Paint Box

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Record of feedback from paired discussions and group crits

The first paired crit came almost before we had begun our work for the Studio Practice unit. What was really useful was E. and I were able to discuss our reflections from the previous unit and begin to collaboratively formulate strategies to tackle the next unit. The key issues I felt had been raised from the exploratory project were as follows...
I needed to extend and refine studies rather than moving between multiple ideas. This had been rather a bone of contention for me in my feedback as I felt it was contradictory to the feedback I had received during the Exploratory Project. However, I identified a need to refine and develop my practical skills so decided to investigate glazing techniques in order to become a better painter.
In addition there were a number of aspects of my practice which I felt had been a success in the Exploratory Project, so we discussed how I could take these forward. These included using different viewpoints, including the whole figure and developing context by placing figures in an environment.
We also discussed how to manage blog entries and I decided that I would generate 10 posts which would run simultaneously as lines of enquiry through the project, to include paintings, contextual research and practical methods.

Group Crit
Statement  - good use of visual words (JK)
 well written, the best of the four (CP)
“…am interested in the notion of fluidity both in media and character” not sure what was meant by this (JK)
I read this as Alexa not doing straightforward portraits (CP)
Macabre – yes, playful – not sure about this (the first one is just dark), dont see anything in relation to sugary colours. 2nd image more playful, in part due to the pose of the central character and also because of the playfulness with scale (birds), character on left is macabre/dark again, has an ambiguous background
3rd image ��� very, very dark, not really a human child at all, more like a creature, and the hunched cramped-ness is dark (CP)
The work is threatening (EB)
Scale and tension – the heads are always too big for the bodies- the characters are ‘in your face’ but the colour does not create a sugary fa├žade (JK)
Not sue if the fact that the litho image is a print is what makes it darker  (CP)
 it is more about the marks they are scratchy (JK)
It is also about the use of space, creating a sense of menance (EB)
Also it is the cropping of the head, it’s a sense of scale (JK)
The first images is sinister for another reason they look like children but in fact their poses are provocative and coy (CP)/The white oval shapes are eggs (EB)/The eggs are a bit lost (JK)
The litho offers a very good method to explore the narrative and character in the works, the process of the transfer of images from stone to paper offers the opportunity to explore the quality of line ands the starkness of b/w work, do more! (CW)
Characters are alive and fluid – by contrast the bird appears inert, rather lifeless (EB)
The people have volume, the bird is flat, like decoration (EB)
Wonder if Alexa drew the bird from life or from a photograph? (CP)
Although it would have been better if I had been able to attend the crit, I feel that the comments were quite perceptive and are starting to refer aline with my intentions. I think I made an error with the placing of the bird as it has created a problem with the space within the painting as it was supposed to be outsized, but instead appears as something in the immediate foreground. I haven't decided how to deal with the 'eggs' yet but am going to leave them until I have resolved more of the painting - I feel that they should be negative space but this should add to ambiguity, not just appear random of forgotten. I am definitely going to make more prints but have a issue with equipment and access to a printing press at  the moment. I really think that the drypoint works well to draw out a more intense, psychological message from the figure. However, I am unsure as yet about where this fits with my current body of work and focus on painting, except for the general development of technical knowledge. There may be a link with Paula Rego's graphic works...

I had made huge progress with my work since the initial paired crit with Eleanor, so my discussion with Amelia was really positive and motivating. We discussed the process that I had used to work into my paintings and had I had tried to really push the work further than I was comfortable. Amelia said that she found the girl with the wings really engaging because of her direct gaze. She observed that the paintings weren't as ethereal - the denser colour seemed to make them more substantial. She said that my work before was more transparent and transient, these pieces more meaningful, less fleeting. She felt that I hadn't lost the elements which worked but that my ideas appeared more formed. We discussed how I had responded to Caroline's process of building up and taking away elements - although this is very difficult to do with painting, I have photographed each stage and continued to push the work by building up layers. In a sense, if I push the work too far, I am prepared to accept that as part of my learning process. Amelia loved the saturated colour and the way the figures appeared goblin-like, the characters more fleshed out and intriguing. I felt that this crit was extremely positive and gave me the first feedback that I had had about the new developments.

Group Crit
For the group crit I presented the latest photographs of the three paintings. We talked about the significance of leaving the eggs blank - I had left these as spaces as I wasn't sure whether to paint them as I was cautious of them becoming decorative. Through discussion we established that the blank spaces reinforced ambiguity and made the scene more awkward, which was positive. They could also reference the idea of treading on eggshells and the figures' 'odd, cracked personalities'. We talked about the playing children painting and how the bird seemed to be floating with undefined feet. This created an unsettled intention and made the 3D space unconvincing, with the girl and bird fighting. I had intended to make the space seem tangled but this wasn't communicated clearly, so I need to address the spatial aspect of the composition. J suggested that I look at Hockney's Old Masters series to investigate practical methods. C said that the girl in the tree house painting looked like she was wearing a tattered hunting coat. We discussed the horizon which seemed to cut across the girl's shoulders. I have since obscured the harsh line with beginnings of a tree supporting the house. C said that it reminded her of Louise Bourgeois' 'Femme Maison' which I am going to investigate. Angela suggested that I also look at anime characters who have shape shifting powers - I am quite intrigued by the idea of joining figure with other structures or forms, this made me think of the research I did into the Doppelganger book which I will re reference. I also intend to read 'The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales' by Bruno Bettelheim as a result of this crit. 

Marlene Dumas - contrast, deathly, crumpled, gaze
Francis Bacon - contorted, dark, muted, twisted, blurred
James and I had a really positive dialogue about both of our bodies of work. This was particularly useful as we both had made developments in our work but hadn't directly critiqued each other so our discussions were fresh and stimulating. James felt that the quality of the glazes created a 'sadonic' effect and that despite the primary colours, there seemed to be a sinister underlying message. We talked about the corn image which James felt showed deformity because of the cropped arms and hanging legs, and how there was a subtext to the fairytale-like imagery which made them creepy and violent. James felt that there was a clear link between my work and the images I had attached through viewpoints and spaces which tricked your eye. My intention to place the audience in a different viewpoint is starting to work as the viewer is not sure where they are looking from making the work confusing and intriguing. We talked about playing with age of the characters to create a sense of unease - James felt this was particularly present in the corn painting where the clothes and position of the figures is childlike but the expressions are much older. I am intending to work into the face of the girls in the 'fairy' painting to add a sense of ageing. If their age and identity is unfixed, the characters may be easier to identify with, or will encourage the audience to project their own experience whilst engaging with the work. James felt that Nicky Hoberman was a really good reference for my work as her paintings provoked a similar reaction and she deals with dis figuration through the positioning of her models. Although she is largely using coloured backgrounds rather than context, I respond to the way she explores the gaze and manipulates the figures. In response to Angela's comment about the artist references not capturing the same 'profound psychological impact' (except for Francesca Woodman), we discussed possible other painter references including Marlene Dumas, Lucian Freud, Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon and Jenny Saville. I am going to revisit these artists to see if there are links that I can make.  We also discussed the physical space in the paintings and how it was convincing because of the perspective. I am going to print some more photos of the up to date paintings to work on top of to try and resolve the space problem, as this was an effective way of working before.

Jenny Saville - raw, averted gaze, shadow, strained
Edvard Munch - vulnerable, dark shadow, closed body, direct gaze, confrontational
Lucian Freud - truth, light, focused, flesh
Nicky Hoberman, distorted, gaze, high viewpoint, no context
Balthus - Guitar Lesson



It had been quite a while since Claire and I had spoken one-to-one, and we had both made leaps in our work so this was a very constructive conversation. We spoke about the petals I had added which suggested the wallpaper wilting. Claire thought this worked well and that it added to the cluttered and cramped appearance. We talked about the cropped bird and how this added disharmony which now seemed to work; it was an early compositional decision I made and has grown into a challenge; it now has 'lovely solidity'. We discussed the woollen sleeves I have added recently; Claire said they reminded her of rhino skin or an insect as they appeared armoured and mechanical. I'm really pleased that she felt they were evocative of different conceptual ideas rather than just clothing as I intended the figure to be brought even further forward. The feet of the girl on the right are still unbalanced - we agreed that this was because of the blue around the heel which made the foot disjointed from the floor.  I am going to glaze over this to hide the blue so it's more cohesive with the ground. After talking about the triangular composition in this painting, Claire felt that as a viewer you were stuck in the frame because of the gaze of the different characters, making it claustrophobic. We spoke briefly about the weird little creatures in my corn painting, and how the eggs are more nested because of the gestural strokes of broken straw. I am still having trouble with the hand, it looks dead but I am waiting to glaze yellow ochre over it to warm it up. In fact I think it looks prosthetic which is something I may play on. Claire found the little circles on the pirate top visually confounding - they reminded her of flesh cut open and held her attention; I hadn't thought about flesh but added the detail to break up space which wasn't working with the rest of the figure. I only have two weeks left of making so am going to try to address the issues raised in this crit before drying time commences.

Red Fox

I started making this painting marginally after the other two and broke away from my intention to include two or more figures in an image. Instead I placed a fox at the feet of the figure, and later a treehouse in the background to juxtapose different elements. Using the same stance, I replaced the head and clothing of the figure while still keeping the high viewpoint and distorted perspective at the feet.

Unit 1.4 viewpoint photo

What is your art practice about?
This piece appears more fairytale linked than the other narrative pieces, but it was not originally intended to be so. I wanted to suggets a sense of secrecy, a hiding place through adding the treehouse. There is also a reference to theatre flats where a shadow is cast on the tree by the girl, although the girl is suggested to be much nearer to the viewer. I manipulated the different viewpoints to lead the eye around the image, and gradually concealed the treehouse more and more with glazes of foliage to build ambiguity.

How has your work developed in the last six months? What do you wish a viewer to derive from the experience of viewing/hearing your work? 
Before this unit, I may have chosen the face of this girl and created a head and shoulder portrait on a plain or empty background. However, I created a hybrid figure which played with viewpoint to make the viewer encounter the scene with a sense of storytelling, and using their own memory of childhood to identify with the work. I deliberately distorted the fox and drew a parallel between the feet of the fox and the girl to refer to the idea of the mirror. Her tattered hunting jacket is suited to the outdoor environment; she almost reminds me of the Red Riding Hood from Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes, a much more canny and manipulative character.

How do you position your practice in a contemporary context? 

During a group crit, C said that the treehouse emerging from the girl's shoulder reminded her of Louise Bourgeois' 'Femme Maison' series. I think this was quite an ambiguous and perceptive link - the intention is different but the architectural and human form merging reflects my interest in shapeshifting and mask. My original intention was to skew the viewpoint in the painting so the viewer appeared to be looking down on the girl and the treehouse grew behind her to add a sense of context. However, I felt that these two elements should be physically joined to make the composition more awkward.

Louise Bourgeois
The Bourgeois reference also made me think of the sculptural work of Emily Speed, where the work is worn or inhabited. It functions a shell which protects the artist inside but also creates a claustrauphobic space which cannot be seen out of. There is potential here in terms of creating structures which grow on or emerge from a figure or figures. This could lead to a more indepth enagagement with shapeshifting and scale.
Emily Speed
Kiki Smith - 'Daughter' 1999 - The distinctive red cape and subverted face with beard give this sculpture a twist away from the original fairytale. This photograph also shows the whole figure from a slightly high viewpoint.
Paula Rego 'Red Riding Hood on the Edge' - Gestural, dominant red colour, strong shadows and a sideways gaze which meets the viewer directly. She looks dangerous.

Nicky Hoberman - 'Vampire' 1998 - Vampire uses the high viewpoint but more so to really crumple and distort the body. The red colour is dominant in the image but transplants the girl from any context.

What criticisms might be made of your work?
A criticism of this work might again be that the space between elements in the painting isn't believable. It was suggested to me that I could make more of the layers, and emphasise the layers and idea of theatre flats; however I feel that I would like to improve my painting skill to convincingly create space with perspective and manipulated scale, without the elements looking flat. I know this is something I need to practice as it is a concern I have with all my paintings. This image may also not be awkward enough in that that the ambiguity comes from my practical knowledge rather than intentional communication.


Fairy Play

Unit 1.4 viewpoint photo

Unit 1.3 collage created using legs from 1.4 photo and same face from different angle repeated

My idea for this piece was to juxtapose two figures who interacted with each other, suggesting a sense of play. I wanted to use costume and scale to create contradictions and ambiguity; a sense of inside and outside context to make the viewer question the setting, and a different composition from my original collage which is why I introduced the bird to triangulate the gaze and keep the viewer's eye in the image. 

What is your art practice about?
This painting explores narrative and sets up conflict between scale (giant bird, small figures), age (girls appear young but faces betray older knowledge/experience), environment (inside/outside) and inanimate/living objects. The wallpaper references Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and seemingly wilts from the printed wall design. The girl in the foreground is hunched and awkward, and peers intently at the viewer. She is goblin-like with exaggerated features which adds to her power.
How has your work developed in the last six months? What do you wish a viewer to derive from the experience of viewing/hearing your work?
This work again uses far more saturated colour which adds to the intensity of the work. The paint surface uses stains, dribbles, washes and glazing to create a much more complex painting. This is intended to make the figures more believable, and to bring particular areas to the viewer's attention e.g the face of the figure on the left. There are layers and a clear mid, back and foreground which set up subtle space relationships to link the 3 main components. This was a real experiment and I am still unsure as to whether the cropping of the bird works; I had difficulty in creating a believable space but I think this is reasonably, though not completely resolved. The figures are hybrid and share legs which originally came from the same series of photographs. Although this a subtle addition, I used this device to link the two figures and address duality.
How do you position your practice in a contemporary context?
Although there are thematic references which link all of my paintings, there were some specific images which were instrumental in my construction of this work.
Anna Gaskell - Wonderland - The sense of play, costuming and reference to literature are all relevant to my painting construction. However, I didn't want to use the extreme cropping employed by Gaskell or the averted gaze in such an extreme way. I also responded to the way that there are dominant colours and dark shadow.
Tim Walker - Walker has played with scale and brought inanimate objects to life to create scenes which reference recogisable tales. The figures inhabit a domestic setting which I have experimented with in my painting.
Tim  Walker - showing outside, inside, strong lighting creating dark shadows. A sense of play, hiding, mischief and subversion.
Meghan Boody - Psyche's Tail - Juxtaposition of opposites and a sense of duality, one good and one bad 'twin' in settings with animals, give viewers a glimse of narrative
Nicky Hoberman - Honeybun - I love the high viewpoint in the this image and the way that the central girl meets the viewer's gaze directly in a challenging and manipulative way. The other girls are awkward and angular and the lack of background displaces them from their original context (this is something that I have tried to move away from in the last 6 months.
Claude Cahun - playing with scale and taking on the guise of a much younger girl. The chest seems to dwarf the figure and although sleeping, she is wedged in awkwardly, seemingly concealed or hiding.
Claude Cahun - This photograph is much more confrontational. The kneeling pose, open and suggestive. The costume is hand made and reminds me of a children's nativity play. Cahun stares out from the image, accusingly, as if inviting us to challenge her. Where I used myself as a reference to add age to the faces, Cahun seems appropriate to reference as she almost stages a younger self.
What criticisms might be made of your work?

This painting presented huge challenges for me which I could not have anticipated when I made the original composition. I have never tackled space in this was before and found it really difficult; firstly this was because my painting skill prevented me from painting convincing perspective, and secondly because I wanted to play with scale but this then posed a problem where the expected relative size of components didn't relate to the viewer's expectation of how they would encounter them. This repeatedly came up in crits and tutorials so I tried to use glazing to push certain areas back and emphasise the layers (foreground, midground, background). This piece may also be too ambiguous; however, I really wanted to push the oddities in the image and this evolved over the months of making. I had difficulty painting the face of the smaller figure because she was bleached out in the original photograph, so I took photos of myself to look at the light and angles of the face. I then worked into the left hand figure from photos of myself too, this made the figures seem older, further jarring them with the concept (successfully).