Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oil Sticks in the January Garden

Hour Six, Sketch  24" x 16" Oil Stick and Titanium White oil color on canvas
I think I have found my preferred medium finally in oil sticks! Acrylics dry quickly, but the results are very flat. I enjoy way the oil sticks bring out the texture of the canvas as well as the way they blend with tube oil colors. The oil sticks dry relatively quickly, always a plus! It remains to be seen how long the white oil paint that I mixed in will take to dry. This approach avoids oily rags and heavy odours, a consideration due to my allergies.

I think Hour Six  has a good balance between roughness, unfinished-ness and suggestion, accomplished in one hour. On a large piece, I would go back to vary the mark-nmaking and to bring out selected details. I would also develop some depth in the background.

 If you are wondering why I skipped over Hour Five,  it was a total wash out. I scrubbed the acrylic paint off and blended it into a mottled grey. Then I took out some frustration with a palette knife to no avail! Some things were never meant to be. Perhaps I will do a new sketch and name it Hour Four just to continue the suite!

My garden is blanketed in snow right now, so my subjects are derived from trees and withered flower stalks.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

60 Minutes to Sketch

Hour One, Watercolor and acrylic on paper 16" x 24"
These three sketches are the more successful of a series I have been working on this past week. The challenge is to create interest within the image in a one-hour time frame. The rational for the time limit is to avoid overworking and to maintain spontaneity in the work. Several in this series may become future departure points for larger paintings. I plan to create ten to twelve or more during the coming semester.

Hour Two Acrylic on canvas 16" x 24"
These sketches do not go as far as I would hope in evoking ambiguous spaces and forms, but they suggest possibilities for other sketches.

Hour Three,  Acrylic with collage on paper 16" x 24"
Here I chose neon pink and orange paint to indicate energy and growth and to contrast with the dying leaves. I haven't made my peace with the color pink. It has to be the most difficult of all hues to work with successfully!

The leaf shapes could be more interesting with the inclusion of insect bitten holes and ragged edges to indicate entropic processes. Of course, I thought of this on my way home from the studio after gluing the paper leaves down with matt medium! This work is also very flat, an issue I will address with Hour Four, my next one-hour effort.

Other sketches will focus on layering and surface textures on pieces of 16" x 24" canvas. Paper and canvas have their own surface qualities. Good quality paper absorbs watery paint in random bleed lines while canvas supports impasto, heavy textures and thick collage. Canvas is also my choice when working with oils and oil sticks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Arts of Korea

Jar, Lee In Chin (b.1957) 1993
Bizen-inspired unglazed stoneware
The Arts of Korea are displayed in a new gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I was able to view several of the pieces during one of my visits to the museum. This jar particularly resonated with me. The clay itself is colored during the firing process without the addition of glazes or enamels. Lee In Chin has created a masterpiece where skill and chance combine. This is one of the contemporary ceramic pieces on display in this gallery.

Ceramics gave me my first introduction to Asian culture and aesthetics. I worked with clay while in high school, but I soon became very sensitized to dust and I had to give it up. However, the appeal of the simplicity and the honesty of the materials has stayed with me.  I plan to researchWabi-sabi and use some of its principles in creating my studio work.

Another Asian artisitic form which has interested me for a long time is the scroll painting.

This photo inadequately shows the basic structure of the scroll. The center panel seems to be glued to a fabric backing of patterned squares in subtle colors. I am intrigued with the idea of displaying paintings on canvas or paper in a similar way. I will have to try it out on a small scale! While visiting China several years ago, I bought a small tourist scroll from a kiosk in a market with the Chinese character for luck (or so I was told!!). It would be so convenient to roll up a painting around its dowel rods for transport and not have to deal with stretchers and frames!

Thursday I plan a trip to my alma mater to the library to borrow a stack of books, including haiku poetry and a few books on Asian aesthetics which I didn't have time to peruse before Christmas.

I have been painting a few quick watercolor abstractions. I should have some photos to post tomorrow or Thursday. My roll of 50" Fabriano paper is beckoning! I am going to stretch a piece about 36" x 48" on plywood and see what happens. The freshness of the paper is so clean. Even gesso on canvas doesn't seem to have the same quality.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"This Will Have Been. . .", ICA Boston

On Wednesday, January 16, I went back to the Institute of Contemporary Art and spent several hours contemplating the exhibitions. I borrowed a stool, which was excellent for resting in front of certain works and taking a few notes. Although I had seen This Will Have Been:Art, Love & Politics in the 1980's before the start of the residency, this time I took more notice of individual works.

Necklines, Lorna Simpson  1989
Three gelatin silver prints and two engraved plastic plaques
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
In the first gallery, I was impressed with Necklines.  The use of three unequal panels with three slightly different viewpoints is intriguing. The text panels add another dimension to the work. Having carved and painted panels over the last year and a half, I am interested in different ways  to use them.
To see a much better photo of this work, go to:

Said, Gerhard Richter  oil on canvas 1983
Gerhard Richter's Said provides a lesson in brushwork, color and surface texture. Forms and brushstrokes are purposefully delineated, yet chance plays a major role in the final piece. Richter plays with thin and thick paint, squeegee and brush, as well as complementary colors. I was able to observe the paint texture of splatters over the smoother paint which has been dragged to blend it. Richter's abstract paintings have interested me for several years. They seem to evoke landscapes and natural forms without directly portraying them.

Said, detail

Go to the following address on Richter's website for better photos!

Preis, Martin Kippenberger oil and acrylic on canvas
Private Collection
This painting by Martin Kippenberger looks like a collage of fabric on canvas, but the forms and textures are made with paint. I was reminded of one of my paintings finished  during my undergrad degree. I made a very small collage and projected it onto a much larger canvas, then painted it realistically. Perhaps I will use collage on several of my present sketches in order to develop departure points for larger paintings.

Untitled, Jack Goldstein, acrylic on canvas 1984
Private Collection
Jack Goldstein's painting Untitled of 1984 appealed to me in its combination of photography and painting. I surmise that he used an airbrush to create the blurred white lines, but the effect is one of moving lights at night captured in a slow exposure on film. The blue smoke seems ready to ominously fill the space. An arc of light suggests a moon or planet. Are we in outer space? I like the ambiguity!

There are other works at the ICA and at the MFA which resonated with me. I will discuss some of them in future posts!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Selected American & Contemporary Art at the MFA

Deadline, Alex Antoniadas & Nico Stone
PVC, plaster, wood, metal, urethane resin, 2011
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
I am interested in Deadline for several reasons. First, the sculptors have used the idea of interruption to create a dramatic contrast between solidity and fragility. The styrofoam cup has seemingly worn a hole through a solid beam. The play of light on the piece is also noteworthy, highlighting the structure and its interruption. Suzanne Gauthier, my mentor during my second semester suggested to me that I consider interruption when using directional strokes going one way in a painting (for instance, the runs and drips in my paintings Abundance  and  Pods.) Interruption is one way to relieve a pattern which can become monotonous, or  can fade from the viewer's attention.

Green, Orange and Blue Mirror, Justen Ladda
Pigment, varnish and epoxy resin on red cedar wood, 2010
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This work by Justen Ladda is referred to as an ellipse. I prefer this term to oval, with its Victorian associations. Ladda has used the wood grain superbly, staining the wood with complementary colors in order to dramatize the beauty of the wood's fibrous texture. The high gloss adds to the mystique as it is a finish one does not expect to see on wood. The viewer's reflection is intended to blend with the pattern of the grain, an interesting and varying effect. Perhaps I will return to the wood ellipse at some point myself in a future project.

Circle du Blé, Matta ( Roberto Sebastián Matta Echaurren)
oil on canvas 1953 Museum of Fine Art,s Boston
I recognize the need to vary the mark-making in my work. Matta's painting incorporates a variety of mark-making strokes, while its abstracted shapes suggest figurative references. I also appreciate the softness of some of the painted areas in contrast with lines that seem to be drawn in charcoal or with a fine brush. Peter Rostovsky, my advisor during my second semester, suggested that I look at Matta's work and now I see why!
Floe IV, Helen Frankenthaler acrylic on canvas  1965
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
My advisor, Jan Avgikos, suggested that I look at Helen Frankenthaler's work. I found Floe IV in the American wing and I was able to study its deep color saturation. The accompanying text on the wall proposed that the artist used a brush in places to move the paint around on the raw canvas. It appears to me that Frankenthaler used something to spread the paint as it stained, although the operation looks as if it was completed quickly.

Chamonix, Joan Mitchell oil on canvas c.1962
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
I also looked at Joan Mitchell's Chamonix, particularly the way the paint was applied: thin runs, drips, scumbling, impasto, direct from the tube. The movement and the delicate color relationships fascinate the viewer easily. To see a photo of the entire painting, go to:

In the MFA bookstore, I purchased a book about Joan Mitchell with several essays and color plates from a retrospective, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell, at the Whitney in 2002.

The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection
The postcards in this show were fun to look at, but my primary interest was study at the way they were displayed. The panels protruding from the wall at an angle broke up the monotony of the wall and framed six to twelve sample postcards with space around them. Each panel compeled the viewer to move closer. This presentation reminded me somewhat of Gerhard Richter's Atlas project in that his arrangements of texts, sketches and photos changed with the material he was using. If I decide to use an archival format this semester for my work, I want to present it in an exciting way. 

Other works caught my attention at the MFA. Perhaps I will write about some of them in future!

I finished my stay in Boston with several contemplative hours at the Institute for Contemporary Art, the subject of another blog post.

The Painted Surface

While in Boston, I was able to visit the Museum of Fine Arts on three occasions. Jan Avgikos, my faculty advisor, had suggested that I look at Monet's later paintings, which I was happy to do! Keeping in mind my interest in the materiality of the painted surface, I studied several of Monet's paintings with an eye to observing the many layers of paint which seem to be embedded in the image.

The Cathedral at Rouen, detail, Claude Monet 1894
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Monet's colors are so captivating and shimmering that one tends to forget the texture of the brushstrokes. The impasto brushwork adds to the visual blending of hues, and points to the many times the artist added paint before being satisfied that the work was finished. The paintings retain their freshness, in spite of being worked over many times.

Poppy Field in a Hollow Near Giverny, detail, Claude Monet 1885
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
During this visit, I contemplated the entire canvas, then examined sections of the paintings individually.
The MFA Boston website has photos of these works on their website which are much more accurate than my snapshots. View their collection of French paintings and select the paintings you want to see (#328 Rouen, #272 Poppies, #493 Haystack):

Grainstack, (Snow Effect) detail,  Claude Monet 1891
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Looking at Lake Nemi by George Innes 1872, I noted the limited palette used to evoke space and distance between layers of landscape.  (See   #25) Here is a very poor snapshot of this work:

I also studied several paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, including Bachanal at the Spring: Souvenir of Marly-le-Roi  1872 for the limited palette and use of transparent darks and impasto whites.

Both artists appear to have used the limited palette demonstrated by Tony Apesos during the AIB residency: white, yellow ochre, indian red and lamp black. I would assume that ultramarine blue played a part in creating soft greens. (See #142)

The Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen also captured my attention. Turner created so many effects using a limited palette along with transparency and impasto.Another feature of Turner's work is also the use of a brilliant accent color, in this case vermillion red.  I have been interested in Turner's work since my BFA years, but this time I studied the application of the paint on the canvas.  

Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen Joseph Mallord William Turner 1805-06
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fall of the Rhine at Schauffhausen,  detail
I plan to explore the limited palette more fully this semester, and to use oil paint over acrylic to add subtlety and transparency to my work.

In addition to wandering through the galleries of eighteenth and nineteenth century paintings. I returned to the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. Continue reading my next post!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Return from Residency Three

Here I am in my "crit" space at AIB for my third residency.
My third residency seemed to flow along more smoothly than the first two, probably because I knew what to expect! Once again I returned home with many ideas to think about and artists to research. I will be posting reflections of different aspects of the residency over the next few days!

My direction is much more focussed, but within this I will continue to push myself towards new modes of expression. I am interested in the tenacity of plants, the materiality of the painted surface and the integration of abstraction and figuration within the same image. My explorations during the second semester demonstrated how difficult it is to combine abstraction and figuration, but I am still interested in pursuing this concept, if only to find ways of simplifying my work. 

During the second semester I also discovered how much and how long to work on something. Pieces I purposefully left "unfinished" actually elicited fewer comments during the residency than those pieces I worked on a bit longer. A Weed is a Treasure  could use a little more work as well as Pods before I exhibit them in March at the CBC Mini Gallery in Moncton. I will return to them in future posts as my shipment of artwork has not yet arrived from Boston.

Before the residency began, I spent a day at the Museum of Fine arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art. I was excited to see Ori Gersht: History Repeating before it closed. Traces of human memory and tragedy disturb us within Gersht's sublime landscapes. It was illuminating for me to see the interplay between these two realms and to consider ways to insert a sense of the uncanny into my lyrical paintings. 

I enjoyed the Mario Testino show, even though I am moving away from photography in my present body of work. I had seen a TV segment on his work, and had seen some of his fashion photos in magazines (who hasn't?), but the grand scale of the images really had an enormous impact. Size matters! I was interested to see the Mickalene Thomas work. The paintings are much larger than I realized. Thomas exploits the flatness and decorative elements to great advantage. I ran through This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980's  and resolved to go back after the residency.

Following the residency on Monday, January 14 I went back to the MFA and found Summer by Gustave Doré, as suggested to me by Tony Apesos. I had read about this painting during my research through various books about landscape. None of my photos or those on the web do it justice. The delicate glazes and transparencies in the dark areas do not come through in reproduction.Tony encouraged me to look at this work because I have taken a similar "worm's eye view" against dark foliage in my painting Pods as well as portraying the light source behind my subject instead of above or to one side. He also encouraged me to portray characteristics of individual plants as opposed to sketching them from memory. In my efforts to loosen up, I had given up some specificity.

I particularly appreciate the very light brushwork Doré used to paint the plants and wildflowers in the foreground of Summer. It appears than he applied transparent darks on the rock face and soil, and then brushed in the leaves and blossoms. Doré used transparent red over the soil in some areas to bring it to life, a technique I used in a painting of ferns in a Nova Scotia forest in 2010. I am also intrigued by the menace of the scythe and the knife cutting into the loaf of bread. The symbolism may be heavy-handed to our eyes, but the painting would be too sweet without some disturbing elements. I had to ask one of the museum guards where to find this painting and he replied, "Oh the butterflies!" This seems to be what people notice the most, but for me, the plants are the main event!

Summer by Gustave Doré oil on canvas 1860-70 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Detail of Summer

I studied other paintings in the MFA as well, looking at surface texture and application of paint, limited color palettes and compositional elements. I will continue my discussion of selected works in my next blog posts as well as reflections on the critiques of my second semester work.