Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Journeys in Paint: More on ECA Degree Show, 2012

Gravitating to my chief interest, the painting department, the artists' work which attracted me most was that of Phyllis Clair Smith, Holly Prentice and Martyn McKenzie, all landscape/seascape painters but on different journeys.

The beautiful picture above of the Cairngorms by Phyllis Clair Smith is the record of an actual journey. Phyllis is a keen hill-walker but it is also an exploration of unusual materials and techniques.  I was intrigued to know how she had achieved the contrasting effects of the atmospheric distance of clouds, snow(?) and the    detailed textures of lichen and rock  in the foreground.  Phyllis explained that she had painted an acrylic base on wood (not canvas) overlaid with pencil and enamel and then rubbed the surface with sandpaper and white spirit.  The foreground patterning  is repetitive but with variations in the way of wall-paper. (This is not a criticism.) So much so,  I was amazed that it was not some form of printing. But no, it was all done by the artist's hand.  David Hockney would approve.

'hills', (Enamel, pencil on wood) by Phyllis Clair Smith. 

 Holly Prentice's seascapes and forests are a journey  even more about exploring and experimenting with  different material, techniques and media: ladling on wax over paintings on steel, or over photographs taken by her self-made pinhole camera. She told me she loves the 'process' of ladling on wax.

 Process seems to be what interests her in her installation of film too, where the projector is more of a feature than the tiny film strip, (the film is not even projected onto the walls) though there are stills from the same film fixed on to a triptych of glass. 

 But Holly's inventiveness is not at the expense of an atmospheric evocation of the sea in a more painterly tradition in the dual painting  of 'Edge':

'Edge' by Holly Prentice. Oil paint, tape and wax on steel.

Holly loves making 'things': not only her pinhole camera but a light/pencil box. The light comes on when you slide open the lid.  This has been chosen as part of ECA's showcase which will be exhibited shortly in London.

 Pencil-case/light-box by Holly Prentice.

Lastly Martyn McIntyre, whose work is more painterly, uses traditional materials of water-colours and oils.  His interest in water-colours could be seen as old-fashioned by some.  I loved them.  I also love sketch-books, almost more than finished works and these are on display.  Some are beautiful in themselves, objects d'art, self-made with hand-made paper, others are scruffy note-books.  There is even a moleskine (which I presume was the gift of a supportive relative? Sorry, Martyn, my imagination is getting carried away.) but Martyn's work draws one in.

There is something very personal about sketch-books and I feel that I am prying but I am honoured that Martyn is happy for me to look through them and even take photographs.

The water-colour sketches in the note-books,
are mainly of landscapes. Some have artist's notes
to self re tone, foreground, distance, etc but
occasionally there are comments on the scene,
such as that the power station in one sketch is shortly to be demolished.

 Interspersed are email addresses, phone numbers and lines of poetry.  Not surprising that Martyn's journey is more of a personal, one could say a 'poetic' response to landscape.  On one page is a response to a night sky seen from a train window:

Payne's Grey, a page from one of  Martyn McKenzie's notebooks.
    As Martyn says in his Artist's Statement in his brochure, 'Drawing becomes a form of writing. The work is a kind of diary, almost autobiographical. Painting becomes a method of exploring, and reflecting.'

Martyn's vast canvas in oils 'Arrivals (II)' is a particularly striking response.  The blue overwhelms the viewer, envelopping you in Rothko-style, though this is not an abstract painting but a sea-scape.

'Arrivals (II)', oil by Martyn McKenzie

There is a moon, sea and clouds  and if you look very closely, there is a tiny red dot on the horizon, which I presume is a ship's light (starboard or port - I can never remember which is which).  On the back of Martyn's card is a quote from Bachelard which is particularly relevant to 'Arrivals (II)':
'With a single poetic detail, the imagination confronts us with a new world.'

You can see more of Martyn's pictures and better photos than mine on: martynmckenzie.blogspot.co.uk/


Painting at ECA, 2012  is alive and well.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Not all Rubbish: Hans K. Clausen's skips, ECA Degree Show

It's not all rubbish at Edinburgh College of Art's Degree Show this year.  In fact, who would have thought I'd have been enthralled by a rubbish skip, albeit empty of its contents - those you can see on the wall- all part of Hans K. Clausen's work on show in the Sculpture section.

Found objects as art - the idea is  not new - Duhamel's urinal started all that and every year, students at the Degree show produce their own 'found objects' to, I must confess in my case, varying degrees of yawn. But Clausen's work is different - it's all about perception, he says, in his Artist's statement.  On the one side of the room is a real skip (donated by a company who read about the project in 'Skip Hire' magazine) but now painted white - tipped on its side and leaning against the equally white background of the wall - 'pure' now it is sanctified by 'Art'?

Clausen's skips are beautiful - just look at the  lines of his metallic 'template' - an abstraction of lines, a ghost-presence.

The context in which objects are placed intrigues Clausen and rifling through his portfolio of photos, it was amusing to see his metallic skip in various juxtapositions. I particularly liked the one where one of the college's collection of Grecian casts, a headless torso,  was placed inside the skip - a humourous comment?  Is the torso rubbish then?

A sense of humour helps.  His Vending Machine on the wall (which I only later realized was a former condoms dispensing machine) dispenses...I will not tell you what.  You make a wish and yes, you do receive something that symbolizes your wish.  It's all in the perception, Clausen told us.  'It's all to do with the future, your hopes,' said my husband. 'Like condoms, they also are a symbol of hope- what sort of sex are you hoping for and what will you, in fact, have?'

A booklet of photographs of paintwork (on skips, I presume) in various stages of decay and rust is also on display. These are so beautiful, I wished he had displayed the photographs around the walls.  Again the idea's not new. But does it matter?  This is Clausen's own perception of beauty and he's certainly won me as a convert.