Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday postcard

Hi, Helen,

This is a quick "postcard" because I just can't wait to comment on what you've posted!  First, though, sorry to hear about the cold.  Does the chai at Cedar Farm have healing as well as creative properties?  I took the photo above at Cedar Farm by the way. I don't think I've ever seen such a true image of a "peaches and cream" complexion than on this little girl.

I have had a lovely morning sitting here with my coffee and looking at the October Gallery links you posted.  On first look in photographs, the work of Nnenna Okore didn't wow me, to be honest, but the more I expanded each photo and looked carefully I found that they were really growing on me.  And I'm sure that the impact in person would be significantly different.  And in our current contemplation of series I found myself looking at the pieces and thinking about how they worked "with shapes that explore or are inspired by intimate spaces, shelters, architectural and natural environments" which is how her artist statement describes her intent.  And that made me see the work a bit differently, I think -- looking at (and finding) that loose connection between the kernel of the idea and the piece.

I think since FoQ I am thinking a bit differently about inspiration and result.  It's something I can't quite articulate yet.

I find El Anatsui's work harder to access emotionally, for me, even -- again, I think it's the translation of it into small photos. But I can see just how it is the combination of unusual manipulation of ethnic symbols and textures that excites you.  Perhaps on my next trip to the UK we can get to London and I can see this stuff in person!

I found the pieces by Owusu-Ankomah very intriguing.  They are quite graphic (which is a sort of look I like) but also I think they probably translate better in photography than some of the other artists' work does.  That said, I liked the sets of pieces and didn't feel that No. 1 intrigued me and then the others bored me.  His artist statement talks about how the adinkra symbols represent particular concepts or proverbs, and I saw the different images as having different symbols and meaning, which was also reflected in the different postures.  So I wasn't bored by the additional pieces, and felt also that while each was strong, together they said something even stronger.  Did you mean that it bored you looking at them? Or as the artist, you'd be bored with that little variation between pieces and would need to move in "bigger steps" between pieces?   

But you ask the question of how I define series.  I will have to give this some more serious thought, but here is the way I've thought of it:  That one works with imagery or ideas in whatever steps seem "right" until one is done with it.  So that may mean tiny variation; it may mean significant leaps; it may mean huge bounds so that a piece's identification in a series is more a matter of the artist's internal world than any outwardly visible connection.  I can think of a lot of artists (more quilt artists, now that I think of it) who work in series and name their pieces something like  Assembly #1, Asssembly #2, etc.  (If there is anyone out there who has used that exact name, sorry, I'm not talking about them in particular -- just using that as an example.)  I've seen series work where the pieces look almost identical to me in a way that makes me think "oh, another one of THOSE?" and I'm find them rather boring.  Individually, they may be very nice pieces.  But seeing a flow of work from one artist that all looks the same makes me far less interested in the artists's output.

BUT I can see how, from the artist point of view, he or she may be working something out along the way.  Color.  Form.  Proportion.  Construction technique.  Something that is movement for the artist that represents growth, even if it's the "I won't do it THAT way again."

So in terms of my view of my own work, the series is whatever makes sense to me.  But that's just me, and I recognize that someone looking at what I do might see no connection at all between one piece and another.  (And since I'm not hanging work in galleries at this point, I'm not too worried about that.)  I don't know what that means to, say, a gallery owner preparing to hang a series of work by an artist.  Probably they'd want work that looks visually cohesive in some way.  

The other thing I want to respond to this morning is what you've said about your green ovals piece.  You don't have to disclaim that using post-quilting paint or paintstiks as Kemshallish.  Yes, they use that technique.  But so do lots of other people.  You've added a tool to your toolbox and just because you noticed it via them, maybe, doesn't mean you're imitating them when you do it. So don't worry about that at all. I actually like the texture on the green ovals, and it didn't look unsuccessful in that respect.  The thing that struck me about the ovals is the use of the small red bits -- I can't help but see them as green olives with pimento filling.  (It's the combination of the green shapes and those exact green and orangey-red colors.)  But that was my reaction when I focused on the ovals (your having said that you thought they were not quite successful) -- in the overall piece the colors and shapes work beautifully.

Oh, how I wish I could be with you at Bath to do a sketchbook retreat!  There are some useful online tutorials for using watercolor pencils, btw:

I have more to say about what you posted but I'll save that for later this week.  I'm now off to prepare for the school week ahead.  Hope your cold feels better!



Deborah Boschert said...

I think some artists create series. And some artists create collections. Maybe there could be some overlap in the definition of each of those. To me, a series suggests growth. A collection suggests several pieces with common themes, colors, elements, and the like.

Diane Perin Hock said...

That's funny, Deborah, after I posted my entry I was thinking about this and started thinking about "sets" of work (like your collections" and series. But do you think that for a body of work to be a series, the growth has to be visible on the face of the work? Is growth different from the inclusion of new or different elements? Or is growth something in the mind of the artist?

Brenda Gael Smith said...

I've been enjoying exploring the concepts of series Lisa Call's online workshop Working in Series.

Have you read Katherine Tyrell's article 12 good reasons to paint in a series?