Anni Albers weaves her magic

Stuart Bush Studio blog, Anni Albers Wall Hangings
Anni Albers Wall Hanging 1926 Mercerized cotton, silk, 2032 x 1207 mm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Everfast Fabrics Inc. and Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1969 © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London
Anni Albers at Tate Modern (11 October 2018 – 27 January 2019)
There was clearly was a buzz in the room when I entered the show at the Tate Modern. It was Saturday afternoon and the show was packed with inquisitive faces.  The Anni Alber’s exhibition was arranged to highlight her life’s work and show how her ambitious ideas started.  The ancient craft of weaving portrays the potential to impact peoples lives with beauty and functionality on its own terms. Textiles are at the heart of many cultures and this knowledge is passed on through the generations.  In this exhibition Anni Albers weaves her magic, by combining the attitude of the Bauhaus with the roots of modern abstraction.   
 
When looking for an exciting art exhibition, textiles is not something I am usually drawn to.  Similarly this must of been how Anni Albers felt when she joined the Bauhaus. On her arrival at the Bauhaus in 1922, Albers was encouraged to participate in the ‘Women’s workshop’ and dissuaded from joining the men’s painting class.  Although Anni was initially unenthusiastic about weaving, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to her.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Anni Albers weaving in her studio
Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937
Weaving has the potential to interlink many disciplines including art, design and craftmanship. Here Albers was able to explore her creative ideas away from any direct male competition.  She found a unique way forward incorporating beauty and delight in the structural principles of textiles and abstraction.  Textiles allowed her see the perfect marriage of grids, lines and repetitive patterns.

Anni Albers weaves her magic

Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
 
Albers was able to fully capitalise on the Bauhaus way of teaching by going back to basics where form follows function.  She saw the opportunity to combine it with ideas from highly influential key figures around her. People like Josef Albers, the painter and colourist who she married in 1925, and the painter Paul Klee.  Her weavings and wall art helped Anni Albers earn a passport to the US, enabling Albers and her husband to flee from the rise of the Nazi party in 1933.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Anni Albers TR II
Anni AlbersTR II1970Lithograph50.5 x 55.6 cmThe Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany CT© 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, LondonPhoto: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art
From the US, Albers made frequent trips to Peru, Cuba, Chile and Mexico.  These inspiring trips encouraged her to see textiles from a new perspective.  She found, that weaving was capable of serving a communication purpose in different cultures with no written language.  It was also able to compete with painting and sculpture; and had an impact on architecture and printmaking. 
 
Albers took massive strides forward with what she later called ‘pictorial weavings’. The amalgamation of geometric abstraction into textiles were beautiful artworks in their own right.  Albers cemented her position in the world of art by hanging her weavings on the wall, competing directly with other forms of art like painting.  She became a catalyst in the revolution between arts and craft, aesthetics and function. The ideas developed at the Bauhaus have filtered into our daily life.   I recommend a trip to see this thought provoking interlace of ideas.
 

Related blog post; Anni Albers weaves her magic

Colour is for squares - Exhibition review of Josef Albers, 'Sunny side up'

The inspirational work of Franz Kline

Stuart Bush Studio Blog Franz Kline
Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955. Oil on canvas, all rights remain with the artist
The first time I saw the inspirational work of Franz Kline was at the Abstract Expressionist exhibition in 2017 at the Royal Academy in London. Prior to that, I had only seen Kline’s work in reproductions in books.  I had always been intrigued and impressed by his paintings and when I saw his original work for the first time l was not disappointed. Kline’s work had a strong impact on me. It evoked the feeling and emotions that l have about the city.  It reminded me of the grandeur and the scale of the New York skyline.  Using line and form, his mainly black and white paintings, ask ‘Is this really what reality is about?’
 
Early in Kline’s career, he visited Willem de Kooning’s studio.  At that time Kline was drawing and painting representational images.  De Kooning introduced Kline to a Bell-Opticon enlarger.  When Kline’s representational drawings were projected onto a canvas Kline saw a new way forward. The images inspired Kline to make an experimental leap into abstraction.  
 
Throughout his career Kline was reluctant to talk about his art.  Unfortunately, the lack of dialogue had an impact on his career.  With little confabulation about what he was working towards, collectors since his death, have focused on other Abstract Expressionist like, De Kooning, Pollock and Rothko.   
 

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Abstract expressionism at the Royal Acamdemy of Arts, London
His painting process of white over black, over white in repetition using household paint is a sign that Kline saw his painting practice as different.  Household paints are clearly less expensive and less refined. But they enabled him to paint in his own, unique style using a mixture of high gloss and matt. However, at times it seemed like he was not striving for fine art, and not striving for durability of his legacy.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog Franz Kline
Franz Kline, Andrus, 1961, All rights remain with the artist
 
In fact, Kline’s art showed other priorities.  It contained is a lot of intangible realness, which examined the grittiness and abrasiveness of the city.  There is a sense of the physical danger in the New York streets as law and order was fraying.  
 
Kline’s art was based on personal vision and inner thoughts, influenced by what he saw around him; the streets of New York and Jazz Music. Abstract painting and Jazz music without words suggests a profound correlation with the way people experience the city.  Each painting had its own rhythm. Line, colour and form were influenced by melody, harmony and rhythm like in the free jazz compositions of Miles Davis.  The paintings reflected the streets.  When looking at a Kline painting you have a unique sense that they go deeper and beyond the surface.
 

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Abstract Expressionism - A time line of history, The Met
Kline’s painting technique was able to capture a visual intelligence as his captured forms competed with each other.  By the subtraction and the addition of new forms throughout his painting, he looks at the subtracted nature and essence in the city.  He envokes the stillness and movement, the noise and silence, the negative and positive, and the absence and presence. The result is a personal account and a romancing of the poetic qualities of the city that challenges the notion of beauty.  The limited palette hints that Kline may have a lack of knowledge about colour, but Kline’s seeks to evoke feelings by using the colours he sees when he looks up from street level.  
 
Kline work evokes a tangible experience.  There is a joy of geometry from the colossal departure from nature.  The drawings that started as representational, distilled and reframed through a projector find a response to genuine psychological needs within the details. Through light and dark you are drawn to the shape of something impalpable.  The resulting sculptural forms painted with abstract values, suggest a path to truth.  Kline appears to ask what the significance of each experiences is?   His work is certainly subjective.
 

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What I have learnt from Alex Katz

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.

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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.  
 

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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.”
 

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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
 
 

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.
 

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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. 
 

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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.
 

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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. 

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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.
 

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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.  
 

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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.
 

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How I see art contributing to society

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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.

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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.
 

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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

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.
 

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

Tomma Abts Serpentine exhibition review

Tomma Abts, Hebe, Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tomma Abts Serpentine Exhibition review
Tomma Abts, Fiebe, 2017 Acrylic & oil on canvas 48 × 38 cm, 18 7/8” × 15” Courtesy Private Collection
Tomma Abts (1967) is a German-born painter who lives in London. In 2006 Tomma won the Turner Prize and has since gone on to exhibit in many institutions around the world.  In this Tomma Abts Serpentine exhibition review, I want to discuss her interesting static compositions and consider what I think the artist wants to say through the work.
 
Tomma Abts’s quiet and unique work could never be described as pretty.  Her strange visual illusions at first glance look like 1950s wallpaper.  Each painting contains zigzags, puzzles and twists on her trademark sized 48 x 38cm canvases. Tomma worked mainly on canvases of this size for the last 20 years, only recently introducing, different sized and shaped canvas. The title of her paintings were taken from a German dictionary of first names, Uphe, Zebe, Mehm, Veeke, Meko and Noeme.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Fimme, 2013 Tomma Abts Serpentine exhibition review
Tomma Abts, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (7 June– 9 September 2018) © 2018 readsreads.info
Tomma was attracted to the Sackler gallery rather than the main Serpentine Gallery. She quickly realised that by leaving the powder rooms at the centre of the gallery empty with only the brickwork showing she could put her work in a sequence around the outside.   Laying out the paintings in a precise order enables her to control the sense of movement for the viewer; and links her work carefully to the architecture.  The positioning and lighting emphasises the relationships in each of her paintings between the contrast of the foreground and background.
 

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Tate Audio and Video on Tomma Abts
 
Tomma begins each painting without any preconceived ideas about what the picture will look like. The first task is to use a quick wash of acrylic paint to the canvas.  This is followed by an evolution of intuitive decisions in oil paint to create sculptural paintings that add depth to the two-dimensional surface.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tomma Abts Serpentine exhibition review
Tomma Abts, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (7 June– 9 September 2018) © 2018 readsreads.info
Tomma says, “not knowing what the outcome might be is what makes me want to start another painting.  I have no plans, sketches or preconceptions when I begin; it is just decision after decision – an ongoing process of putting something onto the canvas and then editing it, then putting something down and editing it again – and in that way slowly constructing something…The making itself leads the way. The image is the manifestation  of the process.”

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Peter Doig exhibition review
 
It is a common theme in painting that when an artist changes their mind about a previous decision they often feel compelled to hide that journey in the painted layers. There is a very long phase of searching and discovery, and trial error can be seen in each painting.  In overpainting, there are submerged shapes turning the painting into a record of compressed time and space in flux. Each painting has a life of its own and eventually arrives at a lyrical composition of colour and illusory space.  The obscured passages of rifts and forms are like previous states of mind hidden in the surface.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tedo, 2002, Tomma Abts Serpentine Exhibition review
Tomma Abts, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (7 June– 9 September 2018) © 2018 readsreads.info
The result is a painting that uses the way forms catch the light and shadows. Tomma says, “I can’t really say what it will look like or how it will finish or what will make it work.  It’s a different idea or moment for each painting.”  Each painting has a unique relationship and balance of colour and form. 
 

Related posts; Tomma Abts Serpentine exhibition review

Sarah Sze Exhibition review
There is no content, leaving you wondering what point Tomma is trying to make.  The paintings are a reflection of a process. The viewer skids across the surface, trying to get a grip but failing.  The emptiness of the paintings captivate the viewer and invite reams of commentary.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tomma Abts Serpentine Exhibition review
Tomma Abts, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (7 June– 9 September 2018) © 2018 readsreads.info
The whole exhibition feels like an artwork in itself.  My mind wondered into the thoughts of Corbusier utopian dreams for Paris.  The artworks around the outside of the gallery are like the suburbs in the peripheral areas of the city. The inner architecture, the brickwork of the powder rooms is like the working heart of the city.  The intuitive paintings, where one step leads to the next, come from Tomma’s inner architecture and soul.  The lines, forms and rhythms offer a kind of purity, with each painting having its own unique sensation.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tomma Abts Serpentine exhibition review
Tomma Abts, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (7 June– 9 September 2018) © 2018 readsreads.info

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Laura Owens Exhibition review