Acrylic Work

 

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Eye Study (Warm Hues)

It’s fascinating looking back at old work and seeing how my style has evolved and changed over time. What intrigues me most is not simply my evolution in technique, but my interest and use of material. I have experimented a lot over the years and have come to find that you can never fail with fine liner pen! You could argue it’s a very simple material; everyone owns a black pen, yet I have come to find it is also the most effective in a lot of cases. For me the addition of fine liner is often the perfect finishing touch to a painting. My love for pen has remained constant over the years, yet my feelings for other materials have changed drastically. When I was younger I found watercolours difficult to use and frustrating to control, yet these days most of my paintings are water and ink based; I can’t seem to get enough of the fluidity!

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Eye Study (Cold Hues)

I went through a phase where acrylic paint was my favourite medium (this was before I discovered oil paint!) mainly due to the layering it allowed. When I paint I build my work up slowly by gradually applying multiple layers, as you can see in these colourful eye studies. Acrylic was perfect for working in this way as it meant a short drying time which was perfect for my instantaneous manner of working. It’s also a very affordable material, especially when compared to oil paint which is depressingly expensive most of the time. I came across these old painterly experiments when I was looking through things I’d submitted as part of my university and scholarship portfolios. They’re about four or five years old now and I haven’t used acrylic paint much since then. Having looked back over them, I’m tempted to give acrylic paint another go given how much my skills have changed over time.

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Pop Up Pink (Part 1)

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Tuesday night was the Pop Up exhibition of Pink inspired by and a result of the ‘Pink’ talk for Colour Studio Northumbria (http://colourstudionorthumbria.weebly.com/). These are weekly conversations mostly led by fellow course mate Rebecca Gavigan. Having led one this week myself on the topic of ‘Time’, I am even more in awe of how she puts them together – especially on a weekly basis with everything else we have to contend with as final year students. Other students and tutors have also led talks  and it’s a really interesting mix of topics that are discussed including things like laughter, material, chance, etc.

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So it was really exciting to see one of the talks mould and shape an exhibition. One of the primary focuses of the exhibition was the motif of ‘shifts’ due to the development of our conversation during the Pink Talk. We covered and shifted across so many different topics that it seemed appropriate to incorporate this aspect into the exhibition. Whilst researching in preparation of the talk I kind of hit a wall. As I have an incredibly girly girl sister, it is difficult for me to look at pink in a way that surpasses my sister’s excessive use of it! I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I love that when I think of her a colour instantly springs to mind, I think that’s a beautiful way to visualise someone you love. However, it did mean I had to try really hard to distance myself from those associations in an attempt to research more broadly.

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‘Transfer’, Sue Spark, Highlighter and oil on paper, 2016

The Pink Talk was mainly questioning the ‘art pink’ that is so present in the art world today. If you look at art thinking about pink you really do start to notice it’s presence everywhere. Whether it’s a pastel pink, a funky neon pink, or a muted dirty pink; all sorts of variations can be found in different places and across artistic practices. Even in catalogues and publications, pink really is the ‘in’ thing! I can’t tell whether or not I’m surprised it has become a trend, I suppose given the conventional associations of the colour all of these interpretations are an attempt to redefine what pink can be. 

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‘Untitled Slants’, Charles Danby, Acrylic, oil, pencil, ink, magazine, highlighter, paper, linen, 2008-16

What I love most about the Colour Talks is they take something simple and expands it into realms you had never even considered. In my reading of pink I was thinking about gender, feminine elements, flesh – those kind of associations. Of course in the talk we did discuss these. It turns out pink was historically more of a boy’s colour, as it is a diluted version of red which of course symbolises male strength. This is something I would never have guessed myself given all the pink baby girls clothing we are constantly bombarded with! The talk also covered things such as pink in the natural environment and how this colour  can be really striking in that context. The discussion had so many components to it that I don’t think I will ever look at pink in the same way again!

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‘Jawbone’, Projection, Matt Young and Nikki Lawson, 2016

It was interesting how for the most part, those of us who exhibited a work were drawn to the use of a more high frequency pink. This was completely accidental as nobody had discussed the exact tone they would be using in their piece prior to exhibiting. We only realised once all the works were placed in the room. It therefore perfectly demonstrated exactly what we all felt was ‘art pink’. 

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‘Oh Sorry’, Rebecca Gavigan, PVC and highlighter, 2016

We were also all free to choose what we submitted in terms of media, so there was a good range as a result. The mix included installations, video, paintings, drawings, work in situ – there was a bit of everything. Eclectic textures were present too which evoked tactile sensations. Each work had been carefully placed and hung in order to allow the eye to travel across each piece. Placement was key to how the pieces were all viewed and navigated so I found having work on the floor as well as the wall added a dynamism to it all. It was curated in a day and although this was a very brief time period, it was long enough to let me see the thought and process that goes into curating. Something that I currently have little experience of!

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‘No Sexual Connotations Intended’, Samuel Johnson, Timber, mesh voile, gloss, oil and iridescent paint on canvas, 2016

Following this exhibition however I am intrigued by the idea of curating. There’s a responsibility to assembling works effectively; not only to the pieces themselves, but also to the artists who made them. I’ve never done it before but having seen how thoroughly Rebecca considered the hanging of each work, I feel it could be a really exciting thing to try!

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Close up of ‘Rizzo’, Camilla Irvine-Fortescue, Acrylic on canvas, 2016

B. Wurtz at Baltic

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Contemporary art is often controversial in it’s reception. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some people think their children could have done it. Other’s say their child didn’t do it and the artist beat them to it! This artwork is the perfect example of that retort. Wurtz’s practice revolves around taking a simple everyday object and turning it into something beautiful. In this case, he used food trays and painted the shapes on the bottom of them in different colours of acrylic. First off, I had never even noticed there were so many shapes to the bases of these trays. Second off, this is genius!

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It is such an incredibly simple thing but surprisingly elegant too. Who would have thought food trays could look this good?! And together in this form of display they look absolutely brilliant! Walking into the room I half gasped in amazement. Initially I couldn’t figure out what the objects were, but on closer inspection I was stunned to realise it was merely food trays! 

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The way they are all arranged is reminiscent of the way portraits are hung in an old historical castle. They have that sophisticated clustered vibe going on. The colours themselves are very rich and bold, almost like jewels. What Wurtz has succeeded in doing is elevating the most simple commonplace object into an art object. Marcel Duchamp’s urinal here we go again!

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I think what’s so lovely about this is though is the air of playfulness! It’s not trying to be anything fancy or anything that it’s not. It is purely an adaption of a simple material that is undergoing a transformation into something more beautiful. It’s almost like Wurst is the fairy godmother to house hold materials! He does it with other bits and pieces such as plastic bags and shoe laces but the one that really caught my eye was what I call his photographic tree:

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They are little photographic strips hung delicately in this form. Again, so basic but so clever. The best part about all this is it really shows that you don’t need lots of money to make art. Anyone can do it, it’s just about using your imagination and experimenting to see what happens!

Hajra Waheed

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So I had a wee trip down to The Baltic this afternoon thinking there wouldn’t be anything new on given how often I go. But I fancied a walk and some fresh air before the gym so decided to go anyway. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Hajra Waheed’s exhibition. Waheed’s work explores the increasing militarization of the sky and how satellite surveillance is becoming more commonplace in our everyday. She works in mixed media ranging from collage to video installation. Her works include archive fragments and field notes which bring an interesting dimension to the artwork as it feels so much more intense with those elements in it. To me that is, maybe to science orientated people it’s more of a natural dialect. 

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I am often fascinated when an artistic practice blends itself with science as that is a theme that differs so greatly from my own. Science and technology are fascinating to me, mostly I think because I have no knowledge about them. To me they are merely the great unknown! Yet strangely in this case I have no urge to make this unknown known, it’s almost as if I prefer it all being a mystery so that I can continue to appreciate it from the outside. Or maybe my brain is already too full with arty stuff, which is probably more accurate if I’m being completely honest!

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What really struck me about this exhibition was the layout; you could tell how much thought had been put into this aspect. There were divides within the space so that some work was hidden when you first entered, there was a separate room and then a little alcove in the wall. There were waist high plinths and then plinths that were just above ground level – the exhibition really forced your eye to travel and it was fantastic! It felt almost like a journey through the artwork. There was also sound playing across the entirety of the room which I think was the sound of materials scraping against the floor as they were being moved. I may be wrong as it was kind of obscure and difficult to pinpoint but given the satellite material laid out on the low-lying plinth, it did suggest the sounds were depicting the movement of these items. If not then I am intrigued by what the sound was capturing; in a way it is this ambiguity that makes it all the more interesting. 

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My photographs sadly, do not justify the exhibition. Because I didn’t think there was a new one on, I just chucked my basic little camera into my bag last minute. Speaking to a member of the Baltic crew, he said Waheed is very particular about how her exhibitions are documented given the thought and time she puts into layout. So she would probably hate me right now with these awful snapshots of her work. They do give you an idea however of the space. The artwork itself did not trigger much response from me I think because I was too fascinated by the arrangement of it all. I particularly liked how she’d arranged all her framed works, it had a satisfying regimental quality to it (photo above). 

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I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed an exhibition where the lighting has made such an impression on me. It was both dramatic and subtle at the same time. There was kind of a blue hue throughout the entire space which created a real sense of calm despite the quite intense subject matter. Waheed grew up on the gated Aramco compound of Saudi Arabia where I myself spent some time when I was growing up. It was interesting looking at her work once I found this out as there are some controversial explorations carried out which I think are heightened by the fact she had lived in Saudi and is not simply an artist observing from the outset. Controversial and highly political and not something I am really wanting to get into given my experiences.

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On the whole I think this was a very successful exhibition. The artwork itself was not exactly to my taste and doesn’t make me want to run off and research her. However the thought and skilled arrangement of it all does. You can tell this is an artist who thinks about the bigger picture when making artwork and I think that’s really important to being successful in today’s art world. 

Empty Walls

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For me presentation of work has become a slight struggle. When I was a painter it was simple, easy. Grab a nail, grab a hammer, make sure your canvas is straight and voila! The piece is hung, the piece looks perfect. With photographs you need to put a lot more thought into it. I was debating for ages about how to hang these works. I didn’t want to frame them as it made them seem too much like a final work, whereas my practice is still very much in the experimental stage. I didn’t just want to stick them to the wall either however, as I felt that was too flat and took away from the movement depicted in the image. 

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So then I started contemplating material such as foam board. If I were to spray glue the images onto that, they would then stand approximately a centimeter off the wall. Again however, it felt too fixed, too held in place. So then I came up with my final mode of presentation; using bull dog clips to hang the photos from nails. This worked well because it allowed the photos to protrude from the wall meaning that when anyone walked past the photos fluttered and danced as a result of human movement. 

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I really like this aspect, the fact that the photos moved in sync with the viewer. It ties in nicely with my concepts of the body and its relations in space. Someone also pointed out to me that this method of hanging reverts back to old analogue photos and how they were hung in the dark room.  I thought this was a very interesting reading and one I had not even considered myself. Quite careless of me if you think about it, yet I was simply fixated on this idea of moving instead of static images. It’s interesting when someone notices something completely different in your work. 

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In fact that is one of my favourite things about making art; when someone takes something of yours and re-interprets it on their own. When they draw their own conclusions and interpretations, which sometimes are the furthest thing from the concept I was working on! Yet there’s nothing more exciting than someone coming to me and talking about how they’ve seen or read something in my pieces and I get to say back to them “I hadn’t even thought of that!” It brings in a whole new dimension for me to consider as I continue on with my experiments.

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After all the debate that surrounded the hanging of these images, it’s nice to have empty walls again! Not for long however as I am completely buzzing with ideas to the point that I can’t create or write them up fast enough! I have been so busy the past week making and editing work that I haven’t even had time to reflect on it all properly! 

Painting Digression

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It’s strange when I think how I used to consider myself as an artist. I was adamant painting would always and forever be my one and truly love. How wrong I was…As much as I love painting, it really does have it’s limitations. Not in the sense that all painting is bad, it’s just sometimes not the right means for what you are trying to express. Sculpture often offers an expansion painting cannot. It offers the three-dimensional, the play with space and where you put it. Nowadays I like to bring sculptural elements into my paintings. I like to play between the two realms and have overlap and interplay such as in these paintings. Here I am using cling film as a barrier. I am arranging it across the canvas as a blockade whilst I lay down paint in the revealed areas. I then allow this to dry before I rearrange the cling film and repeat the process. I do this in layers and layers until I finally reach a point where I am happy. 

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It’s a good technique as it allows me to reflect on the piece; think about the colours, think about the shapes I want to create. It also allows me to work in my favourite painterly medium, inks. I absolutely love ink! It gets everywhere, it’s absorbent, it’s uncontrollable. When I use ink I feel like I am going on a journey with an unknown ending. Ink is perfect for layering up as well as you can choose how dense or faint it is. Layering and repetition are elements I can’t get away from. I like to exhaust a drawing by repeating it multiple times until it is dead and I am sick of it! Working on canvas is another favourite of mine as well as I have the stretchiness spring back at me whilst I’m working it and it absorbs my ink in an incredibly satisfactory way. Large scale is also best for me as I feel it gives me the breathing space to work that small scale cannot. Although I’ve taken a step back from all of this for now, I know that painting will be calling me back soon.