A painting has to stand up by itself

©Stuart Bush, A section of ourselves as a commodified object, oil on aluminium panel, 80 x 120cm

Often I think a viewer looks at works of art and asks themselves why did the artist make this?

Understanding the original idea or intention of why I made it defeats my ambitions for this artwork.  Instinct led me to paint this painting.  With this question, my aims are never going to be clear.

Braque said, “the only thing that matters in art is what that cannot be explained.”

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

Is it essential to see a painting in the flesh?

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

Everyone sees things differently.  The best artworks in my eyes mean different things to different people.

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

Creativity is instinctive, and it is buried within me.  I’m interested in this part of myself.  I am curious about exploring what I am hung up on.  I’m not in control of what comes out.

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I need to find my next painting in my last painting

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A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain Tate Britain, 27 March – 11 August 2019

Stuart Bush Studio Blog Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) L’Arlésienne, 1890, Oil paint on canvas
650 x 540 mm, Collection MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art) Photo credit: João Musa
Van Gogh arrived in London in 1873 at 20 years old and spent just under three years as an art dealer’s assistant. Although he didn’t start painting until four years after he left, this exhibition proposes that London had a significant impact on his art and influenced many of his works. I went along to take a closer look at Van Gogh’s paintings and to see what I thought of the exhibition claims.
London in the 1870s was an exciting place to obverse people and places. It was overtly brimming with life.  Van Gogh regularly made drawings of London on his way home from work from Covent Garden to Brixton.  Seeing the sooty scenes across the Thames, rowdy drunken men laughing in the pubs and women having bitter quarrels in the streets was a valuable experience. It created a stark contrast to the rich and opulence life he also saw.  Charles Dickens, who was one of Van Gogh’s favourite writers, wrote about London, “[the] streets and courts dart in all directions until they are lost in the wholesome vapour which hangs over the house-top and renders the dirty perspective uncertain and confined.”

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

Picasso paints what see rather than what he knows
When Van Gogh started painting, he knew what he wanted to portray; an equivalent of the way that Dickens wrote.   Along with building a personal collection of black and white prints that he also sold as an art dealers assistant, like Gustave Doré’s drawings, From London: A Pilgrimage, (1872).  Van Gogh knew he wanted to be a social documenter; a painter of working people’s lives.
It is interesting that Van Gogh’s earlier work shows the usual traditional approach to drawing and painting that I would expect from that period.  I wonder what his teacher from that time thought of his art when Van Gogh felt the need to move past the traditional habits that he had learnt.   I think it is highly likely that traditional tuition would have been suffocating for Van Gogh’s expressive style as there would have been an encouragement to stay within in the confines of established conventions, instead of exploring expressionism.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) Path in the Garden of the Asylum, 1889 Oil paint on canvas 614 x 504 mm Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

Isle D'Hollander review
This exhibition clearly shows he was a natural genius at by the end of the 1880s with many paintings dated 1888-9 like, ‘Path in the garden if the asylum Saint Remy,’ (1889) and ‘The Prison Courtyard Saint-Remy’ (1890) to his credit.
It is perhaps not surprising that Van Gogh is mainly a self-taught artist.  I’m sure he would have found it difficult to listen to advice that was stifling his approach. He even ignored his brother Theo’s advice.  After a short term of concise art training, nothing stopped him from painting in rippling flows of paint on a springy canvas. Van Gogh was able to be at one with what he felt was important. He moved artistically to where he was entirely at one with his inspirations and to be able to create a strong presence in his paintings.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

I cried becauase I love you - Tracey Emin review
As he broke new ground in his work Van Gogh must have realised he needed to be aware of how he stood and the way his arm was angled to give him the flexibility to create movement on the canvas.  He didn’t know what was right or wrong; he didn’t have any judgemental glasses to take off.  While in the flow of painting, his actions in front of the canvas unlocked a process of natural development without self-criticism. Van Gogh’s paintings are like a controlled explosion; an exhilarating performance where he was intensely aware of every stroke.
I’m not saying Van Gogh didn’t have self-doubt, after-all it is believed that he cut his ear off and later committed suicide due to his mental illness at aged 37.  The point I am trying to make is that to achieve what he did on a canvas I suspect that when Van Gogh was in front of the fabric with a brush in his hand, he only focused on the present moment. In the moment of conception, Van Gogh had a strong and deep urge to communicate his emotional feelings.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

Kerry James Marshall - History of Painting review
Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Van Gogh In Britain, Tate Britain, March 2019
Van Gogh used a carefully chosen palette of colour which was intentionally contrasting. He used a clean brush with the fresh pigment to prevent muddy colours.  Van Gogh was without the usual self-doubt of an artist developing a new style. He put his full attention and observation into what he was doing; nothing more, nothing less.
If ten people saw an identical view and were asked to paint that view, every painting would be different. We each bring our own unique mix of life, history, judgement and experiences forward when we do anything. Everyone has their baggage and subjective view of the world. We all notice that what we feel is essential.  Van Gogh didn’t look at things as they were. He looked deeper, not to what they looked like, but to what only he could see.  He went to great lengths to use a thick impasto style that captured emotions more than any painting had achieved before.  Feelings and emotions were directed into the process of applying paint.  The paintings could not have been made without extreme self-control and concentration in every moment in front of the canvas. For me, Van Gogh prized the importance of his relaxed focus above all else.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review link

Van Gogh Museum
I found that one of the highlights of the show is ‘Hospital at Saint-Remy‘ (1889). Who would have thought that marks on a canvas could make such an impression!  Van Gogh made the painting while admitted to the hospital. He had a natural ability to be able to record what he felt.  His swirling impasto technique with a loaded brush of buttery paint is a delight. He is at one with every stroke.  He reminds me that it so easy to make a mistake by trying too hard.  My successful paintings have come when I haven’t been trying; when my mind is calm and relaxed.
Stuart Bush Studio Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) The Prison Courtyard, 1890 Oil paint on canvas 800 x 640 mm © The Pushkin State, Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Reproductions, photos and film, as well as words, do little to explain the shivering and whirling skies, the crackling and rippling glints of light, the gleaming stars, and the exhilarating flames of summer. Warm colours of yellow, orange and red are in the low part of the canvas.  They play against the cold shades of greens, blues and purples in the top of the painting.  Then Van Gogh uses the lower colours gradual up through the picture. It causes the expressive brush marks to come alive.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review – related post

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The London experience gave Van Gogh life experience.  I’m sure Dickens had an impact as well as the black and white reproductions by giving him the inspiration he needed to bring emotions and feels to the fore.  However, at the end of the show, I was only partly convinced that London directly inspired Van Gogh expressive work.  Nevertheless, I am thrilled to have a Van Gogh exhibition in London. I have had the chance to digest and appreciate a genius at work.
Van Gogh wasn’t trying to depict what most people see while looking at the world. Van Gogh instead was feeling strong emotions. He had the ability, the skill and the genius to wrap his feelings up in paint; to record them. Van Gogh’s spirit is on his canvases.  He shows us a profound truth about the human condition, in a full and proud statement, so thick it creates a three-dimension effect.
They were more than just paintings to Van Gogh. If you want to see a picture with a brush that is load with life in every stroke, this exhibition is a must see.  Van Gogh completely puts himself in jeopardy for his art.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) Olive Trees, 1889, Oil paint on canvas, 510 x 652 mm, National Galleries of Scotland

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review – related post

I wish I could paint everyday

Breakfast with Lucian, book review

Lucian Freud, Breakfast with Lucian Book review, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Lucian Freud, 1922-2011, Girl with a White Dog 1950-1, Oil paint on canvas 762 x 1016 mm © Tate
If you have ever wondered what an artist’s life would be like if they put art first at the expenses of relationships, friendships and family. If so, then this is the book to read.  For a few years before Lucian Freud’s death, Geordie Greig the editor from the Mail on Sunday was able to share breakfast with Lucian at his favourite restaurant, Clarkes on Kensington Church Street.  Greig’s book about Freud does a worthy job of sketching out the painter’s hedonistic personal life.  ‘Breakfast with Lucian’ is the story of an adulterous, brawler and rogue with no boundaries or restraints.
This book is written in the style of an author’s note.  Interesting facts and aspects of his life are uncovered within the writing.  There are many shocking tales of Freud, like the time he smelt a woman strong perfume in public, he raised his voice saying, “I hate perfume. Women should smell of one thing. Cunt! In fact, they should invent a perfume called cunt.”

Accompanying book review: Breakfast with Lucian

Eric Fischl's Bad Boy
Freud was never willing to apologise for his inexcusable behaviour.  His actions are like his paintings, were engaging and frighteningly real.  Greig tried hard to give an account of Freud’s life without judgement or blame but instead, at times, I found it gossipy.  It tends to focus on aspects of his life, like Freud’s role as a father.  I wanted a read a different type of book.  As an artist, I wanted to read about Freud’s ability to undress the human soul in his paintings.
Freud could sketch out a life for what it really was. He had the drive to work towards uncovering answer about being human. Freud explained that “When I’m painting people in clothes I’m thinking very much of naked people, or animals dressed.”  Freud was able to go beyond just painting, to create an ‘intensification of reality.’ He explains, “The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.” In his painting practice, he dug deep making this meaning visible for others to see, while everything in his personal life was left to rot.

Resources for Art Books:

Artbook.com
There was clearly a great sacrifice from the people around Freud who put up with the death threats, his scandalous sexual exploits and escaping the Krays. ‘Breakfast with Lucian’ is clearly entertaining, but in spite of that, I wanted to know more about what Freud achieved with his art than whisperings about his personal life.
My overriding feeling is that this is a book of anecdotes which does not try to explain truly explain Freud and the reasons behind his fantastic paintings. When reading it I had to remind myself that it was written by an editor from a daily rag who undoubtedly loves scandal.  It would a completely different book if it was written by an art critic, historian or even an art aficionado.
However, Freud indulgence in his art unquestionably doesn’t justify the way he conducted himself and the way he treated others. Throughout his life’s work, Freud revealed a spectacular spectrum of deep meaning about human life, one that many other artists would be fearful to delve into.

Accompanying book review: Breakfast with Lucian

On being an artist, by Michael Craig-Martin

Rebound from a failed painting

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Rebound from a failed painting, Law of the jungle
©Stuart Bush, Law of the jungle, oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm
I was taught at school that everything had to be right.  I was encouraged to conform so that when I grew up I would make a good employee. Education was stifling.  I was urged to aim for perfection; however, I was a long way away from achieving that.  Sketching and doodling were discouraged, learning from failure was hindered.  As a consequence, I had no idea how to rebound from a failed painting.
When I started to learn to paint I use to stop, look and make a judgment about my progress. I worried I was wasting my time and making a blunder.  I hated being wrong. It is a struggle to complete a piece of work and I didn’t realise that I needed to keep working until the artwork was ‘finished’. If I stepped back too early l was not happy with what l had achieved.  It took me a while to realise that l needed to conclude the artwork, then reflect, review and try to acknowledge what didn’t work.

Rebound from a failed painting – related post

Painter killed by his own bad art
Then for years when l made a failed painting, it was like hitting a brick wall.  It would take me weeks to recover, to stop procrastinating and worrying. I would ask myself where did I go wrong? What lessons can l learn for next time? I’m not sure when l finally realised that a failed painting is a near win.  That each time l practised the experience allowed me to grow.
By learning from my near wins l slowly learnt that I could avoid the same mistakes.  The flourishing painter, Alex Katz said it took a thousand paintings to achieve his ‘Big Style’.  Michael Jordan, the highly successful basketball player, missed nine thousand shots in his career.  Thomas Edison, the prosperous inventor, said after inventing the light bulb, ‘I have not failed, I have just found ten thousand ways that didn’t work.’

Rebound from a failed painting – external link

9 Times History's Greatest Artists Made Bad Artworks - Artsy

If at first you don't succeed, celebrate - Tate website
The painting process needs to be inquisitive, open and free.  Before I start a painting l no longer think that what I intended will happen. I know if it fails that something else will happen instead. A painting with difficulties and flaws leaves the door open to the next work and the next work after that. It gets me closer to where I wanted to go without realising where ‘where’ is.
If the opposite was true and I had an idea first.  When I made it, it would be lacking in integrity, authenticity and a soul.  It would be stillborn.  It would be dead.  Like I feel about the painting ‘Law of the Jungle’ above.
I have slowly realised a failed painting has no negative impact on my long term career unless I let it. Thomas Edison stated that “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time.” Therefore l focus on the skills that persist past the painting, and look for the best option to create more choices.  There is no conceptual end, just a deeper rabbit hole.

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What have I learnt from Alex Katz

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

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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

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

Isle D'Hollander: In and out of abstraction

What I see in Tal R’s paintings

Stuart Bush Studio Blog Tal R Red House, What I see in Tal R's paintings
Tal R, House red, 2018 Oil on canvas, 200 x 147 cm 78 3/4 x 57 7/8 in, © Tal R Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
Tal R’s painting practice follows the traditions of oil painting.  The artist walks the streets in Copenhagen near where he lives and works, looking for people, places and objects that appeal to his curiosity.  He looks for the moment that he feels is slipping away and paints its soul in vibrant and colourful paintings that at times float into abstraction.
Tal’s passion and exhilaration for paint clearly materialises throughout his work.  In each painting, he is learning about the endless curiosities with life and paint.  I see the pictures like a window into the inquisitive thoughts that are bouncing around in his head.
When I look at Tal’s paintings I easily relate to the places.  I understand some of the references; but at the same time, I’m often confused.  Tal often adds an object into his painting that doesn’t sit right.  By placing this almost ‘foreign’ object where it doesn’t belong, his paintings work at getting an unanswerable question into one’s mind.  He calls it ‘leaving the viewer with a stone in their shoe.’

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I cried because I love you - 'A Fortnight of Tears' exhibition review
Marcel Duchamp commented that “the creative act is not formed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tal R, Rosa Road, What I see in Tal R's paintings
Tal R, Rosa road, 2018, Oil on canvas with artist made frame, 102 x 121 cm 40 1/8 x 47 5/8 in, © Tal R Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
We each come to his painting with our own way of seeing the world and pick up on different points of interest. Tal’s artwork then becomes about the paint, the artist, the viewer and their baggage.  These four elements are what is so attractive about Tal’s paintings. Tal does what all good artist do, he makes it look so easy.
Tal describing how his practice works,  “How I do it before I do it is, I work with all these motives, like figures and drawings. Sometimes they lose their vitality.  Then I put them away.  Later they appear in new forms.  So it is like being in my head.”

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“All of these places that I paint they mean something and they also mean nothing.  These are places I am very familiar with. I walk past them many times.  It makes it much more easy for me to rhyme in those places.  Although it is about places in Copenhagen, it could, in fact, be about anywhere.  If I grew up in another city, I would rhyme on those places.” Tal R
“It is like trying to grab a fish, and it slips out of your hand. You should catch it and feel it is yours.” Tal R
Tal’s work can’t be explained purely by understanding the subject.  The forms and references only appear to on the surface, rhyming with other footnotes that are possibly out of the picture.  The real subject matter is formal qualities and paint.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tal R, What I see in Tal R's paintings
Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Tal RInstallation view, Victoria Miro Mayfair, 14 St George Street, London W1S 1FE23 January –23 March 2019© Tal R, Per Kirkeby and Donation Jorn, Silkeborg/ billedkunst.dk/ DACS 2019Courtesy the artists and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
Often Tal starts with an underneath layer of paint in a free-flowing thick impasto style. It is usually an intense colour in contrast with what goes on top.  The tones are often a little subdued, but they pulse and wobble due to the contrastive composition.  They dance for your eyes like a gymnast, filling you with hopefulness.

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

Kerry James Marshall, History of Painting
Tal doesn’t paint to give a complete account of the essential nature or direct likeness of an object. He goes for a ghostly like quality.  What is more critical to Tal is the success of those objects and colours as formal qualities in the painting.  He adjusts the flexible subject matter to create a visual harmony in their placement within the composition.  The intriguing forms and his unrefined strokes of oil paint encourage the object to float between figuration and abstraction.  This is the real subject matter.  It’s the skill of his image making that makes Tal R painting a success.
Tal steps into a space where all good artist go, into a spacious creative area and into a painting where time disappears, where he is at one with his creative innocence. He loses himself in his work, like a child at play.  Pointing himself towards what he is interested in, and the work comes out unforced and without plotting.  Tal is in a place where he is allowed to be true and where no effort is required.  This creative space is a place where we all seek to go.
Tal R was born in Isreal in 1967 and moved to Denmark when he was young.  He studied at the Royale Academy in  Copenhagen, Denmark where he continues to live and work.  His work is currently on show at Victoria Miro Mayfair, in a group show titled, ‘Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Tal R’ until 23rd March 2019.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tal , What I see in Tal R's paintings
Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Tal R Installation view, Victoria Miro Mayfair, 14 St George Street, London W1S 1FE23 January –23 March 2019© Tal R, Per Kirkeby and Donation Jorn, Silkeborg/ billedkunst.dk/ DACS 2019 Courtesy the artists and Victoria Miro, London/Venice

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Isle D'Hollander - in and out of abstraction

I needed to find my new painting in my last painting

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, I needed to find my new painting in my last painting
©Stuart Bush, Inclination of form, oil on canvas
When I started out and sought to develop my work into an artistic practice I often used to get very frustrated and disappointed when I felt I had made an unsuccessful work of art.  As the piece was near completion judgemental voices in my head would take over saying, “this isn’t good enough,” “you’re not good enough” and “you’re never going to make a go of this”.  But over time I have learnt that I need to find my new painting in my last painting.
After a bad day in the studio, I use to stare at the canvas.  I would feel disillusioned and there would seem to be no way forward.  I would want the world to swallow me up. I would ask myself what do I do now? Shall I give up?  However, l saw a small light at the end of the tunnel, so I continued, but often after a long period of procrastination.
What I didn’t realise is that this is all completely normal. Rather than jump around with lots of ideas, I needed to find my new painting in my last painting.  As an artist, I needed to come to terms with the notion that an unsuccessful artwork is not a failure. It is a learning opportunity.  It is a bread crumb to the next work.  Everything that comes next, comes out what came before.

Related posts: I needed to find my new painting in my last painting

A painting has to stand up by itself

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

The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

The ultimate experience - Crashing Wave, Mary Heilmann, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
©Mary Heilmann, Crashing Wave 2011 oil on canvas 127 x 101.60 cm, All rights are reversed by the artist
At the Whitechapel Gallery in 2016, many thoughts rushed through my mind the first time I saw the painting ‘Crashing Wave (2011)’ by Mary Heilmann.  As I looked at the painting it evoked a special moment.  I remember being out on my body board on Manly beach, Australia, at complete peace with my surroundings.  The air was crisp, and the sun was bright as I pitched forward. I kicked with my flippers while paddling hard with my hands as I took off down into a crystal clear barrel wave. I rode the perfect wave, a foaming mass of white water.  The ultimate experience!
 
It was a weird feeling being out in the sea, which strangely had surprising similarities to painting in a studio.  There is the same solitude in painting when you’re standing with a brush in front of a canvas.  You’re in apparently harmless water, but there is the feeling that if you’re not alert, like one wrong move at the peak of the wave, you could end up scrambling to stay on the surface. The consequence being that you could get thrown around and washed out. Mental and physically rejected back on the beach or in front of a failed canvas.

Related posts; The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

What I learnt from Alex Katz
Mary Heilmann’s unforgettable painting combines subject with spills and accidents, runs and washes, that are akin to nature.  Although Hellmann only witnessed surfing as a spectator sport, she has captured its impression in the surface energy of her painting. Using a geometric structure, Mary invites you to have an aesthetic experience.  A remarkable vibrant experience that is enthralling, leaving the feeling that reality has been refreshed.
 
Mary highlights the need to be at one with what you are doing.  One mistake and it’s over.  In both situations, you can spend a lot of time thinking and waiting for the right moment; the right wave or inspiration to get started. Hoping for the world to move through you. Undisturbed by turmoil and disorder.  Aiming for a placid stream of serenity where things come together in the stillness.  When you are in tune with that stillness, incline your mind towards a majestic moment.   Confronting the sharpness of life as you harness nature and ride the wave of an idea back to shore.

External related link

Mary Heilmann's biography - artnet.com

As Mary Heilmann says, “Each of my pictures can be seen as an autobiographical marker. A cue by which I evoke a moment from my past or my projected future. Each a charm to conjure a mental reality and to give it physical form.”

 
Mary Heilmann was born in 1940 in California. As a student, she trained as a ceramicist and a sculptor. After trying to complete in an all-male environment in both these fields she struggled to get any attention.   Then Heilmann decided to paint. She had her first show in New York in 1970 at the Whitney Museum of American Art after moving to New York in 1968.

Related posts;  The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

Understanding the 'Oak Tree' in conceptual art via Russian Politics

I love my work more than what it produces

I love my work more than what it produces
©Stuart Bush Hard to Concentrate, oil on board 30 x 40 x 3.5 cm
I am happiest when I realise that there is something to investigate, something that doesn’t quite fit.  I love the slow development of an idea.  The slow convergence of thoughts that often come after a period of incubation. l realise then that there is a problem worth tackling, a problem that is going to become my muse.  It is exciting to think that possibly, this concept hasn’t occurred to anyone else.  If it has occurred to someone before me, they will likely approached it in a completely different way.  I love my work more than what it produces.
 
I love going deeper, I just follow my hunch and allow it to unfold. When l am relaxed fresh insight and new connections will often present themselves. I enjoy being spontaneous and trying the different things that occur to me in the moment. Taking half formed concepts from other disciplines; taking them back to something simple and basic. Stripping away the layers of nature and making them new.

Related blog post; I love my work more than what it produces

I wish I could paint everyday
 
In doing so I have come to realise the significance of another type of time, so called idle time. I can’t explain it or the steps involved. But it’s time drawing, time photographing, time playing, time experimenting in my sketchbook and time idlily painting.  It isn’t time squandered.  It’s development time, where I take one step forward, two sides ways and often one backwards. Time that becomes something. 
Don't be afraid to make a mistake - Guardian newspaper
 
If I trusted that everything was already correct I wouldn’t discover anything new. So instead, l trust myself to challenge that previous knowledge and develop my ideas and connections. As a result l often find new exciting forms of representation.  No wonder I love my work more than what it produces.
 
Once the work is made however, I worry about having my ideas on show.  I am naturally shy and I don’t like being the centre of attention.  My creative work is never finished, I can’t wait to get back to my studio to play and exercise my signature strengths.  I thrive on the process of discovery and I want to paint something better than I did yesterday.  I have come to realise, I love (the development of) my work more than what it produces.  
 

Related blog post; I love my work more than what it produces

The art of being idle