Malaika is a young, tall, slim and beautiful woman. A unique composition of Ethiopian, Masai and Tanzanianian genes has made her body perfect and her face original, exotic looking and absolutely stunning.
She is a single mother of two and has no permanent residence. One daughter has a disability. She has no contact with the other child. Due to her turbulent upbringing, she received no education and is now struggling with basic reading and writing skills. She has no realistic chances of getting any meaningful employment. To survive, she has few options: the most lucrative is to marry a rich foreigner, the other other choices are less appealing.
Her life has been filled with pain, abuse and hardship. A long chain of continuous disasters and predicaments has started to affect the “perfect” look. At 33, her outstanding natural beauty is vanishing rapidly while making her future more and more uncertain.
I have started to work on a new presentation portfolio on Behance.
My work in progress can be viewed by clicking on the following link:
I will continue to update this collection of work as some key pieces are still missing.
This has also given me ideas of how I would like to present my work during the final show. I have exchanged correspondence with Aristotle and uploaded work files into my space on the shared google drive.
I am really looking forward to seeing the work being presented in this simple yet clear and aesthetic format.
All images are of identical height. They are equally spaced, probably further apart than on my rough design. The 7 central pieces are videos (the above design displays only 5) and my paintings on both sides. The order of my work may be adjusted.
The work on the left represents some initial research and experimentation. The pieces on the right are the most recent. Therefore, there is a sense of chronological progression throughout. The idea is to echo my journey, experiences and findings.
Ideally, it would be great to be able to click on each piece to enlarge it.
I am also planning to support each piece with an explanation using either a sound recording or text.
The sequence of my work files is: 7 paintings – 7 videos – 5 paintings.
Presentation in Progress:
This is a holistic and conclusive summary and visual outcome of my research, practical experimentation and analysis, which I have develop in consequence to my investigation into hypnotic repetition over the last few years.
I have attempted to portray my research findings as unreal. In the context of the current crisis, my ability to travel appears to be nothing, but a distant memory. The seriousness of the situation is reflected in a ‘torture like’ visual metaphor, which is intentionally ambiguous. The title implies a false show or pretence. The opulence of the Venetian mask has an important function here. It depersonalises the character. We are all entrapped in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition, regardless of status, age and location. The yellow and gold tonation imply a form of celebration, perhaps a masked ball, which allows all participants to misbehave without any possibilities of being recognised and punished. It creates a feeling of safety and removes all unnecessary barriers and limitations.
The process of washing is also of significance here. Its aim is to cleanse, purify and remove a burden of recollections and reminders of the past. It is a perfect time to move on and embrace the new normality in the brave and contemporary post pandemic world.
The narrative has a purposefully confused and partially non-sequential timeline. The underpinning idea is to disorientate potential viewers and make them question the purpose of the existence through an interpretation of the meaning of my video.
The spinning cycle of the machine has hypnotic properties and enhances the overall feeling of absurd, repetition and induces a fatamorgana of safety and cosiness.
In contradiction to logic, opportunities arise in life in order to break the mundane phenomenon of entrapment and never-changing routine. Perhaps, with increased sensitivity of observation, we would be able to free ourselves from this ballast and seek other endeavours and experiences to continue to make progress, develop and flourish.
The masquerade of ‘head-spinning’ continues, while we are all waiting for something to change and happen.
This crazy pirouette continues forever. One broken cycle leads to another entrapment. New becomes old almost instantly. One fulfilment expectantly turns into a disaster and we remain unsatisfied, while travelling on a piece of rock through space – paradoxically, entrapped in a hope that the final destination is anything but death!
However, with great and vulgar arrogance, we continue to refuse to accept that nothing lasts forever and everything will turn into dust.
Dust and darkness (sic!)
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 researched and tested a great number of possible platforms for the final show. Unfortunately, I have found them quite disappointing. The most common concept is to based on echoing a feeling of a physical gallery. Frequently, the software is very slow and clumsy in operation. Additionally, the overall effect is more focused on the look of the space rather than the work itself. Art becomes somehow secondary to the meaningless decorations and textures of walls, ceiling and the lighting.
The most popular online gallery is artsteps.com and https://www.furioos.com/ is best for streaming 3D work.
Other options, which are worth investigating are:
Alternatively, I have considered using a website, which is similar in design to behance.net.
I really like the simplicity, effectiveness and freshness of the front page. There is a grid of large block images, which is inviting and very clear. This website is able to accommodate a broad range of artefacts, including gifs files and video work. Photography on display is relatively high resolution and organised with order and structure.
Our group meets in Zoom on a regular bases to discuss possibilities for arranging the exhibition. All students are very proud and would like to present their research projects to the best of the abilities. Likely, Aristotle, who is one of our students, has offered to help everyone and donated both, his time and the use of his original software.
In preparation for my exhibition, I have carefully considered a range of ideas. My main intention is to make sure that the way, in which my work is displays reinforces its meaning. I would like to avoid using any unnecessary gimmicks and distractions.
In these unprecedented times, it is quite strange for a painter to accept that the final exhibition will not have a physical dimension. Frankly, I am saddened and overwhelmed by a lack of reality it terms of the experience of true colour, texture and painterly mastery of strokes. However, an artist and creative individual needs to seek opportunities in overcoming obstacles. Therefore, my intention is to excel myself and make the online exhibition even better, more refined and sophisticated. I would like for this to be a new learning curve full of controlled happy accidents, experimentation and deep reflection of what is appropriate in term of visual communication – my chosen language of expression.
The digital approach creates a new chance to experiment with a ‘space’, which supports and reinforces my messages in cohesion to deliver a holistic poetry about my painterly and video work.
Currently, I am planing for a long wall with three parallel and simultaneous video projections. This number can be possibly extended to four. I am in the process of working on a painting titled ‘Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces’. It is quite likely that I will make sufficient progress to video another washing cycle. This image is different to portraiture. Therefore, I was relatively hesitant to include this image. However, on reflection, it summarises my overall responses to my research findings in a time of lockdown and social isolation. We are all subjected to mortality, vulnerable and fragile. The end of our journey is the only certainty in our lives. Death is the culmination of our waiting, while being suspended in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition.
The side walls of the gallery will be dedicated to the display of the actual paintings. I should be able to exhibit between 8 and 10 canvasses.
It is all very exciting!
I have spent a considerable amount of time preparing my submission for the above award.
Confirmation message is below:
I have spent the whole day preparing my submission to this fantastic opportunity created by Zealous. Their aim is to motivate artists to review their practice in the time of crisis. As a reward, selected three winners will receive a portfolio review from industry professional, David Ferry, who is the President of the The Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.
Additionally, unsuccessful entries will receive another chance to reflect on their work. Zealous offer to arrange a comprehensive system of Peer-to-Peer Reviews.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of organising my portfolio online using their platform. Currently, I am nervously awaiting to hear back from the organiosors.
My confirmation email is below:
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.
This is the last photograph of my current piece. I had no option, but to leave it to dry. The new layers of paint and ink need time to settle down and cure.
I am feeling a sense of loss and sadness. The most annoying paradox is that now, in social isolation, I have an ocean of time to paint and produce exciting work. However, it is very difficult to transport my work between my studio and home.
There is a great similarity between the Thai Masseur and I, a sense of parity of our situation. Perhaps, the title of this piece describes it best:
Not Working, Only Waiting…
When will I see you again?
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’