Have You Seen Matthew Collings' Programme on BBC4 - 'The Rules Of Abstraction'...?

There's definitely a resurgence of the British affinity with abstraction at the moment - maybe triggered by the wonderful 'Suprematism' abstracts of Kazimir Malevich's amazing retrospective at Tate Modern.
I'm so very glad I got to see this exhibition.

The first few rooms introduce a young Malevich, who is teaching himself the art of painting - through rich experimentation of the various styles around him at the time. He explored Symbolism, with tiny precious images that are magical as Indian Miniatures, then dabbled in a gorgeous chalky Pointillism. 

In this self-portrait he seems influenced by Gauguin - with a flourish of Fauvism and possibly Matisse in the background.
But it was the next three rooms that slowed me right down - I got my close-up specs out - and looked and looked and looked.

Groundbreaking. breathtaking. Malevich is a consummate master of composition.
Bold and Striking:

Detailed and Playful:

Skillful with Colour:

Serious and Thoughtful:

And - able to combine all the above qualities too:

Next, there was a big room with gazillions of tiny drawings - the walls painted a light-absorbing dull turquoise (my favourite colour), which set off the wooden frames and their deep off-white mounts; allowing the small sheets of often squared, yellowing paper to sing out with his careful deliberate drawings - plans and dreams.
But those plans and dreams for an abstract future we not to be - as the Russia he inhabited was now a Stalinist Russia - where the purpose of art was as propaganda; to educate. 
Art was expected to show one clear and unambiguous meaning...mmm...ruled out abstraction then.
So, Malevich focused on being an educator and a writer. 
With enlightened curating, there was a room of large teaching resources; posters made by Malevich setting out theories of art movements - and clearly advocating Suprematism early on. 
There was some great work by some of his students. 
I think Lyubov Popova was really very talented. She worked as a teacher, as well as being a painter and designer. I didn't know about her before visiting the exhibition - considering she died aged just thirty-five, she was very prolific.


It seems Malevich was pretty good at teaching. 
If he taught with as much charisma as he painted, I can imagine he was an inspiration.
Shame though - all that power, energy and command of the non-representational surface was lost; abandoned...
Well - not quite - as he couldn't help but bring some of that amazing force into later work: 

In he last room hang a number of portraits with almost Hans Holbein-ian flesh tints and backgrounds, seemingly all the colours darkened with black (unlike his Gauguin/Fauvist self-portrait), but for audacious flat solid abstract rectangles and triangles slapped defiantly on top (Suprematism sneaking in?).

It's on until 26 October - GO - GO - GO
And - be sure to watch iplayer - BBC4's gone all Abstract too...

The Romanov Wall...?

Now that the Creative Arts department has moved to a new building - the demolition of the old Art Corridor is well underway.
Fascinating views remain of the shored-up chimney, the doors into the outside - that used to be the studios - and the traces of what was once there - the roof, walls, floors and where cabling and boxes used to be.
I had to take some photos of these abstract structural compositions; punctured by brightly-coloured doors and framed by the fencing around the site. 
They have given me lots of ideas for collages:

Look - at this image - the RSJ erupting from the top left - and the glorious rectangular vestige of something that was attached to the wall before it was painted white... Then what are the black smudges, spattered about the middle and top right? There's a sort of potential for violence about them. An intriguing prospect - making me want to call it The Romanov Wall:

Speaking With Their Eyes

A dear friend introduced me to the work of Vivian Maier at the weekend.
I had a visit to the website and she was a fascinating woman - a nanny and a loner - who took her camera out with her. 
Thanks to Maier, there's a vivid record of the strangeness of everyday life from the US (during the fifites, sixties and seventies) but also further afield; as she was a great traveller.
I grabbed a few photos of children as I loved the poignancy in their little eyes - innocence and so much knowing...







Here's a couple of my boys too...

Small City=Big Culture: Two Exhibitions NOT to Miss

Visiting the Castle Museum this week, I was pleasantly surprised at just how bustling the whole place was with families; children everywhere, soaking up history!
A friend and I went to see the Wonder of Birds exhibition there:

What an inspired theme for a show..
Spanning time and cultures; natural history and art; the show starts with the drama of gilt. 
We entered to a wall - gold, enclosing a glass case - with an amazing ceramic hawk - from 11th century Iran:

Then on, into the space, we were bombarded by birds - above our heads, tiny brass offerings in cases, a sweet, vulnerable drawing of a dodo - alongside a Cedric Morris painting:

Contemporay, modern, ancient, Elizabethan, photography, medieval cartoon Swan Rolls, chalky mid 20th century landscapes, over 140 minute jewels of hummingbirds in a Victorian (of course) display case - birds were the main feature or an incidental detail, depending on the emphasis of the display.

Each section focused on a different aspect; cleverly colour-coded along the walls and on the information boards.
Both the content and the display itself were beautifully orchestrated, a delight. 
For a provincial city, stuck out (oh, how glad I am that it is) on the path to no-where, this is a competent and erudite show - get to it before it's gone - Finishes Sunday 14 September 2014.

Later, we called in on the exhibition; constructed by MA Curation students at NUA - Afteryears: Reflections on British Art 1046 - 1952, which finishes (the day before the Wonder of Birds) on Saturday 13 September 2014.
An early Patrick Heron; drawing from Ivon Hitchens, the very great Prunella Clough, Eduardo Paolozzi's Insect Wings collage (below), a Barbara Hepworth drawing - that reminded me of Elizabeth Frink's figures, Victor Pasmore (see further below) - all the classic mid-century Brits are here.

the space is really well plotted, the works having a flow through he show, with colours, geometry, composition, scale - picked up and played with - to create a strong exhibition. 
The curators have also related the art to the social context and the locality well - with a nod to the visitor and right here, right now - asking us to reflect on key questions with little evaluative question sheets and a pinboard

Victor Pasmore, Rectangular Motif, Black and Olive, 1950, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Estate of Victor Pasmore. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2014.
yummy colours and shapes

Reach Out And Haul In The Day....

Enjoyed a shortish day at work in the shed - making this medium sized piece. 
I printed the circles - with a 'block', made using little cork pads from the hardware shop.
I was inspired by the bits left randomly on my table after cutting up papers to collage last time I was in there.
I still like the white space - but exploring a slightly more loosely constructed composition across the surface. 
keeping it more open seems cleaner - a few pieces were becoming a bit cloggy and heavy with paint - but the intention was to leave room for the colours and shapes to breathe today.
Here's the whole thing: 

And here are three photos of fragments of the above:

I like the way that the ochre makes the black pick up the blues - giving the impression of being a sort of paynes grey.
Each of these close-ups could stand up as a complete piece - but sadly they are only areas from the top image, zoomed in on by my camera's lense.

...Recording, clipping and seeing the fragmented detail sections here has given me plenty of ideas for what to do next.

Below is the page from a new sketchbook, that I started today - some shapes I selected with thought and planning, yet others were simply what was left when I'd cut out those shapes.
It's the chance that intrigues me initially, followed by a combination of placement, instinct, questioning and reflective thought

A fragment of the sketchbook piece - thank you to Mr Hole-Punch who was very helpful this afternoon!

Recent Digital Playtime

One or two little recent digital-sketch collages - more on the website - HERE:

I Also Understand How She Must Have Felt

I Remember Sleeping Under the Stars

Love Weakened Like A Wilted Flower

These are about playing - and trying things - using and combining my own photographs with the random-ness of IT software to edit them...
I may get some printed as postcards, what do you think - good idea?

What's The Link Here Then?

Photographing precious paper pieces; carefully collected, clipped and collated - on top of my table, in the studio-shed. 
Circles and letterforms, black printing ink, mono-printed polka dots.
Re-arranging the random off-cuts.
Reflected light and diffused light with triangles.
Scaffolding at work - serendipitous addition of red door.
Then - finally - two long mixed media collages I made last week and a messy one.
That's what I have been recording with the camera on my phone - it's a rubbish camera. 
I need a new phone, so that I can get a new camera...bonkers isn't it - but that's how it seems to work...