I visited Kate MacGarry’s latest show on Vyner Street today and saw Josh Blackwell’s Juniors – an exhibition of numerous Jumpers and sweaters drawn with ink on paper at a small scale as if they had shrunk in the wash. The works were hung in a Salon style over the 3 joining walls with seemingly no order. On reading the press release i learnt that each piece has a name such as Harry, Tony, Benny and Eddie which gave the sweaters a personality of their own.
Anyone who knows my work, or has been reading this blog may know that I employ a similar system with my paintings by using names such as Bertha, Joaquin, Dolly and Mindy which in a similar way forces the viewer to consider each piece in context to a specific gender and personality. While the names I choose aren’t in themselves important or significant, together they are an alphabetical list of Atlantic Hurricane names each relating to a particular year, some of these names, odd as they are, get public recognition during Hurricane season after particularly destructive power.
I have been interested in how paintings are named for some time, with a mainly abstract subject matter I find that giving a painting a particular item/emotion or phrase as a name results in too much being read into the image or creates a certain expectations in the reason for creating such an image. Personally I prefer to use more ambiguous names and systems to offer something different to a piece. There’s a long history of codes and systems being used to name paintings, there was a great article in issue two the sadly now defunct Art World Magazine which discussed the use of naming abstract painting, I can’t find a link to it but worth getting hold of.
Whilst studying my BA I created a series of paintings based on songs of numerous rock bands, in a sort of pop Synesthesia creating coloured multi layered abstracts mapping out sounds, progression and tempo. For this body of work I wanted to hint at the origin of the work without spelling it out and decided to use the surname of the guitarist from each song in the title, at the time I was particularly interest in Basquiat’s work and noticed that he titled works as Untitled then occasionally in brackets a hint at what was the work could be about – such as Untitled (Angel). What I liked about this method was that I could create a series of abstract works seemingly unrelated to one another except for certain a gestures and palatte and offer a hint to only the most informed viewer. When showing the likes of Reznor, Richards, Finck, Iha and Hammett together at my degree show the names start to make sense and unravel the influence.
In 2007 I moved to the more geometric style which I use today and with it a change in title, I employed a numbering system featuring year of creation and work number creating an order – 07.1/07.2 etc as a way of striping back any reference what so ever, except for production information. From the Art World Magazine article mentioned earlier, I learnt of John Hoyland’s titles from the 1960 who employed a similar method.
The painting’s title, 17.3.69, refers to the date on which it was completed. The use of a date as title has diaristic resonances, suggesting an element of personal expression at odds with the numerical code and the controlled, abstract composition.
I’ve been using the Hurricane names since 2008, I came across them by chance after hearing of a particular storm and wanting to know more where the names come from and what they mean. Originally I didn’t reveal the source or at least not in writing but I’ve since found it adds a further layer to the works and is a good discussion point, so much so that I’ve started to feature it in press releases – see ULTRAMEGAOK entry from December.
This current system of naming combines what I had with the personification of the Guitarist names and the order of creation of the 07.x series in the form of alphabetical distribution. The Atlantic Hurricanes names are in a 6 year cycle, so I have enough material to keep me going until 2013, I like the fact that on completing a piece I can consult the list and check off a name – an autonomous system of working. During the year some of the pieces take on a new found meaning following a particularly bad storm, in such cases when a certain level of destruction has occured the names are retired from the list and replaced with a new name of the same letter which will feature when the list comes round once more 6 year later.
Another artist I admire, Tomma Abts titles her paintings in a similar way working from a dictionary of regionally German names which are not often unfamiliar to English speaking audiences, unlike my method I guess she employs a level of editorial control and perhaps looks for certain qualities within the paintings before choosing a name, or maybe its all down to chance?
(…imagines a show of paintings such featuring the likes of Harry, Tony, Benny and Eddie, Bertha, Joaquin, Dolly and Mindy, Fewe, Lübbe, Mehm and Teete all shouting out for attention.)
REBECCA GELDARD’S TOP 10 LONDON SHOWS IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY 2010
Brown have wisely charged painters with the job of selecting artists for their survey of current painting practices in the capital. Gabriel Hartley, Rannva Kunoy and Luke Rudolf have each invited one artist who has then invited another, and so on, to a total of 36. It’s an exhibition strategy peppered with risk given the inevitable diversity of the final selection and the issues raised about geographically-specific lists as a result of prioritising the tastes, interests and peer-group alliances of many producers over those of one or two curators. Across this tonally complex and internationally rich spectrum one can expect to find every kind of painting: from the expert illusionism of key abstract British painting figure Mali Morris, to Clare Price’s digi-knitwork motifs unravelling; the ghostly stripped-out figuration of Miho Sato or Dale Adcock to Tim Ellis’s battered-cotton tarp.
I mentioned this show in a blog entry last month, it opens Thursday and the full list of artists can be found below.
January 7 – February 6, 2010
Opening Reception: January 7 from 6-8PM
Tag: From 3 to 36 – New London Painting
For the exhibition – Tag – Three London-based painters have each been asked to invite one other London-based painter they like or admire, who will then invite another, and so on. This has resulted in 36 artists being invited to participate, each with their own unique style of painting.
Tag was a way to allow each artist to ‘curate’ or organize the next step in the exhibition, in a similar way to exquisite corpse, where each person asked to contribute is aware of the person who precedes and follows, but is unaware of what is being contributed. Similarities appear between artists within each tagged thread, often marking a close understanding of the invited painter’s work. Viewers may examine each work, and decipher influences or contrasting differences.
Tag also perhaps gives a better survey of current London-based painting than a single organizer could give – as abstract and figurative painters, recent graduates and more established artists, and a variety of mediums and sizes are shown here side by side.
The rules each artist received when asked to participate were the same:
Each participating artist must be a painter who resides in Greater London
Each person must contribute one painting, smaller than 90 x 90 cm
Each artist will ask one other artist to participate, until 15 artists are included in each thread
As there was a given time frame, many artists were quick to respond and participate. However, as any exhibition with rules would likely discover, the rules can also break down. In one thread, an artist was unresponsive after agreeing to participate, leaving a short space of time to try and finish the chain. Therefore, another artist was asked in their place, who then asked two artists in order to try and create separate branches and a longer thread. Although this thread is still the shortest of the three, this directional shift adds greatly to the basic idea of Tag – that surprises and turns in an exhibition, or an artist’s work, trump any rules.
(In order within the three threads. Underlined names are the initial three artists who were asked to contribute by Brown)
Alexis Marguerite Teplin
Sophie von Hellerman
Cullinan + Richards
David R. Fenwick
Annie Hemond Hotte
Lower Ground Floor
42 Hoxton Square
London N1 6PB
+44 (0)20 7729 1290
I’m pleased to have been selected as this weeks Curators choice on Axis website. My painting Bill will be display on the front page of the directory section all week. http://www.axisweb.org/Directory.aspx
New Year – New paintings underway. With ULTRAMEGAOK coming down at the end of December and Odette completed for Tag @ Brown which opens this Thursday, all the pieces I have been working on have now been completed, while the studio certainly isn’t empty I always like to have something on the go. Over Christmas I’ve stretched up 10 canvas 25.4 x 35.5 cm to get going on for the new year, I’ve always found it hard to work on a primed canvas, with my thinned oil dripped background I usually apply a layer to tint the canvas and give some flow and texture to the future painting. I much prefer to speedily cover the primed canvas rather than start painting directly on to it which can often come across as muddy – particularly with the brown tones I use.
With some of the large architectural pieces from last year I used a thick dark black/brown mix on the sides as a border with a thinned colour in the same tone on the face, the dark tone gave the paintings a depth of ground with any additional application of paint lightening the composition. These 10 pieces currently in progress are stretched with a primed polyester which is very smooth and bright white, for a while I’ve been thinking about using brighter coloured grounds which would work particularly well with the bright white primer. The colour I’ve mixed up is a baby pink, a total opposite to my usual, with each canvas I tried a different type of application from thinned dripped ground, splatted, pooled and thicker applications. Since the photo was taken I’ve been working the pink into the background with a dark more usual palette over the top, letting the warmth work more subtly.
This sort of bright palette reminds me of Thomas Scheibitz’s excellent exhibition at Camden Art Centre in 2008, he uses lots bright oranges and pinks amongst darker colours in his large scale paintings and works on paper.