Sonya's view of 'intellectual art' is changed by Cornelia Parker's clever insights...
Last year I visited the Royal Academy’s Summer Open Exhibition and consequently wrote a blog entitled ‘To Shock or to Impress’ because I was dismayed at the choice of some pieces of work. They seem to hold very little artistic ability or quality compared to the prices they were demanding! This year was much the same but I was able to appreciate the diversity and smile at some of the selections knowing only too well about the subjectivity and controversy in the art world!
Then, I saw Cornelia’s Stolen Thunder III. I stopped, had to do a double take, and then as I approached and quizzically inspected the bizarre piece an envious smile crept across my face….
What a clever idea…we all moan and grumble about the apparent worth of a piece of art and this piece just laughs back!
Back in 2012 Cornelia Parker visited the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and took a clandestine photo of one of the most successful prints in the show. Every time a sale was made a red dot was added to the piece - and this one was doing so well the red dots had begun to inhabit the wall as well as the frame! Cornelia being an abstract artist, interested in displaying images representing ideas with astonishing verve, originality, depth and wit, saw this as an opportunity…
Digitally erasing the image she had photographed and ‘stolen’ she showed the photograph entitled ‘Stolen Thunder’ as her own work in the R.A. 2013 Summer Exhibition. Cornelia believed that the cool, shy greys and white would invite us in to a place where our own fantasies could flourish, allowing us to ask questions such as ‘what was the original picture’? ‘Does the original artist know it’s been wiped out and then resurrected?’ ‘What could you (or me) put in the blank space to take the world by storm?’ Cornelia kept the red spots as part of the picture, she said, ‘in the hope of accruing some of her own sales by a Pavlovian response from the audience’.
And it appears this has worked….she turned us all into dogs and two years later and she has continued to reproduce the image together with it’s accruing red dots, now in it’s third rendition.
For me, this piece freely admits to the subjectivity and irony of art selection. Viewers come to see what they believe will be technically brilliant and creatively inspiring pieces of artwork to find a piece that has sold 10 fold over other pieces in the exhibition with no image in it’s centre at all!
I love the irony of this piece, this simple yet powerful idea; the bold observational skills of Cornelia - to see the potential in what many of us would pass by. I also feel the desire in the piece…for me it represents the insatiable need that an artist has for it’s piece to be a success..to be covered in red dots and wanted by so many people. I think we can all relate to that desire to succeed and be noticed; and then to go on and consider owning this in your home? Well I have to say I can agree, it would be a talking piece. A snapshot in time of an artwork’s gestation and progression into fame…just for being invisible without form or identity…
Clever you Cornelia - you have helped me see why some art really can be because of the idea and the reaction it wields…and not the skill with a paint brush…
Learn more about Cornelia's inventive and quietly provocative work on this video, it may change your view also!
Sonya gives us an insider’s view into the world of Art Selection at the 107th Clifton Arts Open Exhibition 2015 and shares her valuable insights…
Monday 6th July 2015 proved to be one of the most interesting and valuable days I have spent as an artist attempting to forge my way into the art world!
This insightful experience became available to me when I chose to join the Clifton Arts Club in Bristol and enter my work in their 107th Open Exhibition. As part of this process I offered my help during the Selection Day, Private View and Stewarding during the Exhibition set up. This opened up a wonderful and unique opportunity to see with my own eyes how an event like this takes shape…and this rare event took place in the vaults of the Colston Hall…never before open to the public! A suitably historic venue for such a rich and diverse group of paintings to be displayed.
Selection day came upon us and an enthusiastic group of professional artists lined up adorning entries for the Exhibition in a traditionally British line in front the judges! We were all very well behaved keeping silent as the judges mused and cogitated while we held pieces of artwork in front of them for their critique.
You could almost feel some of the paintings quivering as they waited to hear their fate! A single chalk mark on their backs would dictate their destiny…‘D’ for doubtful, ‘X’ for refused or ‘A’ for accepted, and in a single stroke we carried them to their applicable store holding. The foresight, the time, the emotional turmoil, and the painters brush stokes all sealed to their fate in moments.
So the question remains…how did the judges make their decisions?
To my mind there were 8 key elements to their decision making process:
I will take you through these points in order but would particularly draw your attention to number 4 as this was most eye opening!
The judges were quick to show a reaction to each piece, and most often a immediate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would transpire. I believe what I was observing here is ‘chemistry’ and is potentially the most accurate way a painting can be judged; after all, as we are told by scientists, as humans we choose a potential mate within 3 seconds of seeing someone and this is apparently the innate truth we should hold to for success! I believe it is the same for a painting or piece of artwork. It should hold an innate quality that just ‘works’. Deep within our genetic make-up we hold the pattern or formula searching for the complimentary match in our world and when that is seen, something clicks into place, but we often don't know why! The challenge is of course that like the mating game different people are attracted to different qualities which leads me to the age old dilemma in art - it’s subjectivity. So is the ‘chemistry’ a logical and correct way to judge art? It’s certainly not logical as often we struggle to describe why we feel the way we do when it comes to chemistry but I believe it is probably the most honest and truthful response because it comes from our unconsciousness and is often lead by our heart and soul. But what do you think?
Clearly a piece needs to have some sort of impact if it is to stand proud on a wall, particularly among hundreds of other paintings in an exhibition. This impact can be purely about the intense beauty of a piece (it may be so beautiful it takes your breath away). Or, It may create impact because it shocks you, either in the use of bold colour and form or because of a message it sends out. The point being, it has impact and stands out, and this on occasions may be enough - even beyond technical ability…
I was curious to see the judges being drawn into pieces because they couldn’t work something out. I suppose it is human nature to be curious, and for people who must see numerous pieces presented in front of them during similar events, a surprise must be like a breath of fresh air! Curiosity killed the cat, and I saw them succumb to some ‘unusual’ selections based on the ‘unknown’ nature of a piece. Of course if a piece of artwork is to have longevity on a wall or in a person’s home, one factor could be that it continues to draw you in and make you wonder without finding the answer! This maybe the selling point for you as the buyer. I could see that this intrigue factor was sometimes in the composition of a painting, sometimes in the subject matter but more often it was attributed to the technique used. A good example of this could be seen in a piece I remember where black lace had been overplayed onto paint of some sort (I couldn’t work it out myself). There seemed to be an image behind the lace, but it wasn’t clear and this whole mystery enticed the judges to the point of acceptance. Can you remember buying a piece of artwork based on intrigue? Please share your own experiences!
4. ‘Je ne sais quoi’
Sometimes a piece just had that X Factor about it! Something the judges couldn’t really describe or explain, but it held a special quality that caught one’s attention and formed a connection between viewer and painting. I believe this could be described as the aura of the painting, the energetic footprint left by the artist..almost as if the emotion, intent and energy that was used by the artist while producing the piece is impregnated in the layers of medium giving off an ethereal message. It was fun watching the expressions of the judges as they accepted pieces without really understanding why, but confidently saying… ‘Yes’… ‘Yes’… this piece has something, I like it!’
5. Personal Appreciation
Each judge had entered a piece of their own work in the Open Exhibition and before the judging started I asked about their inspiration. This was a useful exercise as while I watched their reactions during the selection process I could see a correlation between their own style of work and what each judge was naturally drawn to and would then go on to accept into the exhibition. Now this is a potential point of controversy! Surely a judge should be objective and not let their own personal style effect their choice during such a process? It could be said that their job is to determine the level of technical ability such as perspective, proportion, drawing ability and to ascertain which paintings ‘work’ as hung pieces to attract the buyers and fit within the criteria of the exhibition; not whether they appease their own inner personal taste! But as we all know art is subjective - it is in the eye of the beholder and something that works for one person and ‘hits the note’ may actually turn another off. For example, there was an inherent attraction in one judge to appease moody and dark paintings which in my mind where reminiscent of her own dark and turbulent pieces; another judge had experience in print making and their eyes lit up as they critiqued works with similar technique; the third judge also had a propensity to abstract works that told a story and this too can be seen in her own artwork.
Let’s be honest here, we are all human and I know if I were to help in a selection process I would naturally be drawn to works that involved the figure because I love drawing the figure myself, so I think we need to be honest with ourselves when we talk about art and subjectivity because we would all do it! Therein lies of course the challenge for all creatives - that the work you produce and it’s ultimate success lies in the eye of the beholder and that is as diverse and unpredictable as the human race itself!
This observation was both eye opening and reassuring to me as it told me it’s not all about ability. So much of it is about luck, timing and being in the right place at the right time with judges who may happen to have similar taste to that of your own work. I saw so many ‘brilliant’ pieces be refused at selection…it really is quite a random process in many ways! I would appreciate hearing about your own experience of subjectivity in art so please do share.
6. Technical Ability
For those pieces where the points above didn’t stand out significantly it seemed that technical ability played more of a role. You may be very surprised that this aspect isn’t further up the list, and yes I was too. But this is truthfully where I feel it sits. Technical ability is a strange thing, because yes as artists we need to know how to use paint, how to draw perspective, and represent proportion but there is a certain appeal and vulnerability when a painting shows honestly that it may not have mastered these things. If it has other qualities I feel they can override the need for technical perfection or skill. This too is a point of controversy and I hear many of you reading this scream! ‘But I have trained for years in drawing skills and now you suggest to me it doesn’t matter!!!’ No, it does, but it isn’t always the most important thing. Ironically I believe an artist needs to go through the pain barrier of reaching technical ability and then pass over it only to come back to nativity in their drawing. You can’t jump the process and think, ‘ok so I won’t bother going to art school, I’ll just draw as I see it and hope for the best’. Although there is certainly a beautiful naivety in children’s’ work I do believe as artists we need to gain knowledge in our subject and practise skill to then learn to free ourselves from the constraints of perfection. This is where the real challenge lies. It’s a little like life - the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know! As an artist I believe I am constantly striving to gain new skill and I like to challenge my technical ability by learning from teachers. Alongside that I battle with truly seeing and drawing with emotion and from a place of ‘the present moment’ rather than worrying about how technically sound it is. This is a paradox and juxtaposition as on the one hand you want it to be technically ‘good’ but you start to learn in your adventure as a creative that the nativity we all lost as we grew from childhood is in fact that illusive quality that makes a piece hold beauty. So, I have decided to play like a child does with my art, just do what I am drawn to and experiment to see what transpires in the hope that the two learning curves, ability and artistic honesty will collide one day to make something truly special. Where do you see your own work sitting within this paradox?
7. Framing Choice
On several occasions I observed a piece of work being refused entry based on the frame selection. The selection of a frame can either bring out qualities in a painting or literally ‘kill’ the beauty in a piece. Again this choice is personal but quite clearly important. On a couple of occasions the judges asked to have the back of the painting marked with ‘poor framing choice’ so that the artist would understand their decision. So a clear learning for all of us…be considerate with your framing!
It was interesting to see how the decision making process speeded up towards the later end of the morning. Clearly it is a tiring process for the judges, very intense and so their decision became more spontaneous and I saw them trusting their ‘gut reaction’ more as time progressed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I think that is often when we are more in tune with what is instinctively ‘right’ - when we linger and procrastinate over a decision we are not in the flow. I also noticed another interesting dynamic - a decision was sometimes effected depending on what painting had been seen directly before another. For example if there had been a clear ‘winner’ or ‘special prize’ potential piece beforehand, it seemed that the next painting would have to hold itself even higher in order to contend and be accepted. Conversely, if there had been a weaker painting or even a painting that the judges bulked at beforehand then the following piece seem to have a better chance! Of course in life we all take on experiences and to some extent carry some of that experience with us in our daily lives. It can be hard for example to meet a friend who may be having troubles and not empathise and take on some of their turmoil. We often carry emotions from one experience on to another and although we are taught to let go of these experiences and live in the moment, this is hard to do sometimes. I think this runs true for this selection process too. Some paintings were so powerful, they left an impression on the judges and that was carried forward to the next ‘encounter’ with a painting so effecting the decision. I came away from this realisation thinking, ‘my goodness, it really is like the decision is in the lap of the Gods!’ Fate is also a significant part of this process…being in the right place, at the right time and with the right judges to allow the door to success to be opened…
I hope you have found my honest rendition of what I experienced on selection day interesting and maybe you can use this to your advantage when entering work in future exhibitions. I suppose you are left with one choice….
Maybe there is a little to be gained from both, I will let you decide but, I know which sounds more fun and free! But then you have to be prepared to take a risk…and isn’t that just what makes you feel alive and what life is all about! Good Luck!
Please do share your comments about this blog, so we can all learn together!
"Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world."
Pierre Renoir was brave enough to say what many of us think I suspect… Nowadays we are expected to deliberate over intellectual and complex art - question the meaning behind the work because ‘surely there is more to what meets the eye’ - there has to be! But Why?
This ‘art snobbery’ feels to me like people are more concerned about how they appear to behave in the art world - their Ego, as opposed to simply enjoying a piece of work for what it is and being brave enough to be honest with it’s simplicity. After all, Doreen Virtue said ‘If it is complicated it comes from Ego, if it is simple it comes from the Soul’.
I was listening to one of the Reith Lectures by Grayson Perry and he so clearly states his opinion on the matter…I find it lightening to hear such a brave and bold artist stand up to the ‘pretentious art world’ saying you know, ART is an anagram of RAT!
I think he’s saying…come on, get over yourselves…lighten up and have fun with art, and advocate the beauty!
Let’s face it we all like beauty, we respond to a sunset, a pretty rose, a loving moment caught on canvas when two lovers embrace. There is something innate in us all that seeks to relive those feelings of beauty, and why not - as Renoir says…’there are enough unpleasant things in the world’!
The 5th most popular art exhibition in 2012 was the David Hockney Landscape show at the Royal Academy. When an art critic was asked their opinion on the show they said they thought it was weak and one of the worst exhibitions they had seen! BUT, people paid and queued for hours to get in - and there is the point…surely art’s success criteria is actually about how many people want to see it and own it, even if it is ‘just’ a pretty painting of blue sky and rolling hills.
Pretty! Beauty! If these word are used in the art world it’s as if you are selling your soul to some kind of dark cult or politically incorrect arena. Beauchamp said ‘aesthetic delectation is the danger to be avoided’ but I wonder what it was he was really afraid of? Not seeming to be intellectual enough? An inadequacy of some kind?
I believe ‘Beauty’ is about reinforcing an idea we hold in our mind - of our own previous experience of beauty, and we want to be reminded of that and taken back to that place in our soul because of course..it makes us feel good.
So let yourself soak up the beauty around you, not just in art but everywhere - and next time you go to an Exhibition remember not to feel ashamed of thinking a piece of artwork is simply pretty or beautiful - if you do this I think you will be one of the most honest people in the room.
Pablo Picasso said:
"Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up”.
When I was studying at the University of the West of England I think I realised I had lost the child in me. I wrote my ceramics dissertation entitled “The Perfect and The Free” I was intrigued how craftsmen through the ages had toiled with the dilemma of control versus freedom in their work. I was naturally a perfectionist, and hence found comfort in producing work that was precise and developed with control. Although this was held in high regard by my tutors I also knew they knew I wasn’t really letting go of my fear of failure. My drive for perfection was actually a screen. My child had run away to hide from the expectations and criticism of society.
I found ways of freeing my style with techniques, holding a pencil with my left hand instead of my right or drawing with a piece of charcoal attached the end of a long stick; throwing on the potters wheel with mixed clays which inevitably took on a life of their own as they distorted with the rhythm of the wheel…This helped, but only to a point.
Gosh how we tease the freedom and innocence out of children as they develop and grow….they have such a purity to their observation and interpretation of life! Unashamed and bold. But as adults we forget how to really see the world, instead seeing things through lenses tainted with pained experience.
So how then to free ourselves? I suppose it starts with trust, trust in ourselves to take a leap of faith, forget about the risk that people will not ‘get’ our work and just do it anyway. By holding a paint brush in our hand we hold a conduit for capturing the essence and beauty of life itself…by being present we can flow freely, caressing the page as if we are caressing the object in front of us. It’s more than seeing, it’s feeling, imagining YOU are the paint brush or pencil!
My most recent surprise is that while I was so fearful of anything spontaneous and ‘loose’ at University…I am now starting to have the most unexpected love affair with Watercolour. Many artists would say this is one of the most challenging mediums to work with as once you put a mark on the page it is almost impossible to cover it, as with Acrylics or Oils. You are committed to your first mark, your intuition and mistakes are left bare. This makes me feel alive, scared but alive.
At long last I think I may have started to find the child in me again…she flits between the adult world of expectation and that of fun & joy, but she is coming back…maybe in my next collection…
Since my Art Studio has been laying ‘Fallow’ I have had time to reflect on my own creation of Art and consider the pressures of the modern day Artist.
This blog is about the tension created when one decides to make a living from their love of art and how to keep that glowing drive to create from ones’ heart…
In today’s world we are all reminded how we should be successful and make something of ourselves - whether that be in a traditional career within an organisation or whether working for ourselves in a more entrepreneurial role.
Society teaches us to set goals and aim high. We often compare ourselves to our friends and colleagues and measure ourselves against others’ achievements. I remember a saying my Grandmother used to say…. ‘She’s a hard worker that one…she’ll go far’. I used to hear her say this about many different people and it came with the knowing that this is what was expected - and sound words they were. For sure, hard work and proactivity is important in growing towards our dreams.
However, there is a risk in striving for ‘success’ (whatever form that takes) and loosing sight of what really matters along the way. One of my favourite books ‘The Way of the Peaceful Warrior’ by Dan Millman describes this enigma and by the end of the book uses the analogy of climbing a mountain to demonstrate how we are all too often focused on reaching the top; getting to that pinnacle, expecting that the goal will finally fulfil us. When what we have actually done in being so focused is to miss all the beauty of the journey on the way! We didn’t pause to take in the view and notice the flowers beneath our feet!
I started with a goal to produce ‘emotive art’ ~ images that move people in some way and ‘touch a part of their soul’. I knew I needed to start with a subject matter that I felt passionate about; this was a good authentic beginning for me, in line with my truth. But along the way I found myself imagining what people might expect of my art and feeling somewhat daunted by the pressure to produce work that people would like and ultimately want to buy. The irony being that as soon as I lost myself in this commercial whirl wind I was at risk of losing the very thing that would make me successful ~ painting from my heart. Instead I had started to align my motivations to produce customer focused artwork.
There is a saying Deepak Chopra shares ‘perform action without regard for the fruits of your actions’. This does not mean not caring what happens, but trusting that the when the intention is set you can let go and trust that the path will open in front of you. As long as you can be present and open to possibilities the next step will become apparent.
I had lost my quiet centre…I was striving to fulfil and satisfy outside of my control. Now I realise that all I need to do is keep the end in mind and be open to what opportunities appear in the meantime. Some works of art will sell and others may not, but as long as I paint from my heart and for the love of art and creation…I will attain my goal, without attachment but with joy and belief.
I hope you read this blog and it helps to nudge you back on your path if you feel you have strayed. We all do, but it’s fun finding the way back and when you tread back on your path with an open mind and keeping the end in sight, anything and everything is possible.
If you are interested to find out more about the ‘Energy of Attraction’ then please log onto Deepak Chopra’s website and download the meditation course, I highly recommend it.
When drawing the figure it can be a daunting experience! We all know our bodies, or at least we know what looks right and what doesn't quite work with regards to anatomy. The trouble is, we take our experience of our anatomy and lock it in our mind’s eye so when we look at a life drawing model our brain assumes it knows best….we make assumptions about how the position of an arm or leg should be interpreted on the page because we think we know what should and shouldn’t be possible…
BUT, the human body is extraordinary in it’s ability to trick our mind…it can make the most beautiful yet unbelievable shapes and positions. Arms and legs can make the most unusual shapes when being foreshortened by perspective. As an artist we have to train our brain to see for the first time when drawing the figure. We have to forget what our mind has previously seen or experienced and really look at what is in front of us with clear sight. It takes courage to trust what your eyes actually see!
In my recent drawing class I was encouraged to remember how drawing with tone instead of line can assist in this process. We all think of drawing a line to suggest the curve of a body but actually, if you just look at how the light plays on a form and use shadow and light to distinguish a shape instead, then this can help you to forget what your mind is saying and taunting!
Focusing on negative shapes that surround the figure can also act as a healthy distraction from our ‘knowing brain’. For instance, an arm resting on the model’s lap my make a small triangle shape against the background behind, and by interpreting that shape accurately you will as a consequence draw the correct lines for the inside of the forearms! Because your brain is focusing on ‘a shape’ for that moment and not thinking about the fact that it is part of an arm - you are able to describe it with the pencil with increased sensitivity and accuracy.
Learning to really ‘see’ seems an easy thing to say, but it is a skill. It can be honed with time and practise - it is such a wonderful thing to be able to do as having the skill to REALLY see what is in front of you can enrich your life beyond belief! Think about all the things you miss around you every day because you don’t really see them as they really are?!
During the class we all took refuge in the knowledge that Rodin, even with his skill and expertise, made mistakes too! In his sensitive and honest drawings you can see how he often made marks and then re-adjusted, leaving faint remnants of this ‘mistakes’ behind. He teaches us how making mistakes and adjusting to the human form as you draw is part of the process. Without these marks the drawing would lose it’s honesty and fragility. Click on the link below to see an example.
So from this we can learn to embrace our mistakes, use pencil on paper to explore the possibilities set out in front of our eyes and enjoy the process of evolution on the page…to draw with pure honesty and capture truth…
We will be back…with so much more to share…
When I was growing up as a child I lived in the countryside and I used to look out to the surrounding fields and see how the seasons would change and how the fields would turn their soil and yield different crops. There was a rhythm and beauty to this process.
I later learnt at School that part of this crop rotation process was to leave a field ‘fallow’. Farmers would respect the integrity of the land by laying it to rest for a season so the indigenous plants could grow back and in doing so release natural minerals and nutrients into the soil and replenish it from the exertion of yielding more demanding market driven crops. This ethos intrigued me because stillness prevailed and yet there was a wonderful glimmer of potential that lay beneath the land like a treasure waiting to be unveiled.
Sadly, today market demands mean that farmers force their land to produce crop after crop and fertilisers and pesticides are used to compensate for the leaving of land fallow. Like any plaster, it only covers the wound, it doesn’t heal it. So it is no wonder our lands are depleted and produce less nutritionally viable crops. Nature’s natural cycles and finely balanced processes hone the vitality back into the ground and this process cannot be bypassed.
We could learn so much from this principle in our lives. Maybe we should allow ourselves to lie fallow more often and nourish our bodies with rest, reflection and contemplation?
This week I have laid my Art Studio ‘Fallow’. A year has passed since I started on my painting journey and worked towards producing 17 pieces of work for my ‘Passion’ Exhibition. The journey has truly been a ‘Journey’. I know this phrase is used all too often, but I knew that the goal - the summit if you like, was NOT the most important thing; the process of walking up the mountain was much more poignant. Sure enough the people I have met, the connections I have made, the realisations I have had about myself as a person and my abilities have all been made during the unravelling of this last year. A journey I will never forget and one that has laid the foundations for my future as a professional artist.
So, now I have some new seeds to sow, they are different shapes and sizes..some bold and brave, some subtle and delicate. They are bursting with potential and light. But, I know my studio needs time and I need time…to consolidate, reflect, recharge and hone new skills. Only then can I plant my seeds..
Another change is on it’s way, but for now my studio and I are going to surrender ourselves to the 12th month of 2014 by leaving ourselves fallow :-)
As we age the contours of our face become the map of our lifetime of experiences. Paintings also hold an intimate history of their making…
It may be viewed by some that blemishes and mistakes that are made during the process of a painting should be covered or at least obscured from view. But I love the story a painting tells as it is being created. Every little brush stroke right or wrong is there for a reason. Every drip of paint that has occurred shows a point in time when that part of the work was in manifestation. It all joins together to create the energy and vitality of the piece of work! Below I have listed some of the methods I use to allow this spontaneous process to evolve in my paintings, allowing them to grow..even sometimes with toil and having to overcome challenges along the way, much like we do in our lives and then find the lines may show in our own faces…telling the story of our lives.
So, do you think a painting should be powerful enough to affect the space it occupies? My immediate reaction is Yes! Of Course!! This should be a prerequisite to art work!
I like to think of this in people terms - when a person enters a room their energy or ‘aura’ occupies a larger space than the outline of their physical body and whether you agree with the holistic terms or not, everyone can admit some individuals have charisma and ‘light up a room when they enter it’. I think paintings should have much the same effect. When you walk in a room and observe a painting on the wall it should immediately project a feeling, vibe, or emotion. So it literally changes the atmosphere of the room, and even the mood of the person observing it.
In the same way a person’s aura projects the essence of who they are and what they are like as a person, a painting projects it’s personality also - through line, tone, colour and form. This acts as a powerful conduit to speak to the observer and transmit the essence of the painting energetically. We can all identify with a time when a friend who is effervescent with charisma has lifted our own mood; well a painting should be able to transform our mood too. Of course this can bring us up or down depending on the subject matter just like some people can have a draining effect on our own mood. So isn’t it interesting how paintings can literally affect the space they occupy just the same way people can!
With my Exhibition only 4 weeks away I have been thinking about this very subject a great deal recently. I have been planning where my paintings will hang and how they will work together in unison, creating a story and also how their dynamic impact will affect the gallery space. Like a group of people in a room, they interact with each other and have an effect on each other. If the wrong painting is placed next to another it can be a disaster! Paintings like people can clash, and others can literally bring out the best in each other! So it is a real balancing act, and something that takes time and contemplation.
Recently I held a planning meeting with my Ambassadors and I shared the complete set of work for the Exhibition with them. I set two rooms up because I literally couldn’t fit all 17 paintings in one room alone. This had an interesting effect. Both rooms took on completely different personalities. The first room had more traditional paintings in it, and felt much calmer, almost as though the paintings were having their own intimate moments independently, but were happy to co-exist because they were individually so content playing out their scenes. The second room however was much more dynamic. There were larger pieces, vying for attention, and it almost felt quite overwhelming entering the room as an onlooker. The exercise demonstrated how a painting should indeed be powerful enough to affect the space it occupies, and I hope that my paintings will evoke a reaction in both their surroundings and people observing them on the 8th November! Welcome to Emotive Art…
There is a certain attraction in finding out that a painting isn’t necessarily everything you thought it was…yes paintings can have hidden messages or messages that can be interpreted to mean different things by different people. But, to actually find another image beneath the surface of an existing painting is another matter altogether.
An example of this can be seen back in June this year when scientists and art experts verified that there is a hidden painting beneath one of Pablo Picasso’s first masterpieces, ‘The Blue Room’. Using advances in infrared imagery they revealed a bow-tied man with his face resting on this hand. Now the question is…who is he? A technical analysis confirmed the hidden portrait was a work Picasso had probably painted just before The Blue Room. They had long suspected that something was hidden beneath as the brushstrokes in the piece do not match the composition.
Curators suspect that when Picasso had an idea he literally had to realise it immediately and that this meant he grabbed an already finished art work and painted over it! Apparently, he also couldn’t afford to keep acquiring new canvasses every time he had a new idea and would even work on cardboard as canvas was so expensive to buy. Hidden pictures have also been found under other important Picasso paintings. A technical analysis of La Vie at Cleveland Museum of Art revealed Picasso significantly reworked the painting’s composition. Conservators also found a portrait of a moustached man beneath Picasso’s painting ‘Woman Ironing’ at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.
I can relate to his approach as during the progression of my artwork for the ‘Passion’ Exhibition I had an instantaneous drive to paint from a totally black canvas, hence producing a very different effect tonally and emotionally. I knew I wanted the piece to be on a square canvas as the dimensions and balance of the figures in the piece required this equilibrium where they would be held within a framework, cosseted in a cave like darkness. The only canvas I had available at that moment with those dimensions was one I had already started to work on months ago. So, I took the plunge, loaded my brush with black paint and obscured the image behind…to then go on to create ‘The Surrender’.
‘The Surrender’ was always going to have a special meaning as it is symbolic of a turning point in the Exhibition - where we are lead from the ‘Seduction Phase’ into the ‘Cruscendo Phase’. Ironically, the painting has been made further more poignant because of the image now beneath it… ‘The Surrender’ represents the moment when she allows herself to let go of fear, to relinquish herself to him and trust in him. This, as we know is the tipping point in a relationship where true intimacy can really grow and flourish.
The obscured image behind ‘The Surrender’ is the image of an Angel and when I painted over it, I wondered…maybe this was the purpose of this image from months ago – it had been waiting to be used in a suitable composition, to protect her from falling…
My working ethos is 'Play & Revelation' where I continually explore new ways of working, sometimes even destroying works to transform into new!
From February 2019 Sonya will be selling her collections at 'Leaf Creative' in Huntley, owned by Peter Dowle. This beautiful garden centre specialises in unusual shrubs, acer trees and hand selected plants. The perfect place to showcase her leaf inspired ceramics!
Sonya is pleased to announce that having been a provisional member with the Cotswold Craftsmen during 2018, she has now been accepted as a permanent member and invited to be publicity officer on the committee. Sonya will be exhibiting her work at a number of County Shows in 2019 - watch her events page for more upcoming details.
Sonya is now offering 1 day 'Pottery Workshops' with a national craft course provider. Start 2019 learning something new! In 1 day attentive tuition with Sonya you will learn throwing, coiling and hand-building techniques.
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