Art and Fear book review

Art and fear book
Have you ever wondered about the best way to approach art-making? In Art and Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making, by David Bayles and Ted Orland the artists and authors take on the challenge of verbalising the disquiet and unease of making art.
It is somewhat comforting to read an artist talking about typical problems and how to overcome them. One of the memorable anecdotes from the book comes from a ceramics class. The ceramics class is put into two groups and are told they are going to be graded differently. One group is informed to produce as much work as possible, while the other group has to focus on quality over quantity. At the end of the term, the first group will receive an A if they turn fifty pounds of sculptured clay into pots. The second group only needs to hand in one perfect vessel to gain an A, but it has to be their most significant accomplishment.
Once quality and perfectionism were given a back seat, I can easily imagine the first group rising to the occasion and completing pot after pot. With no trepidation about the outcome, there was no looking back. Each student made gradual progress and refined their techniques as they made their pots. With a brief reflection before moving on, mistakes were quickly learnt. Their skills and grace improved with each container.
The other group, with their focus on thinking before they start, were doomed before they began. These makers became frozen in time not sure what the consequence of each action would be. I have experienced this first hand. Striving for perfectionism cause massive anguish. With perfectionism as a focus, they found that they couldn’t help focusing on their shortfalls. Suddenly they were scared of making even a little mistake.
This short story from the book highlights the journey and experience artists have to overcome when art-making. It highlights that theorising can’t replace action. Consistently knocking out solidly average work, where good enough is the goal is the best approach and is a sound way to undertake art-making and progressing skills.
As Bayles and Orland say “you learn how to make your work by making your work.” “The hardest part of art-making is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over. Finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.”
Although there are several good motivating points in the first half of this book, I found the second half of the book not as strong. As l neared the end of the book, I was looking forward to it finishing. As at times, I found the book frustrating, especially the section on art and science. I was surprised that a book that tries to explain the benefits and problems of art-making avoids the one essential ingredient, creativity. However, the is some real insight to;
“Provocative art challenges not only the viewer, but also its maker. Art that falls short often does so not because the artist failed to meet the challenge, but because there was never a challenge there in the first place. Think of it like Olympic diving: you don’t win high points for making even the perfect swan dive off the low board.” Bayles and Orland
Overall I felt that reading this book was money and time well spent. After reading this book, I returned to my studio, with renewed focus to churn stuff out and work as much as I can. Instead of sitting down and imagining myself getting better. As Bayles and Orland said, “The overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.”

Michael Craig-Martin; Sculpture review

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Michael Craig-Martin Sculpture
Installation shot, All rights reserved by the artist ©Michael Craig-Martin and Gagosian Gallery

It is hard to understand the incongruities between a successful artist and the work of mere mortals like the rest of us. I want to put into words how can a simple drawing of an object can be turned into a world-class sculptural form. Michael Craig-Martin, the once significant tutor of the YBAs at Goldsmith between 1974-1998, is now showing his latest sculpture at the Gagosian Gallery on Britannia Street in London. Is it the snap at the moment of impact when seeing his work, where he is best in the game? Is it the skill of his placement that no one else comes close to? Or is it the degree of Craig-Martin’s unparalleled expertise? I realise all this is true, and yet none of it really explains anything or evokes the experience of seeing the distinguished simplicity of Craig-Martin’s artwork. I went along to his current show to see first hand, the beauty and genius of Michael Craig-Martin’s game.

I walk into the exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, on Britannia Street, I am met with a void-like atmosphere in the exhibition space. I am confronted with brightly coloured magenta frame in the shape of headphones, a cobalt blue safety pin and an emerald green fountain pen. They stand eight-foot-tall immediately in front of me in the empty space. The white walls and grey concrete floor stand in contrast, drawing my attention to the simplicity and colour that comes from the metal-framed sculptures.

When the shapes first come into sight, there is a snap at the moment of impact, like observing a professional tennis player’s powerful backhand. All I am witnessing is the finished point in time that is gratifying and noteworthy. However, my first thought is how the finished result looks so straightforward. As I walk around, I notice how the apparent three-dimensional work is really two-dimensional from the side.

I imagine not thinking about the countless paintings and wall mural I have seen of Craig-Martin’s work.  It must be hard to understand how much effort it has taken to produce this work for a new viewer of Craig-Martin’s work. There is not much for a viewer to go on. The highly refined three-dimensional objects sit there like a simple act.

It feels inconceivable to figure out how top performers reaches these dizzy heights of visual power from only witnessing the finished result. I think of a non-sports person watching the raw and powerful backhand of professional tennis winning at match point.

The player sprints to the corner with his weight moving towards the edge of the line. The participant throws a forehand with a topspin screaming down the line past the competitor. It is hard to imagine all the thousands of practices it has taken to reach this eminence moment. As the viewer stands there in shock. They look to find something to grab hold to understand the players elegant and effortless form. Asking themselves “did I really see what I just witnessed? How did they do it, it looked so easy?”

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Michael Craig-Martin Sculpture review
Safety Pin (blue) 2019 Powder-coated steel, All rights reserved by the artist ©Michael Craig-Martin and Gagosian Gallery

The white cube without any tendency towards anything leaves space for the viewer to really considering these simple-looking sculptures. Witness the work the viewer asks themselves the same question, what have I missed and how did the artist get to here?

Craig-Martin enables the viewers to carry out a time transportation effect to recollect the viewer knowledge and experience of the object in a profound and meaningful way. What can I perceive beyond the physical and tangible object? What does my intuition tell me?

The choice of colour stands out. The bright contrasting colours are like a centre punch in the gallery. In essence, Craig-Martin sculpture starts with a simple kind of reductiveness. He began by choosing an essential thing; an informed selection of all the art forms. The first step is making a pencil drawing; an original form of art-making.

From studying the work it possible to realise no one else would have taken the solitary steps. No one else would come close to this outcome. The skill of placement takes an original object and refines it. Lifting its significance and drawing attention to it.

When Craig-Martin was young, he had a keen interest in what things looked like. He loved great American 50s cars, and even today, he is still able to use his visual memory to identify the make and model of every car from this period. Through drawing, Craig-Martin has followed his natural engagement with things.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Michael Craig-Martin Sculpture
Headphones (magenta) 2019 Powder-coated steel, All rights reserved by the artist ©Michael Craig-Martin and Gagosian Gallery

Drawing enables Craig-Martin the opportunity to follow his nose in an open and unparalleled way. Rather than choosing cars, he deliberately chose objects we take for granted. A careful selection between all the commonplace items. Each item has its own significance in its own unique way.

Craig-Martin recognised the precise snap in his distinct drawings. Craig-Martin’s drawings have a peculiar look. The finished image looks like a technical drawing taken from an instruction manual. It imparts just enough knowledge on the viewer, so they recognise the object depicted.

The simple appearance at first glance appears as if the original drawing that inspired the sculpture could have been drawn by anyone. However, Craig-Martin’s picture of an everyday object is refined and distinct due to the sharp and precise line without shading, tone or predilection. No matter who set out with the same task, Craig-Martin’s approach of reducing the object without personal inflection is one of a kind. It leads to an outcome to be free from style and be remarkable in their own way. Successively creating Craig-Martin’s own visual language and system of communication.

The unparalleled skill comes partly from the expertise of Craig-Martin’s drawing but more so from the carefully selecting of what not to draw. Chuck Close, the American painter, known for his photorealistic process paintings talks about developing a practice based on the process;

“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.”

The persistence of completing the task again and again and knowing what you don’t want to do draws awareness to what appears to be mundane, functional items. The visual idea is then repeated over the years as paintings, murals and sculpture. Through this repetition of presentation, novelty turns into aesthetic importance for the viewer.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Michael Craig Martin Sculpture
Beachball (yellow) 2019, Fork and Knife (green and purple) 2019, Powder-coated steel, All rights reserved by the artist ©Michael Craig-Martin and Gagosian Gallery

Craig-Martin picked up a pencil and started drawing what he was interested in. He had found something. He didn’t know it was a good idea when he started, it was just an idea. Through a long journey, Craig-Martin’s has located what was indeed his.

At its heart, it is a simple drawing. Craig-Martin took a modest idea and elevated it. Through a conscious selection of things between the obvious stuff, the everyday item that we take for granted has been given a new significance. Every reiteration confirmed the unique style into a recognisable calling card and signature style. The distinct visual language is now comparable to his initial interest in the 1950s American cars. It is a clear personal vision that holds the viewers’ attention and tells the viewer a truth…

“There is no shoe, yet everybody sees a shoe. It doesn’t look anything like a shoe not even slightly. It has no relationship to a shoe whatsoever except it looks like a shoe. There is another object there, it’s not in one’s imagination. There is an object that is not a shoe, being seen to be a shoe. It is really extraordinary human ability and phenomenon.” Michael Craig-Martin explains, “There reason why dogs don’t watch television, it’s because they can’t see and read pictures. We have this extraordinary capacity to read pictures.”

There is a common phrase in art, ‘Painting comes out of painting.’ In this case, sculpture and painting come out of drawing. Craig-Martin original task wasn’t like a visionary architect, seeing a finish conceptual artwork in his mind from the start. It is more like a gardener, growing and pruning a garden and seeing which way the plants develop while nurturing them.

The beauty and genius of Michael Craig-Martin game is the commitment to baby steps without being able to see where they will lead. Following intuition and trusting inner belief that it will work its way out in the end. Stepping on the court as a novice and only seeing the winning backhand, it is impossible to understand of practices that have lead to this result.

Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941 but spent most of his childhood in Washington D. C. He studied Fine Art at Yale School of Art and Architecture. He has lived and worked in Britain since 1966.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Michael Craig-Martin Sculpture
Corkscrew (orange) 2019, & Bulb (red) 2011 Powder-coated steel, All rights reserved by the artist ©Michael Craig-Martin and Gagosian Gallery

Elizabeth Peyton review

A love story between a painter and the subject

Elizabeth Peyton review – Sadie Coles London until 15 June 2019

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Elizabeth Peyton review, A love story between a painter and the subject
Greta Thurnberg (2019) oil on board, 43.6 x 35.8 cm, All rights are reserved by the artist and gallery, ©Elizabeth Peyton, Sadie Coles London

Elizabeth Peyton returns to London with exhibition paintings and prints at Sadie Coles Gallery.  The first thing I am drawn to as I view this new body of work is her passion for painting and the people she depicts.  Over the years the configurations of her paintings have become more and more involved. The subject matter is still the same but Peyton’s use of light, colour and poignancy has compounded.  She brings out more physical aspects in her lush romantic paintings.

It is perhaps surprising that a few abbreviated spontaneous strokes can capture feelings sending them beyond merely descriptive marks.  She captures his life force in ‘David (Dave Bowie)’ (2019). The watercolour brushwork is pure and clean like freshly fallen snow, allowing her to express direct expressions of emotion.  Peyton uses the variations of bristles to portray a simple beauty and ideal concept.

A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

Chantal Joffe asks; What is it like to be somebody else?
It is satiable to fall in love with the subject.  However, falling in love is something Peyton does very easily.  Her paintings and her marriage to the Thai artist Rirkit Tirvanija is evidence of that.  In 1991, a few weeks after meeting Tirvanija, he was due to leave the US due to visa difficulties.  But Peyton told her, “I will marry you” and he meant it. They were married three weeks later.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Elizabeth Peyton, Yuzuru, Review
Yuzuru (Helsinki) 2018 monotype on Twinrocker handmade paper 79.7 x 59.5 cm, All rights are reserved by the artist and gallery, ©Elizabeth Peyton, Sadie Coles London
The happy marriage, unfortunately, came to an end in 2004 when they divorced.  Nevertheless, Tirvanija introduced her to Gavin Brown, the art dealer, before he had his own gallery space.  Gavin Brown encouraged Peyton to have a solo show in Room 828, at the Hotel Chelsea, in New York.  This was to be the beginning of Peyton’s art career.

A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

Elizabeth Peyton - Sadie Coles London
Peyton started off her career painting a personal homage to artists and musician of the nineties.  She was inspired by reading Stefan Zweig’s ‘Marie Antoinette: The portrait of an Average Women’ and Vincent Cronin’s ‘Napoleon’.   Peyton understood and realised that Zweig’s book was a portrait of women infused with feelings and human insight. In Cronin’s ‘Napoleon’ book he showed that because of Napoleon’s individuality, he was able to use his magnetism to transform and change the world.
Elizabeth Peyton says, “I’d always made pictures of people, even when I was a little, little person.  The urge was there.  I just didn’t know why.  When I did that drawing of Napoleon, I realised this is something I have to do and want to do.”

A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

David Salle undressing the role of the artist and the writer
Once it occurred to Peyton that all she needed to validate her work was to realise that ‘history is in people’ and by romanticising the image she was able to capture the spirit of the time.  By painting certain selected people in her show, Greta Thunberg, Jackson, Ally’s kiss in the film ‘A Star is Born’, she is participating in what she sees as a highly important cause.
“I really love the people I paint. I believe in them, I’m happy they’re in the world.”
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Elizabeth Peyton, Review
David (David Bowie) 2019 watercolour on paper 41 x 31 cm, All rights are reserved by the artist and gallery, ©Elizabeth Peyton, Sadie Coles London
The images she chooses to paint are in comfortable and relaxed poses rather than the glamorous tabloid snaps of the front page. In her images, vulnerability and susceptibility are on show and warm and fuzzy feelings of desire and affection radiates.
The paintings make the viewer and artist come alive with Peyton’s work reverberating powerfully with the viewing public.  Peyton, by essential painting the characterise of the period, has deeply embedded her work in the zeitgeist.  James Baldwin the American novelist, playwright and activities once wrote,
“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them”
A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

Chantal Joffe asks; What is it like to be somebody else?

Chantal Joffe, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Chantal Joffe, Esme on the Blue Sofa, 2018 Oil on canvas 152.3 x 305 cm 60 x 120 1/8 in © Chantal Joffe, Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
The first thing I noticed about Chantal Joffe’s paintings at Victoria Miro, in London, is that they challenge the concept of beauty.  Joffe paints the female figure, often in unstinting and frank disclosure.  There is a directness that is fascinating, every blemish and every wort is on show.  From the gradual decay of the sitters through to the triumph of their existence, Joffe painting’s depicts and embodies her muses.  By portraying the intensity of the moment, she gives the viewer passage to understand how they feel.  The gritty truth of life is there for all to see as it comes slapped down in a painterly splurge.  It is in Joffe’s nature to dig deep and get below the surface.
Chantal Joffe’s (b. 1969) career started after studying at Glasgow School of Art (1988 – 1991) and the Royal College of Art (1992-1994).  Since then her art has been exhibited at prestigious galleries in UK, USA and across Europe.  She won the Charles Wollaston Award in 2006 and has work in a wide selection of gallery and museum collections around the world.

Chantal Joffe asks; What is it like to be somebody else?

Etel Adnan shows colour alone is all the painter needs
Thankfully, I have seen Joffe’s work a handful of times before, and I can recall the psychological and emotional force I witnessed in her work.  In this show, there are only eleven paintings, so there are less to delve into.  They remind me of a quick and frenetic game of Rugby Union Sevens. After a few quick masterful plays, it is all over in a flash. I wish I had more to enjoy.

"Chantal

The paintings mainly focus on Joffe’s niece Esme, with one picture of Bella and one of a young man named Faun.  Joffe questions the existential vacuum we all experience, by unpicking the question; What is it like to be someone else?  She depicts the individual and delves deep to actualise her sitter’s purpose and inner hopes.  Joffe has realised that we all seek to understand and fulfil the meaning of our existence.  Joffe tries to achieve this by going beyond the facade that we allow others to see.  Thereby allowing a whole variety of probable meanings to become visible, as she seeks to depict life as it really is.

Chantal Joffe asks; What is it like to be somebody else?

Chantal Joffe RA: If I can paint, I can deal with it
Joffe often connects the solitary female figure with history. She does this by painting not only the sitter but also what she knows about the sitter in each portrait.  Often Joffe’s regular sitters are members of her family that she has a kinship with, mixed with images from magazines.  Joffe doesn’t like working on what is imagined; she paints what to her is truly real.
In Esme at the Diner,(2019) Joffe swerves the brush well clear of the trap of perfectionism and judgement as she forgets about right or wrong.  The moment the brush touches the apple green coloured canvas honesty is all that matters.  The painting shows Joffe integrity as she grapples the painting into being.  Joffe says, “You always going to struggle your whole life, and if weren’t struggling you wouldn’t be an artist.”

"Chantal

Joffe subconscious intentions lead the paintings forward.   An action unlocks the following response as she reveals a startling beautiful portrayal.   A concession of quick strokes shows the strength which comes from the gesticulations and dribbles and adds to the feel of life.  The formal qualities all come together resulting in a painting that radiates a strong commanding composition.

Chantal Joffe asks; What is it like to be somebody else?

Tracey Emin: I cried because I love you
The love and passion for painting are there to see in the quick, decisive marks. It’s all about the present tense as Joffe is in the moment, she is aware and fully present. She is at one with the fresh, clean, luscious pigment on her brush.  Joffe doesn’t have to think about where the brush is going, her impulse comes in a spontaneous bout.  She has a natural feeling of knowing where every swerve of paint needs to be.  At this level of supreme creativity, it is a case of her feeling where the painting is leading Joffe as the muse inhabits her vital spirit.  As a result, the pictures are a record of her painterly playfulness.  Chantal Joffe says, “[Painting] is like dancing on a pin, if you want to dance on a pin that is a pretty exciting thing, it’s like climbing mountain.”
As she extends into her passion for painting, Joffe forgets herself and becomes at one with the sitter.  As she directs her attention on to the plight of another, the more human she becomes.  Through painting, Joffe adds to our meaning and understanding of being human, allowing us to move beyond our own inner terminal.  Rather than just living, Joffe’s paintings give us something to live for.  We are in this together.  No matter how much we are pushed into this ongoing rat race, Joffe reveals what it is really about; a spectrum togetherness of energy, purpose and meaning.

"Chantal

Chantal Joffe exhibition at the Victoria Miro, London from 11 April – 18 May 2019 

Chantal Joffe asks; What is it like to be somebody else?

David Salle undressing the role of the artist and the writer

David Salle undressing the role of the artist and the writer

David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
David Salle, Autumn Rhythm, 2018, oil and acrylic on linen
74 x 91 in, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt,
David Salle, the 65-year-old artist from Norman, Oklahoma, who has amassed many international shows around the world is back.  He has made a promising return to London at the Skarstedt Gallery, with a series of work titled, ‘Musicality and Humour’.  I had high expectations of his work after recently reading his book ‘How to See’ in which Salle explores the work of his peers and undresses the role of the artist and writer. Salle seeks to inform newbies like me how to paint and interestingly, how writing helps artists to understand their own work.
Entering the gallery, I saw the first crowd pleaser, ‘S.P. Divide’, (2018-19). I feel a little overwhelmed as my eyes darted from one part to another.  The visual strength and energy come from the pace of imagination and the zing of the image.
David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Installation shot David Salle Musicality and Humour, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt, New York.
Looking at the subject matter in the series of paintings I am drawn towards Salle’s use of illustrative cartoons which contrast with the colourful stripes and jumbled images.  The strips and monotones cartoons create a stark contrast.  I try to make sense of the visual rules, patterns and processes, which l find are reminiscent of our overloaded undiscernible culture.  It takes a few minutes to steady myself and figure it all out.  I then step back and walk around, finding that not only does Salle start by making that first impression appear unfathomable, but the paintings also draw the viewer in like an addictive crossword.

Related review: David Salle undressing the role of the artist and writer

Tracey Emin: A Fortnight of tears exhibition review
I slowly, patiently, I get the answers.  I am reminded of Lichenstein’s use of cartoons however, Salle’s focus is more on the brushwork than the benday dots.  There is clearly a prominence given to how the paintings are made.  The brisk strokes show Salle’s calculated visual fluency, as I imagine the artist listening to Jazz or classical music while he paints.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer
David Salle, Grey Honeymoon, 2018-19, oil and acrylic on linen
74 x 104 in, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt, New York.
Over the top of the canvas, Salle often paints another sketch. The two layers are left as if they out of focus and unrefined. The flaws and errors are on show and are charming.  They add to the appeal and highlight how Salle avoids fuzziness and getting bogged down in perfectionism.
As I walk around I realise the more I look at the subject on the surface I realise its shallowness, the more it appears to be comparable to the superficiality of advertising.  It’s subject matter appears to be chosen for its aesthetical qualities, drawing you in to look for hidden meanings and narratives however, none are there.  I couldn’t fail to notice the visual pun in the painting, ‘Leader of seals.’ A man resembling the seals or the seals resembling the man.

David Salle’s website link

DavidSalle.net

Skarstedt Gallery
The paintings have none of the stillness and stuffiness of paintings designed on photoshop.  Each canvas is carefully considered and planned to underscore and give emphasis to the subject matter’s weight, pitch and tone, without feeling plotted or forced. The paintings come from themselves through the process of painting. Each picture is inspired by the previous one bringing into question how we create logic and meaning in our visual culture.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer
David Salle, Equivalence, 2018, oil and acrylic on linen, 78 x 110 in, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt, New York.
Salle says in his book that writing completes the circle for an artist.  I have found this to be true as this review has helped me to understand what I want to do with my own work. Salle emphasises the mastery of visual communication.  He uses cultural signs as his playthings. Great artists of the past played with the rules and patterns of their time, Salle does the same here.  The cartoons are like cut up comic books or Matisse’s cut-outs.  The colours, tones and forms are put together to achieve new expressive meanings and association.  These encourage us to see the world from Salle’s position where tempo and humour create personality.  His work is a pictorial event. Above all, it succeeds on many levels.  Salle slices through what we see, presenting enduring images that are full of energy.  His painting are unpredictable and highly entertaining.
The show is on at Skarstedt Gallery, London until 26th April 2019

Related review: David Salle undressing the role of the artist and writer

Isle D'Hollander: In and out of abstraction

Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Stuart BuSh Studio Blog Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin, It was all too Much, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 71 3/4 x 71 3/4 in. (182.3 x 182.3 cm)
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis). Courtesy White Cube
Tracey Emin’s career was made on ‘My bed’ (1998) and ‘Everyone I have Ever Slept with 1963-1995’ (1995).  Other career highlights include Charles Saatchi’s ‘Sensations’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997, her Turner Prize nominee in 1999, and her large retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in 2011.  Emin’s reputation has been founded on not only making upfront work and disclosures documenting her colourful life but also for her mastery and skill with a brush in her hand.  I went to her latest show at the White Cube in Bermondsey titled ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ to see if Emin, now that she is 55 and a Royal Academician, is she still relying on shock and revelations about her undomesticated wild side or has she moved on to a new phase of mature work.
 
On entering the exhibition l was immediately reminded of the audience’s role in her work; the role of the voyeur in Emin’s authentic life.  However, in the first room, the experience started with an anticlimax.  The subject of her work was insomnia.  I realise insomnia is very debilitating and impactful on the suffering.  Nevertheless, I found the work lacking in her usual emotion strength and power.  But as l continued to walk along the corridor l delighted in seeing Emin’s signature style painting in full flow on the walls.

Related blog post; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Anni Albers Weaves her Magic
 
Emin is back to her best and ferocious self as she explores the creation of mark making and slaps the brush on the canvas.  Her technical skill and creative energy are on show as she continues to bind her life experiences and artwork together. Bringing together subjects of love, her broken heart after the death of her mother, her abortion, guilt, and her mental and physical state on to the canvas.  Her paintings have the forcible lyric quality of a master at work.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears’, White Cube Bermondsey, 6 February – 7 April 2019
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis)
The love of painting is undeniably on show in the large rooms, which along with paintings and large bronze sculptures such as ‘When I sleep’ (2018), continue to show her untamed emotional strength when dealing with a life that has never been untroubled or straight forward.  In the painting, ‘And so it felt like this,’ (2018) Emin erases her complex history with broad brush marks, that nonetheless still creeps through her washes of paint.  An abundant spontaneity flows from her brush as she generalises form.  Which at the same time apprehends her mental state through her emphasis of pure emotion.
 

Related blog post; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Kerry James Marshall, History of Painting
Emin is unafraid to portray what most people would be mortified to show.  She shows she has not lost her power to shock in the video in the auditorium titled, ‘How it feels,’ (1996).  In the video, Emin walks through the streets of London recounting the ordeal of giving birth to a foetus in a taxi in 1991.   It is a very direct and unsettling account of Emin describing and explaining the event and how she feels about not being able to have a child.  It was a shocking and excruciating experience, “I cried because I love you.” says Emin, highlighting her willingness to put everything on show for her artistic career.
 
As I watched the genuine and authentic account of Emin’s experiences, I wondered about her life.  How it is now, compared to how it might have been if she hadn’t realised that she needed to show her authentic life with her art.  If she hadn’t learnt to communicate her life experiences, love, joy, sorrow and anger in her art, her life would have been so very different. 
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, SOmetimes there is no reason
Tracey Emin, Sometimes There is No Reason, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 48 1/16 x 48 1/4 in. (122 x 122.5 cm), © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis) Courtesy White Cube
Emin has always been greatly inspired by Egon Schiele. It is very easy to see their clear connection not only in her work in this exhibition but also their lives too. They both love the exploration of mark making in the craft of painting and drawing.  A gesture in the heat of the moment emphases a moment of time in their eventful lives. 

Related link; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’

Tracey Emin - Hyperallergic
 
Although not all of the work is as powerful  Emin’s reality has crossed boundaries. I have never considered going so far and really putting my heart and life on the line like she has. As I am not willing to display my personal truths like she has. I think most people would be uncomfortable about doing so.   
 
However, as Neil Gaiman said “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”  I think to myself, “Is this what it takes to be a successful artist?”
Stuart Bush Studio Blog Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin, You Kept watching me, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 48 3/16 x 60 1/16 in. (122.4 x 152.5 cm)
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis) Courtesy White Cube

Related blog post; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Ilse D'Hollander In and Out of Abstraction

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'

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.  
 

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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.”
 

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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
 
 

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

 

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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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.
 

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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.
 

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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
 

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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. 
 

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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