‘You’re freer if you know you can’t save anything.’ (by Olga Norris – a couple of days early)

I was particularly taken by this method of teaching by Toshiko Takaezu, one of the potters in Clairan’s last post. In her comment Margaret provided a YouTube link to a fascinating film on the potter, and 3m30 in she is shown teaching a class and saying that at this stage they will be much freer in their interaction with the clay and shaping it if they know that whatever they do will be destroyed.

This somehow rang true with me. From the other end, so to speak, I often think about the piles of stuff I have made which still clutter up so much space (not to mention how much landfill I am still creating and will leave behind!). This thought of course runs in parallel with the compulsion to keep exploring ideas and to make them manifest – and the glorious learning spiral which takes something made in the past, deemed good at the time, but which had not reached its full potential until coupled with an idea in the present (see my blog post of 14 April). Perhaps if we deliberately destroyed more at the beginning of our journey into manifest self-expression, we would be able to articulate more eloquently and perhaps less indiscriminately prolifically later.

Too often perhaps we expect immediate success. This ties in with Margaret’s post on RCC: Everybody wants to get it done quickly, and my own blog post on the paper cutting day I attended last summer.  If we knew that at the end of a workshop we were to destroy anything we had made, would that not help us to concentrate more, concentrate better, and perhaps also discriminate better as to the quality of the workshop. I always have a notebook for workshops, and the best teachers I have encountered have led not only to the best notes, but also to the fullest memory of the experience – and generally to very little in the way of ‘product’. Now it is true that I never expect to come away with a completed or almost completed anything from a workshop, and neither do I expect actually to come away with an idea for a specific piece of work. I believe that to be serious about discovering one’s own voice, all the input has to go into the pot but that the soup should be one’s own mix. We all use an overlapping range of ingredients, but it is how we use them and what our results are that should be critical.

Perhaps our critical judgement might well be more finely honed if we knew that we had to destroy what we made for a certain period of our learning/experimentation. This probably seems contradictory, but I wonder if freeing ourselves to throw away whatever results from exploration and discovery for a certain while – rather than feeling obliged to make it into something ‘finished’– and instead noting avenues for further exploration might lead to greater discrimination especially in the quality of the thinking about making.

I look forward to reading your comments, and hope that discussion ensues.

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No specific illustrations seem appropriate for this post, so, I thought I would share with you one of the paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland with which I spent much time during my university days: A Lady in Grey (The artist’s daughter, later Mrs Wiseman) by Daniel Macnee 1859.

Racine Art Museum (by Clairan Ferrono)

"Dango #00-2-2"  Jun Kaneko 2000

“Dango #00-2-2″
Jun Kaneko 2000

Recently I needed to go to Kenosha, WI.  My exhibiting group FAC (Fiber Artists Coalition) had shown Salvage to Selvedge  at the Anderson Art Center ( www.andersonartscenter.com );  its a beautiful venue–an old mansion on Lake Michigan–well worth a visit!  I had agreed to help Pat Kroth take down that and the SAQA IL/WI show Eye and the Needle.  My husband happened to be on spring break at that time, so we decided to take a long weekend and also go to Milwaukee.  On the way, I wanted to stop in Racine at the Racine Art Museum ( http://www.ramart.org ). This small gem of a museum is internationally known for its collection of modern craft.  Although I was disappointed to find no baskets on display (silver lining — another trip to Racine!), I did find a very interesting show of ceramics.

 

"Dango" detail

“Dango” detail

 

Al Nitak (At Pyramid) Toshiko Takaezu 2001

Al Nitak (At Pyramid)
Toshiko Takaezu 2001

Al Nitak detail

Al Nitak detail

Al Nikam  Toshiko Takaezu 2001

Al Nikam
Toshiko Takaezu 2001

Al Nikam detail

Al Nikam detail

 

There were dozens and dozens of teapots and bowls etc and lots of strange stuff (IMHO!) but my attention was really caught by these large glazed stoneware objects.  Their size was the first thing to catch my attention. They were 4-6 feet tall!  The colors were subtle. And the glazing was also interesting,  It looked like hand dyed fabric.  Finally, the striations of the coiling process were visible and made for very interesting texture.  Ceramic sculpture that looks like fabric attracts this art quilter!

How a Lady with Green Hair Tapped into the Creativity of more than 50 years of artists (by Kristin McNamara Freeman)

Thursday mornings in 1970 were spent at a Salon held at the home of Joe and Esther Dendel in Costa Mesa, California. Here a group of 10 to 20 folks would learn how to work in techniques with fiber, clay or wood used by peoples from around the globe. Those processes were then pressed into each person’s imagination and explored with a diverse collection of materials. Poems were written and shared as the artists learned how to follow the lead of their muse. Often Esther would bring in a guest to share their story, their art, their travels and the expansion of our creative toolboxes was the result of this amazing opportunity and community of creatives. One morning it was announced that the following week we had been invited to spend two days of study at the Emerald Bay home of a Salon regular; we would have a tour of her studio where she made paper and constructed two and three dimensional works of art with her paper. After her presentation we would have the afternoon and the following day studying with a woman who had traveled from England and was speaking the following week at the Embroiderer’s Guild in Los Angeles.  I signed up to participate.

The following Thursday  was a magnificent drive along Pacific Coast Highway south to Emerald Bay. The home sat on a cliff over-looking the ocean which provided an astounding visual and audio setting for our learning session.  After tea we sat at small tables for two on the porch; sea breezes and sounds creating a place far removed from the busy world in which we lived. With my requisite little stash of drawing and creating materials at the ready to take notes and learn from this woman who was just introduced; with a crisp British accent, slight, slim stature, sturdy shoes, a tailored suit and very, very green hair, the adventure began. This day was the beginning of perhaps the most exciting artistic journey of my life.

Constance Howard was born in 1910 in Northampton, England. For some great personal history on Constance you might enjoy visiting:

http://www.gold.ac.uk/textile-collection/constance/

Our time of study with Constance included making small, 2 or 3 inches by 4 or 5 inches, cut paper designs; we glued our little pieces and made a series of studies to explore division of space within an assigned format and put them in our journals with our notes before creating the designs and after our critique as she went through each of our notebooks. Then we each took  a page in our journal and divided it into six spaces, each a different dimension. We then chose something in our environment and we were to sketch it into these six spaces, altering the dimensions and staying true to the form; I chose a chair. After all these years her lessons still ring in my head and when I am feeling stuck regarding the format of a piece I will revisit these two processes.

Our second day of study with Constance was devoted to the exploration of stitch; how to take a known or familiar stitch and expand, distort and redefine it to accomplish a texture or line needed in a piece of fiber work. Constance sketched the basic stitch construction and then we each took that and pushed, pulled and played with the stitch to see how far we might go with our new approach to stitch. Constance has written several wonderful books on stitch and design and if you have not looked at them, do give yourself the opportunity to see stitch through new eyes. “Inspiration for Embroidery”, published by Batsford in 1966 is one of my well-worn and much used books; her “Embroidery and Colour” published by Van Nostrand Reinhold in 1976 has also had many hours and miles of use in my studio. A great article from a blog written by Jenny Hart about collecting books by Constance can be found at:   http://sublimestitching.com/.

Several of us decided to drive to Los Angeles to hear her presentation the next week; additionally she suggested that I call Helen Wood Pope in San Francisco and ask if I might stay at her house for a week in the summer to study with Constance. The stay was arranged and my “rent” for the week was to be the chef for one evening meal for the houseguests and to take Helen and Constance to a favorite Japanese restaurant in the city. The adventure of living in a four story Victorian near the Presidio that held the artifacts of a museum and art gallery combined, staying in a lovely little top floor room, sharing meals with the six guests, including Constance, and writing while sitting in a solarium filled with orchids and repeating this for six more years remains one of my cherished memories.

Students each day were scattered throughout the house and gardens as they worked and gathered in the parlor three times each day for lessons and critiques. The very first project was to select one item from the house and with water colors paint a bit of every color seen in the piece and in the proportion it was seen. Then we went through stacks of magazines looking for printed colors to match our paints, made a striped piece staying with the proportions observed in the piece. From this “master piece of colors” we made our study pieces each day. Constance was always challenging us to look beyond the comfortable, the known and expand our vision to include ever so much more of the world around us. We spent one day folding bits of paper to see what shadows we could create and then headed out after lunch to the garment district where I did my first ever dumpster diving. We were looking particularly for striped fabrics and it was only after we had scoured every dumpster that we made a visit to the magical, wonderful fabric store called Britex on Maiden Lane, now on Geary Street off Union Square a marvelous four floors of fabric. We manipulated, folded, turned and stretched out visually those stripes to move our thinking from what was ordinary. Our last day we received a list of suggested study projects to keep us moving forward as designers and creators of art as we went back home.

This annual pilgrimage to study with Constance brought more to my creative expression than my years at the Laguna Beach School of Art; those studies gave solid and important information in color and design but the magic of a Green Haired Lady wrote the line of music and dance into everything I have since created in fiber and surely in my poetry as well. I took the lists of projects home with me and began a small Salon of 12 women who met monthly. We were dedicated to solving the design problem for the month using any media of our choice and to the making of at least three of our solutions in fiber during the course of the year. This group continued to meet for many years even after some of us re-located to other cities. Constance and her lessons touched a wide circle of people creating and, indeed, those folks who saw our work or studied with those of us who were teachers. To see a wonderful collection of photos of Constance the small publication, “Conversations with Constance” A celebration of the life of Constance Howard, MBE by Jean Littlejohn and Jan Beaney, ISBN 0-9531750-5-7 is a small booklet worth finding..

A visit to the Goldsmith’s Textile Collection and Constance Howard Gallery online site: http://vads.ahds.ac.uk/collections/CHM.html , will bring you some time of visual enjoyment and pleasure, I am certain. If you type samplers into the search box you will find some great pieces to study with salient information adjacent to the photos. It is my belief that Constance was a major mover and shaker in the world of embroidery and textile expression. She lived to be 89 years old and her mark is felt by those who studied with her, read her books, heard her lecture or saw the pieces of fiber art she created, often for large public installations. You will find her obituary at:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/jul/20/guardianobituaries1

My life has been deeply touched by her hand, her voice, her heart and yes, her beautiful green hair.

Images of Constance Hoawrd photos from the article in the Guardian.

Artist Textiles, Picasso to Warhol (by Margaret Cooter)

In London until 17 May is an exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum of about 200 textiles designed by artists, including some of the big names – not just Pablo and Andy, but Saul Steinberg, Sonia Delaunay, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Ben Nicholson.

The show has  examples of Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism and Pop Art. Nor are the companies that produced the fabrics absent – Ascher scarves (including a 1947 design by Matisse); the New York based company Wesley Simpson Custom Fabrics (with scarf designs by Salvador Dali and Manuel Vertes); and Fuller Fabric - their’Modern Master Prints’ series pulled the coup of getting Picasso’s designs.

The museum allowed photography, and you’ll be able to find many pix from the show on the web (some links are at the end of this post).

Furnishing fabric design by Bernard Adeney (head of textiles at Central School, 1930-1947)

Calculations by Picasso – his fabrics could be worn as clothing, but weren’t made in upholstery weight

“Flight” by Irish-born designer Louis Le Brocquy (1916-2012) (see another colourway here)
A border print by Saul Steinberg
Another Picasso print
John Piper had a finger in many artistic pies and in the 50s and 60s produced textile designs, often of buildings and landscapes.
“Desert Rocks” (1947) is by Salvador Dali (two scarves by Dali are shown here)
Marcel Vertes' Radishes, 1945. Vertes was a prolific designer for the Wesley Simpson compnay

Marcel Vertes’ Radishes, c.1945. Vertes was a prolific designer for the Wesley Simpson company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Warhol's Buttons

Andy Warhol’s Buttons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Chaplin fabric, c1927

Charlie Chaplin fabric, c1927

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Horrockses dresses, much sought after in the 1950s (and a hot vintage item now), still seem “so English” to me, even after living in the UK for several decades. The photo (from here)

horrockses

shows textiles designed by Graham Sutherland, c.1949 (left) and by Eduardo Paolozzi, 1953.

 

To see more artist textiles in the show, you could start with these links -

http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/guide/bazaar-art/artist-textiles-picasso-to-warhol-fashion-and-textile-museum

http://melsmithdesigns.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/fashion-textile-museum-artists-textiles.html

http://www.ivyarch.co.uk/2014/03/foliate-heads-and-art-in-ruins-john.html

http://www.theclothesmaiden.com/2014/01/artist-textiles-picasso-to-warhol-2014.html

Helen Frankenthaler – Artist (by Sandy Wagner)

Helen Frankenthaler is an Abstract Impressionist  painter but is also listed as a Color Field painter and Lyrical painter.  Her career started in 1952 with a solo exhibit of her painting Mountains and Sea which is 7′ x 10′; she was 22.   The oil painting has the effect of looking like a watercolor because of her materials and style of painting.

helen                                             hms                                         hclup    Close up

She introduced painting directly on unprepared canvas – the material that produces canvas in its unprepared state absorbs the paint that has been diluted with turpentine so that the paint soaks into the fabric, this process is known as “soak stain” and has been adopted by many other artists.  This launched a second generation of the “color field” school of painting.  This method of painting often leaves a halo around each area that has been painted.  unfortunately they found over a period of time that the canvas discolored and rotted away.

Helen was greatly influenced by Clement Greenberg 1909-1994 – he was an art and literary critic and personal friend.  Through Greenberg Helen was introduced to the New York art scene.

In 1960 “Color Field Painting” was used to describe the work of Helen’s style and her style was characterized by large areas of a more or less flat single color.  These artists set themselves apart from the abstract artist because they eliminated the emotional, mystic of religious content and highly personal and gestural and painterly application.

canal63

Canal 1963

hmad

Madame Butterfly  2000

helenlines

What Red Lines Do  1970

hblue

Tales of Genji III  1998

hblack

Blue Moon 1961 – at the MoMA in NY

Helen won many awards over the years, served on various boards and taught at the college level.  She did not consider herself a feminist: “For me being a female artist was never an issue”.  in 1953 Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis saw her painting Mountains and Sea – which Louis said later, was a bridge between Pollock and what was possible on the other hand ( I don’t understand what he meant by this) – some critics called her work “merely beautiful”.

Grace Gluck summed up Frankenthaler’s career as “Critics have not unanimously praised Ms. Fankenthaler’s art.  Some have seen it as thin in substance, uncontrolled in method, too sweet in color and too “poetic” but it has been far more apt to garner admirers like critic Barbara Rose, who in 1972 wrote her gift for the “freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions.

At her death in December of 2011 it became known that she was responsible for cuts in funding for the arts for individual grants.  At the time she had a presidential appointment to the board for the National Council of the Arts, she wrote “While censorship and government interferences in the direction and standards of the are dangerous and not part of the democratic process”.  Controversial grants to several reflected a trend in which NEA was supporting works of increasingly dubious quality.  The council at one time was a helping hand but now she felt they were creating an art monster under the guise of experimentation.

Ms Frankenthaler has her work in many museums throughout the word and has exhibited in many venues.

Helen was born in New York on December 12, 1928 and died on December 27, 2011

newnol

Example of Color Field Painting by Kenneth Noland

a pioneer in the field

still

Clyfford Still 1957

I do not have a background in art and do not understand part of the information about painting etc but have learned a lot and need to continue looking things up they talk about.

Rodin — king of recycling (by Kathleen Loomis)

My art history teacher last year, Chris Fulton, is an authority on Rodin’s great statue The Thinker, a situation that came about by accident. When Chris arrived at the University of Louisville a dozen years ago he noticed that the bronze Thinker who sits on the quad at U of L was much the worse for weather, its patina severely damaged and deteriorating before our eyes. He started to pester the administration to do something about it — our Thinker, the first bronze casting ever made in that size, is priceless. (There are about 28 full-size Thinkers around the world, but we’re number one, a mantra that U of L usually applies to basketball.)

DSCN0702

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker, at University of Louisville, surrounded by Chris Fulton and his art history students

After years of pestering Chris got them to commit to restoration of the Thinker, but as reward for his good intentions, he got put on the committee. The job was finally completed a year ago, and in the course of his work with the restoration, Chris became quite the expert. He also has begun working with some of the people he met on a larger project to document and study all the Thinkers ever cast.

Hearing him tell about his adventures in Rodin made me especially eager to hit the Musée Rodin when we got to Paris last year. The building used to be Rodin’s studio/workshop, and he donated all his sculptures to the government upon his death on condition that they turn the place into a museum.

Rodin first did The Thinker in 1880 as part of a commission to sculpt two massive front doors for a museum in Paris. The doors depicted the Gates of Hell, a scene from Dante’s Inferno, and Dante himself sat above the lintel contemplating the folly of mankind.

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Rodin, La Porte de l’Enfer, third maquette (plaster), 1881-82

The museum was never built, and Rodin kept working on the doors until his death, but it was hardly a failed project!

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Rodin, La Porte de l’Enfer, bronze

The huge production spawned many figures and poses that were given their own spinoff series, so to speak. The Thinker was first made as a free-standing statue in 1888, the same size as in the doors (about 28 inches tall).

DSCN3322

Rodin, Le Penseur, bronze, 1881-1882 (cast in 1917)

It was so popular that Rodin scaled it up to monumental size, about three times as big. Multiple casts were made in both versions, and one of the big guys is in the garden of the Musée Rodin, thinking under the golden dome of the Invalides.

DSCN3422

Rodin, Le Penseur, bronze, 1804

Although Rodin never installed his massive Gates of Hell doors at the museum that commissioned them, the project was a fertile spawning ground for many other sculptures (the Gates themselves showed up in several places, just not where they were originally intended). Most famous is The Thinker, but other bits also stepped out and became free-standing pieces.

DSCN3334

Rodin, Le Baiser, 1881-2

This one, representing Paolo and Francesca, doomed lovers from Dante’s Inferno, appeared in early maquettes of the Gates. Rodin decided they were too happy for their surroundings, and took them out of the final version. But never one to waste a good concept, he rendered them in terra cotta here and eventually in a larger marble version.

DSCN3403

Rodin, Les Trois Ombres, 1902-4

My favorite spinoff is The Three Shades, who stand at the very top of the Gates, pointing to the ominous words “abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” They’re actually identical triplets, each one cast from the same mold, but turned so that they each seem different.

Since learning more about Rodin’s many multiples, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of bronze-cast sculpture, where the artist isn’t closely involved in the actual making of the work. He may hover about the foundry (or in Rodin’s case, send helpers to check on the casting) but it’s not his hand any more at the end of the process. Did it make the sculptor nervous to turn over his baby to somebody else to finish? Was it exhilarating to order up dozens of Thinkers to populate the world? (Just like The Boys from Brazil.) Why do I lose respect for some artists who outsource the making of their work to others, but not for Rodin?

David Hockney and Drawing (with Digressions, as usual) (by June Underwood)

Hockneycharcoal_closer_canyon_98

David Hockney, Charcoal Drawing for a Closer Grand Canyon, 1998
charcoal, uni-ball pen on 4 sheets of paper,  33 1/2 x120 in.   from Hockney website:

David Hockney, at age 76, is returning to basics. He’s drawing.  Of course, being David Hockney, he’s also painting, and working with an iPad and videos. I actually believe he only says he’s “returning” to basics. I think he never left.

Over the years, Hockney has thought a lot about the place of drawing in the art world. He has a very broad definition of drawing: he would say that painting is not merely based on drawing, but in his world, it is drawing, albeit with a broad brush. He claims that his photography of the 1980s, where he joined Polaroid photographs without cropping to make “pictures” was drawing, as are his joined iPad drawings and his video explorations done in this century.

Terry Grant and I got to see Hockney’s “A Bigger Exhibition” at San Francisco’s de Young exhibit in January 2014.  I was most drawn to Hockney’s painted works; Terry was most fascinated by his digital (iPad) drawings. But because I’ve been thinking about drawing lately and have been experimenting with drawing on a digital tablet, I went back to Hockney to see what he had to say about drawing. Not surprisingly, he has a lot to say about it. I found myself thinking about his drawing theories, his tools, his processes, and the products of all that work.

‘Woldgate After the Rain’ (2013), charcoal drawing of a Yorkshire spring

Caroline Daniel, of the FT magazine reports on the De Young exhibition: one room, she said, will show his charcoal drawings, “The Arrival of Spring in 2013” – a project he nearly abandoned. “Hockney said ‘I was drawing it before it had happened. I realised I was being impatient and you have to wait until there’s something else there for you to see. And there is. There’s always something being added as you go along. I’m very proud of them, actually, very proud. I think it’s one of my great works, this, the 25 drawings.’

Daniel continues, “I am interested in how he picks a particular spot, which so many of us would barely notice. He takes me through the grid. ‘The other one was chosen because I knew there would be a hawthorn there. That top one took three days to draw. Three days! The right-hand side bit took four or five hours to draw – that bit above the road. It took a long time until the last ones. They are drawn quicker because you’ve got the sun out. You want the sun and the sun might go in, it’s not California, the sun might not last, but I knew for the very last one the sun was going to come out. I was there at 6.30 in the morning waiting for it, when the shadows would come across the road.’”

Hockney’s grids, which he composes of separate pieces and then bumps together in quilt-like fashion,  are particularly important to his theories of drawing and seeing. Hockney’s current preoccupation with painting, drawing, and digital art are about time and space and how they can be expressed in two-dimensional wall art. Grids, as he puts them together, can combine space and time in a way that single photographs as well as conventional single drawings and paintings cannot.

Because he is thinking about “time”, he says that pictures produced over time — paintings, drawings, collage art, digital drawings, and specialized videos that he grids together — are all “pictures”, “depictions”,  i.e. art.

He says, “Any drawing or painting contains time because, you know, it took time to do it.”

David Hockney, painting Winter Timber, about 2009,  from NY Times.  

Hockney is hard on still camera photography and its by-products; he tends to dismiss it because he believes it has distorted our sense of what we really see. He has said that still photography is “looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops — for a split second. But that’s not what it’s like to live in the world.” (quote from Lawrence Weschler in the  Smithsonian Magazine.  And in Hockney on Art: Conversations with Paul Joyce, he paraphrases Picasso: “Picasso had said that the only thing to do with a camera was to move it around.”

Yet Hockney is a skilled photographer. He says, [before starting the Joins in the 1980s,] “I had been taking photographs for years, and if I do anything, I do it seriously….it looked as if I was becoming obsessed with verisimilitude, which is not interesting enough…. “

But when, in the 1980s, he used a Polaroid camera for his art, he found the process allowed him to explore space and time in a much more “realistic” manner. And so Hockney has always been interested in technical explorations, new tools, for making art. But he tends to play with the technology in unorthodox ways.

David Hockney, Pearblossom Highway

David Hockney, Pear Blossom Highway, 11-18th April, 1986. One of his “Joins”, using innumerable Polaroid photos to collage an picture. Image taken from AIUS.com, where a full description of Hockney’s “joiners” can be found.

Hockney was an early user of the iPhone for drawing, using the Brushes app,  and he continues to produce art on his iPad; he also has done videos with multiple cameras mounted on a moving vehicle and presented them as a single sequential image (see this  YouTube). These are all “grid” types of work. The de Young museum exhibition has been described as “the adamantly hand-rendered and the wildly technologically amplified” (Lawrence Weschler, the Smithsonian. So Hockney isn’t against mechanical tools, only against our belief that the single shot, fixed perspective camera image is realistic.

The problem with the camera, says Hockney, is that it stops time, whereas our eyes and our perceptions are always moving which means we see over time. And it falsifies vision in its one-eyed focus with accompanying fuzziness, its classic perspective, and its split-second look. Cameras make us think that they capture a visual truth, but they are like any art work; artistic license is at play, and, particularly, are distorted by the tool itself. They abstract an image and call it real.  Picasso, on the other hand, is not about abstraction, according to Hockney; he (Picasso) is all about seeing truthfully.

And about drawing: “The feeling of things in space and how to place them in space is a drawing skill” says H. That sounds a bit general, even grandiose, but it places something he conceives of as drawing, even when it’s done entirely through Polaroid photographs or moving videos, at the center of the depicted object.

One aspect of drawing from real life and real-time, says Hockney is that we come closer to reality: in reality  “We see  everything in focus, everything, but not all at once; that’s the point. We take time.”

So Hockney’s “Joins,” from the 1980s, are camera images but they are immersed in time because the views are done over time, with changing light conditions and by moving the camera itself, just as the artist moves her eye when she draws or paints. A drawing or painting or iPad drawing takes time to do, so it includes time. And when the drawings, paintings, iPad renderings are placed in grids, more time is included.

HockneyMotherBradfordJoin

David Hockney,  Mother Bradford, Yorkshire 4th May 1982  composite Polaroid, 56 x 23 1/2 in.

Hockney would claim that working with photos, as he did in his Joins and as he does in his video renditions, is “drawing”. These processes juxtapose multiple images without cropping so that the artist must bring the edges together to compose a single image, just as someone with a pencil and tablet would have to do in drawing a scene on-site. The artist’s task is to remake photos or videos or the real world, using them to make drawings, or paintings in order to produce whole pictures. H. often violates a variety of the principles and elements of design, and in doing so, makes us see anew.

So, Hockney is not concerned with labeling tools as drawing tools — any medium, including the video camera, can be used to “draw”. His iPad exhibits at the de Young show his drawings as they emerge on the iPad, using the app that allows that, and producing a “picture” over time. And the videos at the de Young were made from nine cameras, filming from their mounts on a moving vehicle, then pieced together, on a moving grid that fills the entire wall. Many videos were taken on the vehicle before he got the footage he needed to compose his video painting.  (Here’s the YouTube link again, of the winter scene shown at the de Young.) .

When Hockney takes on a project, which may end up (if that is the right phrase) as an oil painting or a moving video with nine “canvases”, he generally starts by looking, then sketching, and painting and filming, then coming back and looking again and sketching again and filming some more.

The oldest saying about drawing I’ve heard is that “drawing will teach you to see”. So drawing from photographs will teach you to see from that false, single static camera focus. You need to learn to draw by looking at the visually confused complicated real world. Moreover you must see it over time. The time might be measured in seconds (if you have a really really excellent visual memory) or, more likely, over hours or even days. But nevertheless, it will be over time.

‘I never do a painting as a work of art,” says Hockney. “All of them are researches. I search constantly and there is a logical sequence in all this research. It’s an experiment in time.”

Hockney has rethought somewhat his love/hate relationship with photography. He admires what it gives us, that 15th century European understanding of single perspective realism. But he feels that that kind of painting/camera image, that window view which keeps us outside the image, has run its course. As artists we should be showing people how humans really see and perceive, how limited the one-eyed paralyzed cyclops view is. And because we have become dependent upon split second photography as depicting what we think of as artistic and visual realism “the loss was the depiction of the passing of time.”

“An art that’s not based on looking inevitably becomes repetitious, whereas one that is based on looking finds the world infinitely interesting, and always finds new ways of looking at ourselves….Without drawing you get very crude result, you need this  skill to accomplish things.”

Hockney’s art work, whether we call it painting, drawing, iPad sketches, or videos, is drawn from his need to look and look again. And his explanations and discussions of his looking and looking again are of a piece with the art. One informs and enriches the other. To my eyes, what he is doing is reviving painting, reviving drawing, insisting that the newer technologies are simple extensions of the revivals of looking and seeing and making art from what we actually see. Not from what the camera has taught us to see, but what in fact we see.

[For an overview of the de Young paintings and videos, see my 3-part post, beginning here].

Further references:

Hockney on ‘Art”, Conversations with Paul Joyce, Little Brown, 1999

Martin Gayford,  A Bigger Message, Conversations with David Hockney, Thames & Hudson, 2011

Why David Hockney Has a Love Hate Relationship with Technology, by Lawrence Wechsler, Smithsonian Magazine, September 2013

David Hockney, RA, A Bigger Picture , video featuring Hockney talking about his exhibited paintings at the Royal

Academy, London UK, 2012

David Hockney official website.


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