Category Archives: Research

Political Art: Max Beckman

 

Max Beckman

Background

As part of my investigation for the Mask series, I looked at the work of the Expressionist artist, Max Beckman, with a particular focus on the painting “Carnival”.The painting is a triptych (one of nine painted by the artist).

It has been suggested that the artist uses the motif of carnival to explore deeper themes related to the human condition.(Anderson, 1965:218-225). I was interested in how I might use such an approach to take the mask theme further in future work.

Composition

The paintings are at first glance a simple portrayal of three couples in carnival costumes participating in the celebrations of the festival. The paintings are displayed together, with the six large figures filling much of the picture plane, creating strong vertical elements across the three canvases.The artist has introduced diagonal elements to the paintings through the bent arms of the figures and in daggers placed each of the side panels and a musical instrument in the centre panel.

It is only on seeing these daggers that the viewer might sense that all may not be as it seems and that there may be sinister undertones to the scene. The bent arms form a jagged line across the picture plane, adding to the uneasy atmosphere.

In the left panel, the couples are facing each other, an intimate posture. However, the dagger raises questions about their relationship to each other, suggesting a threat, with the possibility that a violent act may follow imminently.

In the centre panel, both figures look straight ahead towards the viewer and the male figure has his arm placed over the female. Again, there is ambiguity about the pose which could be viewed as affectionate but perhaps not?
A small arm clasps her from behind. This appears to come from a separate figure. These gestures seem to suggest control.

In the right hand panel, the female figure sits astride the male, clinging closely with her arms wrapped around him. The couple do not look happy. My first thought would be they are tired after a long evening of celebration and the male is carrying the female home.  However, a sinister figure lurks behind them wielding a large dagger. There is a definite threat looming. The figure is wearing a bird-like carnival mask and appears to be female, wearing a dress and displaying breasts through a slash in the dress.

Colour

The artist makes use of strong contrasts of complementary colours, with the strongest colour statement in the centre panel, where the female figure wears a bright green tunic which contrasts vividly with the flashes of bright red on the floor and the panel on the wall in the background. The red of her tunic also contrasts with the harlequin costume of the male figure on the right hand panel. The bird mask on the right hand panel wears a green cloak, contrasting with the red patches on the print of the dress worn by the female figure.

The red splashed throughout the panel suggests blood, and the possible violent intent of the figures holding the daggers.

Context

The painting “ Carnival” was painted in 1920 just after the end of the First World War and may have been a statement on the horrors of the war. Elements such as control, deception and violent intent are suggested by the red splashes in the colour scheme, the daggers, masks worn by the figures. The clinging posture of the figure on the right hand panel suggests fear, and the weighing down of the spirit.

Beckman’s work continued to be a vehicle for political comment throughout his working life.
Max Beckman was one of the German Expressionist artists reviled by the Nazi regime and his works were included in the infamous Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich in 1937 held to display examples of art deplored by the regime as unsuitable.

Later Work

One subsequent work, also a triptych “ the Departure” makes a clear political statement. It was painted in 1932 after the Artist lost his job at the hands of the Nazis. https://www.moma.org/collection/works/78367

The left hand panel of the painting shows a scene of persecution and torture, representing the growing deprivations and suffering endured by many groups under the rise of the Nazis.

The main central panel, showing the departure of migrants by boat, represents the leaving of native shores for a new life. It has been suggested ( MOMA Highlights:p162) that the presence of the child in the female figure’s arms represents the hope for a new generation and the crowned figure the triumph of the spirit over adversary. Beckman has suggested himself that the right hand panel represents trying to navigate a way in the darkness. This is a painting which could provide inspiration for a potential statement on modern war and migration and to the future development of my own work on migrants.

References

Anderson, E. (1965). Max Beckmann’s Carnival Triptych. Art Journal,24(3), 218-225. doi:10.2307/774695

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 162

 

 

 

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Inspiration from Joan Eardley

Research Project 15

Strange New Land

For Project 15, I wanted to develop a collagraph which would depict the grey coastline of the UK as a migrant might experience it on first arriving in the UK. I am interested to explore how other artists had interpreted the coastal theme in their work and was drawn to the paintings of the artist Joan Eardley and in particular to the painting “The Wave”, painted in 1961.
https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/485/wave 

The painting is a mixed media landscape of Catterline on the East coast of Scotland, painted in the winter months when the skies would often have been dark and overcast. It measures 121.90 x180 cms, is in landscape format and depicts a large wave approaching the rugged cliffs on the East coast shoreline.

Composition

The picture plane of the painting is divided roughly into three equal sections: the sky with the land above receding to the background at the top third, the cliffs and shoreline with the wave breaking across it in the middle of the picture plane, and the Sean the lower third. The use of dark grey in the foreground of the work and strong horizontal lines across the painting contrasts strongly with the delicate vertical lines repeated in the centre third, across the breadth of the cliffs. The artist has placed another strong dark horizontal across the upper third of the painting, representing the land beyond the cliffs.

Colour

The colour palette of the painting includes neutral dark grey, grey blue and yellow ochre with touches of orange and warm white. The overall effect is muted, and perfectly reflects the type of natural contrasts seen with an approaching storm on the Scottish coastline. The use of muted blues and yellows, colours which sit on the opposite side of the colour wheel, creates colour contrast and interest within the painting. The artist has used a warm white to depict the wave ( the subject of the painting), in strong contrast to the dark grey foreground, effectively highlighting the main subject of interest.

Brushwork

The roughest brushwork is found across the centre of the picture plane, with grit incorporated into the paint for the rendering of the cliffs. This contrasts with the much smoother strokes used for the sky ( the smoothest part of the painting) and foreground. In the foreground, the brushwork follows the horizontal lines which divide the picture plane, separating the cliffs from the shore. This this adds contrast and interest to the painting and keeps the eye of the viewer moving across the picture plan.

Relevance to my own practice

Joan Eardley’s painting very effectively evokes the coastal landscape seen in many parts of the UK. I particularly love the muted complementary colours ( blue grey and yellow grey) the artist has selected. I feel that these would work well in a collagraph of the UK coastline. The composition lends itself well to use in collagraph techniques, where the visual message needs to be delivered using cut or torn materials applied to a surface. The vertical mark making used by Eardley to depict the cliffs could also be represented in collagraph, using corrugated card and I felt that this was something I could used in my own work.

Eardley was known for her expressive style and the incorporation of materials such as sand and grasses into the paint used for her work. This is something which I could consider using within the series of prints for “different” and “Out of the Shadows” to develop the theme further. Another potential route for exploring the theme further could include the incorporation of text as in “Two Children” another work by Eardley.

Experimentation for Project 15

Following my research, I devloped two small acrylic paintings based on the coastline at Beachy Head and using the blue greys and muted cadmium yellows and whites observed in the work of Joan Eardley.

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Figure 1: Clifftops after Joan Eardley

Texture was achieved using dripped wax in the lower third of the picture plane. This was then gouged to add a vertical component to the cliffs and texture medium added to acrylic paint on top to build further texture. Colour was added to suggest rocks and sand at the lowest point in the picture plane. One of the most difficult aspects of the painting was achieving the correct balance between abstraction and a more representational approach.

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Figure 2: Clifftops after Joan Eardley

Figure 2 tackles the same subject using wax and texture medium as before with the addition of scrim in the foreground to achieve the texture of waves.

 

References

National Galleries of Scotland. https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/485/wave

Joan Eardley, Two Children, 1963 Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow © Estate of Joan Eardley. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016

National Galleries of Scotland
https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/features/joan-eardley

 

 

 

Project 6: Masks Research

Hieronymous Bosch: “The Garden of Earthly Delights”

Introduction

I was drawn to explore this work on the advice of my tutor, in the context of the “Masks” project. Following a visit to the city of Venice,  I took many photographs of the masks which are displayed all over the city and wanted to used these in my own work.

To help me understand the context for this incredibly complex painting I tried first to understand why the artist might have sought used the motifs and themes seen in the painting, looking back to the concept of Carnival and its relationship to the religious beliefs associated with it.

The Masks

Metamorphosis from human to animal form is a common theme in carnival masks and costumes and is used to great effect in the Garden of Earthly Delights.
The artist Max Beckman lived from 1450-1516, in Medieval Europe, when the influence of the church in art was very significant, with many paintings being produced for church patrons. Bosch had connections to the catholic church and would have identified with the concepts of heaven, hell and creation from the teachings of the church. He would have been familiar with the feast of Easter and the concept of Lent and the fasting and penitential rites which are associated with it.

Celebrations of Carnival take place in many Catholic communities in Europe and Latin America immediately prior to the commencement of Lent, a period of strict fasting and penance which is observed by some Christian faith groups for the 6 weeks prior to the religious feast of Easter. Before the fasting of Lent begins, many such communities celebrate with elaborate festivals, with music, dancing and feasting. During the celebrations, participants often wear masks depicting animal figures such as rabbits, lions, clown figures which mask the identity of the original wearer.
Other mask forms include those which depict distortion of the human face, for example, enlarged noses and phallic symbols, the “ Grotesque Body”.
This phenomenon of the Grotesque Body was postulated by the Russian literary critic Michael Bakhtin in relation to his interpretation of the work of Franciose Rabelais. Bakhtin describes the phenomenon as:

“ degradation, the lowering of all that is abstract, spiritual, noble, and ideal to the material level” (Bakhtin)

Bosch makes prolific use of the grotesque within the Garden of Earthly Delights, presumably to both delight the viewer with his vision of paradise and to shock and repulse the viewer with his vision of hell.

https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/search?filter_text=Garden+of+Earthly+Delights

The vision of hell depicted in the right hand panel is revealed to us, in stark contrast to the blissful delights of the Garden of Eden on the right hand panel and the earthly paradise shown in the central panel.

The death of my father during the time I was working on the course also heightened thoughts of the concept of the soul and heaven and hell with these themes constantly reappeared in my thinking at this stage of the course.

The interior painting (Figure1), is a triptych painted in oil on wood panel. The interior panels are painted in rich colour and show 3 different landscapes, populated by a wondrous array of human, animal and plant life. Many of the figures combine these different forms of like, in a fantastical representIon of paradise and hell. The richness of the landscape and ever-surprising array of life- forms keeps the eye of the viewer glued to the canvas in an almost voyeuristic experience as the mind absorbs the potential for metamorphosis of man or woman into any number of interesting and horrific forms.

The left panel shows presenting a vision of The Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve. It is a rich landscape depicting a mountainous background, garden middle and foreground. The artist has place the main figures of interest in the foreground, with God shown in rich pink robes in the centre of the picture plane with Adam and Eve, naked on each side. They are surrounded by a wonderful array of animals and birds amongst which they co-exist in perfect harmony. The tree which will lead to their eventual temptation and expulsion is shown to the left of the picture plane. The use of rich greens and blues, together with the stunning variety of colours used to paint the animal characters creates an image which is both beautiful and welcoming. The freedom suggested by the nakedness of the couple evokes an idyllic existence. We could still identify with these sentiments if we did not have strong religious beliefs as many of Bosch’s original audience would have had.

The central panel is also a rich coloured landscape with background and middle and foreground. A river is shown, flowing towards the distance. Here, the artist seems to have used linear perspective to add to the sense of depth in the painting. The middle and foreground are crammed with figures, some still obviously human in form and some metamorphosed into strange and unrecognisable forms. The figures are completely unselfconscious in their nakedness and postures.

The panel n the right shows Bosch’s vision of Hell. It is a landscape painted using black for the background colour, suggesting perpetual darkness, with the glow of distant fire. A number of hellish scenarios are set out for the human participants in the scene. These show a range of images of torture and degradation in store for those condemned to spend eternity in hell.

When the panels are folded inwards, the exterior depicts the creation of the earth in monochrome, with the Creator presiding over the globe. This sets out the overall narrative for the painting and prepares the viewer for the religious theme to come. The use of monochrome on the exterior of the panels adds to the element of surprise which must assail the viewer on opening the panels to reveal the magnificently coloured interior.

Developing the “Mask”Series

In my work for the Mask series, I have drawn on the concept of the soul and redemption, using manipulation of the Carnival masks which I photographed in Venice. These masks used distortion
( elongation of the nose and chin ). Rabbit and lion heads were also seen in the Venice masks.

I used the Photoshop programme to simplify the mask forms to simple line for use in a print. An alternative approach was to increase the constraint dramatically to abstract the form of the masks.
This produced and interesting effect which was used to develop “ the Soul is Mine Alone” series.

Colours purple, red and black were selected to reflect penitence, sin and death.

References

1.Bosch: Hieronymus Bosch, Grange Books
Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA 2004
Sir Rocco, London,2004 (English Version)

2. Hieronymous Bosch Visions and Nightmares, Nils Butter
Publisher,Reaktion Books Ltd, 2016, London

3. Ref Wikipedia  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grotesque_body

4. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2017/jan/10/bosch-garden-of-earthly-delights-shows-a-world-waking-up-to-the-future

 

 

Project 6: Single Linocut

PRELIMINARY RESEARCH

 EDWARD BAWDEN

Background

Edward Bawden was an English artist well-known for his skills as a graphic artist, illustrator and watercolourist. His work included illustrations for many books and posters. He was widely travelled, having visited many counties in Africa and the Middle East and Europe during the 2nd World War (Wikipedia).

https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/asset/344256/summary?context=%7B%22route%22%3A%22assets_search%22%2C%22routeParameters%22%3A%7B%22_format%22%3A%22html%22%2C%22_locale%22%3A%22en%22%2C%22filter_text%22%3A%22Edward+Bawden+%22%2C%22page%22%3A%225%22%7D%7D

Figure 1: Title Whale (woodcut on paper):, Edward Bawden (1903-89)
Medium:woodcut on paper: Dimensions: 65×95 cms
Edition 9/100

The first work which I selected to investigate was the linocut “Whale” (Figure ).
It is a black and white woodcut printed in landscape format and fairly large in scale at 65x 95cms. I chose this work because I found it both visually striking and loved the fact that it tells a story which is of interest to me.

Composition

The whale is placed across the centre of the picture plane, occupying most of the centre of the print, a factor which helps to convey its large size relative to the other elements of the print. The whale dwarfs the hunters who are pursuing it in a small boat. The artist shows the hunters rowing, with one wielding a spear, preparing to throw. His aggression is in contrast to the defencelessness and passivity of the whale, despite its enormous size.

Story

The picture tells a tale: the pursuing hunters, a displaced boat which has tipped it’s occupants into the water. Despite it’s large size, the whale looks frightened and panic- stricken and there is a sense that it will not escape it’s pursuers.

Mark-making

The print demonstrates a wide range of marks across the picture plane: rhythmic curling waves beneath the whale, jagged short marks above the whale suggesting choppy water, a night sky suggested in the upper left corner of the work which has been left uncut to suggest the darkness of the sky contrasting with the much lighter sea below.
The texture of the whale has been created using long straight cuts along it’s length. The water being extruded from the whale’s blowhole uses delicate curving cuts to suggest the flowing water emerging from the blowhole.
Overall, I think the print is very successful. It is pleasing to look at visually and very effectively tells a story at the same time.

The next print I selected was a linocut titled Tyger Tyger.

https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/asset/116668/summary?context=%7B%22route%22%3A%22assets_search%22%2C%22routeParameters%22%3A%7B%22_format%22%3A%22html%22%2C%22_locale%22%3A%22en%22%2C%22filter_text%22%3A%22Edward+Bawden+%22%2C%22page%22%3A%222%22%7D%7D

Figure 2
Tyger, Tyger (linocut), Edward Bawden, (1903-89).
English Medium: linocut

Composition

The print has been made in landscape format. The Tiger which is the subject of the print is placed centrally, across the picture plane. He is shown stalking in deep undergrowth. The artist emphasises the camouflage of the stalking tiger amongst the grasses by mirroring the marks used on the tiger’s coat in the grasses.

Mark making

The artist has varied the direction and length of the marks on the tiger’s body to help them stand out against the background, but the sense that the tiger is well hidden is preserved. Those used on the tiger’s body are much shorter than the long vertical marks used to depict the grasses among which he moves. The artist has depicted the tiger’s head full face onto the viewer. He has used a different range of marks to describe the tiger’s head, with small round marks carved out to depict the whiskers and ears.

The vegetation has been left mainly uncut, with sharply constraining rounded forms cut out to provide sharp contrast amongst the dark leaf forms.

Choice of this work

I was particularly interested in the tiger as a subject, as I had used the tiger motif in the masked monoprint section of the course. I was very interested to see how a similar subject created using a different technique could produce a very different mood. This is a subject I would perhaps like to revisit using combined techniques.

RICHARD BAWDEN

“Pink Eyes”

Another work selected for review is the etching “Pink Eyes” by Richard Bawden.

Figure 3
Title: Pink Eyes (etching)
Bawden, Richard (b.1936)
Medium: etching

https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/asset/116675/summary?context=%7B%22route%22%3A%22assets_search%22%2C%22routeParameters%22%3A%7B%22_format%22%3A%22html%22%2C%22_locale%22%3A%22en%22%2C%22filter_text%22%3A%22pink+eyes%22%7D%7D

 

I was drawn to the work due to the delicacy of the rendering of the rabbit which is the subject of the print and the beautiful soft colour scheme of neutral greys, pale orange which provide a prefect background for the delicate whiteness of the rabbit.

Composition

The artist has used a vertical format, dividing the picture plane almost in half horizontally using the horizon line. The rabbit is placed in the lower section of the picture plane centrally, beside a ghostly tree positioned to the right of the rabbit. A ghostly moon shines in the night sky in the upper section of the picture plane in the darkest portion of the night sky. A pale orange light illuminates the night sky to the left, providing a warm contrast to the otherwise seemingly monochromatic scene. The only other strong colour is the pink eyes of the rabbit. The rabbit’s fur has a faint tinge of pink across it’s coat, with white highlights helping to develop the texture of the fur.The use of a monochrome scheme for most of the print emphasises the pink of the rabbit’s eyes helping them to stand out in a way which would be difficult if the work showed more colour elsewhere.

The artist has managed to convey a sense of the animal’s soft fur by the very delicate marks used for the handling of the fur around the rabbit, contrasting with its surroundings.

Overall, it is a beautiful delicate print which suggests an “otherworldliness” to the nocturnal life of the rabbit.

The second work  by Richard Bawden is a linocut titled “Hares at Holbacks”.

https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/asset/222300/summary?context=%7B%22route%22%3A%22assets_search%22%2C%22routeParameters%22%3A%7B%22_format%22%3A%22html%22%2C%22_locale%22%3A%22en%22%2C%22filter_text%22%3A%22Hares+at+Holbacks%22%7D%7D

Figure 4

Title: Hares at Holbacks (linocut)
Bawden, Richard (b.1936): Medium: linocut
Dimensions
43×63 cms

This is a multicolour linoprint of hares in a woodland setting. The most striking feature of the print is the mark making used to develop the coats of the animals. For the hare in the foreground, the artist has used a wide variety if horizontal marks to describe the fur of the hare, changing the direction of the marks to vertical on the animal’s legs. The fur of the underbelly is described by the white of the paper and short vertical marks, contrasting with the rougher fur on the animal’s back.

Composition

The foreground hare occupies the centre of the work in the middle third of the picture plane. The woodland recedes into the background and for this, the artist has developed less detailed marks than for the foreground hare and woodland plants. In the foreground, the veins of the leaves are shown in detail. The marks on the background hare are small and delicate and less detailed than in the foreground animal.

I found it very interesting how with limited colours, the artist has developed a sense of perspective in the print by reducing the size and detail of objects in the distance, such as the trees. I found it impossible to tell how the colours had been achieved, whether by reduction or multiple blocks but believe that the soft edges suggest this is a print created by the reduction method. This is something I would like to explore

 

References

1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bawden
2. Whale (woodcut on paper), Bawden, Edward (1903-89) / Imperial College Healthcare Charity Art Collection, London / Bridgeman Images
3 Tyger, Tyger (linocut), Bawden, Edward (1903-89) / © Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden, Essex, UK / Bridgeman Images
4. http://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/artists/new-english-art-club/richard-bawden-neac

5. Pink Eyes (etching), Bawden, Richard (b.1936) / © Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden, Essex, UK / Bridgeman Images
6. Hares at Holbacks (linocut), Bawden, Richard (b.1936) / Private Collection / Sally Hunter Fine Art, London, UK / Bridgeman Images
Keywords
hare running wood woodland forest

 

 

 

Project 6: Single colour linocut

image

Unspoken1 : Anywhere but here

Exploring the Topic

Initial exploration centred on the concept of home and family. I brainstormed words which I felt related to the topic  and used the computer to print these in a variety of fonts:

IMG_1235IMG_1236IMG_1237IMG_1238IMG_1239IMG_1240

 

 

image

Ayrshire Cottages: Image used as the basis for Unspoken 1: Anywhere but here

The image which I selected to work on for this project was based on a landscape  of cottages on the Clyde Coast in Ayshire, Scotland. The title refers to what remained unspoken after my dad moved away after my mum died. We never really spoke about it as the subject was always too delicate to discuss. The two birds represent his new life.

The original image was revised from one of my original paintings to suit the project and sketched in white chalk on black paper. This gave me an idea what the work would look like as a print. I then traced the main features onto tracing paper and transferred these to my Lino block. I wanted to create a bleak mood, and  to keep the cottages distinctly white against a black background, with dark sky and textured foreground. The use of this colour scheme made the introduction of the birds relatively simple.

I was able to introduce variety of mark making in the path to the cottages using short deep cuts to create the effect of pebbles, decreasing in size as they moved into the mid- ground. Variety was also added through the addition of grasses in the foreground, both short and long. The piece below was my first print from the block and this was subsequently modified to improve the form of the rocks

IMG_1148IMG_1152

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project 4 Research: Backdrawing

OCA Print making 1: An investigation into Back-drawing

Background

For my research for this exercise, I initially carried out a search using the term
” backdrawing”. However this search term yielded limited results. However the search threw up a link to a blog by a fellow OCA student. A link to the blog, My Creative Journey, is provided here. http://mycreativejourney.net/2014/11/27/printmaking-1-part1-research-point-backdrawing
The blog suggested alternative terms such as trace and transfer monotype/ drawing. I decided to explore further using these terms, which led to information on artists such as Degas, Klee and Gaugin.

Edgar Degas 1834-1912

The artist Degas was known to have used a variety of techniques which allowed him to transfer drawings. His practice included: passing charcoal works through a press to transfer the image, and painting unmarked etching plates with oil paint and then drawing into them with a brush. He then removed areas of paint with a cloth before printing. This techniques helped to increase contrast between inked and unlinked areas of the plate.
http://www.degas-painting.info/degasstyle.htm

Paul Gaugin 1848-1903

Searching with the term “Paul Gaugin trace monotype” led to further information on the history of the technique. The article also highlighted use of this technique by the artist Rembrandt, whose practice often involved inking and removing paint using wiping.
The artist Paul Gaugin used a method known as “Trace Monotype” in which paper is inked, another sheet place over it and a drawing made.
http://www.monoprints.com/history.php

Paul Klee 1879-

Information from MOMA archives documents the techniques used by Paul Klee in the press release prepared for the Paul Klee Centennial: Prints and transfer drawings, 1978. The author describes how Klee made his own carbon transfer paper by inking the surface of tracing paper. He then placed his drawing over this paper and transferred it by puncturing the outline of the drawing with a needle, transferring the ink onto paper which had been placed beneath.
https://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/pdfs/docs/press_archives/5699/releases/MOMA_1978_0135_126.pdf?2010

 

 

 

An example of a transfer drawing by Klee, Madonna, 1923 is discussed below. https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/asset/1196004/summary?context=%7B%22route%22%3A%22assets_search%22%2C%22routeParameters%22%3A%7B%22_format%22%3A%22html%22%2C%22_locale%22%3A%22en%22%2C%22filter_text%22%3A%22Paul+Klee+transfer+drawing%22%7D%7D

 

 

Title
Madonna, 1923 (oil transfer drawing and w/c on paper), Klee, Paul (1879-1940)
Medium; oil transfer drawing and watercolour on paper: Dimensions32x21.8 cms
Credit: Madonna, 1923 (oil transfer drawing and w/c on paper), Klee, Paul (1879-1940) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images

The print shows the Madonna and child placed centrally on the picture plane, the child held in the mother’s arms. The drawing is very loose, particularly the handling of the facial features, which gives adds to the abstract feel of the print. The transfer technique has helped the artist to avoid a detailed representational drawing of the figures, adding to the abstract nature of the print. The underlying watercolour has been carried out using sienna tones which adds to the soft mood of the print. The figure of the child is shown full length, in contrast to the figure of the Madonna which stops just below the waist.
The work reflects Klee’s interest in Cubism, which demonstrates simplification of basic forms in a way often seen in primitive works of art, together with the use of familiar motifs. Gombrich, E.H, the Story of Art, Fifteenth Edition, Phaidon Press Limited, Oxford.

 

 

PM1: Project 15:Exploring printmaking and combination printmaking

Introduction

For Project 15, I want to further develop the theme of migration, dividing the project into different stages:

the circumstances leading to the decision to leave: war, racial or religious differences, intolerance of sexuality, gender discrimination.
-The journey itself
-Arriving in a new land
-The impact of release from oppression

Aims
I want to consider how I can expand my knowledge and technical skills in collagraphy when taking forward this project. As previous OCA studies have included painting and I am interested in how my future practice might integrate printmaking and painting processes.

I hope to show the impact of colour on the mood of the work and to use both abstract and figurative approaches within the project.
I will investigate the work of other artists whose practice might help my own process and consider their work in the context of my own project.
Theme
Part 1: “Different”
My starting point was to review my research into faith and ethnic differences. This was carried out at the start of the project.
From this review, a theme was emerging, suggesting that “different” could be either physical and visible to others, relating to characteristics such as race, or be related to issues such as political or religious beliefs or to sexuality.
Being different from the prevailing ethnic majority or holding views different from those in political or religious power was a common reason for persecution and for deciding to leave a country of origin. I wanted to try to represent this difference from a visual perspective , while avoiding direct depiction of the human form in this project, keeping to an abstract approach.
Developing the Composition
I was interested in the abstraction of the form seen in the work of the artist Henry Moore, and was drawn to the print/collagraph “Standing Figures”.

I was particularly interested in the horizontal format and subdivision of the picture plane horizontally in this work, in which the artist places 2 rows of figures across the page. The repetition of the figures allows any differences to be quickly apparent to the viewer.
In my sketchbook I explored how this composition might work in my own design, using cut paper and coloured tissue. My “ figures” were created from cut card, elongated in form and placed horizontally across the picture plane. I placed one small “figure” at the centre of the row. In such a horizontal format this allowed the shape to stand out from the rest. The design was further developed by using a small punch to create markings on the “bodies”. Spare clippings from the punch were used elsewhere to add variety and to help to unite the design by using both the positive and negative shapes. The first print would be black and white to reflect the negative aspects of difference in a constricted and difficult environment.

Colour inspiration for “Different” and “Stepping out of the Shadows”

For this part of the project I wanted to use colour as an important part of my message.
I hope to be able to represent symbolically the freedoms enjoyed by those who have been persecuted in some way as they successfully escape to another life through migration.

The Rainbow Flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1976 seemed a very appropriate starting point.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/how-the-rainbow-became-the-symbol-of-gay-pride-10356350.html
It was adopted by the gay community as a symbol of gay pride, and offers a symbolism which appealed to me for this project. Sexuality is a common reason for persecution and the colour symbolism within it offers potential which I could use in my own project. The symbolism within the Rainbow flag is set out below:

Hot pink- sex
Red- life
Orange- healing
Yellow-sunshine
Green- nature
Turquoise- art
Indigo-harmony
Violet -spirit

I thought that the two colours which would best represent the spirit of what I wanted to say in “Stepping out of the Shadows”, and which would also create strong visual impact, were the colours orange (healing) and violet (spirit).
The first print is based on this combination.

Further options for the series using the same plate using colour variation:

Red(life) /black (death) – background black
Turquoise (art)/ yellow ( sunshine)- background yellow
Green(nature)hot pink (sex) – background green

 

 
Printing the Design
A plate was prepared using mountboard as a base. This card was cut into the desired shapes and punched according to my planned design and in scale with the picture plane. These were stuck down using PVA glue and varnished front and back using yacht varnish and left to dry overnight. The plate was inked up using black oil-based ink and rubbed using scrim, tissue and rags to help define tone. It was then printed using a Rochat etching press.

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Reflections
I felt the design was working well and the monochrome colour scheme enabled me to create the impression of “Difference” that I was looking to achieve. The print borders were clean and there was good contrast.
Compared to my previous efforts at collagraphy in Part 4, I felt that the prints were an improvement on past efforts. I think this was due to selection of more appropriate material for the plate (card) and access to a good printing press.
I would have liked to take many more impressions but was limited in time available as the press was available only though a booking system.
Part 2 Theme: “Over the Sea and far Away”
Composition
The design for part 2 was developed using the drawings of fish and birds prepared from project 13. I wanted to create a seascape featuring migrating fish at sea swimming towards new horizons. I used landscape format to emphasise the horizon and to help create the sense of the fish travelling forward. The fish shapes were kept quite simple, with the central fish having more detail than the rest. Card and sandpaper were used to create the plate. Star and sun shapes were added to link to previous designs. The plate was then prepared as above and printing was carried it using the Xcut Xpress and the Rochat press.
Colour choices

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Initially the print was proofed using black oil-based ink. Good results were achieved using this method. However, the first print was too dark and had been inadequately rubbed before printing. Further print runs resulted in better distribution of tone across the print and I was pleased with the final prints taken.

I initially experimented with sepia for the sea and red tones for sky. This was intended to reflect war and bloodshed. However, it was not working well. My inexperience at colour rubbing meant that I left too much ink on the plate, leaving it very dense and lacking in tonal variation.

The colour choices might have been more successful had my design been abstract rather than representational.

I then experimented with Prussian blue and mixed green for the sea and fish. The sky colour was created using mixed orange. These were applied using brushes and rubbed with scrim, rag and tissue to remove ink to add further colour variation to the print. The print was printed on Bread and Butter paper and Somerset. Unfortunately the paper kept tearing on removal from the plate. I kept one of the prints for experimentation in my sketchbook.

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Experimentation over torn paper

I experimented with varying conditions at home on the X press and achieved some reasonable prints with no tearing of paper on removal from the press. The most successful print required the addition of extender to the printing inks at mixing.
The desired colours were applied again, this time with the addition of extender and rubbed as before and printed on the Rochat press. The addition of extender allowed the paper to be cleanly removed from the plate, resulting in a successful print. However, the extender diluted the colour on the paper.
I found that the most subtle results were obtained by adding white as a base colour and delicately rubbing colour into this.
The Rochat press enabled me to achieve greater embossing on the paper which added to the interest of the print.


Reflections
Valuable lessons were learned in carrying out this part of the project, particularly in relation to the way in which ink could be affected by factors such as temperature.
The addition of extender created ink texture which seemed to work better when trying to remove the paper from the collagraph plate after printing
Paper had to be soaked for the optimal conditions for the studio. Left in too long and the risk of tearing increased considerably
It was essential to ensure the paper was blotted adequately but not too dry.
Ink rubs were best applied dark over light areas with very thin ink diluted with extender. Undiluted ink tended to reduce the detail on the plate.
I thought the final prints would work well as an illustration for a story.
Detailed planning ahead was needed to carry out the work in a busy print studio where presses have to be booked and other artists need access to the press. – Easier to experiment at home but limitations from the press

Part 3: Theme “Strange new Land”

My aims in developing the design for this print was to create a print which reflected the first impressions of the landscape from the sea as seen for the first time through the eyes of a migrant.
I imagined characteristics which might strike someone seeing the UK coastline. Words which came to mind were: Grey, cold, industrial, cliffs, factories, gulls, misty, rain. I wanted a semi-abstract, freer approach to this project, where the materials would to some degree dictate the final image.

Research

I was interested in how other artists had interpreted the coastal theme, and was drawn to the work of the artist Joan Eardley and in particular to the painting “The Wave”, painted in 1961.
https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/485/wave

The painting is a mixed media landscape of Catterline on the East coast of Scotland, painted in the winter months when the skies would often have been dark and overcast. The painting measures 121.90 x180 cms, is in landscape format and depicts a large wave approaching the rugged cliffs on the East coast shoreline.

Composition

The picture plane is divided roughly into three equal sections: the sky with the land above receding to the background at the top third, the cliffs and shoreline with the wave breaking across it in the middle of the picture plane, and the Sean the lower third. The use of dark grey in the foreground of the work and strong horizontal lines across the painting contrasts with the delicate vertical lines repeated in the centre third, across the breadth of the cliffs. The artist has placed another strong dark horizontal across the upper third of the painting, representing the land beyond the cliffs.

Colour

The colour palette includes neutral dark grey, grey blue and yellow ochre with touches of orange and warm white. The overall effect is muted and perfectly reflects the type of natural contrasts seen with an approaching storm on the Scottish coastline. The use of muted blues and yellows, colours which sit on the opposite side of the colour wheel, creates colour contrast and interest within the painting. The artist has used a warm white to depict the wave ( the subject of the painting), in strong contrast to the dark grey foreground, effectively highlighting the main subject of interest.

Brushwork

The roughest brushwork is found across the centre of the picture plane, with grit incorporated into the paint for the rendering of the cliffs. This contrasts with the much smoother strokes used for the sky ( the smoothest part of the painting) and foreground. In the foreground, the brushwork follows the horizontal lines which divide the picture plane, separating the cliffs from the shore. This this adds contrast and interest to the painting and keeps the eye of the viewer moving across the picture plan.

Relevance to my own practise

The painting very effectively evokes the coastal landscape seen in many parts of the UK. I particularly love the muted complementary colours ( blue grey and yellow grey) the artist has selected. The composition lends itself well to use in collagraph techniques, where the visual message needs to be delivered using cut or torn materials applied to a surface. The vertical mark making used by Eardley to depict the cliffs could also be represented in collagraph, using corrugated card and I felt that this was something I could used in my own work.

Eardley was known for her expressive style and the incorporation of materials such as sand and grasses into the paint used for her work. This is something which I could consider using within the series of prints for “different” and “Out of the Shadows” to develop the theme further. Another potential route for exploring the theme further could include the incorporation of text as in “Two Children” another work by Eardley

References

National Galleries of Scotland. https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/485/wave

Joan Eardley, Two Children, 1963 Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow © Estate of Joan Eardley. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016

National Galleries of Scotland
https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/features/joan-eardley

 

Taking forward my project

I used a variety of card and corrugated cardboard applied to the printing plate to create a semi-abstract landscape. The plate was prepared as before and inked up initially using black oil-based inks. Printing was carried out using the Rochat Press.
Colour Choices
A monochrome proof was used to hand-colour the print using watercolour. This created a delicate effect. However, I had problems with the paper tearing at the edges of the print after soaking for stretching and had nor created enough prints to repeat the process.

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I then inked up the plate again using Caligo safewash inks applying a thin layer of white ink to which colour was then added. Colours were rubbed onto the plate to create muted grey tones, extender having been added to the printing inks. The image was printed onto Bread and Butter paper using the Rochat Press.
Reflections
Overall, I was pleased with the quality of monochrome print obtained with this plate. My first print was too dark but later ones improved as I was able to gauge the correct most of rubbing to create the desirable tone.
I enjoyed experimenting with the application of watercolour. Taping down my damp print to stretch it properly to avoid tearing and cocking later would have improved the end result. Colour trials ahead of printing would have improved the final outcome of hand-colouring.

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Handcolouring of print

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Final print using colour rubbing printed on Rochat Press

Small accidental features emerged after printing which I liked. The form of a small sailing boat can be seen in the foreground of the print. This fits well with the theme and adds abstract elements to the print.

Part 4 “Stepping out of the Shadows”

The plate from Part 1 was re-inked in colour for Part 4 of the series, using a mix of red and yellow to create the desired shade of orange. I wanted to create a print in colour which would visually represent happiness and freedom. The initial print created an image where the small character printed a deeper shade than the others. I then created a template to cut a replica of the shape in purple tissue. This colour was selected to create strong contrast with the orange. The purple tissue was stuck directly to the print to enable the colour of the tissue to retained in full.


Reflections
I like the colour choices selected for the print
I feel that these are working well to create an optimistic mood within the print
I would like to experiment further using bonding of the tissue within the print. Overall I like the final result and would like to experiment further.