Richard Long

Richard Long

He is one of Britain’s first Land Artists. His work is sculptural and photographic, but he has also made paintings using mud taken from sites of particular relevance to him.

He considers that his work is about the impact of his actions upon the landscapes and environment in which he produces them, rather than in a visual representaion. Thus he has undertaken many walks in a wide variety of places, which he documents simply and sparsely in a few lines of text.

I visited his exhibition ‘Time and Space’ at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol.

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Photo of work of Richard Long at Arnolfini Gallery Bristol. ‘Time and Space’ 2015.

Other works consist of photographs of found materials which he encounters on his walks. He assembles large sculptural forms from rocks or stones, often in circles, and takes photographs of them. he often returns the material to it’s original state. Other land sculptures consist of lines made by his feet walking a particular terrain, which he again photographs.

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Rock Circle.

The exhibition at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery contains a series of works, early and more recent, including installations made by him specifically for the exhibition. There are huge mud paintings covering entire walls, which were made using mud from the Severn esturary. There is a slate “cross”. There are examples of the walks he has undertaken and the texts which resulted.

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Slate cross. Part of exhibition ‘Time and Space ‘Arnolfini Bristol

This approach to art pushes my understanding of the creative process. It stimulates the imagination, as it is almost free of imposition, and I have been left with a soft and misty series of questions which are more about the artist as a person than they are about the actual work. What has motivated him, how did he arrive at the concepts, how does he sustain himself in such solitude, whilst walking the miles? As Alastair Sooke (Sooke 2015) observes, his work has a harshness and total lack of sentimental engagement with the landscapes he crosses. This represents his self-imposed acseticism and pushes the same condition upon the viewer.

References

Glover, M. (2015) ‘Review: Richard Long. Time and Space, Arnolfifi Gallery, Bristol. In: The Independent [Online] At: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/reviews/review-richard-long-time-and-space-arnolfini-gallery-bristol-10449939.html (Accessed 05/10/2015)

Sooke, A. (2015) ‘Richard Long: Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol: review ‘the self-discipline of a medieval monk’. In: The Telegraph [Online] At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/11765417/Richard-Long-Arnolfini-Gallery-Bristol-review-the-self-discipline-of-a-medieval-monk.html (Accessed 05/10/2015)

Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele.

He was an Austrian painter who lived from 12th June 1890 to 31st October 1918. He died from Spanish Flu in the epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands.

His work, especially his drawings and paintings of women, was considered by many in his lifetime to be obscene and immoral, and he was imprisoned for distributing immoral drawings, after having been arrested for the seduction of a minor, a charge which was overthrown.

In a successful exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London in 2014, entitled The Radical Nude, many of his paintings of women were shown. Jonathan Jones described Schiele as a ‘feminist’, and the work as ‘savagely direct’. (Jones 2014). He argues that Schiele loved women, unlike many others in his timwe, such as Picasso and some of the surrealists.

References

Jones, Jonathan. (2014) ‘Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude review – a feminist artist ahead of his time.’ In: The Guardian [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/21/egon-schiele-the-radical-nude-review (Accessed on 5/09/2015)

Tracey Emin

Tracy Emin

She was born in Croydon in 1963. By 1997, she was a well-known and contoversial artist and defining representative of the ‘Young British artists’.

Her work is dominated by ideas of self-portraiture, and incorporates biography and autobiography.

She has worked in many fields and applications, including drawing, painting, writing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, applique, poetry, neon works, film, video, performance and installation.

She has eschewed the trend in contempory art for the parodic, ironic and intellectually rhetorical, to focus on the theme of sincerity in art, for the display of feelings and emotions. In this she has similarities with the motivations of Louise Bourgeois, and has been similarly labelled as a “confessional artist”.

In the early 1990s Emin suffered a period of significant depression during which time she lost all self-belief and faith and destroyed her work. The impact of this period upon her work has been profound and she has been quoted as saying, in relation to her recovery that she ‘realised if I was to make art, it couldn’t be about a fucking picture…it had to be about where it was really coming from.’ (Neal Brown 2006:12).

Emin was brought up in Margate, She had a working-class upbringing, and her family structure was unusal, since she and her twin brothers were raised by her mother Pam Cashin, and her father Envin Emin, who had fathered the children during an extra-marital affair, following which he divided his time between his two families. He was a Cypriot who came to the UK in 1948, without any education. He suffered with addiction to gambling and alcohol. Tracey and her mother and brother lived in a number of places, following their itinerate father, who moved them for a short time to Turkey. They were financially poorly resourced and suffered racial ostracisation. She missed a lot of schooling due to illness, and truanting and finally left at thirteen.

As a young girl she suffered exploitation and sexual abuse and was raped at thirteen. These experiences have clearly had a major influence upon the nature and direction of her work. She is very clear about how her background has affected her, particularly in her feelings of ostracisation and being unaccepted when she attended Maidstone Art College and The Royal College of Art. She has said about how her background affected her: “Lots.The fact that I’m not Anglo-Saxon, I’m half Cypriot. The fact that my Dad came here in 1948. The fact that my father never went to school. The fact that I’m the first woman in my family to have an education. The fact tha I’m the first woman in my family to have a degree. The fact that I left school at thirteen. The fact that I went to a secondary modern school. The fact that I haven’t got a rounded British accent. The fact that I’m not middle class. The fact that I had to work really hard to get through things.” (Brown, N 2001:15).

Tracey Emin is well-known for her small monoprints, which cover a number of themes, both autobiographical and describing nature. She exhibited a series of eight monoprints of birds in 1993, tender, beautiful in their simplicity and optimistic in their impact. They contrast strongly with her more personal depictions which often depict complex emotional states, sometimes positive but often highly self-critical and self-depracatory.

A series of appliqued quilts, using fabrics saved from childhood and other milestone events in her life, have stimulated interest and debate about the role of women, female artists, the explicit nature of her text incorporated in the works.

Emin acknowledges that the work of Egon Schiele has influenced her, and he was, in turn, influenced by Vincent Van Gogh. Neal Brown (2006) argues that her work is defined by ‘poeticised truth, arrived at through the vehicle of mediated autobiographical truth’. Brown goes on to draw parrallels with the “confessional Poets” such as Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton, Stevie Smith and Sylvia Plath.

Egon Schiele dwelt on considerations of eroticism and childhood sexuality to a moral extreme, using vulnerable models, often children. Emin’s work frequently covers the same concerns but is unashamedly self-revalatory in as much as she uses herself and her own life as the vehicle and model of her enquiries.

In 2010, Turner Contempory , Margate, commissioned Emin to make a neon work for the facade of a small building close to the gallery, Droit House. She created a pink neon text in her own handwriting I Never stopped Loving You, a declaration of her affection for her home town.

In 2012 the Turner Contempory brought together an impressive body of Emin’s work, which was exhibited alongside a small number of works by J W Turner and Auguste Rodin, in an exhibition titled She Lay Down Beneath the Deep Blue Sea. William Feaver wrote in the exhibition catalogue, ‘Art reflects art and one of the delights of the new is that it brings with it fresh takes on the old. There’s always pressure to achieve something unprecedented but then, surprise over, the past reasserts itself and every achievement falls into line.’ (Feaver 2012)

This consideration was brought into even sharper focus in the astonishing exhibition The Last Great Adventure is You, at the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsley in 2014. Guardian art critic, Johnathan Jones wrote about her previously unrevealed talent in drawing. “Drawing is a cruel art… it imposes rules, traditions and standards that an artist cannot simply ignore.” He goes on to argue that Tracey Emin proves though her beautiful and evocative drawings of the female nude, that she is indeed an artist that can draw and draw powerfully and with great emotion and at times raw pain and despair.

He describes her as an expressionist. He remarks that just as Michal angelo knew that the human figure is as expressive as the human face, so does Emin.

He hails her as “the most important British artist of her generation”.

References

Brown, Neal. (2006) Tracey Emin. London:Tate Publishing

Feaver, W. (2012) Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Beneath the Deep Blue Sea. Margate: Turner Contempory 26th May – 23rd September 2012

Jones, Jonathan (2014) ‘Tracey Emin: The Last Great Adventure is You review – a lesson in how to be a real artist.’In The Guardian [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/07/tracey-emin-review-the-last-great-adventure-is-you-white-cube-gallery-london (Accessed on 5/09/2015)

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

Munch was born in Norway on 12th December 1863 and died on 23rd January 1944. He was a painter and printmaker. His work is intensely emotional and exposes deep psychological disturbances and as such greatly influenced the developing school of German Expressionism and built upon the foundations of late 19th century Symbolism.

Munch suffered much anguish during his childhood, and themes arising from this re-surface time and again throughout his work. He was the second of five children, and the elder son. His early childhood was overshadowed by the fear of death from tuberculosis, the illness which killed his mother, at the age of thirty, soon after the birth of her fifth child, and then his elder sister.

After Edvard’s mother’s death, his father becames fanatically religious, and instilled the fear of God into his children. His behaviour was erratic and his moods were unpredictable, and the more so after Edvard’s elder sister died. Edvard’s guilt over his survival in the face of his sister’s death continued to disturb him at intervals throughout his life, and provoked the series of paintings The Sick Child 1885 – 1927. There are other examples of works where a singl motif stimulated a series of paintings such as Girls on a Bridge 1902 – 7.

Munch is probaly best known for the painting The Scream 1883, which depicts a stylised, anonymous figure experiencing horrific emotion, to the point that his/her identity is distorted. Fear and threat are frequently encountered in Munch’s art, and he distorts perspective and brings his primary subjects close to the foreground and often cuts them off, in order to portray this.

Whilst he is often considered to be a Symbolist painter, the exhibition at Tate Modern Edvard Munch: the Modern Eye (2012) revealed that he was influenced by modern developments of the time in cinemtography and photography, in which images are brought close to the observer, to give the impression of the subject moving towards the observer. This is seen in The Galloping Horse 1910 – 1912

Reference

Ingles, Elizabeth. (2005) Edvard Munch: Love, Jealousy, Death and Sorrow. London: Grange Books

Tate Modern (2012) Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye. London Tate Modern At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/edvard-munch-modern-eye (Accessed 5/09/2015)

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

She was born 25 December 1911 died 31 May 2010

A French American artist and sculptor, she became known as Spiderwoman for her huge sculptures of spider-figures, cast in bronze.

The first ten yeras of her career were dedicated to paintings and works on paper. Between 1945 and 1947 she created a series of paintings known as Femme-Maison which have a surreal and tragi-comic quality, depicting the oversize figure of a woman trapped inside a house. These have come to represent the situation of being female, jostling the conflicting demands of motherhood, domestic responsibility and life as an artist trying to make her way. She explored the links between one’s physical home and psychological habitat through much of her working life.

Her parents owned a company which restored and sold medieval and rennaisance tapestries, and Louise developed skills in drawing which were put to use in the family business. She started to study mathematics, physics and chemistry, but later moved to study art in the studis of various artists in Paris. In 1938 she met and married Robert Goldwater, and art critic, and moved with him to New York, where she started to develop further as an artist.

Her early paintings are personal and emotional, but by the mid-forties, she was clearly influenced by her Cubist teachers and was painting grid-like, boxed compositions, with heavy use of line, strong shapes and blocked colours. her work was exhibited alongside other American painters such as Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Although their work reflected the influence of surrealism from Erope, Bourgeois rejected the label and considered herself an Existentialist.

As a mother to three children, she was, in this time, balancing the demands of three children with her wish to make her art. There was no major legacy of feminist art practice upon which to draw, and in her representation of the physical and psychological pressures of domestic life, she found ways to question the validity of the experience of female artists, and provided a lead for others to follow.

Not only was she struggling to find her voice as a female artist at this time, she was also struggling to find the medium which best suited her expressive drives. She gave up painting and moved into sculpture.

Her early sculptures were figure-like totemic, rigid forms made,  from wood, sometimes salvaged redwood, which were known as Personages. She stated that they were a kind of memorial to those she had left behind in France. The approach she used became known as Assemblage, the most basic definition for which is an artistic process whereby found or “readymade” objects are brought together to make a sculptural composition (Coxon, A 2010:28). It is therefore a three-dimensional form of collage, with its roots in the Cubist compositions of Picasso, Braque and Gris.

In 1966, a writer and curator Lucy Lippard showed some of Bourgeois’ works of the time, which were suggestive of organic primitive life-forms such as amoebae. The exhibition was entitled Eccentric Abstraction, and incorporated Bourgeois’ amorphous plaster and latex pieces with a parrallel to the trend of cool hard-edged Minimalism and its use of industrial materials. However, Bourgeois was always driven to say something, rather than simply to explore the materials, which for her were only interesting insofar as they could be used to express certain emotional or psychological states.

In 1968 Bourgeois created her phallic sculpture, Fillette, which combines the male and female genitalia, and shines a light on the concept of male vulnerability and female protectiveness. The form was made in different versions and materilas and was sometimes hung from the ceiling, on a meathook, or a twisted wire. According to Bourgeois, “hanging and floating are states of ambivalence” (Meyer Thoss 1992:69, cited in Coxon 2010).

In the 1970’s Bourgeois became more closely involved with feminism. These were extremely active years for her, and one of her most important works of the period was a tableau arrangement of bulbous latex forms set within a dark, cloth-lined box, lit so that it emits an eerie red glow. It’s title is The Destruction of the Father and she made a direct link back to her childhood and the tyrannical treatment she experienced from her father at mealtimes.

In the 1990, she moved again to another format, this time using textiles, found in trunks that she had accumulated and kept for decades. She made figurative and abstract sculptures from fabrics that were not previously associated with sculpture and were simultaneously soft and hard.

Bourgeois kept three types of diary, a writing diary, a spoken diary (into a tape recorder) and a drawing diary. She once said: “Drawings are thought feathers, they are ideas that I seize in mid-flight and put down on paper” (Bernadac 1995, cited in Coxon 2010).

She drew on whatever she had to hand, and the resulting images are sometimes figurative and sometimes abstract, and drawn from her imagination.

Throughout her lengthy artistic career, Bourgeois repeatedly explored the theme of gravity, motherhood and maternal loss. This has been linked by her and others, such as Kristeva and Bernadac, to her personal experiences of these life events and her psychological responses. She is quoted as saying: ‘Fear of abandonment has stayed with me my whole life. It began when my father left for the war. It continued when my mother died in 1932. People ask me to “be their mother”. I can’t because I am looking for a mother myself.” (Stoops, S.L 2006:26, cited in Coxon 2010).

Reference

Coxon, A. (2010) Louise Bourgeois. London: Tate Publishing