Research – Final Submission 8

You can view all of the research I did for this module by clicking on the Research category in the left hand menu – most recent first, beginning for this module on October 19 2013. A password is given on the submission sheet for those pages that are protected. Below is a pertinent selection along with some gallery visits/experiences that influenced my practice in this final year.

I visited the Martin Creed exhibition ‘What’s the point of it?’ at the Hayward Gallery.

This was probably the most fun I have ever had at an exhibition. Martin Creed was on my radar – I was aware of some of his work: in particular his naming protocols. But I had not realised how much he worked with colour and stripes. I am so pleased I went to the show. For a start my friend and I arrived in the main hall and flopped on the sofa there – wonderful: we were tired out after Matisse earlier. Then I realised it was an exhibit (chair half blocking a doorway – or something similar) and we shot off it – but were reassured by the gallery attendant that it was OK to sit on it – phew!

This was another ‘joyful’ exhibition. The title of the show pitches it at exactly the level you need to enjoy the show. Embrace the title’s question and you won’t be disappointed. Laugh at the works – question them and then enjoy them for what they are. Revel and investigate the texture and preparation of the materials. Appreciate the way that some works blend into the environment as to seem ‘not part of’ the exhibition – you’d hardly notice them if it weren’t for their repetitive nature. A lot of his work was based on repetitive elements. A speaker playing a looped ‘raspberry-blower’; instructions for playing a series of scales on a piano; A4 pages coloured with marker pens; repeated stripes; a collective group of around 1000 prints of broccoli heads and balloons.

A lot of the works don’t have a point – but that is the point of the exhibition! Some of the works can have deep philosophical thinking attached to them – but others can be taken at face value – where the interest is the collective work with variants of colour and marks. I loved it. It was fun. It was joyful. I didn’t feel cheated in the way I often do with works by Damien Hirst – there is no pretentiousness around these works, which I do find in Hirst. I’m not sure where or how Creed chooses the colours and combinations he uses. Perhaps it is a random dip in the pot of marker pens… whereas my work is very structured in the choosing and ordering of colours – and that order is crucial to the work. We both create colour field work – but mine is focused around my diary and 9 choices a day. I’m not sure if Creed acknowledges these choices – if they are arbitrary or structured. However, these works give me courage to produce work that doesn’t appear to have a point or reason to it. Most of my stripe work falls into that category – where it has more intrinsic meaning for me than the viewer. Some favourites were:

But the best fun of all was Work No. 200 Half the air in a given space. This was such fun to be in as well as making you question things about your existence. How you can exist in a room where half of the available air is clearly not available to breathe – but you’re still OK. Plus how weird it is to be in a room where you can barely find your way around without clearing a viewpoint to the ceiling and following the exit arrows stuck there. However, it is really good fun and my friend Alison and I could not stop laughing.

In May I went to Nottingham to experience the ‘EXXOPOLIS’ Luminarium created by the Architects of Air which is part of Neat14. It was an interesting and surprising experience. The day was pretty dreary and the outside of the structure looks bonkers – like a pvc jester’s hat gone wrong. I had seen photographs of the structure from friends’ previous visits and from the promo sites – but I just couldn’t see how these correlated with the structure I could see before me. You enter the structure via an airlock and the first chamber has a small red window and a guide who provides advice on getting the most from your visit and a physical map (as it is a real rabbit warren inside). This chamber did not look promising. It was pretty dark and not at all like the images I had seen. I figured this was due to the awful weather and resigned myself to the idea this would not be as good as I had hoped. I WAS WRONG. It was amazing once we were properly inside the structure. On exit the guide told us that the luminarium just needs light to work – it doesn’t matter about the quality of the light, although it does provide different effects – but works from sunrise to sunset, no matter what. There are chambers with dominant overall colours – which did have surprising effects on the children. Maybe it was because the red chamber was the first, but the kids were utterly crazy in there. They were running all over the shop, fighting, jumping and yelling. The story was very different in the blue and green areas. In the blue one everyone was very chilled. It was also interesting that the colour perception of cameras were quite different to those of the eye. We could compare our digital images with what we could see there and then – and the spectrum of colours was much wider and deeper in the camera than viewed by the eye. The red colours push, or split into yellow in the digital images, but they appeared red to the eye. A beautiful environment where the colour combinations change with every step and turn.The solidly coloured chambers were very reminiscent of Carlos Cruz-Diez’s work Chromosaturation. Except his rooms lack shadows (in general) which means your eyes really, really hurt when you move from one lit area to another as there is a distinct lack in variant colour tone. In these chambers your eye does get used to the colours and it begins to dull. The red room turned to orange quite quickly. As you moved to another area however, the shadows in the structure allow your eyes to adjust really quickly and your eyes don’t hurt or have any problems at all. I’d go again (as long as I had my camera too) in a heartbeat!

Most of these quotes sum up what I think of my own practice. There is little point in rewriting them except to add a little context to how they apply to my own work.

My choice of colours does not rest on any scientific theory; it is based on observation, on sensitivity, on felt experiences.

Henri Matisse, Notes of a Painter, 1908. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P53

It has been interesting to note (when comparing remembered colours to photographic colours) that the remembered colours are brighter and more vibrant than what is seen in reality. Why is this? It is a reason why I used pantone colour swatches to define my colours – so my memory could not alter the colours further from that point on – they were fixed from that day, but how much had they changed before I had been able to specify the swatch?

[…] But what do we regard as the criterion for remembering it [colour] right? – When we work with a sample instead of our memory there are circumstances in which we say that the sample has changed colour and we judge of this by memory. But can we not sometimes speak of a darkening (for example) of our memory-image? Aren’t we as much at the mercy of memory as of a sample? (For someone might feel like saying: ‘If we had no memory we should be at the mercy of a sample.’) – Or perhaps of some chemical reaction. Imagine that you were supposed to paint a particular colour ‘C’, which was the colour that appeared when the chemical substances X and Y combined. – Suppose that the colour struck you are brighter on one day than on another; would you not sometimes say: ‘I must be wrong, the colour is certainly the same as yesterday’? This shows that we do not always resort to what memory tells us as the verdict of the highest court of appeal.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1945-49. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P104-6

The whole business of spotting; the small area of colour in a big canvas; how edges meet; how accidents are controlled; all this fascinates me, though it is often where I am most facile and most seducible by my own talent.

Helen Frankenthaler, Interview with Henry Geldzahler, 1965. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P131-2

Subtractive mixing inevitably penalizes the luminosity of the pigments, since more of the illumination is absorbed by the mixture. For example, most red and yellow pigments inevitably absorb a little orange light. So the orange that results from their mixture isn’t very brilliant – some of the orange light is lost from the white light that illuminates the image. In contrast, a genuine orange pigment absorbs virtually no light in the ‘orange’ part of the spectrum and so doesn’t suffer from this defect. This is why a genuine orange pigment may be more vibrant than a mixture of red and yellow.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 939-943). Random House. Kindle Edition.

It is worthwhile remembering that colour (and therefore paint) changes over time: sun fades and bleaches colours; pigments degrade; lighting affects the ‘temperature’ of the environment and therefore our perception. Early paintings by great artists are a shadow of what the artist intended – poor quality materials taking their toll and leaving us with a facsimile of the original: despite this being the original.

we should not take too much on trust in our visual appreciation of art. What we see is what we get, but not necessarily what we were meant to get.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5067-5068). Random House. Kindle Edition.

According to John Gage, the limitations of colour reproduction technology are ‘themselves part of the history of colour in art’.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5439-5440). Random House. Kindle Edition.

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