Collaborating with Nature Itself: Rain and Snow

After researching the artist Tim Knowles, I was quite inspired by the idea of “nature as artist” and the idea that you could set up certain conditions and nature could make the art or change the artwork in some way. I decided I would experiment with this idea. Experimentation from lots of different angles is important to me when creating a body of art work, whether the outcomes are successful or not.

Yesterday, It started to rain and I had an idea of how I could play about with nature having a role in art making. Quickly, I drew three different abstract landscape sketches of my chosen place of focus (Brecon Beacons) containing mark making and line work onto watercolour paper.

I drew these sketches using really cheap, low quality fine liners in the hope that they would be impermenant. I then placed the drawings outside, weighted them down with some stones and watched out the window as the rain hit the surface of the paper.

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A few minutes later, to my surprise, it started to snow and so two natural weather conditions: the rain and the snow were responsible for the changes that happened to my artwork. The rain and snow played a key role in the creation of these works and the experiment was successful as the outcomes are highly interesting.

The moisture from the weather caused the ink to run, creating very appealing outcomes. As well as Tim Knowles, this exercise was also inspired by my field option: Drawing as experience. Within this option, there has been a much great focus on process than on the outcome and there has been a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding what the outcome would look like. The outcome of these pieces could not have been predicted and the process before the outcome is what links in with my subject work more closely. I set up the experiment and then the natural weather created the final outcome, I had no part in the watery marks. In a way, I guess you could say I collaborated with nature to create these works.

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NEW WAYS OF APPLYING PAINT: Paint Performance Module Integrating into my Subject Work

Within Paint Performance we have been learning about new ways of applying paint. Even though we have been working abstractly within the module, I felt like I could apply what I had learnt to produce some more figurative yet uncontrolled painting experiments documenting landscape.

The three elements I have taken influence from are:
– Painting with my left hand – unnatural, more difficult to control the paint
– Painting with the body – (in this case, in the form of finger painting)
– Painting with something other than a brush – (in this case, a stick and a palette knife)

PAINTING WITH MY LEFT HAND

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Painting with my left hand initially produced a more free, less controlled painting. I found it difficult to control the paintbrush and my hand didn’t seem to know how much pressure to put on the page. I really like the loose, squiggled and scuffed line work that this has produced in the first image. However, when creating the second image, I felt as if my left hand got used to painting a bit too much and so the outcome was more controlled and not as successful in my eyes. Painting with my left hand has helped me be more expressive in my mark making and because it was more difficult I felt as if I concentrated more.

PAINTING WITH MY BODY/FINGERS

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Painting with my fingers made me feel closer to the artwork as I could actually feel the painting going onto the board with my own skin. A paintbrush can be quite disconnecting from a work in comparison to the human body. It was very difficult to achieve any detail with my fingers, but I like that about these pieces. I think the blended quality that they have is successful and you can see the movement of my fingers within it which is interesting because you can see evidence of a different process from using a brush. I really enjoyed this process and it encouraged me not to worry so much about what the outcome looked like.

PAINTING WITH A PALETTE KNIFE AND STICKS

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When using a palette knife and sticks to apply the paint, the movement of the tools was just as controlled as if I was using a brush due to the fact I was applying the paint with my right hand. However, the marks made were entirely different to if I was using a brush. They are a lot harsher and there is an element of scratching into the paint within them which I am rather fond of. I think I could integrate all of the above techniques in some way into future works.

Working with new ways of applying paint has been an interesting experiment that I think has made outcomes with successful elements. Paint Performance has definitely inspired me to be more experimental and to think about the limits of painting with a brush. I am confident that I will use more natural implements to apply paint with and link in with my concepts and I will consider my reasoning for using a brush more carefully when applying paint.

I would like to make some experiments and paintings that include natural materials mixed into the paint. I started experimenting with this before undertaking the performance module but it took a sideline as I became involved in it. This is a good thing because it gave me a chance to experiment with the mixing of materials. We added soil and leaves into the paint in our final performance and It added very interesting textures to the work. I am now confident that this could make for successful paintings and I look forward to producing work with this knowledge.


A Connection to Nature: Painting Landscapes onto Leaves

I am highly inspired by the work and the concepts of John Piper. Particularly his views about the landscape work you create having a connection to a place and therefore a connection to Nature. I have started playing and working with the idea of incorporating parts of a place and natural objects into my work with success and I think connecting my painting and drawing with nature itself is an interesting idea to work with within my project. My tutor thought that my abstract drawings were a successful and visually appealing element of the work up in my studio space and I agreed but I felt that they lacked a connection to the place I portrayed.

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Over the Weekend, I went home and collected Ivy Leaves from the area of the Brecon Beacons and primed them and started drawing my abstracted landscape drawings on to them. I chose Ivy Leaves because their waxy quality means they don’t shrivel and die quickly. 

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I think there is something quite charming about these delicate leaf drawings. After producing these three drawings, I experimented with adding watercolour of a similar colour palette to my chosen painting – John Piper’s Rocky Valley, North Wales.

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I am very pleased with these little drawings/paintings. I felt that only drawing on paper didn’t tye in well with my project, especially considering the fact that natural trees are cut down to make it. I was restricted by the surface and so found a new surface that fits in with the concepts of my project to paint and draw onto.

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Using nature as a surface to work on is something I am keen to experiment with further. I am thinking about painting onto stone and drift wood or bark as well. After completing my drawings, I took them back out into the Landscape and photographed them back in their natural environment. My drawings have a strong connection to the place they portray because they are drawn on nature from the place and put back into the natural surroundings. I am moving away from John Piper’s influence and making a current body of work with his in mind but it is not dominating my ideas any longer. This idea was inspired by being introduced to Ian Mckeever’s Painting in a hole in the ground. He made a painting and put it in a natural landscape.  This set of photographs are incredibly interesting and juxtapose the man made with the natural. I have changed the natural environment here. The leaf would usually just blend in with the others but I guess it has a sense of power and importance because it stands out amongst them. I could also experiment with painting abstract Landscapes onto leaves in similar colours to the surroundings so that they do blend in and maybe they may almost become part of nature.


PAINTING PERFORMANCE: Repetitive Directed Drawing and Using the Influence of the Gutai Group

The morning session within my second performance workshop involved a strictly directed repetitive drawing exercise. We were told to listen to all instructions and were started and stopped from fulfilling the commands with a whistle. We started the session with exercises that would focus us in on our own bodies and our breathing to help us relax and become more aware of our actions and senses. Once completed, the tutor started to strictly instruct us to draw and make specific marks for specific amounts of time. Tap dots with the right hand, draw a diagonal line with the left hand, draw a vertical line with both hands, make a circular mark with the right hand and so on.

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For me, It was incredibly intense and tiring, but it made me more aware of the movement of my own body because I was not concerned by the mark that was being made on the paper. Some exercises seemed to go quicker than others. It was intriguing to see what other individuals made of what we were doing, you could tell that some people were getting bored, others frustrated and fed up. I tried to embrace it as best I could but repeating something over and over again can become very tedious and there is only so long you can concentrate and be interested in doing it.

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Territory on the paper was another point I thought about. Four of us were sharing paper, personally I did not mind if others drew over my drawing because it gives the piece a sense of working together and collaboration but another member of my group seemes really agitated by the fact that I was drawing over their work and getting in the way of their line drawing. The last drawing instruction, making angry marks was the most exhausting to me and once completed we were told to sit quietly with our eyes closed which helped me relax and reflect on the whole experience and how I had felt.

I think this was definitely a valuable exercise as it taught me to forget about what was going on around me and become immersed in what I was doing at that moment in time. I completely lost my sense of time and my body was just focussed on drawing. It was interesting to see how the marks of my work seemed to become looser and further across the paper as I became less self concious about my drawings and more free in my approach. This is relevant to my practice as I do need to loosen up in my work, be less organised and experiment deeper with abstraction.

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The afternoon session saw us experimenting with paint performance under the influence of the Gutai Group. A japanese performance group that fling paint around to create work. One of my favourite pieces of theirs are when the artist dipped a ball in paint and threw it at the canvas. We climbed up a scaffolding structure to gain height to drop paint down onto the paper below in any way we liked. It was a really interesting process because you could not control the marks that were made on the paper below. Also, because a whole group of you were working on the same piece of paper, you could not visualise what the outcome would be like until complete. When choosing colours, we chose colours that represented our personalities and that would would well together in one piece of art. Other groups just dropped the paint and observed the outcome but we thought of movements to apply the paint, becoming more aware of our bodies. A friend of mine dangled paint buckets of her ankles and kicked her feet until they fell off. I swung a bucket of paint round and around my arm until it had all been dispersed. You could see the process in the marks that had been made. Using your body as a tool to apply paint is very empowering and free.

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The whole of this session was about the process of creating and being in the moment, not worrying about or focussed on the item created. This is true experimentation which could result in a successful outcome or an unsuccessful one that you would learn from. Thinking about being in the moment will definitely help me to relax when making artwork and to think about the process of actually making my art work.


An Introduction to Painting Performance: Lecture by Andre Stitt

This purpose of this lecture was to give us an insight and introduction into painting performance and performance art as a whole.

Paul Hurley – “I fall to pieces” – Experimentica, Cardiff Nov 2014

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Human form with some sort of substance on the body. Creating a context. Many contain a narrative. The material is paint. What do all these signifiers mean? Interested in abstract movement. We are drawn to what happens to the material on the body. Personal experience of grief. There is sound. Many things are being put togetether in a live situation that we would not get from looking at a photograph. The music playing Is Patsy Klein. Is it a strange abstract dance? It is not rehersed and it is taking place in actual time. His eyes are closed, so he cannot see the viewers. Inspired by the loss of a friend, past lossed and future ones.

In this module, we are looking at a history of engagement between material substances and the human body. A kind of painting performance.

What is painting?

The practice of applying colour to a surface. The use of this activity in combination with drawing. Used to represent, document and express.

Painting as evidence – a document of the performance of painting

Painting as Process – event, performance

The focus shifts from the self contained and autonomous art towards emphasis on process and motion in art, the inclusion of the environment, as part of the artwork. Thought becomes form.

Post WWII – Painting becomes action

Jackson Pollock – 1912 -1955

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When we look at pollock, we are drawn to the act of painting. The press document with photographs and reviews. A shift from painting as an object to a spectacle. Before, paintings had tended to conceal the fact that their works were the result of process. In the 1940s and 50s, it shifted to portraying a piece that embodies themselves into the work. It becomes about process more than the outcome.

Performance Art – An action, designed and executed by an artist that takes place in time and space with or without an audience.

Kristine Stiles, American academic – “Artists who began to use their bodies as material of visual art repreatedly expressed their goal to bring art practice closer to life”. “Process over product” – Experiencing the work immmediately in the moment, presenting the work in real time. “They sought to reengage the artist and spectator by reconnecting art to social and political events”

Ideas came out of action art and performance – Fluxus, Dadaism, Futurism etc.

The Gutai Group – Japan 1955

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Expressed aim: To create a new type of painting.

Saburo Murakami – Work being painted by throwing a ball dipped in paint – Draws out attention to process – using paint as a material.

Shozo Shimamoto – Throw painting 1958

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Kazou Shiraga – Feet painting 1956

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Using their body, testing the limits of the body. Painting is all about test and control. Here the body is being tested and controlled.

Georges Mathieu – demonstrating action painting in a department store. It is interesting to think about the locations that action art can be made. What does it mean to make art outside the gallery? Different spaces change the context.

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William Green – deomonstrating “action” painting at the royal college of art in 1958.

There was a humour around gestural painting, William Green, A british man had only 5 minutes of fame. His work was documented by the media. Challenging what art can be and what it means to make art.

Tony Hancock – The rebel 1961 – almost becomes a parody in the press. Mocking what action painting represents. Tony Hancock was a major comedian at this time. Action painting under ridicule but becoming entertainment for others to look at those “silly artists”.

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Afrons Schilling – Paris 1961 – What is original in performance art? Has it all been done? What can a material on the body actually mean? Nowadays. Damien hirst has done similar. These early works had as much to do with style as it does with embodiment.

Yves Klein – Anthropometry 1960 – Living Paintbrushes

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This performance could be looked at as containing the objectification of naked women. It involved a male participant controlling the body of a naked woman and using her as a paint brush to paint with Klein Blue paint. Here, paint possibly has a relationship with bodily fluids.

Lee Wen – Anthropometry revision 2008

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He is talking about skin, notion of paint as skin. Links between chinese and british, colonialism. Looking at chinese identity in singapore. How you display a metaphor for something without painting an image of it.

Carolee Schneeman – puts her body where her thoughts are. Woman working in the 1960s, questioning the notion of the female body. A relation to feminine fluids and objectification. Based on the male gaze, not female gaze. The master painter points at the female and controls how he wants to see her. She reacts against this.

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Gustav Metzger – auto–destructive art action – london 1961

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“a desperate last minute submersive political weapon” – an attack on a capatist system – “performance as anti-comodification” – I am making the work, it is not for sale, it is made and that is it. Idea of destruction within it.

Nikki Saint Phalle – Shoot paintings – paris 1961

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Filled things within an assemblage with paint in pots and shoot them to make the paint drip and create the final outcome. Slightly ephemeral – early feminist artist.

Anish Kapoor – shooting in the corner London 2009

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Performative installation, canon like weapon shotting peletts of paint. In relation to the present day, this is far more accepted.

Shigeko Kubota – Vagina painting – Flux Fest

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Paint brush is loosely related to a male falice. It looks like the brush is inserted into the vagina and then being used to paint with.

Action Art – “It is rather, far more, the desire to delve deeper into the enigma of painting in order to experience it ever more richly”

How do you use paint , a material substance as a metaphor?

Gunter Brus 1964 – Viennese Aktionist – Artist placed in a vulnerable position and drawing attention to that.

Herman Nitsch – Painting installation – Jerusalem 1995 – conflict, relations to blood

Stuart Brisley – Performance, Poland 1975 – After the performance, he created a more traditional painting illustrating elements of the process. All of the rags used to clean the body are painted realistically.

Paint as a substance that becomes a mediator to channel ideas and concepts.

Robert Smithson – Asphalt ran down, Italy 1969 – work is more spectacular in the process to create it. It is about environmental issues.

Ian Mckeever – Painting for a hole in the ground

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The gestures and marks on the painting have a correlation with the landscape.

Richard Jackson – from a series of 100 drawings 1978

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Imagery of a clock spreading paint, and windscreen wipers spreading paintbrushes. In 2003, he drove a moped through paint on canvas

Paul McCarthy – Face Painting – Floor White Line. Architectural Surfaces and the human changing the space. Whipping a wall and a window with paint 1972. People would just happen upon this piece. How do you control a blanket. Is it about human control or not being able to control it?

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Paul McCarthy – Red Penis Painting 1972 – If we didn’t know It was painted with a penis, would it be as interesting?

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Paul McCarthy – Painter (Film) – reference to William Dekuning – What does it mean to make art? Is it an illusion? Can it be both serious and humourous?

Janine Antoni – “Loving Care” 1992-96 – strong relation to hair dye. Using her hair to paint with. A context with women’s cosmetics.

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Keith Boadwee – Inserting paint into his anus an squirting it out. Paint Enema’s. Making asshole abstractions.

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Performance artist – John Court 2006 – Had buckets of paint poured on him and lay there still until it dried. It took 8 hours to performance. Text as gesture is evident here, it is about communication. He is incredibly dyslexic. Writing Art forwards and backwards. Writing with left hand. Making the work more difficult to make. Disability/Inhability to communicate, so he is doing it through action. In terms of documentation, he creates time lapses, condensing a six hour performance into 10 mins.

There is a relationship between performance and contemporary drawing. 

Painting Performance – Belfast 1977 – Andre Stitt Himself put black plastic down and flung paint around, for him it was about anger and using paint to embody the anger at civil war. He didn’t have a knowledge of a history of performance, he just thought about the relationship between the body and paintings.

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Andre Stitt – Burning Paintings Performance 1978. It is important for us to think about why we make art.

MODERNISM – intervention in art.  With its avant garde advances, and the development of gesture as a performative intervention in art, in the form of an autonomous construct – achieved.

Making a performance is a precious thing. Freedom, Childs play, imancipation, being in a moment. An awareness that we will break the idea of self-conciousness creating performance painting.

 Cy Twombley: Untitled No.10 – textural mark making 2004

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Anastasia Ax – Paint Performance, Oslo 2010 – Space, Architectural concerns, self contained worlds in which we as observers experience the live act and the material artefact, whats left.

Alexis Harding – paint falling off the canvas onto the floor – pulmonary 2006

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How do Artists use materials to create contemporary performance and bring it into the art world?

Performance > Interaction > Painterly Mobility

Painting Performance Key Words – Surface, Tension, Skin, Pigment, Viscera, Fluid, Emotional Expulsion, Pushing/Pulling, Dipping, Dripping, Spilling, Flinging, Layering, Coating, Spraying, Dragging and Sloshing

These are all ways of experimenting that could be applied to any practice, whether it is painting or sculpture or performance etc.

Many Ideas about performance art have arisen to me from this Lecture. I gained Ideas from both the tutors own work and the work of other artists.

I have learnt about:
The Gravity of the body and How the Body Works
The use of unconventional materials
Getting art made quickly and the speed of documenting performance
Photography capturing action, paint in mid air etc
Using your experience in performance to create art on canvas
When to make work, the time of day
Weather conditions controlling outdoor performance
To think about how a performance can portray concepts and people can make their own interpretation to the work just as they would when viewing a painting.

Lynda Benglis: Studio, New York 1968
Concerned with conceptualism
Painters started thinking of new ways to apply paint and incorporated unconventional materials.

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There are many interesting ideas as work in performance art and paint performance – to unpack thinking about the human body, materiality, paint as a material, how the paint is applied, movement, etc.


My Current Studio Space

Putting everything up in my Studio Space helps me visually view my thought patterns and to take in all the experimentation that I have done to progress. Looking at my wall at the moment, I have definitely delved into a variety of different techniques and all the pieces are becoming one distinct body of work as a whole. You can see the journey that I have undergone so far and my thought processes.

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As you can see from the photo, I have accomodated a large board on which I am planning to bring my ideas together and incorporate mixed media into an abstracted Landscape piece. As I have experimented with, I plan to include nature into the paint as well as on the surface and just enjoy producing the piece of work.


Reflection: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Progressions?

Reflecting on what I have done so far and writing down my ideas and progressions in concrete will not only help me progress but make the work I have been doing clearer to me and to others.

Within this project, I have decided to make work inspired by a piece by John Piper called the Rocky Valley.  Initially, I was very interested in the textures and the colour palette of the work. On closer investigation, the abstract marks that were making up the rock face became a key inspiration to the beginning of my project. Firstly, I have experimented with creating my own work inspired by the visual aspects of the piece, creating continuous line drawings with abstract shapes and gestural mark making and painting those elements onto photographs etc. Other influential artists like Dryden Goodwin and David Hockney encouraged me to create Landscapes with abstract shapes and elements through methods like scratching into photographs and digital work.

After exhausting the physical and visual influences, I decided to research into the concepts and reasoning of John Piper’s work. I found that he wanted to capture a sense of the place he was producing and express the personality of the nature within it and around him. He wanted his work to have a strong connection with the visual elements of the place as well as the feelings and emotions within it. I have chosen to work with my home area of the Brecon Beacons because it is a place close to my heart and I believe I will be able to capture it appropriately because I have experienced it first hand. I attempted to make some I-Pad collages combining real pictures of the place with levels of abstraction and marks. I also incorporated the colour palette and because the place was in it, I felt there would be a connection to it, but it was not strong enough.

Capturing a sense of a place has become a key concept of my work. I have been taking things from the outdoors and using them within my artwork, instantly creating a connection. At first, I was incredibly unsure where I was going with this and so started drawing with twigs dipped in ink and making line drawings from the nature within a place. I have also been experimenting with collage, textures and abstraction. Again, the connection was quite obvious and not very exciting and after seeing Anselm Kiefer’s exhibition in the Royal Academy in London, I started thinking about other ways of incorporating nature into my work.

Currently, I am experimenting with adding nature itself into the paint that I work with. I have produced experiments where I have mixed organic materials like soil or leaves into the medium and I am incredibly happy with the results. Not only does it add texture to the paint, but it gives a sense of the place you are painting, because nature from it is in the work as well. Combining the influence of John Piper and Anselm Kiefer seems to be giving my work a lot of direction and I am excited by the Ideas that are emerging.

In terms of progression, I am hoping to produce more experiments adding things to paint and using them to create abstracted Landscapes incorporating abstract shape and encompassing gestural mark making. I think combining everything that I have learnt from investigating and researching so far could lead to a successful outcome and then I could stand back and look at it and see how to progress further. Incorporating nature and organic matter actually into the art that I produce takes the connection to a landscape further than the work of John Piper. I have started to think about other ways of documenting a place and have created a few abstract pieces from collected found objects from the outdoors but this is something I will have to investigate further also.