reflection on feedback : end of part three

Version 3

photo: incredibly just a few weeks after I finished drawing an abandoned factory for Assignment Three it was demolished. These huge tanks were also on my wish list to draw but now they’ve been taken away. No doubt they will be replaced by a shopping centre.

I hadn’t felt that confident about my work in part three. I’m not sure if this is something to do with getting half way. At the beginning of the course I surprised myself with some of the drawings (in a good way). But this last part I found difficult and I was unsure of all the work I produced. Come half way am I expecting more? Have I become more critical? Or was the work simply not as good.

After postal problems last time around I agreed with my tutor not to post – which made it harder for her to assess – and I’m worried that my work looks better online than in the flesh. So we’ll battle it out with the post again next time.

things to revisit:

(assignment two I still need to tweak)

‘composition’ of gates – will really try to make time to have another crack at this, using the six square grid as suggested. Not sure what this is, so need to investigate. This drawing had frustrated me as I liked the subject but it was evading capture.

‘townscapes’ of statue – aspects of this I was pleased with though I could see that the whole hadn’t worked. Thankfully my tutor has given quite direct (constructive) criticism – “needs more work. It is a little bland overall and could have benefitted from some more colour”. So I know that I need to really push at it. I think I had wanted to make something really beautiful and mysterious – and in wanting that I lost my nerve – this is no place to be timid.

other feedback:

My tutor picked up, as I have done, on a ‘narrative’ throughout my work, and my pointer for the next assignment is “embrace the atmospheric/dystopian graphic novel style imagery as this appears to be your voice or style coming through.” I do seem to see things this way – though I’m hoping this is a romantic rather than a dark side coming though. I’ve always been drawn to old factories, cargo ships, wasteland and shadows more interesting than the object that has cast them. Also the question arises whether I have considered illustration, which I haven’t, though I can see it’s a direction I shouldn’t dismiss.

Overall my tutor had lots of positive encouragement which has left me absolutely fired up for part four and to produce some work that I feel more confident about.

Past feedback and focus points

Below I’ve cut and pasted things to focus on from part one and two – ruled out when I’ve covered it – just to keep me on track.

  • practice elipses but keep at it!
  • do my preparatory work on bigger sheets before moving on to A1, rather than going straight from A4 to A1 – this makes so much sense and I can’t believe I needed someone to tell me…
  • make a clearer divide in my sketchbooks from one assignment to the next I’m using my sketchbooks more so they are filling up for each part now anyway.
  • consider your own style and strong points such as perspective, architecture, mood narrative, atmosphere
  • consider cinematic opportunities and developing them further when possible.  

and from my own reflection:

  • push myself to experiment more don’t lose sight of this
  • really try to get to grips with the different media (especially coloured pencils, pastels) and try out different papers – use contact SAA from tutor for trial papers
  • yet more messing about before committing to the drawing – don’t be frightened to make mistakes make mistakes!

and specifically:

  • fix the perspective  problems on my assignment two floor tiles and the area around the shadow
  • make time to have a go at a real fish, after my trying time with the fake ones – would love to have a go at Turner’s gurney. go back and have another go

and as a reminder I’m adding some of the part one key points in here too:

  • plan the drawings better with light pencil so they fit the space
  • avoid drawing outline of an object – investigate how the object meets the space
  • develop more experimental drawings before committing to the final – to get a better idea of how something may work (for example with my idea to block in random objects, which didn’t really work)
  • try out sketching white on black! have been doing quite a bit of this

reflection at end of part three

Version 2

Part three has been done in fits and starts. ‘Done’ rather than ‘completed’ because it doesn’t feel completed. I don’t feel I’ve got my teeth in to any one exercise, time has been chomping at my heels, pushing me on. Though as I’m now more than half way through, I wonder optimistically if this feeling comes from me seeing more potential in each subject. Rather than a little path to explore for each exercise, now I see an entire motorway network, spreading out in to A roads, B roads, gravel tracks – all waiting to be investigated.

I wouldn’t be English without a little moan about the weather and no, it hasn’t helped. I tend to do coursework in the evening, and of course it gets dark around 5pm. We’ve had the coldest weather for many years, some days struggling to get above 3c. And then there’s the Mistral – don’t get me started. Consequently I’ve done very little sketching outside, some from the car, some from a window but mostly from photographs and I don’t see as well like that.

I’ve also keenly felt my lack of exposure to art this winter – most galleries near me are closed until mid March when the tourists start to trickle in again. I’ve read about exhibitions taking place in the UK and feel I am missing a great deal. I’ve seen a couple of photographic exhibitions and Tony Cragg’s sculpture, but would love to get access to the artists that I’ve been researching. However I continue to listen to Tate and Royal Academy podcasts among others, read books and catalogues and catch relevant documentaries when I can. The more I consume, the more my appetite increases. Just like eating jelly babies.

Specifically thinking about the criteria for this course:

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills Materials: techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

Since I started with OCA’s Foundations course 18 months ago, some of my technical skills have improved no end, but some are still lacking. I do feel more confident of my observational skills and visual awareness now – I’m not daunted – I feel I can get something down OK. I’ve also developed a keener eye for tone and contrast, for shadow, for the ‘edges’ that aren’t actually edges at all.

I think I need to keep an eye on my compositional skills. I tend to leap straight to a composition and not let go. I don’t think I try enough things out. I see a composition almost immediately and am usually reluctant to let it go, when maybe I should.

My biggest failing here I think is technique – I am still grappling with this. I’m confident now with charcoal, and of course pencil. I have by no means mastered pastel or crayon, though I am getting more comfortable with pen and ink washes. I’ve begun using tinted and black paper but haven’t really go to grips with what paper works best for what.

Quality of Outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment

If I’ve understood what this means, then ‘content and application of knowledge’ has perhaps been a little shaky here – because of my piece meal approach to part three – I haven’t truly answered some of the exercises, and working from photographs has not been ideal.

I’m confident however that I’m presenting my work coherently, and I hope explaining my reasons for any deviation from the exercise.

Demonstration of Creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice

In the Gallery section of my blog I put the drawings from each part up together – it’s useful to see my progress like that – on one page. And I can see here that things are happening. I’ve gone from straight forward representation of something to drawings that are showing something else – something about my own response to the subject.

I can see that it’s still tentative, but as I get the technical skills under my belt, I feel more freedom to respond more intuitively. I suppose from this will come personal voice.

The weak area here is experimentation. Still. This has been my weakness since part one. I keep putting this down to shortness of time, the need to move on. I’m not sure how long I can use that as an excuse. There is a period of warming to a new subject, and my frustration is that just as I get warmed up and I start to let things wander towards experimentation the alarm goes off, stirs me out of that zone and reminds me to ‘crack on!’

I’m also aware of tightening up considerably, once I start to work on a drawing that I want to ‘finish’. I can see two routes to getting past this tendency:

  • having the time to say each piece is an experiment, so it doesn’t matter if I make ‘mistakes’
  • stop worrying about not having the time to say each piece is an experiment, and just living with the mistake. Mistakes are how we learn, if I don’t make them I won’t learn.

Context: Reflection, research (learning logs)

I enjoy the research enormously. I love the links I find, the connections I make between artists, works of art, art movements and my own discoveries. The links I find often give me confidence, inspiration, the push to carry on and do better.

There are themes that keep popping up, or that I am unconsciously steering towards. That is interesting in itself. I wonder if they might influence future images. The what’s here and what’s not,  what’s real and what’s not, our connection to place. In the drawings themselves there’s no denying the frequency of doorways, or a ‘looking through’ from one place to another. This hasn’t been conscious, and it’s taken me to this stage to see that pattern.

My big frustration here (mentioned above) is my lack of access to exhibited work. I see whatever is available locally (when it is open!), and catch what I can online but I miss seeing the real thing, because I know that time spent with art is when I perhaps learn the most.

I find reflecting on my own progress quite straight forward though as I progress through the course I feel more keenly the lack of fellow students in the same room, that lack of connection to other busy minds. The OCA forums and Facebook help a great deal to fill the vacuum but only to an extent.

Green?

I’ve just noticed from looking at the Gallery entries for the past three parts of this course that I have never used the colour green. What’s that about!?

Things I want to focus on:

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  • Experiment and explore around my subject much much more
  • Composition – don’t get stuck on my first choice
  • Pastels – really have a go at conquering soft and oil pastels
  • Inks – experiment more with coloured inks
  • Marks – think about mark-making
  • Use green!

research point: john virtue

Try to find some information on the work he produced while associate artist in residence at the National Gallery. You’ll also find works he has made on site on the moors and at sea.

I was tempted to avoid this research point altogether. I looked at Virtue’s works on line, I bookmarked the page, I came back to them, I did a new search. There was nothing pulling me in , nothing led me to peer closer at the screen, to maximise the image.

I’m ready to accept that I might feel very differently should I see them in the flesh. I’ve had the same change of heart (in both directions) before, once I’ve seen something up close.

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No 8, John Virtue, 2011-2013

Out of all the works I’ve seen online, Virtue’s series of the sea at Blakeney Point in Norfolk are the ones I think I might respond best to in person. For this series he walked and sketched the same stretch of coast each week. But I’m not convinced.

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(c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I’m wondering if I’m being unfair. Looking again at his works (online), I think I object to those with St Paul’s Cathedral in them. And those done with acrylics where the brushwork is more apparent (as with the sea pictures).

They just don’t feel very authentic to me. Though is it possible to draw these landmarks and remain convincing?

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This work (right) I find slightly more intriguing but there is still something about all these works that pushes me away rather than pulls me in.

I’m trying to understand why. The place isn’t a problem. I spent most of my life in London, I love the city. Black and white isn’t an issue. I’m wondering if it’s the lack of tone that stops me ‘seeing’ and pushes back?

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It’s not easy tracking down Virtue’s work online, much of it is on Pinterest without title or date.
This last image is via Marlboroughlondon.com, but I can’t find more information on it.

However I do find it more intriguing than the others and I want to spend longer looking at it. It’s London again, probably St Paul’s at the right, possibly Nelson’s column to the left, maybe the gherkin centre? The bend in the river, wooden pier supports exposed at low tide? It looks like it may be a print? It has more range of tone than in his other works and a greater range of spontaneous marks.

I’ve been thinking about the black and white that Virtue uses, without much tonal range between the two. I wonder if it is this that stops me entering the scene? Faced with black and white, we make colour in our minds. But with Virtue I can’t do that.  His impenetrable  black shapes against flat empty whites leave me uninvolved and unengaged.

NB. This post has been bothering me, because I haven’t really tried to understand the painter or his work. And maybe if I give a bit more I will get more out. I’ve done some more reading to try and get into these works:

Virtue spends several years with each subject. Shortly before coming to London he was painting the Exe estuary. When he joined the National Gallery as associate artist, Virtue says he became mesmerised by the Thames – which led to the body of work he created during his time in London. He describes himself as having only a ‘tourist acquaintance’  with London before taking this position. I wonder if this is what I’m sensing. I’m interested in the connection we have to place, and how this affects our artistic response to a place. There is surely a huge difference in the response of the tourist or visitor to that of someone with the deep physical connection that comes from being born or growing up in a place?

This from Peter Kingston’s 2005 profile on John Virtue in The Guardian:

“The dynamism here is unique,” (Virtue) says of London. “There’s an energy and vitality – it almost has an organic feel to it. It grows and changes its form all the time.” Given this, Virtue’s rejection of the idea that the paintings record particular moments in a changing scene seems paradoxical.

“I want to move away from the notion of impression – a cold winter’s day in London, for instance. I work right across seasons, time and weather. I’m not interested in capturing a fleeting moment (Kingston, 2005)

This has really put my head in a twist. Virtue does not want to capture an impression of the city. Does this mean he is trying to capture its essence? the way it mesmerised him? its character through time? There is something timeless about these images, except the first shown above. Which truthfully reminds me of the paintings shown on the street along Piccadilly. Do I mean timeless, or do I mean traditional? River in the foreground, townscape behind? Am I looking at a ‘traditional’ landscape with some black smudges over it?

Oh dear, the more I think about these works, the less I like them. There is something mechanical about them. I go back to the black and whiteness of them. They feel like a ‘noir’ filter has been applied.

I think I have to conclude that I need to see these paintings in person for them to speak to me.

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As a note to myself I’ve added this photograph of a Franz Kline’s Untitled, 1952, that I took last year. I was absolutely blown away by it. I could have looked at it all day. Kline has been mentioned as one of Virtue’s heroes – another who uses black and white alone.

Reference List

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Kingston, P. (2005) John Virtue: Being a professor is the new black. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2005/mar/08/academicexperts.highereducationprofile (Accessed: 23 February 2017)

part three: expanse project five: townscapes

exercise four: statues

I went in search of angels. Our tiny village has three cemetaries: current, old and really old. I wept in the first, for dear children lost to friends, but in the second I spotted her, the only angel, indeed the only statue among the crosses. Crosses dominate, in stone and iron.

She was backed up against a wall, behind a large obelisk, only two viewpoints to draw her from, and no way to get up close without trampling another’s grave. I can’t tell how old she is, but lichen is taking over and the weather has all but worn away the features from her face.

I’ve made a couple of visits to the cemetery, the light has been different each time so I’ve used a photo to help me finish the final drawing. Over this time it has of course dawned on me that my angel is lacking wings, she is more likely Mary, holding a book and I think flowers, though so much definition has been lost.

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I did go on to finish this sketch but  rather like this half-way point, so I think I might start sketching in reverse – subtracting to see where I get to.

I’m away and I’ve badly packed: a dark green and white pastel pencil, a grey black and red conte crayon and my tiny box of watercolours and a pad of tinted paper. That’s it! I forgot charcoal, black or soft pencils, which has slightly thrown me.

Here I’ve used black watercolour to get some depth of shadow, the green and white pastel pencils.

Size:  A4

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Above I used the conte crayon, which is ok in photograph but doesn’t really work next to the pastel – it’s greasy next to the soft pastel. There are some russet leaves behind the wall – the added red is interesting – just asking to be interpreted as a red glow. Size: A5

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I think I prefer the slightly more developed drawing, but I feel a bit stuck with just my green and white pastels. To be put on hold until I get home.

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On A4 black paper, still with my limited white pastel, green pastel and black crayon. Covered most  of the page with white pastel and erased out to the black paper underneath, adding a little black crayon for deepest shadows. I think the tree branches have worked out ok but I prefer the composition without.

With the tree the angel is enclosed within this small and crowded cemetery. Without the tree she is closer to the sky, she may just fly.

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(Continuation of first sketch in this post, above) Using black watercolour for my missing charcoal or black pastel. The black watercolour is so strong next to the pastel, and the paper doesn’t really take water, so that both on this photograph and in real life it looks like paper damage – as if the paper has been burnt.

Paper moves when it is burning. I quite like this idea. The shadows creeping up towards the plinth and the wall are made to seem alive by comparison to the stone around them.

Cemeteries are all about life and death. What is stone, what is flesh. They can be peaceful places, but also charged, emotional, downright creepy.

I have a tiny slot of time on Sunday when I could get back to this cemetery. I would love to work on site some more, have another go at this. But I also have one more exercise to do before my already once-shifted deadline….

 

A revelation – I can brush water over pastels! Just messing about here, but I think this is how I will get my darker colours for ground and shadow.

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Using pastels to block in basic areas of colours, washing over with a damp (decorator’s) brush.

Colours: dark and light mossy green, peachy yellow for stone, white.

Once dry going over with charcoal (and smudging), more white pastel

I like the sense of movement that the pastel makes – wind in the branches or something more ethereal…

Size: 24 x 32cm

 

 

 

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I want to get back to the ‘unfinished’ version I did before I finished it. I’m interested in this subject, the composition, so am having a go on A2.

I’m after a contrast between the dank mossy darkness of the ground and the stone statue standing guard over the cemetery – merging with an ethereal sky! Sounds a bit grand, but I suppose I am intrigued by the contrast that cemeteries present: the living and the dead. Bodies may lie here, the living visit, spirits linger, ghosts?  These are dreadful places, but also peaceful, full of love and tears. Such a concentration of emotion in one small walled garden.

And in this ancient cemetery, Mary. Who knows what she gets up to after nightfall. Does she go visiting with words of comfort? I have no religion, but that doesn’t stop me feeling her gentle presence.

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Final drawing: A2 in pastels

My beginner’s mistakes:

  • Asking at the shop for tinted paper that would be good for pastels, but not realising there were two sides to the paper – using the smooth side with the embossed paper name on it and finding pastel slides around on it.
  • Doing my ‘wetting the pastel’ practices on a different type of paper altogether
  • Buying just one sheet of paper from a shop a two hour drive away so now being terrified to messing up.

Online I discover that alcohol can be used with pastels – thinking that this would dry so fast that my paper wouldn’t have a chance to buckle I head to the chemist to have a difficult conversation. A small bottle is handed over to clean my wounds. I’m not sure we’ve fully understood each other but though I have to work very quickly and with little control the paper stays absolutely flat.

Other problems:

  • I had wanted the statue to merge with the sky, so there was a point where I had to swap the dark green of the shadows for the naked paper – I had to reverse my process of adding material to create shadow to taking it away. I don’t think that has been entirely successful. It simply looks unfinished. Looking at it on screen now, I think perhaps some added white rising up the body may help.
  • The walls around the statue. I had to invent these to some extent. They were there, but there was a lot of clutter everywhere – broken stones, marble plaques, stone crosses.  The far wall isn’t very convincing, and nor is the pillar on the corner. The perspective on the main wall to the left looks odd too.

 

Tony Cragg, MUDAM, Luxembourg

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Forminifera, 1994, Tony Cragg, plaster and steel

A very quick stop in Luxembourg on the way to the southernmost tip of Holland had me frog-marching the kids in to MUDAM, the city’s museum of modern art.

We had no idea what would be on, but I knew the building itself would do us some good.

This being a drawing course, I’ve focused on Cragg’s sketches here. Though they are clearly preparation for his sculptures, alongside what he has to say about his work, they are interesting, useful and inspirational – what a bargain for a quick pit stop in Luxembourg!

I’ve taken quotes from what MUDAM calls its mini guide to this exhibition, written by Markus Pilgrim. (The exhibition runs from 11.0.2017 to 03.09.17).

“Although Cragg approaches questions of form and material not unlike a traditional sculptor, he firmly believes that any imaginable material can be a carrier of meaning, imagination and emotions”.

He continues: “Although in recent years he has developed a kind of protocol for form-finding, he sees himself merely as an ‘agent’ who enables forms and their inner energy to come to the fore”. In Cragg’s own words:  “Even if it’s nothing linear, things generate something. There is a kind of self-propagating, self-generating energy within the material itself”. 

“Drawing, one of his main daily activities, is an essential tool in shaping and creating these sculptures”

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From an interview with Markus Pilgrim, and published in the gallery guide:

“Movement is relative. We’re sitting in front of a tree, and it’s not moving. But although it’s simply standing there, it is full of movement, in the leaves, in the trunk – there’s movement everywhere. The same is true for our body, with its three to four trillion cells, where a metabolism takes place, which for me represents an insane movement…And it’s the same with all things, including my works. My works did not come in to being accidentally, in the sense that I let the material run, and at the end it looks good. In my conception, the aim is rather to construct the inner structure of a form, from which the external appearance then derives. It’s not so much about how something looks – I’m not interested in mapping anything. I’m interested in why something looks the way it looks. Because that’s the result of an unimaginable inner dynamic.”

A long quote but something I want to keep in mind when I’m drawing and something that will be helpful to me. To paraphrase Cragg, drawing isn’t about mapping something, it is an investigation in to the core – into the ‘unimaginable inner dynamic’.

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Untitled, Tony Cragg, 2007, pencil on paper

This is my favourite drawing. It’s the least disciplined, less obviously the precursor of a sculpture. But I can see Cragg grappling with the ‘insane movement’. I can see how he got lost in this drawing, looking and searching.

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Untitled, Tony Cragg, 2007, pencil on paper

Here again, more looking, searching, but he’s discovered a steady rhythm. It’s as if here he has been let in, above he was still looking.

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Untitled, undated, Tony Cragg, pencil on paper

It’s easy to think that the final sculpted object here is a vase. It isn’t, but I don’t think the result matters. What is wonderful is how Cragg has deftly found the movement, it feels as though he is thinking about the material and how it can yield. Perhaps I am simplifying but when I look at this I see clay – and the dynamic way it is moulded. Its shape is constantly shifting, constantly moving. Finally it finds a position and ‘rests’ but it holds the memory of that movement.

PS
Adding a PS here because I came across this Kate Kellaway’s interview  just yesterday with Tony Cagg at his exhibition A Rare Category of Objects, Yorkshire Sculpture Park. These comments stood out for me:

People can make anything, but nature has had a long time to make things complicated. If you live in nature, you have a richer vocabulary of forms in your mind.

Everything is material. But the material is so complicated. We’ve no idea what absolute reality looks like. I find that sublime and uplifting. It has a spiritual quality. I’m most interested in the emotional qualities of things. Every emotion has a material basis – run by hormones and nerves. But isn’t that magnificent? This seems to be an extension to his interest and thinking on movement and metabolism (see main post).

Drawing remains essential to you – why?
There are endless ways of joining two spots on paper. Once you move the pencil, it becomes the most complicated, fantastic journey. It’s like modelling with clay where you could – if you were God or good enough – make limitless forms.

You talk about art as a defence against mediocrity?
We use materials to impoverish form. We cut down a forest, make it into a field and, after a while, a car park. We screw up landscapes – everything has been changed by us. But sculpture? Art takes on space, makes new forms, ideas, emotions, languages, freedom. An increasing number of people have a better quality of life because art is in their life. Just think about that.

Reference: Kellaway, K. (2017) Tony Cragg: ’I‘m most interested in the emotional qualities of things’. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/mar/05/tony-cragg-sculpture-interview-rare-category-objects?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other (Accessed: 6 March 2017)

research point: find examples of contemporary artists who ‘revisit the art historic subject of ‘landscape’ to offer insights into today’s fast changing society’

Rachel Whiteread

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House, 1993, Rachel Whiteread (photo via Apollo Magazine)

Short on time, podcasts are becoming a great source for me. I can listen while driving, cooking, walking the dog, washing up. My husband thinks I’m daft to listen to podcasts about art, when I can’t actually see anything, but I find that I listen harder than I might if I also had the image before me. Then if something that has caught my ear, I look it up online as soon as I can. Recently I listened to Tate curator Lizzie Carey-Thomas talking about Rachel Whiteread’s drawings and when it was over I couldn’t get to a screen fast enough. Before this podcast, shamefully all I knew of Whiteread was her Untitled (House) 1993, which I had thought wonderful at the time. And now I’ve found her drawings.

Most of the drawings are not strictly ‘landscape’ though they are connected: staircases, mattresses, flooring- the interiors of the urban landscape – for Whiteread is interested in the insides and outsides of things. While her exterior images can’t really be called landscape – they are a tight crop of urban landscape – they do seem to be about the relationship of the subject to its surroundings, whether we see the surroundings or not.

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Study for Village – 1st, 2004, Rachel Whiteread (ink, pencil and collage on paper)

Whiteread collects doll’s houses. Here they line up as if on a suburban street, their innards open for the world to see. At eye-level. They are empty, like the semi-demolished and derelict buildings of her other images. Have all the other houses in this street been obliterated already, or are these the first to occupy it? Where are they – is this AnyStreet in AnyTown? A dream? A nightmare?

A lightbulb is in the foreground. This plays with our sense of perspective – are the houses a long way off, and the lightbulb to scale, or is this the true size of real bulb and a doll’s house? And why the lightbulb – universal sign that someone is at home…lights are on but no-one home? Are the lights are out for good?

(This makes me momentarily think of a small row of houses I used to pass occasionally, where the lights were never on. And yet the occupants were home, it’s just that they were blind. At the time this felt spooky to me – people were moving around in side those houses – and made me acutely aware of how reliant I was on my eyes. Now I think how differently the space within these houses was being experienced – through touch and sound).

And then of course the ghostly inked shadow above the doll’s houses. Is this the reverse? The inside-out? Are the lights on here, or is this just a facade, hiding nothing?

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Place (Village), 2006-2008, Rachel Whiteread (installation of doll’s houses)

“I didn’t think I was going to light it at first, but eventually it seemed to me that it was best to cast the spaces with light. I had wanted to make something that wasn’t sentimental, but would make children gasp when they saw it. When I first showed it at the Hayward Gallery a few years ago, it was extraordinary to stand there and listen to the noises. People often don’t make a sound when they see art, but there would be an ‘ah’, or an ‘oh’ – it was an emotional reaction, but not, I hope, in any way sentimental” Rachel Whiteread, in interview with Bice Curigar, Tate etc (magazine) Issue 20, Autumn 2010

What I find interesting in this quote is how Whiteread talks about casting the spaces with light – not lighting up the insides – but casting them. Sometimes she works with plaster, sometimes resin, sometimes light.

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House Study, Grove Road, photograph in four parts, 1992

I can’t find much information on this, though I have to assume it is preparatory drawing for House, which was indeed at 193 Grove Road.

I find it fascinating that the simple whitening out of parts of a photograph manages to do so much: creates a drawing, raises questions, makes us think. Think about the presence of houses, their footprints, the space they occupy in the landscape, the history they hold within their walls, the people who were sheltered by those walls. What remains of all this when the house is gone?

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Dog Leg Stair, 1995, Rachel Whiteread (correction fluid and ink on graph paper)

Graph paper! This was what really got me running to a screen to check out these drawings. I had been thinking about doing my Assignment 3 on graph paper when I heard that Whiteread had used it for some of her drawings. And then she uses Tippex.

Wonderful Tippex. Who hasn’t blanked out half a page of an exercise book when bored at school, and used it to draw? My kids don’t know the joy of Tippex with today’s flashy erasable pens.

Tippex seems to be the perfect choice: utterly opaque, matt, white and dry. In my own experiments white acrylic didn’t have the same opacity and wrinkled the paper with its wetness.

The combination of graph paper and Tippex is nostalgic for some of us. They speak of 1970’s math classes.

I feel that the media alone sets the tone of something past, a memory, plans, things covered up, missing. Then drawings themselves ask questions. The perspective is not quite ‘right’ on the stairs, they seem to be lifting up and towards us, and it’s not clear how the stairs relate to the box they sit in. But it is these things that make us wonder.

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Drawing for Water Tower VI, 1996 (varnish, ink and pencil)

I do seem to have a bit of a thing for this old yellow. I’ve used it in a couple of drawings so far on this course (next to charcoal), and here it is, applied I think as a varnish. It is the colour of things faded – plastic, linen, paper.

Though the description here is varnish, ink and pencil, it does look like collage in the background. The drawing was preparatory work for a casting made of the New York water tower. The tower had been made in cedar wood and the casting was made in resin.

In this simple drawing, the cedar tower becomes elegant and ethereal, it almost glows. Its function as a water tower was all of these things – an elegant solution to bring life to the city. And yet on the rooftops these towers were lost, disappearing in the urban landscape.