Anselm Kiefer: The Secret Life of Plants Collection Lambert, Avignon

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Kiefer’s work exhibited and each time I get a sense that this is what art is all about. Looking at his work is like looking through to something else. Not another world, but another layer of thinking. There is a sense of Kiefer grappling with things, asking questions, finding connections. These are works I could sit and look at for days. Every piece seems so very right. Settled, upright, heavy, complete. And the questioning stirs emotions, but we’re not quite sure how to feel. There is undeniable beauty but there is also a heaviness, a foreboding. The textures and materials are physical, the materials he uses are earthy, they will cut and stain our hands. I imagine hands working these paintings, putting them together. There’s no sense of a paintbrush here.

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Kiefer, A. (2001). Les Reines de France. [Paint and pencil on photograph] Avignon: Lambert Collection.

(Impossible to take photograph without reflection – Image not available online)

The first painting to catch my eye was not the largest, but just to its right. Two images, placed together in a frame, both with elements from other works I’ve seen. A photograph of a dress (made from lead?) that also features in his work The Argonauts and the other that reminds me of Bohemia Lies by the Sea. In this room delicate and shining, almost as if lit from within.

The work is part of a series called Les Reines de France (The Queens of France – though strangely the French hasn’t been corrected?) The dress is laid out, as if ready for its next owner. The dress from the myth of Jason and The Argonauts was laced with poison by Medea (and of course lead – that Kiefer uses – can be toxic). I wonder if this dress symbolises all that is handed down from queen to queen. Is it also laced? A toxic inheritance. Below are flowers (poppies?) faded, torn, trampled, looking like the sole survivors in a wet and muddy field.

Kiefer has added paint and pencil to a photograph (of his own work). The paper has the appearance of heavy fabric, it’s hard to tell what is paint, what is print. It seems just as textured as all his works. Layers of matter and layers of meaning. Kiefer seems to use a quite limited palette of colour. Grey, white, sand, a fleshy pink and occasional touches of blue. Colours that evoke churned up soil, mines, industry, plaster, fabric and flesh give a sense of decay and destruction.

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Drawings

In the end I chose 11 drawings for the assessment, though there are probably two that shouldn’t have been included. I think I have hung on to them for the wrong reasons. A bit like a pair of stupidly tight hip-bruising jeans. I was pleased with them at one point but I see them differently now. Alas the package has been sent, too late to pull them out.

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The Edit – What Next?

I was inspired by OCA Textiles Tutor Faye Hall’s recent post Reflection and the Edit. Editing our work seems an obvious thing to do – after all we edit our photos, our fridges, our wardrobes, our desks. But it took this article for me to realise this.  Coming to the end of Drawing 1 seems the perfect place to edit in preparation for the next step. I’ve summarised,  reviewed and evaluated, but I haven’t yet edited. Doing so I am sure will help me see clearly (and calmly!) ahead. That, along with the last piece of advice from my tutor “Don’t over-think it!”

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The Edit

My edit covers not just some of the ideas that I want to take forward but also specific advice from my tutor, artists I want to research deeper, and of course a reminder to let the drawing lead the way.  Editing is something to be doing continually, not just once a year, so here’s hoping I can make this a new habit.

References:

Hall, F. (2017). Reflection and the edit: Part 1 – WeAreOCA. [online] WeAreOCA. Available at: https://weareoca.com/subject/textiles/reflection-edit-part-1/ [Accessed 6 Sep. 2017].

two life classes

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Charcoal on newsprint

I went to this class with the aim of avoiding my usual heavy outlines. Of course the minute I got going I forgot…and was left trying to pull it back in the last couple of minutes. The entire front body was in shadow but I ran out of time to complete. Foot should probably be bigger. Areas where body and background are almost the same tone – like bottom thigh – are tricky, but even here my line is probably too much.

When I start to look at areas of shadow it seems to throw up mistakes so next time I will try (again) to work in areas of tone alongside line. If that’s at all possible?

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Different model. 2 minute sketch, barely looking at my paper. More lively than previous sketches.

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Another 2 minute sketch, again, looking at paper as little as possible.

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Switching to biro and keeping pen on paper more, several sketches of the same pose, trying to find connections, a 3-dimensional aspect. I do feel that by the fourth I was drawing more intuitively, I felt more engaged with the body. The model’s posture was also changing which I’m happy to have captured – a kind of shrinking into herself by sketch 4.

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Looking a little as if she’s hovering, this is probably a pose that would benefit from some shadowing underneath, some sort of hint that she is lying on the ground rather than suspended above it. Foot should probably be bigger.

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Hands in isolation so much easier than hands attached. I’ve spent a lot of time drawing my own hands and I’m beginning to understand that fingers are actually as high as they are wide and this solidity needs to be clearly shown. Despite the practice I haven’t really investigated the attachment of hands to wrist and how to get across the bend when looking front on. To be worked on!

 

Jessica Warboys, Tate St Ives

 

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Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2015, Jessica Warboys via tate.org.uk

Warboys made these paintings in separate locations and they relate not only to those locations but (in the way they hang) to the spaces they have been exhibited in. The canvases are soaked by the sea, mineral pigments are applied by a combination of the sea’s own movement and the dragging and folding of the canvas by the artist.

*The above painting is titled Sea Painting, Dunwich (Suffolk) both on the Tate official postcard and website for this exhibition, however the paintings on display at Tate St Ives were painted at Zennor, near St Ives. Photographs were not allowed at Tate St Ives and I can’t find any online.

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Jessica Warboys, production still via BritishArtShow8.com

The idea of this group of paintings and the process by which they were made excites me more than the works themselves. I do get a sense of the rocks of the far west of Cornwall: the rocks, lichen and gorse, but not the sea itself, though the sea of course has made the rocks, lichen and gorse what they are, and put them in their place. But perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for the crashing waves on these canvases. Maybe I should see them as a recording of what the sea has done to the land, printed on to blank canvas.  Some seem to work much better than others. Some of the St Ives panels felt quite tame to me, quite empty, while some I’ve seen online are more full.

Interestingly, Jessica Warboys herself says that she is “… not concerned with how the tableau looks or appears as I make a sea painting, but with the result or record of the process.” (Warboys, (2017)). In the British Art Show 8’s own video she explains that in the making she is “trying not to compose”  and though she describes the result as an “immediate and undirected print of the place” admits that as she does more of these works she gets more of a feel of how the pigment will settle on the canvas. 

I love the scale of these pieces, and the material they’ve been painted on. I would like to have been able to touch and smell them for the sea but they were for looking only. Despite the space they manage to take up in the curved entrance of Tate St Ives I couldn’t help but find them a little pale and empty. The boldness of the Tate building itself and the proximity of the sea is a tough act to stand next to. Probably better to work with it than to try and compete, as I felt these canvases were trying to do by nature of their very size.

References

Warboys, (2017). [online] Available at: http://www.britishartshow8.com/artists/jessica-warboys-1505 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Jessica Warboys Sea Paintings (2015-16) at BAS8. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arQJ0F1l6lI [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

Tate. (2017). Jessica Warboys – Exhibition at Tate St Ives | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-st-ives/exhibition/jessica-warboys [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

sketchbook

Thinking about what my tutor has said about outlines. I do tend to go in too heavy.  Really trying to think about how outlines are outlines because of the shadow behind them, and sometimes the tone is so similar there is almost no outline to speak of.

The problem came up lately in relation to my figure drawings though I know I’m susceptible to an outline. So I’m practising on pears – just a step away from the human body! Life class tomorrow, hoping to be able to apply the same approach.