I have finally made some progress with my current piece. This breakthrough stage follows a long period of stagnation and uncertainty. Re: living my trip with Captain Ahmed and the danger of the experience of sinking on his little and crude boat has made me realise the importance of hypnotic repetition of daily survival.
I developed a screen with images of fish we both caught while struggling to stay afloat. I proceeded with a complex process of overprinting and stating each layer with ink – somehow trying to imitate the sophistication of glazing while using a range of water based media, including inks and water soluble pastels. More developments will come soon.
I have started to introduce a range of vibrant details in the background space. The idea was to create a sense of cohesion and belonging. I have used a repetitive motif of a baobab tree, which is typically associated with this fantastic island. The current stage of the painterly process is below:
I have gone through a long process of consideration and reflection on my current painting. I was questioning how to make a radical progress with my current painting? On the one hand, the composition is intentionally balanced and scattered, on the other, the image lacks the desired level of depth and mood. My intention was to make it more dynamic and dramatic.
Currently, the skeletal silhouettes are quite rough and crude in execution. The idea is to echo the reality of my primary source – crows and ravens feasting on rotting seaweed, which is tumbled and mixed with rubbish, decomposing plastic and other organic matter, and surrounded by the most repelling possible stench. This analysis of my research findings describes and outlines both the source and the concept, while setting my work in a horrid, dark and depressing context.
Somewhere, in the centre of the compositional entrance, there is a portrait of myself. It is covered with an embedded text in Spanish. The fonts are almost impossible to decipher. My intention was to draw analogies to the final end and death of the most amazing and pure experiences in life. I wanted to question the purpose, sense, direction and destination, while embracing the most powerful existential thoughts and feelings.
Subsequently, I started to experiment with a range of glazes using alkyd paints. I wanted to drift away from the time typically used media in my studio: oil and encaustic media. Alkyd paints are thicker and stronger. They consist of thermoplastic polyester resins made by heating polyhydric alcohols with polybasic acids or their anhydrides. Their main function is to create protective coatings, which are resistant to ageing and general wear. This physical property of this toxic medium creates a significant clash with my need to protect the significance of the past. To experiment with the viscosity and luminosity of the glazes, I have diluted them with the best quality of extra virgin olive oil. The use of a top-of-the-range product, here again, is intentional and carefully thought out. The idea was to depart from commercial qualities of cheap and raw linseed oil. I wanted to replace them with a natural and silky translucency of an opulent food ingredient. It is like feeding the birds and, simultaneously, covering the essence of the subject matter of the under image with a preserving layer of indulgence, luxury and melancholia. The additional purpose of this is try to safe myself from the attack of the cruel and metaphorically important ravens and crows.
I have included below, two documentary photographs of the glaze alteration process. They illustrate a long cycle of the building of the layers. It consists of warming up and cooling down the compositional colour scheme. Ultimately, the developed image will be ‘touched up’ with oil bars in order to continue to increase the vibrancy of the tint and add another element to the piece – texture.
Looking back at the painting process, my inspiration came from both, observation of a primary source and digestion of a piece by Greta Alfaro. I saw her work on display at the Saatchi Gallery. Her 2009 piece called In Ictu Oculi, Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound, duration: 10:37) The Latin title in translation means ‘in the brink of an eye’.
She uses birds in a Hitchcock-like, metaphorical way. However, the meaning of her piece is different. It focuses on questioning human desires and has a very dark side to it. I thought that quoting her video and learning from her use of analogies and suggestions was very relevant to my painterly explorations.
I have gone through a long journey Exploration, trial and error with this piece. Initial observational and crude sketches of crows in hard pencil, were gradually transformed into dynamic and terrifying black silhouettes of individual birds in a herd. There is definitely something raw about this piece, which portrays a bizarre world with no source of light nor gravity. The mood is overpowering and depressing, perhaps overwhelmed by dirty browns and broken yellows. My painting echoes achievements of strange yet famous Munich grave painters, who limited their palette to the use of dirty colours and broken chroma. This was the main discovery of and I have decided to refer to their learning on the composition on my experimental composition.
Initially, I collaged a self portrait into the painterly space. I have carefully chosen this photo to make sure that it was personal Ly significant. Subsequently, I immersed myself in the creation of an arrangement, which contained energy and drama. Through scraping, glazing and overlaying, I managed to increase the element of a secret atmosphere, mood and, therefore, forced a reflection on a viewer.
The sipping light through the colour layers will later become subdued. I will use an overall glaze of a mixture of crimson Alizarin and Prussian blue. I will also consider using an oil based coat in order to ensure that there is an appropriate translucency and depth of the overlaying colour.
The final stage will be concerned with scrapping of the glaze and, perhaps, imprinting further textures into the existing layers to reveal a mysterious illusions of secrets underneath.
As a part of the process of development of my painting, I have decided to sidetrack it and experiment with digital possibilities and ideas. Yesterday, I devoted my time to drawing crows from observation using a pencil and paper. Subsequently, I moved on and transferred my source sketches onto the canvas using rough black marker pens. The next step was to consider a balanced and rhythmic composition. My creative intention was to achieve a sense of being overwhelmed and taken over by a herd of terrifying black birds. I started to increase the density of drawings, initially with small repetitive silhouettes and gradually increasing their sizes and numbers. My animation begins with a scan of a photograph of me. I have chosen this image carefully. It represents a personally significant moment of my life. In steps, it is replaced by some of my sketches, and than, moderately transforms itself into a black screen. This has some resemblance to the current crisis. It all started with just one mutation, which in turn has expanded enormously to create a global pandemic.
Crows and the use of black are of a metaphorical importance here. They symbolise emptiness, vacuum and nothing, but destruction and death.
I purposefully repeated this sequence and reversed its speed and direction. It grows and withers, reducing itself to a dead screen. This process is looped in order to create a feeling of entrapment and bizarre predictability. We all know, what is going to happen . The cycle has now been thoroughly researched and explored. The meaning of the world is created by a clash of the opposites and juxtaposition of contradictions. Life cannot be just one-sided. Life and death, growth and decline, light and darkness.
At this stage, the overall tonation of my painting is kept in ochre and dirty yellowish greens. In consequence to my digital experimentation, I plan to increase the amount of bright yellowish stains and bleeding patches, in order to over-glaze the entire surface with a deep wash of Alizarin and Prussian Blue. The aim is to enrich the depth of colour to enhance its impact on a viewer. Perhaps, removing parts of the over-layer will allow me to reveal some key elements of the space underneath.
Following a period of stagnation I have moved ahead with full steam. I have developed a new screen. The images comes from a repetitive Royal Thai pattern. It is of cultural significance and has resemblance to the glory of this country. I managed to wash out the light sensitive filler with great precision to reveal all sensitivities of detail.
However, my creative intention was to use the screen in a much more spontaneous way. I overprinted the colourful frame around the masseur. I tried to echo the existing colour scheme in order to achieve a sense of cohesion, unity and flow. To destroy an effect of a decorative motif, I used a wet sponge to work into the prints and make them bleed.
I continued with using rich alizarin crimson based colours and royal blues. Ultimately, the painting reached a very gloomy and dark stage. The central section with masseur begun to shrink and partially disappeared. The peaceful and relaxing interior of the salon was overwhelmed by the aggressive background , which had watery qualities and resembled an angry and powerful waves of an ocean. The collage of spin paintings has been lost under a build up of new layers of colour and strokes of a sponge and imprints of a towel.
I have reached a stage, where I can do nothing more but let the canvas dry.
The only question in my mind is – when will I see my work again. A repeatedly ringing thought, which is brought about by the current predicament.
This is my recent attempt to respond to the current situation. My project has redefined itself a few of times during a very long and turbulent journey through 9 countries. My observations and reflections have substantially changed their focus.
My initial interests were firmly placed on the uncertainties of tomorrow. The context for my investigation was mainly related to a range of economic disadvantages of people in the countries, which I visited. I was both: fascinated and terrified to learn how they deal with their daily lives. How inventive and creative they must become in order to survive.
Subsequently, I realised that everyone is waiting for a new pivotal occurrence. Something important to happen and bring about a significant and positive change. One way of dealing with this lengthy, stagnant and monotonous process is to get subjected by the conditioning of a hypnotic repetition.
My visual exploration of workers, who were suspended in the vacuum of that process, followed. I become intrigued by creating painterly responses based on analysis workers in Asia. This has allowed me to produce some of my recent and key achievements:
2. The Wheel of Fortune Seller
3. Three Burmese Monks
My video of the washing cycle of The Wheel of Fortune Seller is broken down into a number of independent parts. Each one is intended to be to have a separate meaning and be a metaphorical parallel to a chapter in life; from the start to the end:
Introduction of a middle-aged man with a face mask holding a Stanley knife. This scene is full of anticipation and automatic questioning: Who is he? What are his intentions? What is going to happen next? Are his intentions sinister?
Engagement of a background sound recording. This is a repetitive voice of an Asian female. It is difficult to understand and decipher. Her broken accent becomes much more clear with time. Her messages contextualise the scene.
Cutting the painting out and the shaking off. What is the intention? The voice starts slowly to become annoying. The shaking off is metaphorical for causing a loss of something and undergoing or suffering from a misfortune. My creative intention is to communicate how special and significant is the current pandemic situation in all broader contexts.
Magic of loading the washing machine. The painting appears to fly into the drum on its own. There is something theatrical, unreal and intriguing about this. It appears to be a bizarre ballet, a performance in the surroundings of a dirty corner – full of stains and clutter; in front of a red fire extinguisher, which symbolises a state of predicted and unavoidable emergency.
Washing – mundane and foreseeable. This part, coupled with a lengthy spinning cycle, is designed to test the patience. A new thought is born in my mind – when will this finish? Here again, this is a current question of primary importance and substance – perhaps on everyone’s mind (sic!)
Unloading. The female voice comes back. Something is finalised, concluded, yet the ‘old’ is reborn and reformed. It comes back like a haunting ghost from the past.
Final shake. It is intended to agitate – to get rid of what is there. The old is removed and no longer desired. The Wheel of Fortune Seller is erased from the surface of the painting. The old memories are gone. Let us hope, the real person behind the primary source character has a new and better life to enjoy and celebrate.
My intention was to create an almost religious and spiritual connotation.
Ultimately, the washed canvas will be stitched back onto the original stretcher. This refers to and implies a cyclic quality of life and its all events.
I have made some real progress today. I set up a video recording session of the washing of the Three Burmese Monks piece. Everything was arranged in the print room. As the DLSR run out of power, I had to result to using my iPhone XSMax with a tripod.
Following a discussion of details included in my storyboard, Georgie, our technician, agreed to help with the washing performance.
My picture frame was purposely wanky and crocked. I wanted to include a glimpse of a fire extinguisher and PVC pipes in the view. I also thought that bleeding stains on dirty floor make a valuable contribution to the overall impact of captured images, their meaning and the recording.
The raw footage is relatively long and full of accidental disruptions. They will all need to be edited out in order to create a cohesive video piece. The details of my plan will emerge soon, and continue to evolve and grow.
I enclose the final washed up image of the Three Burmese Monks piece and some raw and culminate footage below:
Following a long period of consideration and reflection, I have restarted work today on the Thai Masseur piece.
The main issue was to complete painting the face. On the one hand, I wanted for the portrait to be recognisable, on the other, I have struggled with solving a number of ethical issues regarding a possible reaction and rejection of my work by the model. I experienced this kind of a situation with one of the former pieces. Subsequently, this unpleasant episode had let to the destruction of my own work and several alterations to other experiments.
My new idea is inspired by deeply glazed and moody flemish paintings. I am especially inspired by Metsu and his self portrait. He positioned himself inside a window arch. This implies a composition within a composition. I am also using a double rectangular. My creative intention is to achieve a sense of ambiguity while drawing all attention to the centre – on the masseur. I want to rely on a visual suggestion of portraiture rather than a descriptive portrayal of a woman. The plan is to leave her facial features undefined, like a ghostly outline of what is really there.
GABRIEL METSU (LEIDEN 1629-AMSTERDAM 1667)
A Self-Portrait c.1655-8 Oil on panel | 37.7 x 31.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405943
To give the surface more vibrancy, I used water solvable oil pastels. ‘Dancing’ with a crayon on top of the painting allows me to achieve a sense of mystery – secret light, which brings out parts of the skull and the jaw – all in the dusk of the space portrayed.
The next stage of the painting process will be to glaze the overall piece with a variety of transparent layers of an acrylic medium, perhaps combined with some watered down PVA glue. This is to prepare the surface for the overprinting stage using the silk screen technique and enhance a feeling of unity between the different formal elements and parts of the composition.
I have already prepared a new pattern based on decorative elements, which I have isolated from the interior of the massage salon. I will use this design to create a random over-image. This, in turn, will have a dual function. The first is to help to engage the centre in the overall painterly illusion. The second aim is to increase the amount of detail and enhance holistic and expressive qualities of my piece.
At this stage, I am considering using a range of gold and crimson tones. This initial plan might be subsequently altered in favour of a more spontaneous and instinctive decisions and reflections in action.
I am enclosing photographs of the final stages of work today and a close up of the ‘New Face’
Following a discussion of available spaces for the summer exhibition, we were introduced to the details of an experimental group tutorial. The idea was to identify a conceptual problem for discussion with two partners. The participants were only allowed to use open questions to force the presenting person to reflect on own practice. This was an excellent opportunity to use the Socratic Approach. My group was very helpful and simply superb. I was able to benefit from both Jonathan’s and Donald’s input and feedback.
I questioned a conceptual cohesion between the painting process and the subsequent washing and erasing of the painterly surface.