Drawing, Spontaneous Environment and Capturing Gesture

I got to the stage when I started to develop my ideas further in this final stage of the project, when I realised that I didn’t have the right visual material to my work forwards. I took guess another series of photos using fabric to secure the figure. This was directly inspired by my trip to Florence where I was really interested in the way that the sculptures had drapery which obscured parts of the body and sort of seem to strangle and wrap around figures partway through movement. In a series of photographs, I had three models myself and two others are very young girl and another adult female. We used quite heavy fabric to twirl around our bodies as we moved and I imagine that this would look like there was some sort of conflict still, which links with my earlier photos of struggle, but possibly conflict with the self. I printed about 250 photographs, this was after careful editing and selection. I felt it was really important to have a lot of images so that I could combine and further edit and crop, taking limbs from one figure to another, and making figures interact with themselves at a different stage of movement. Are used tracing similar to Jenny Saville to record the figures outlines. This helped me to bend combine different combinations of figures moving, to begin to consider new compositions for paintings. I wanted to show movement, and a sense of tangling, wrapping, and general struggle. Possibly some sort of fight, or a child being led away by another child. I hope that this would bring a sense of menace, or suggestion of something that might happen in the future, linking with my research into narrative painting. Below are some of the drawings layered and combined to devise different compositions. I then selected, and refined from these combinations of figures to take forward into the larger paintings.

One of the main challenges I’ve had throughout the MA is dealing with the context and background for my figures. The environment has gone from being quite plain, block colour backgrounds, and then slowly moved into more figurative scenes. When I did this the paintings became more illustrative, more literal, and the feedback that I got was that they were quite static which went against the idea if fluidity that I was trying to portray. I was looking back at some of my previous painting, the earliest stages the paintings are quite pale, quite light with a real sense of white coming through from the ground at the campus. Later, they become much darker which portrays a sense of menace. However, the quality of the painting is less fluid, and there is a lack of focus within the picture plane. This is been a criticism of my work and one which I have taken on board for the final project. I have experimented with using blocks of colour in the background, four example the Rose madder and cream background of one of my earlier large-scale paintings. However, on reflection they still appear to be static, the figures fixed, the brushstrokes not as gestural and evident as they could be. I began working on quite a small scale with loose, fluid backgrounds, using a range of different media. I tried using watercolour, washed down acrylic, and finally mono printing ink which were particularly successful, as they allowed me to remove the element of planning of my practice as I was drawing the figures without acknowledging the shapes and marks on the paper surface. printing ink. I then experimented with applying figures to the surfaces to try to embed a figure. I noticed that the figure began to recede and emerge from the background depending on the depth of colour and contrast. I played around with a obliterating sections of the figure using emotion, and drawing using graphite and coloured pencils to tangle the figures and make sections of them disappear. This created quite a good reference to my research into Marina Warner’s  fantastic metamorphoses which discusses the idea of the grotesque body being incomplete, cyclical, always changing, merging and evolving. There was one drawing in particular that I produced which I thought was really successful, and it showed the body moving and sort of dissolving. This was a product of my cutout pieces I did in response to Matisse’s cutout exhibition at the Tate modern.

I have been experimenting on a larger scale using the same technique to create background. This is directly in response to the criticism that I had in feedback from tutors saying that when my work got bigger I lost the gestural spontaneous element. So I spent quite a lot of time trying to work out how I was going to recreate the same movement of media on the surface. I decided to use watered-down printing ink to create stains, splatters, and puddles and also some gestural broad brushstrokes based on my water photographs from the Langstone shoreline. These mainly consist of diagonals and stripes which lead away to a horizon. So here there is a reference to an actual environment with out being literal and illustrative. I decided to work with the canvases flat to allow the watermark to remain when the ink dries. For my experiments I also know that I can paint effectively with oil paint on top of water-based ink without the stains moving. I didn’t plan where the figures were going to be before the stains were made, so there is true spontaneity within the painting and the act of painting and the mark making on the surface. I’m also quite interested in the way that the stains and marks interrupts the figures which are placed on top. Because of the thin nature of the ink I’ve decided that I’m going to use my paint in the fluid fashion, using turpentine to fit in the paint to create a semi translucent surface whether figures interact with the background. I will see using more elements of drawing and painting so some areas of the figures are reduced to single lines.


As I’m working from my photographs of figures wrapped in fabric, I am omitting the sections of the body which is obscured by the fabric surface. This allows me to use photos and compositions which are true to life, but still have the unfinished element which adds instability and potential energy. It was reflecting on the backgrounds I have made their reminded me of energy masses and the slightly space-like, cell-like structure. I quite like how the small explosions can be used to replace the face, limbs or sections of the body, interrupting the body space in giving a sense of unfinished, or potential. This I believe is a visual representation a. of gesture b. of potential c. of trace. This complements some of the reading that I’ve been doing about the trace dance, although I haven’t fully analysed this text yet. The final thing that I need to mention, is that I have yet again broken my making habit. These paintings of three of the most difficult paintings I’ve ever made and I feel that these could be potentially in the M A show. I am used to planning more of the canvas composition but I have to provide to respond directly to the surface and make decisions about what to include, and what to omit. It’s been very important to respond directly to what is happening on the canvas and not to pre plan what the painting will look like. This is a complete and total turnaround in the way that I think about making work. I find this very difficult, and the element of time is also tricky but I have put aside longer length of time to engage with the work and sit and properly review and evaluate it while I’m in my studio. Sometimes I move my campuses around so that I can see them in relation to each other as there is a sense of narrative running through them and I want to create A story, some sort of narrative which links each painting without it being a series of stages in one plot. I am really excited by these new pieces and I’m trying to limit the colour palette within each canvas so that it isn’t distracting for the viewer. I am also leaving quite large areas white so that the viewers eye is drawn to the more busy areas four example where bodies connect or there is a deeper, or darker colour. Well I am using quite thin layers I’m able to work quickly at first, as each layer dries within a day. I am enjoying the translucency of the media but I’m also using some glazing, so far only with white paint, to create some different textures on the painting surface. I will see using my traced photographs as a reference for the compositions. One that is particularly difficult, is the two tangled bodies which I drew in reverse as at aesthetically it seemed to look better and make a real point of using a diagonal composition with the figures seeming to fall into the bottom corner. This is quite uncomfortable and reminds me of sheilas drawings of tangled, awkward bodies. Also Paula Rego’s painting of snow white, although this isn’t a deliberate reference. Purple painting two copies of the same character is across the space. One seems to lead the other by the hand. Maybe this suggests that they are up to mischief, or there is some sort of trouble parallel. The third is of the creation of a section of an earlier panting. This one I’ve used negatives Space which references Matisse’s cutouts, but also a sense of absence. The figure on the right is almost completely obliterated. The previous painting of this composition, I feel that I included too much of the right-hand figure, justifying why I have made this decision. This is still work in progress and very much a working surface, fluid, and moving. I will need to be careful that I don’t overwork these pieces, which has need to be very aware of how the surfaces evolving, and document the painting as I move through the making.

One Month Reflection

This was absolutely a turning point from me when my making began to be driven by the ideas rather than the visual plan. Although the work I made at this point wasn’t fully resolved in terms of technique, I have continued to use this technique of making stains and drawing into the surface, reducing figures to pure line. It also made me realise the importance of an implied background, an environment or binding ground, rather than an illustrative space. The onus on at this point became the record of the maker at the site of the work, something I have developed into my Trace Dance series.

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