Month: August 2008

Cy Twombly and other things wot I’ve done

Went to see the Cy Twombly exhibition at the Tate with my bestest buddy Jill, it was so much better than I expected.  I think I was a bit phased by him before but seeing a huge amount of his work exhibited in the one place made me appreciate him more.  I was especially inspired by the white sculptures – gave me plenty of ideas for my weird collection of found objects.  Here’s bits from my sketch book – Poems to the Sea was amazing, a room filled with 24 of his framed sketches – Emin did it too but Twombly did it better.  I also liked the sculpture “In memory of Alvardo Campos” in the form of an alter and was blown away with the green paintings “A painting in Nine Parts” for the Italian pavilion at the Venice biennale – bloody brilliant – especially the one where the paint escapes onto the frame!

Blurb from the exhibition:

Twombly’s ability to bring together American and European influences was evident even in his early works. Their predominantly black and white palette was one of the defining traits of Abstract Expressionism, while what he described as their ‘weathered, corroded and aged surfaces’ already suggests an affinity with post-war European art.  The earliest painting in this room, MIN-OE, was made while he was studying at Black Mountain College. Its symmetrical composition was based on both tribal art and archaic Iranian metalwork known as Luristan bronzes.

In 1951, Twombly travelled to Italy and Morocco with Robert Rauschenberg. Tiznit and Quarzazat, with their scratched and gouged surfaces, were named by Twombly after towns they visited in Morocco, although both were painted later in New York. His early sculptures, assembled from discarded objects, similarly cast their gaze back to Europe and North Africa: Untitled (1953) resembles a pan pipe, formed from a slightly dishevelled row of wooden scraps, rusty nails and soiled bandages.

In 1954, Twombly was conscripted and trained as a cryptographer in the US Army. At night he made drawings in the dark, retracing the Surrealist technique of automatic writing. The experience fed into Criticism, Academy and The Geeks, whose multiple layers of paint and graffiti-like pencil scribbles simultaneously refer to and subvert Abstract Expressionism. The titles were ascribed arbitrarily from a list drawn up in collaboration with Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

Also spent a fair amount of time in the printmakers workshop – decided to be adventurous and make a two colour litho based on one of my life drawings.  Got as far as the photographic plate stage – stay tuned!

Have also been doing some paintings – so I feel virtuous!



Man and nature represented in many ways and cultural forms.  Relationship between humans and animals, environmental responsibility, nature of beauty and mankinds place in the landscape.  Our simultaneous reliance on and struggle for control over the natural world.

Start by sourcing artists work.

Sam Durant – Upside Down Pastoral Scene.  Inverted artificial tree trunks grafted with real roots, fitted with audio speakers and installed stump side down.  Root side up on mirrors (I like the use of mirrors!)

Marcel Dzama, 500 paper sheets per show, unframed and pinned to wall “like fugitive pages from a twised bedtime storybook”.  Sparse backgrounds and isolated characters.

Trenton Doyle Hancock – proto-nuclear family, cartoonish illustrations, monochrome ink sketches.

Dean Hughes – a drawing inside a paper bag.  Like this idea, organic matter, paper wood, pulp, trees, bark.

  I plan to work more with painting/drawing/mark making and hopefully develop the idea into a sculpture.

Looking initially at the relationships between humans and animals – “if you were to come back an animal which one would it be?” – and what if the results were literal!OK so I like cartoonish illustrations and these could be adapted and put into environmental settings but I dont like it so its back to the drawing board.

Looked back at Richard Long – now here’s a boy who knows about mark making.  Oddly enough my idea came to me on holiday – its amazing how the brain can adapt when youre in Centre Parcs in the Lake District during the wettest 2 weeks in world history.

I took my son horse riding – well he rode, I sketched.

When we led the ponies down the disgusting wet piss and shit stained paths in our flip flops – I took note of the different marks made by man, animal and machine.  These horses are ridden daily – 3 times a day (NOT WEATHER PERMITTING!), they follow the same route with the only variant being the rider.  Paths get worn and foliage trampled.

The following morning it had been raining exceptionally hard so I went to the pottery painting room (!) and blagged a small bag of plaster.  I went back up the paths the horses take and photographed the prints in the mud.  Then I noticed some deep marks nearby, I think they are rabbit tracks, but whatever made them had definately been scared off as next to the normal deep prints there were lines as though the animal had scampered off in a hurry.  These were the prints I chose to cast as the horses prints will always be the same as we control their movement – however we will never be able to control the wild animals.  I love these casts and hope eventually to cast them in iron.


as I was discussing Bruce Nauman with Tracey Emin …

Tracey Emin: 20 Years – National Gallery of Modern Art.

If you have never heard of Tracey Emin then stop reading this article right now and get down to the Modern Art Gallery and decide for yourself.
Tracey Emin is one of the best known artists working in Britain today.  Born in London in 1963, she is a central figure in the generation of Young British Artists (or YBAs) that emerged in the early 1990’s and has produced some of the most memorable, compelling and iconic works of the last 15 years.  Her autobiographical, confessional art has tapped into the mainstream of public consciousness, and has contributed to an unprecedented surge of interest in contemporary art in Britain.

Emin studied at Maidstone College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, and has had major exhibitions around the world.  She became a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2007, and in the same year was selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, the largest and most prestigious event in the art world calendar.

Unfortunately her notoriety means that practically everybody has heard of, or has formed an opinion about Tracey Emin and her work.  A huge percentage of her work is biographical, we all know about her abortion, her rape and most of us have seen her slovenly made bed surrounded by used condoms, fag ends and dirty laundry – when it was entered as a contender for the Turner prize and exhibited at the Tate in 1999 tabloids ran competitions to recreate it using teenagers bedrooms stating the unoriginal “I could do that”.
Tracey spoke of her education, apart from passing her driving test every exam she ever sat was to further her knowledge of art.   Although she destroyed most of her work after getting her degree it was not an act of defiance, it was merely because the college had nowhere to store it and she did not want them to destroy it for her.

Tracey Emin happily posed for photographs at the Press View and after a quick race through the exhibition there was a questions and answers in the room with her tapestries hanging in huge frames.
The exhibition is fascinating, it is a collection of 20 years work, there is a room with a wooden rollercoaster made in 2005 entitled “It’s not the way I want to die” and rooms containing huge tapestries of blankets.  There is a huge collection of her mono-prints and some of her video work and neons.  It takes up the entire ground floor of the gallery and is the first major UK retrospective exhibition of work by Tracey Emin.   This exhibition brings together loans from private and public collections around the world.

We were introduced to Simon Groom(?) the director of the gallery and Patrick Elliot, the curator.   She talked about the logistics of hanging such a huge collection – it is an exhibition that has been 4 years in the planning (they were putting the finishing touched to it as we arrived), work had to be acquired from private collectors across the globe and shipped to Edinburgh.  The gallery had supplied her with a model of the gallery space so she could work out the best overview of the layout – she kept the model and now stores buttons in it!

The tapestries had to be removed from the frames as they were too big to get through the main gallery doors but finally seeing them all together in one small room was brilliant.  She talked about how (obviously) “all the work is about me” but explained that she was hoping to achieve a transferrance of ideas from her work – like with the tent – “when you crawl inside and look at everyone I ever slept with, you will come out thinking of everyone you ever slept with”.

She said that the course she did in philosophy was the best training she could have done for her art – as they are all about her ideas – I asked her about her plans for the meercats she made for the London plinth – she laughed and said that it was a bit of a joke really, she likes meercats and didnt expect her idea to be one of the final ones chosen she was glad it didnt win as she did not want to be remembered as the meercat woman and anyway, large sculptures scare her! And there was me believing the speel that had accompanied the idea, that meercats are lookouts and would protect the city etc – she just likes meercats!

What people seem to forget is that Tracey Emin is a Contemporary Artist, her installations are the result of lengthy trial and error and are representational of the “idea” – the bed was a response to a certain time in her life, just because it wasn’t painted by Van Gough does not mean it is not art.

Press responses have been pretty obvious, “celebrity is more important than real achievement, self revelation more gripping than anything created by talent and a considerable imagination” perhaps if journalists were not so lazy and looked at the art from a contemporary point of view then Tracey Emin would actually be given the credit she deserves.