Tag Archives: abstract

Did someone say Paintings?

I’ve been Painting again… I don’t have much to say about them – except, I think I like them.

They’re little Welsh landscapes that sum up my time here since I’ve moved.  I’ve been a lot more content. I’ve been a lot more relaxed.  And I feel like even one percent of the time I’m on my way to proving my potential…the challenges I’m facing are all good ones, adult-making ones.

I forgot what painting felt like, I think it’s quite clear in these that I enjoyed it…at least I hope so, anyway.

🙂

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Why being impressionable is a good thing

‘Oh she’s just impressionable…’

This statement is weighted with a negative stigma that I’d like to challenge.  In my last blog post, I talked about the need to become ‘aware’ of ordinary things to break the ‘active but absent’ mindset that are bodies are accustomed to.  We’re all guilty of going through the motions in our daily lives – it’s pretty normal.  We as humans are creatures of habit and fall into routine.  The danger of this of course is that we don’t think or feel for ourselves.  We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements ‘LOOK HERE, BUY THIS, TASTE, FEEL’ etc.  With these directions, often comes empty promises of fulfillment and happiness.

Therefore, to ‘live’ as such, and to be present, we need to become aware and be humbled by ordinary things. Christophe Andre’s book Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art has been a brilliant insight into the importance of looking, and really seeing.  Much of my inspiration and thoughts have been catalysed by his writing.

Claude Monet has always been one of my favourite Painters.  I often get asked who my favourite Artist is, and when I was very young I panicked and exclaimed it was Monet. This at the time was partially true, and partly that I knew everyone would be familiar with some of his work, or at the very least, his name.  As an impressionable child, I began to look and marvel at the work of Claude Monet.  I saw his piece La rue Montorgueil a Paris. Fete du 30 juin 1878 at the Musée d’Orsay and was inspired by his ability to capture the spirit and the enthusiasm of the later coined ‘French National’ day through his urgent and lively brushstrokes, all whilst still sitting removed from the festival feeling in a balcony he reportedly hired to paint the scene especially.

Monet flagsMonet, Claude, La rue Montorgueil a Paris. Fete du 30 juin 1878, 1878, Oil on Canvas, 81 x 50.5cm Musée d’Orsay

This painting is a blur of motion and celebration that when is viewed up-close is constructed of what seems like very frantic brushstrokes. There seems to be little composition and structure, but when viewed as a whole it becomes almost like a snapshot of the day, full of life and vibrancy.

Claude Monet 1840-1926 - French painter - The Rue Montorgueil, Paris 1878 - The Impressionist Flags (4)Monet was inspired to paint a scene of people in France that have been hurt, but are moving forward to a greater and more plentiful life.  The term ‘Impressionist’ was first used as an insult in response to an exhibition of new paintings in Paris in 1874.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term impressionable means ‘easily influenced.’  As one of the major members of the movement, Monet would record fleeting, transient moments that influenced him through the medium of paint.  By painting scenes that he found influential, he was mindful and aware of the present moment.  He was so inspired by dancerly nature of the flags that he paid to paint on someone’s balcony.  The scene wouldn’t have been any better later, or any worse.  It just wouldn’t have been the same.  This was the impression that he was inspired by, it was perfect – the here and now.  You may find yourself asking, but how does this apply to me in my daily life?

Artist or not, we all can learn from Claude Monet.  Being impressionable allows us to be simply present to the ordinary moments of living.  This is important, because most often, it is the present that we ignore.  How often do you find yourself thinking about the past, or the future rather than concentrating on living in the present?  Being influenced by things we see and hear helps us fragment and interrupt the ‘automatic flow of our actions and thoughts.’  According to Christophe Andre, finding yourself being impressionable and therefore aware of the present moment is no doubt easier in more beautiful or favourable surroundings.  For example, it’s much easier to be inspired by a remarkable sunset than it is a washing machine. Knowing this, it’s easy to relate to Monet’s instancy to paint La Rue Montorgueil.  With this being said, we can be impressionable in any environment as long as we are prepared to make an effort.  ‘It requires a decision on our part to open ourselves up as often as we can to being touched, contracted and struck by life. This is an act of deliberate awareness.’  There may be things you see every day on your way to work, in your home that you’ve never looked twice at.  These ordinary items will never be the same twice.  Every experience you have is different, in the fact that it’s always unique – time passes.  Looking with the eyes of a new-born can help us reveal beauty in things that we may have considered unchanging before.

rouen-cathedral-monetMonet, Claude, Rouen Cathedral Series, Oil on Canvas, various sizes, 1890-1896

With over 30 Paintings in the Rouen Cathedral Series, Monet focused on portraying the distinctly different character of the cathedral depending on the light that was cast upon it.  This monumental effort by Monet acts as an ‘attempt to illustrate the importance of light in our perception of a subject at a given time and place.’  When looking closely at the Paintings, it’s quite extraordinary how the same building can almost take on a completely different persona due to the time of the day it was painted.  Monet, like a lot of the Impressionists, was inspired by light.  The effect that light had on an object or a place was a driving force to paint, because it was ever-changing.  We like Monet, can attune ourselves to be impressionable and look with eyes that want to be inspired and an open mind.  This ever-changing concept of light applies to everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant.  A pepper grinder today is going to remain a pepper grinder tomorrow, but where it’s placed may be different, the reflection will be different.  When we become aware of these little things, we’re alive – broken free from the shackles of the past and the fears of the future for an instant.  When we become aware and momentarily dismiss our staggered thoughts and just ‘live’, the world is a more dazzling, brighter and fulfilling place.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” – Henry Miller

I’m working on becoming more impressionable, are you?

Sources:

Andre, Christophe, Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art, p 20-24. 119

http://lesiksarthistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/rue-montorgueil-vs-rue-mosnier-with.html

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/learn-about-art/guide-to-impressionism/guide-to-impressionism

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/painting.html?no_cache=1&zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=4035

Do you see things differently, too?

I was passing, and then I stopped.  There’s something special I notice about the scene.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that captivates me – the architecture, the light, the viewpoint, but it does.  I have this experience every day with a telephone pole as I walk through the town of Aberystwyth.  Now this in itself might sound ridiculous and you may find yourself asking how can I possibly find beauty in something so…pedestrian? Truth is, I’m not entirely sure.  Each experience I have with the telephone pole is completely unique.  The light is always a little bit different, I’m a little bit different.  But alas, every day in my walk to the library I still stop for a moment.

It’s often remarked by family and friends that I’m extremely observant.  I notice colours in reflections, strange textures in tiles and make shapes in my mind with woodgrain.  I don’t observe everything, but I’m aware that certain things that most would consider unimportant captivate me and wholly capture my attention becoming the most important thing in the world for a fleeting moment.

It’s taken me years of this kind of seeing to bring it to full awareness and begin to realise what it means. I was always under the impression that it was my creative temperament that led to this appreciation of ordinary things, but the more I learn, this seeing is not exclusive to the ‘creatives’ amongst us.  Everyone without limit can find beauty in the banal.

Christophe Andre in his book Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art uses Gas by Edward Hopper to illustrate this idea of seeing ordinary things.  Hopper was renowned for his oil paintings of American Life that were all simplistic in composition.  Somewhat reluctant to discuss himself and his art, he famously summed up his Art by stating “The whole answer is there on the canvas.”  This feels like an apt statement when weighted with the appreciation for the ordinary.

gasGas, Edward Hopper (1882-1967) 1940, oil on canvas, 66.7 x 102.2m, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Andre suggests that when you begin to look, and really look you become aware of the silly detail of the Pegasus on the sign.  Then you see his three little brothers on the pumps which anchors your attention. You start to assume what could be happening inside the lighted house.  Is there music playing? Where does the darkened road lead to?  How long will it be before the man pictured sees anyone else?  For Hopper to paint this, it must have captivated him.  This moment is completely unique. You stopped because you will never again see what you are seeing now.  In the same way that you will never experience exactly what you are experiencing now.  This is the point – you understand.  This becomes the most important thing in the world – this seeing, this experience, this awareness… and this is living!  You are living life.

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All too often we find ourselves going through the motions in life. A work/rest alternate.  We absent-mindedly wander through our days, only to get up the next morning to do the same.  We’re programmed on repeat – ‘active but absent.’  Our lives are directed with signposts ‘Look now!, listen now!, taste now!, feel now!’  to ‘carefully delineated moments where we ‘have to’ be enchanted or moved (cinema, theatre, museums and galleries).’  If we allow ourselves to be victims of this signposted and dictated awareness we become robot-like.  This is why moments in appreciating the ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’ are so vital to enriching our soul. We must appreciate and respect normal things. I agree that is much easier to become aware and mindful in a beautiful landscape but it is true to say that it can happen anywhere and at any time – with a little effort to ‘remain awake and present.’

How do we do this in our daily lives?

I went to grab a coffee yesterday in a busy coffee shop.  While I waited for mine to be made, I watched the barista work efficiently calling out different orders for collection.  After a few minutes she exclaimed “banana latte and a watermelon chocolate!” A woman came and lifted the tray with a quick thank-you but didn’t pull the barista up on her comical drinks.  She looked at me and grinned “I have a theory that if you shout anything, people will come and take whatever is ready.  Last week it was items of clothing, this week it’s fruit.”  I laughed, but after I left with my non-fruit flavoured coffee it really made me think.  People hear but how often do they listen?  We’re always in the doing mode, but we’re not often in the being mode.  Take the painting, how often has people just filled up the tank, paid, left, not experiencing the sights to be seen?  It’s important to practice listening to sounds around you, observing the light, smelling around you, tasting, touching – awakening your senses if you like.  Looking with the eyes of the new-born, as if everything is new.  You’ll be amazed at how much there is to see and sense.  This isn’t robot-like, but it is human being-like.  ‘We must be aware that we are alive. Living in awareness, touched by ordinary things, jostled by normality.  It means being enlightened by the benign and ordinary- dazzled and delighted by life.’

‘Never forget that every mind is shaped by the most ordinary experiences.’ – Paul Valery, Mauvaises Pensees Et Autres

Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art, Christophe Andre, L’Iconoclaste, Paris, 2011 (p.112-121)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hopper

http://www.moma.org/collection/works/80000

Approaching Happiness

“We enter paradise every second – either that or we leave it.” – Christian Bobin

Turner-Approach-Venice

Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775 – 1851 ), Approach to Venice, 1844, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection

Venice to Turner meant ‘delight.’ A misty city, quasi-visible across the Venetian Lagoon through a golden twilight. John Ruskin, the major art critic who was one of Turner’s few champions later in his career, hailed the canvas as “the most perfectly beautiful piece of colour of all that I have seen produced by human hands.” In the Royal Academy catalogue for 1844, this entry was accompanied by a quotation that Turner himself rewrote from Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold:

“The moon is up, and yet it is not night,
The sun as yet disputes the day with her.”

This painting is a fleeting moment captured by Turner.  Soon we will be there.  We will be captivated by the sights, smells and the sounds the city has to offer.  The Sun acts as a guiding light, welcoming us.  It illuminates the City with glory, turning the lagoon a golden yellow.  The moon too reminds us of the freshness and urgency of the night.  The golden light will have disappeared by the time we land, and been taken over by the crisp darkness.

I’ve been blessed to see a painting of Turners’ for real.  There’s something about the way he paints that draws emotions from you – it’s mostly not even voluntary.  The canvas becomes an object in which you portray your emotions, hopes, thoughts and experiences onto.  The gesture, colours and light-heartedness are all strong enough to withstand it. You associate your own personal experiences with the subject, making it appear different to each individual. And isn’t that the simplest purpose of Art? That it makes you feel something?

Christophe Andre uses Approach to Venice as an illustration for happiness in his book Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art.  Approach to Venice is a metaphor in seeing Happiness gently emerging in your life.

Andre suggests that there is no happiness without awareness.  Have you ever found yourself looking back at something in your past and thought about how happy you were but you didn’t realise?  This is something we all fall victim to.  Even just now, I thought about my experience with the Turner painting in the National Gallery and how happy I was to just look and be…and often now I find myself going to extreme lengths restlessly looking for this calm again.  This retrospective happiness is human nature.  As French writer Radiguet writes ‘Happiness, I knew you only by the sound you made as you left.’  Without awareness of the present we long for these past moments of happiness which we didn’t know how to embrace at the time.  This happens when we are too busy…there are simply too many things on our minds to revel in happiness- work,eat,sleep,repeat.  It happens too when we are sad or worried…our minds become uncertain about the future or regrets over the past.  I’ve always admired Turners’ enthusiasm to ‘be’ in the moment and it is something we can learn from.  His drive to capture these transient moments are influential to not only my own painting practice, but my way of living.  I remember reading stories when I was a child of Turner supposedly strapping himself to the mast of ships to experience the moment in later, more stormy work. Even as a child I was inspired by this act of living.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775 - 1851 ), Approach to Venice, 1844, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection

How do we become aware then?  If we regularly open our mind, not looking for happiness but just looking, we will see happiness in things.  When I’m sad I force myself to go outside and just look.  It’s not long before I realise beauty in things- it could be something as simple as a tree or a flower.  As Andre puts it, these fleeting moments of happiness in our everyday lives will be ‘slight, brief, imperfect and incomplete, but multiple, changing, alive and constantly renewed.’

Venice mightn’t be as promised – but there are glimpses of happiness to be found in everything.  By being mindful, we can train ourselves to notice everything, pains and pleasures alike.  In times of adversity we should stop and accept snippets of happiness.  It’s a fleeting comfort, but later, we will do it again.  Thus, it becomes an endless cycle.

“We will keep on making misfortune breathe alongside everything that resembles life – in other words, happiness”.

https://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg57/gg57-117.html

Andre, Christophe Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art, L’Iconoclaste, 2011, 232-238

Exhibition 1 – Postgraduate Show, School of Art, Aberystwyth, Wales

'Snowdon'

Exhibiting Paintings that you have created takes a lot of courage.  To some, it may seem like ‘just an image,’ to me, it exposes everything.  My thoughts, passions, fears and hopes are somehow translated onto a canvas, for the Public to judge and criticise. What if they don’t like something you’ve created? Something so personal.  Or worse still, what if they are indifferent to something you have poured hours into.

My work is very much a personal language, and is based heavily on instinct and intuition, so I often find myself very nervous when it goes on display at an Exhibition.  However, there is a thrill that can be achieved in no other way when your work is on the wall.  It teeters precariously somewhere between anticipation and excitement, as passers by buzz around your work, talking about technique, subject etc.

I allow and invite viewers to react to my work in whatever way they please. It’s refreshing, and keeps me motivated to create more.

 

With my final Exhibition approaching in less than two weeks at Abersytwyth School of Art, I am mulling over these pre-exhibition nerves once more.

 

It’s a thrill only an Artist can experience.

Abstracting the land – Landscape Painting

Observation of the Welsh Landscape begins to take form into a Painting that balances somewhere between the realms of figuration and abstraction.

I start off with small thumbnail sketches through direct observation and then work them into a composition. What happens from there is a response process. I begin to layer paint and just respond to the colours, marks and forms that have went before. The way I paint relies heavily on intuition, and there are times that I have to just trust in my process. This then creates a kind of constructed experimental landscape, that’s organic and natural. I try to keep things gestural and expressive, to convey and essence of the landscape as well as translate the transient, fleeting nature of creation.

exhibition 2
Untitled ll, acrylic on canvas, 6ft x 3.2ft, £210

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close-up detail

website 11

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(see Paintings section for more info as well as other works)

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” -Vincent Van Gogh

Preparing for Exhibition, April ’14

website l

When Painting doesn’t come so easily, and you feel that you’ve really hit a block with it, something that always frees me up again is changing my colour palette.  With  less than a month  to my first Postgraduate Exhibition at Aberystwyth School of Art, this is exactly what I had to do.  I introduced a darker colour palette, and eliminated most blues, purples and greens that I usually rely heavily on.

This is my take on some snowy hills that I have witnessed while travelling in a bus from Wales.  They fly by in a short, transient moment and appear insignificant.  Truth is, it’s these small moments that have a way of unravelling from my sub-conscious and find themselves compositions or themes of my paintings.  It’s not until I’ve almost finished works, or see a photograph, or have a distinct memory that I recall where I’ve seen it.  To me, that’s amazing.  One small snapshot you took with your eyes, reveals itself in such a powerful way years later.

The power of observation has never been so tangible.

 

I feel so blessed that us artists can work in this way, it’s a great and underestimated gift.

 

Rachel

Making Progress…

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Some Paintings together that I have created since the beginning of My Master’s degree in September 2013. The exciting thing about painting, although the uncertain nature of it is really daunting, when I see all my work together in one place, it’s exciting. I’m not sure of the direction my work is taking, but it doesn’t really matter.  I trust in my Process of painting, so I know the product will follow.

The more I trust my own instinct, the less I am able to articulate what I do. < This seems more relevant than ever.

Throwback, reminiscing on old works to help inspire the new.

When I come to a block in my current painting progress, I always look back at the old to try and use it as a way to free up some ideas. I decided to look back at some of the old aerial views that I was creating in 2012-late 2013. Although in this period of time there were inevitable stumbling blocks and problems I encountered, I found that it was a very encouraging and promising time for my painting progress. I developed so much as an artist and learned a lot about paint in a relatively short amount of time. Two of my favourite studies were two of the first small Aerial Views paintings I created. At this time, I was heavily inspired by Artist Anna Warsop and used her work as a foundation for my own. Her work is so beautiful and subtle, as well as painting she creates some striking prints too.

Check them out @ http://www.annawarsop.com/index.html

Aerial View l, acrylic on canvas, October 2012.
Aerial View l was a response to a flight experience of my own, memory, intuition and being inspired by the work of Warsop. This is a monumental piece in my practice, as it really marked the first move away from painting into maps, to creating direct aerial views.

Anna Warsop, Enclave, Acrylic on Canvas

Aerial View ll, acrylic on canvas. December 2012

Aerial View ll was a piece I created soon after, and was very much based on a flight from Ireland- Wales, hence all the more local colours. I learned to use accents of colours to represent buildings, structures etc. The idea is that the landscape was transient and fleeting worked very well. I tried to incorporate clouds to give a tangible sense of depth and add movement to the painting. I used layers of acrylic canvas with a glazing agent and worked quite slowly. I painted onto to the canvas in some areas, and in others I painted directly onto old maps I had torn up and glued on, furthering and adding an extra dimension to the ‘aerial view’ concept.

Aerial View ll, acrylic on canvas, December 2012