so, I hope to help the human condition. 
 
Every day I paint I love what I do. I love the process of making art more than the work I produce.
 
I wish I could paint every day.
 
Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush, Nobodies fault, oil on board 70.2 x 50.4 x 3.6cm, I wish I could paint every day

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Places to go for inspiration

Stuart Bush Studio, the rush
©Stuart Bush The rush 2016 oil on board 50 x 70 cm
When I enter my studio I often have times when I need to be inspired.  No matter what l do l meet resistance. I walk around the room, or I sit feeling frustrated with a closed mind.  My mind doesn’t feel like being creative.  Fighting this situation never works. All that happens is that l waste the day. I have to get out.  I need to find a place to go to for inspiration.
 
Over time, l have learnt to embrace these moods and seek solace and inspiration elsewhere.  Near my studio, I have a lovely country walk.  Whatever the weather, I put my shoes on and head off.
 
While I am walking, I can consider all my unfinished business and jobs.  Then I begin looking at the things around me.  I try to move my mind to focus on my breathing and relax.  I notice the sounds of the birds, the footsteps in the gravel and the beauty of my surroundings.
 

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My primary objective is to cultivate a happy mind. I might sit down on a bench and watch people walk past. Or I might pop out a sketchbook and draw whatever comes into my mind.  If I don’t fancy a walk or if I return and my mood hasn’t shifted, I look through some of my art books.  I start sketching from what seems interesting.
 
If I’m feeling at a loss about where to start when that pencil hits the page just start by moving it. I start with anything from a circle to scribble.  Like a child, I try to create without judgement or expectations.
 
I see my job as an artist is to record what I see.  For this to work well, and to be able to translate what I see in a new unique way, good quality inspiration is essential. I try to visit the museums and galleries in London at least once a month.  I also look for opportunities for collaboration and to engage in useful and uplifting and stimulating discussions.  Sooner or later I return to the studio with inspiration for my next step.
 
Stuart Bush Studio, the rush, a form of confessional poetry, no bodies fault
Installation shot from Rugby Gallery exhibition, Stuart Bush Studio
 

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I am very interested to hear how you become inspired.  Please comments below.

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What l see in the work of Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, Play-Doh, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Jeff Koons, Play-Doh (1994—2012) Newport Gallery All right reserved by the artist
 
It is easy to be impressed by the work of Jeff Koons. He has an impressive art career and has gained international success. Koons has developed a secure grip on the art market and he can make whatever he wants.  He often turns the popular; Michael Jackson with his pet monkey or scoops of Play-doh; into an expensive ceramic or stainless steel sculpture. 
 
Plus, Koons is not afraid to make work that could potentially alienate him. It is easy to sneer at his works based on topics like guilt and shame. After all, we are all bound by our own unconscious and conscious signals.  He openly encourages opinions on his art saying there is no right or wrong interpretation.  His art challenges the idea that art needs emotional depth and taste. Koons work, whether your ambivalent about it or not, it clearly reflects our age and society especially his gazing balls and balloon dog.
Jeff Koons Balloon Monkey, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Jeff Koons, Balloon Monkey (Blue) 2006-2013 Newport Gallery All rights reserved by the artist
 
 
Jeff Koons describes Balloon Dog: “It’s very mythic. There’s a sense of the interior to the piece, which is a bit like a Trojan piece. It’s very now – it’s like a balloon from a birthday party, and because it’s inflated, you imagine the birthday party was recent, not 20 years ago. A normal membrane of a balloon from 20 years ago would be completely deflated. At the same time, there’s a mythic and ritualistic quality; you can imagine people going around Balloon Dog in a sort of dance. A tribalistic quality.”
 

What I see in Jeff Koons website link

http://www.jeffkoons.com
 
However, instead of just enjoying his work I am often distracted by the hype that surrounds it. He takes a couple of things from contemporary life that are somewhat one dimensional then puts them together to try to create a new meaning. They become carries or cyphers as Koons seeks to get you to think. Nevertheless, I feel his work lacks empathy and intellectual curiosity.  Once you understand the idea behind a piece of his art, there is no hidden depth.  For me, his wealth has become the spectacle and not for the right reason. 
Jeff Koons, Acrobat, Stuart Bush Studio blog
Jeff Koons, Balloon Monkey (Blue) 2006-2013 Newport Gallery All rights reserved by the artist
 
Koons has taken the idea of turning art into a business to a whole new level. He has developed a style of work that does not include the ‘original’ artistic hand. Instead, he employs specialist highly skilled artists and craftspeople to bring his concept to life while he focuses on micromanaging the output.
 
In doing so, Koons creates a new religion for art that celebrates the shallowness of capitalism and celebrity as his ego seeks to promote himself as the modern-day equivalent of the great artists of the past.  
 
Whether you like his work or not his art does come across as uplifting and joyful.  But I am sceptical about the broader intentions of such art. This leads me to find what he does and his unflinching confidence and self-belief admirable, while at the same time, disagreeable.
 

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Drawing, The creative act

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

Allowing freedom in the studio for creative exploration is essential. When I work on a plain sheet of paper or in my sketchbook, I seek to have an openness in my drawings that allows and embraces a large number of directions and options that can be pursued. A chain of evolution takes place in my pictures over an extended period of time and patience is essential. Working on and towards a finished piece too early can make the outcome contrived and often can leave me frustrated.

This explorative phase is more like a problem-creation stage than a problem-solving stage. I am looking to generate new ideas to stimulate my visual imagination and leaving space for creativity and ambiguity. I have often found that without this freeness, the development and exploratory of my thoughts are restricted, and the work comes to a dead end.

With creative freedom in my drawings, my insight and intuition give me an inkling of what to do next allowing me to focus on specific issues and open questions. I can then remove certain details and concentrate on the whole by copying and repeating to expand conceptual ideas and structures by following a hunch.  

Inspiration is an essential ingredient and can come from chaotic and imprecise work made with an open mind or by viewing another artist’s work or for me, by being inspired by the city. Accidents and chance can lead to seeing embedded ideas in a different way. The freeness leaves space to suggest moods and emotions and enhancing abstract concepts. I often feel the need to revisit unresolved ideas and expanding on them. Sometimes this leads to radical changes and often, exciting new artwork.

It is always important to remember that overworking can remove the essence, spirit, the actual original thoughts, and potential. The outcome is successful when the liberty and pleasure are still visible. After all seemingly effortless art signifies greatness and shows the way forward for an artist who can then capture what is immaterial into the material.

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

How do I begin an artwork? What equipment, materials and techniques do I use?

 
 
©Stuart Bush, You don’t understand me part 1-4, 2015 gouache on paper – 

Beginning an artwork

My work starts with street photography. I wander the streets as a Flaneur.  Charles Baudelaire, the nineteenth-century poet described a Flaneur in his essay ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ as a stroller and loafer of the city streets observing modern life. Likewise, l wander around the city like a man of leisure as l try to take it all in. Following my intuition and hunches, I take pictures of what seems important to me. I look to capture that important element in the frame of my viewfinder, the essence of the importance of life.
 
The photographs I take allows me to record a rich visual diary. By having this source material I always have something to return to if inspiration is running low and I need to revisit my original ideas and intentions.
 
The next stage is in the studio with a blank sheet of paper or a blank page in my sketchbook. The main thing that happens in this first stage in the studio is reducing and simplifying the rich source l have gathered and extracting important elements to use. As well as painting and drawing, l sometimes print the photos to create collages or put layers together in a photoshop.
 
Things come together slowly, often my ideas and sketches don’t go anywhere at first. The next time I’m in the shower or going for a walk, or the next time I am in an art gallery I realise how I can use these snippets of life l have gathered! I then return to the original photographs and sketches and try to refine and develop my ideas.  
 
Often I come to dead end. Then l try to be patient and wait and allow ideas to develop. Allow my mind to bring ideas together. This normally happens when I am not particularly thinking about artwork, but when my mind is open and free to wander.
However, once l feel I am on to something, I look to develop a process and repeat the format in order to create a series of work. 
 
This is an ongoing and forever changing process.

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