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, 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.’ Is the 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

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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.
 

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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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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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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 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.
 

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

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

Related review to All too human

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

Related reviews to All too human

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

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Picasso paints want he knows rather what he sees

Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, Tate Modern (8th March – 9th September)  
 
Installation view of The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy with Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror (1932)  © Succession Picasso/DACS London, 2018
 
The subject of this exhibition ‘Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy,’ is the influence of love, fame and tragedy on Picasso’s painting over a one year period.  This year-long output is a rich visual diary which gives away a great deal about the artist; from his professional career to the way he worked and his personal life.  There are more the one hundred pieces of artwork, showing his entanglements with love and fame, his convolutions with colour and form, and his intricacies as the 20th century’s most influential artist.  
 
Using this review, I am seeking to unpick how a highly accomplished artist approached and explored form, colour and space in his work with the intention of helping me in my journey as an artist.
 
The Dream, 1932 Oil paint on canvas 1299 x 968mm Private Collection © Sussession Picasso/DACS London, 2018
 
The first room of this impressive exhibition starts in January and moves forward throughout a particularly special year in Picasso life.  Most of the work is referenced to a single day in 1932.   My first thoughts were how impressive his daily output was. It is hard to imagine working at such speed day after day and producing such high-quality work.  Picasso made his paintings feel like a grand and confident experiment.  He gave himself permission to trust his instincts and senses.  Rather than using direct observation, he preferred to work from memory, focusing beyond what he could see.  The result was an operation of his mind. Picasso said, “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”

 

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Rose Wylie exhibition review; the benefits of having an independent studio practice

Picasso started each painting with a simple outline drawn on the canvas.  The free and loose drawings of curves, contours and form feel as if they spring from discovery. They give his paintings a visual rhythm and a harmony of fragmented structures. The abstract shapes work independently but at the same time together, as they each have a direct impact on the next form.  They all come together creating striking compositions, filled with movement.
 
In working this way, Picasso is always looking for a new way to read the world and express a new visual vocabulary. As my eyes wandered around his paintings l was amazed and intrigued by how effortless Picasso makes his beautiful pictures look.  The colours and forms of the painting respond to each other.  
 
The Rescue 1932 oil paint on canvas 1300 x 975 x 25mm Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Sammlung Beyeler ©Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018
Picasso was interested in colour and had the intention to outshine his closet friend and rival Matisse in all areas.  After visiting ‘Matisse: The Cut-Out’, in 2014, and comparing the two artists work, in my view it is clear that Matisse had the upper hand when it came to colour. Picasso often used a joyful palette to create a warm and expressive ambience and at times with paintings like, ‘Seated Woman by a Window’,1932, Picasso’s use of colour creates dynamic energy and audacity of simplicity.  But to me, colour came second in Picasso work. It is not a fundamental part of his work; instead, it is often an afterthought.  
 

External links to review of this exhibition

 
Picasso creative genius lays not in the use of colour as an integral part of his work, but in his ability to understand and manipulate form. Picasso could view the structure from multiple directions, clearly shown in his cubist work, and combine these many viewpoints.  In capturing three-dimensional forms, in two-dimensional drawings, paintings and in his sculpture, Picasso clearly shows a highly advanced genius. His creative talent and mastery are distinctly evident in the subtleties of his advanced spatial awareness. Picasso plainly indicates he has the self-belief and confidence to push this as the dominant theme in his work and this is where he can outperform his friends and rivals.
 
Installation view of EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy with Pablo Picasso’s Nude Green Leaves and Bust ©Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018
I found the exhibition and following one year in the life of Picasso immensely successful.  It enabled me to consider what was going on in many parts of his life and how through evident self-confidence in his own abilities he was able to handle all that life threw at him. This exhibition will have a significant impact on my work. I see similarities in Picasso’s processes and topics that I can learn from.  I think the biggest take away for me from this exhibition is Picasso self-belief and confidence and how prolific and dedicated he was to his work. Picasso’s bristling energy unquestionably comes through.  
 
From the radical simplification of a form, you can see the building blocks of abstraction. He uses his artistic skills to the full to capture three-dimensional understanding.  Each shape seems to be the product of another shape.  Picasso said, “Cubism is neither a seed nor a foetus, but an art dealing primarily with forms, and when a form is reloaded it is there to live its own life.”
 
Installation view of The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy with Pablo Picasso’s The Three Dancers and Woman in the Garden ©Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018

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Review of All too human

A painting paradise – A review of Peter Doig exhibition at Michael Werner, London

Peter Doig, Bather II, (2017) All rights reserved by the artist and Michael Werner New York and London
A fictional world of colourful hues surrounds me as I go from one work to another.  I feel like I’m between cultures and countries at Peter Doig’s show at the Michael Werner Gallery, London.  Peter Doig born in 1959 in Edinburgh, has lived in Trinidad since 2002.  He studied at Wimbledon School of Art, Saint Martins School of Art and Chelsea School of Art. He is a professor at the Fine Arts Academy in Dusseldorf, Germany.  In reviewing this exhibition, I’m interested in contemplating Peter Doig methods, techniques, and content in order to consider how an acclaimed artist approaches the process of painting in paradise.
Red Man (Sings Calypso), 2017. All rights reserved by the artist and Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London
Looking at Peter’s, Red Man (Sings Calypso) 2017, I was curious about the symbolism in this painting.  The central figure in his swimming trucks is the film star Robert Mitchum when he visited Trinidad in 1957 and recorded an album of Calypso songs.  The character in the background references a man who lives on the island of Trinidad and often walks around the beach with a snake wrapped around him impressing the tourists.  The painting also references Laocoon’s struggle in Greek mythology when Laocoon and his two sons are killed by serpents sent by Apollo. My interpretation of the painting is that it suggests the inequality between the tourists and locals.  Robert Mitchum’s film star sunburn, is in strong contrast to the naturally, dark, local man and his snake, as the two worlds collide.
Peter Doig has previously stated, “we don’t always have to know what our painting is about”. What I like and enjoy about Peter Doig’s paintings is that they give the viewer the impression that they are free to float around Peter’s imagination without look for meaning. The symbolism in the paintings however, is very striking and encourages the viewer to ask questions about the artist intentions, neverthelessless for me they are a distraction in seeking to understand what the painting is really about.
I believe the found photographs used by the artist are only a starting point. They add another layer to the painting, but the subject in the images only helps to get the piece started.  Once the painting is underway the subject matter becomes irrelevant for the artist. Quite often the meaning in Peter Doig’s paintings is unavailable and unexplainable. The subject is like a desolate dream that is almost unfathomable for an outsider.
Peter Doig, Carnival Hat, 2015 All rights reserved with the artist and Michael Werner New York and London
The paintings are more about the daily painting process. Peter has created a signature style on the canvas where he can play with open creativity within a broad set of rules. He loves keeping things interesting where no two painting are painted the same. In my view, he wants to communicate his distinct impression of what he sees in the unique colours from the tropic paradise of Trinidad but feels compelled to highlight the dark side of life too.
Peter paints openly and quickly when starting a painting in order to get some colour on the canvas.  His signature figurative painting style comes from creating a richness of paint through layers. The cloth soaks up the washes, and the background colours come through the thin layers. Peter, at times, has been known to leave his paintings exposed to the weather at his studio to take advantage of the marbling effect from watermarks.  When the paint dries, there are rich details from the runs, splatters and drying process, which partially look like stains. He also sometimes masks out areas before the layering process to leave silhouettes of figures coming through the washes.
The second stage of Peter’s painting process is working on top of the layers, adding figures and objects as the experimenting continues. He uses an impasto technique that carefully balances with the layers below, so they don’t dominate.  It is common in smaller works of art for many artists to feel free to increase the risk-taking. It is the same for the smaller works in this show; the risk-taking is exciting with more vibrant kaleidoscopic tones.  The mark making pushes the boundaries and adds even more mystery.
Peter Doig, Rain in the Port of Spain (White Oak), 2015 All rights reserved by the artist and Michael Werner New York and London
I find Peter’s painting technique profoundly absorbing and fascinating.  There is no plan or an imagined endpoint; the open exploratory journey can go in any direction.  It is clear that Peter enjoys the process of painting everyday in the studio.
The darkness in the Trinidad paradise that underlies the work adds an edginess to this dream world.  Through the danger of risk-taking Peter offers the viewer a better appreciation of the world. The colours and the process have an impact on the human soul; each painting expresses its own spirit and soul.
In the Peter Doig show, he asks open questions about what a painting paradise could be.  The symbolism helps add layers of meaning that may lead you down a rabbit hole.  For me, the paintings are about the process of painting. Exploring different methods and techniques, and opening the doors to a fictional land where everyone’s soul is welcome.

Rose Wylie exhibition review; the benefits of having a independent studio practice

Quack, Quack, 30 November 2017 – 11 February 2018, Serpentine Sackler Gallery.
Queen with Pansies (Dots) 2016 183 × 331, Oil on canvas Courtesy of Private Collection

Rose Wylie was born in 1934 in Kent. She studied in Folkestone and Dover School of Art and at the Royal College of Art. After completing her MA at the age of 47, she started her career and since then has spent most of her time in the art world wilderness. In the last few years however, Rose’s career has taken off, and she is receiving deserved recognition. She has won the Charles Wollaston 2011 and the John Moores 2014 prizes and has her latest show at the Serpentine in the Sackler Gallery.

Rose Wylie’s work is a perfect case study in the importance of creative freedom. The title of the show ‘Quack Quack’ draws attention to her unique down to earth and unpretentious view of the world. In today’s world of the internet where naive first steps are often written about, filmed or photographed; Rose’s paintings are fresh and free from expectations. Her time in the art world wilderness away from a critical audience has allowed her work time to mature. Although Rose has always wanted her work to be accepted, she clearly has made no changes to meet public expectations or dogmas. Now the public has to take her and her work as they find her, trainers and all, and this I found it a refreshing change.

Pink Skater (Will I Win, Will I Win) 2015 208 × 329, Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Private Collection

During the extended period of being unacknowledged, Rose has gained in confidence and learnt to rely on herself. She takes an idea straight from a drawing in her sketchbook, which is a definite extension of her life, and repeats on to the un-stretched canvas. Her actions whether they are rough pencil outlines, or the accidental drips and spills become part of the work. The work is understandably a daily challenge where her surprise enhances the process. If an area becomes bogged down or not to her liking, in a natural, carefree way, she cuts the section out of the canvas and sticks a new piece on top. There is no set of shared doctrines or beliefs. Her thoughts and ideas are distinctly spontaneous and instinctive. I’m sure the make do and mend approach comes from living through World War 2.

When Rose discussed her working practices in a recent BBC podcast, she said, “Working on the floor was less big boy art, big boy art is done on an easel. [Working on the floor] is a nice idea that is close to housework, what women do in a sense. You find yourself clearing things up of the floor, that is what painting is like. It is not work, it is not painting. It is something you do, but it is not painting. I’m not really a painter, as my canvases are not stretched.”

ER & ET 2011
182 × 344, Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Morten Viskum Collection

This plain-spoken and unsentimental approach to making art benefits Rose’s work as she is not overly concerned about the importance of her own personal role. Rose sees things differently and wants to communicate her feeling and sensibilities in a carefree way. She uses all her perceptions, not just her sight. Her paintings are rebellious, instinctual and organic. The process is as simple as one idea comes from another, creating a vibrant visual language with painted text and sketches from art history, tv, sport, magazines and movies.

In today’s art market it is refreshing to see an artist’s work that challenges society’s sensibilities. In comparing her painting processes to housework, Rose highlights how studio processes are just a vehicle to get an idea across. The references and potential narratives in her work aren’t relevant. Rose holds on to what is necessary to her. She allows a concept to exist, to show others how to break down the constraints and to be free.

NK (Syracuse Line-up) 2014 185 × 333, Oil on canvas Courtesy of Private Collection & Black Strap (Eyelashes) 2014 184 × 326, Oil on canvas Courtesy of Private Collection

Her results show the benefits of not fearing disapproval or of offending others. We all have the right to get our interpretations of the world out there. Rose comprehensibly shows that fulfillment in her practice is much more important than fear of achievement. Her work promotes and defends artistic freedom and the freedom of expression.

Little has changed for Rose since her work has started selling, apart from she is unable to work on the floor since her hip replacement and the canvases aren’t stacked to the ceiling anymore. Rose has no constraints; she doesn’t try to anticipate what will come. To me, her work embodies true freedom. She has learnt not to be concerned about what other people think. She allows her work to exist without feeling the need to justify it.

Park Dogs & Air Raid 2017
393 × 331 Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Artist and David Zwirner, London

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