Reflective writing journal Autumn 2014

In this post I reflect upon the art, artists and theoretical ideas that have a resonance with my art practice.  Please respond and leave a comment, if you would like to.

‘In Drawing Restraint 1, two mild inclines were constructed on either end of the studio.  An elastic line from the floor was strapped to my thighs.  As my body moved up the incline resistance increased. Drawings were generated at the top of the slope and along the walls,’ (Drawing Restraint Vol 1, 1987-2002, Matthew Barney; ed. Hans Ulrch Obrist, Fiction by Francis McKee; pub, Verlog der Buchhandling Walter Koing, Koln 2005, p.11)

I relate to Matthew Barney’s approach and interests. Resistance builds muscle in the training process.  My aim is to go higher and higher with my legs, using a ballet exercise which utilises resistance bands, commonly used in pilates.  My drawing is to be executed by my feet hitting paper at the height I can reach.  Progress will be marked over time.  The drawing will be a Trace of the increased flexibility of my legs.

‘Kazuo Shiraga…is famous for his technique of painting with his feet, sliding around on a canvas spread out on the floor whilst holding on to a rope hanging from the ceiling…In Japan he is primarily viewed as a pioneer who developed a new, action orientated approach to painting.  By contrast the West sees him as responsible for the continuation of the Japanese aesthetic tradition into the field of abstract painting.’ (Kazuo Shiraga, painting and watercolours; Catalogue, Annely Juda Gallery, 2001, p. 5)

‘One is amazed by the timeless quality of his work, the pieces he produced in his seventies being no less vital than those dating from when he joined the Gutai group in his early thirties.  A powerful tension has always imbued his work. I have heard him remark that, ‘whenever I stand on the canvas ready to paint, I am filled with the same feeling of engagement’. It is as if his body is remembering how to paint.’ ( Kazuo Shiraga Paintings and watercolours 1954-2007; catalogue, Anneley Juda Gallery, London, 2007, p. 6)

Shiraga painted up to his death, when he was in his nineties.  To be so fit and vital, at such an age, is for me, such an inspiration.   His paintings are colourful abstracts, full of movement.  His studio style inspired my idea for using Gym Rings in my Summer project in my spacious, UCA Farnham studio.  Using Gym Rings rather than rope is down to my own personal  fascination with fitness training.  To see what my body is capable of and to use that in my artistic process in some way.   I aim to explore painting as part of my Trace section of my artistic process.  Moving using the Gym Rings and using paint to mark or Trace that movement in some way.  Some of which will involve using  my feet, like Shiraga.  The work is experimental and it will open out as I practise; movements, mediums evolving out of the process of artistic exploration. 


Bruce Nauman’s work, ‘Dance or Exercise on the Perimeter of  Square 1967-68,’ introduces the idea of an artist exploring dance and also of using restriction in the making of the work.  He danced one step repetitively around the perimeter of a square until he was exhausted and filmed this.

To inflict upon your own artistic process restriction of some kind is an idea which interests me and one I aim to explore during my experimentations with Gym Rings.  

I have previously made two films in different dance studios in Farnham & Bordon taking this piece of Nauman’s as a starting point for an idea and adapting it my own artistic expression.


Still from Homage to Bruce Nauman (filmed in November 2013, at the upstairs dance studio,in Farnham Leisure Centre)


Review Report on the Richard Deacon Exhibition at the Tate

I went to see the Richard Deacon exhibition at the Tate and also went to listen to his talk there.  I found a resonance with his drawings.

Richard Deacon, 'It's Orpheus When There's Singing #7' 1978-9

Richard Deacon It’s Orpheus When There’s Singing #7 1978-9
Pastel and pencil on paper
support: 1117 x 1470 mm


Also, I found Tall tree in the Ear intriguing because of the simplicity of the organic line and the colour.

Richard Deacon Tall Tree In The Ear 1984

Richard Deacon Another Ribbon Bow 2004


I found I enjoyed his organic shaped sculptures more then others. There was so much movement in them.  It made me want to research further and at some point take my Movement practice and map the movement and make it into 3D work inspired by these sculptures.

In Restless Deacon has steamed wood and curled it to make it the shapes which look a bit like giant waves.  Working with Movement I could see something like this based on the movements made on the Gym Rings or when dancing, for instance.  I could film the Moves, watch them back and make line drawings of part of it and then use that as a drawing to base a sculpture on.

I found his small works and the sculptures made with ceramic more problematic.  They were much more clunky and difficult.  They seemed less resolved and held more tension which was perhaps the aim of the artist.

The Art for Other People pieces had mixed materials and often the materials sat in contrast with each other.  The works were unbalanced and sat uncomfortably in their own skin.  This gave the works a very different feel to those larger, organic forms- even when they had mixed materials they worked and the mix often gave an interesting element to the work.

Art for Other People No. 6


The ceramic material gave a deadening effect which sucked the energy out of the atmosphere.  The form of the sculpture, a kind of folded wall, added to this feeling of solidity and blockage, as did the large scale. The colour and sheen were gaudy and this again seemed disruptive rather than harmonious. Looking up at this imposing sculpture made you feel small, it took you inside yourself to feel the circumstance of the little man, a bit like when you gaze at the stars and contemplate humanity in the light of the vast scale of the night sky.

Sometimes Deacon’s use of materials, wood with metal bolts and metal panels for instance, interrupted the flow of the work.  In fact much of his work was characterised by some sort of incongruity which disrupted and unsettled.  This gave the work a certain fascination.  But I really liked the works which combined flow of materials with organic shapes, such as Restless.

The flow and large scale of some of the sculptures, like Restless, resonated with some the Moves and Traces I made when working with the Gym Rings.


I am thinking about colour. I am ready to paint my 3 boards for the MA Show at UCA Farnham at the end of Aug into Sept.

Also researching Affect Theory and Phenomenology.  Looking into the subjective and how to articulate that aspect in my work.  The work is lead by a sensuous, emotional feel which drives the movement and the form and influences the colour.  Artists who use colour, such as the Colour Field artists, often have a great resonance and sensual and even spiritual relationship with colour.  For Rothko it was Transcendental, for instance.

Colour is deep, it kind of pours out of and through me. It occupies space with a sensual presence and radiates feeling.  I  can see the movement in my mind as a colour.  The drive to move, can be partly revealed in a colour.  It’s embodiment colour can help to communicate; what it feels like and what it looks like.  Something that can use literacy but likewise can be without words.


Ultramarine Blue pigment

Goethe on Blue,

‘As the upper sky and distant mountains appear blue, so a blue surface seems to retire from us..But as we love to follow an agreeable object that flies from us, so we love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it. (Theory of Colours, Cass & co, London, 1967, p. 310)

Thinking about the boards paintings.  Firstly, the Blue & Yellow and then the Floorboards which I used blue, in two tones, red & silver paints.

Blue for me is a colour of deep attraction/desire/yearning, the Summer evening sky just before the first star appears that is so blue it just makes your heart feel on fire. Exactly that idea of Geothe’s, of drawing you after it, like a strong magnet it just pulls and pulls, you can’t get away it just draws you back.  Obsessive, like a  Midsummer Night’s Dream, a world of fantasy and maybe, maybe not, happenings and occurances.

Yellow provides a nice contrast.  A sunny, kind of pure colour.  Red adds fire, heat and passion.  Silver, associated with gold, a precious metal, and I just wanted to explore what it would do in paint.  I found it creates a good shimmer in certain lights.  It aspires to something greater, something ethereal.

There is perhaps less need to be objective and scientific.  To analyse the sign and the signifier.  Perhaps that is a part of the story but a reductive solution.  To move is to connect with the senses and to touch the time line of human history.  It fuses the mind, body and soul and draws a shape, pattern or line in space.  We understand more about communication than the words we use which occupy a lesser percentage of our social understanding.  The body speaks louder and deeper.  Words can mask or authenticate that which we may already know.   Technology robs us of much of that information, to move is to reconnect with timeless qualities.

I visited Royal Institute of British Architecture to see The Brits who Built the Modern World , about architects who had exported their visions and architecture around the globe.  Another exhibition was also on and that was  New British Works Today which featured new international projects by a range of practices, and guest contributions from experts and commentators, this exhibition explored the characteristics that have made British creativity such a potent force.


I was inspired by the structures in the New British Works exhibition and I made some photographs there of the ideas and models.



Some of the architecture was inspired by the anatomy of bones which interested me.  These were ideas I decided to record with my camera to use at some point.  My explorations of Movement and the Body in Space connect with an interest in anatomy.  The structures of buildings and the structures of the body are the ideas which made me go to the exhibition and I found my visual contemplations echoed there.  With the addition of animal bones.  As a child I collected shells, fossils and animal skulls which I found in the landscape.  It  reminded me of that.

These ideas could be useful when I begin to look to have a go at 3D.  Also it resonated with my work on the spaces in between.  Structures often have in between space.  The organic shapes and repeated patterns fascinated me.

 Henri Matisse  the Cut Outs at Tate Modern

Henri Matisse The Sheaf 1953

The Sheaf (1953)


Henri Matisse Blue Nude (II) 1952

Blue Nude (11) 1952

The Creole Dancer 1950

These three images above were among my favourites at the exhibition.  Seeing this large body of work in one place was spectacular.  The simpliicty of the technique and lines seemed somehow refreshing, in our image bombarded contemporary world. There were some nice traces, for instance, looking at the works close up you could see drawing pin marks where they had been pinned up on the walls of the studio.

The ability to think on that scale about an overall design is still a skill to admire.  The humanness of using scissors and paper, the fragility and nursey school-ike technique somehow breathed more life into the works.

This was a show to go and enjoy for simple, aesthetic beauty and interesting studio details.  Matisse is known as a Master for good reason. The use of simple colour, shape and white space in the abstraction is something I could take into my own work.  It was also a  joy to see some of the stained glass pieces. A real breath of fresh air.

Research Review on the work of Juliana Cerqueira Leite

In the Summer, I visited the Cass Sculpture Foundation  and found an artist called Juliana Cerqueira Leite whose work was about the Body & Space.

She had on exhibition video pieces, as well as, sculptures in plaster.  One video which had a resonance for me was a film of a dancer moving in a balletic way and the film was slightly slowed and stuttered.  It was quietly beautiful.  The film was a collaboration with the dancer Katie McGregory.

Her other films were about her use of plaster.  She climbed into a metal chamber wearing a gas mask type apparatus and the container was covered in white plaster/clay material.  It was like she had climbed into a submarine and must, I think, be part of her process for making her 3D works.

There were paralells between her approach to her work and my own.  The quote below is taken from the Cass foundation website page:

‘Monumental or delicately proportioned her works investigate how time and physical action are captured by matter to generate form.  Her practice reveals a phenomenological approach to process by mapping the experience of embodiment, how it is portrayed through figurative representation and the history of sculpture. The objects, drawings, photography, performance and video work that make up Leite’s practice continually reveal their past engagement with the artists’ body. Emerging from an interest in how tactile, temporal and spatial experience is stored in memory and the mental body-map, her work is determined by specific action-schemes, repetitive choreography and the properties of materials.’

She investigates how time and physical action are captured by matter to generate form, whereas my work investigates how time and physical movement are captured in line, gesture and trace.  Her use of repetitive choreography has a resonance with my High Kicks pieces.  The ideas of Action schemes is comparable to all my current work.  Action being at the heart of my Moves.

The plaster work was more difficult to read.  Yet with scrutiny a body part would reveal itself.  It was like butcher’s meats hanging from hooks.  Bottom imprints in 3D, dangling.  It was intriguing and unsettling.  A body part cast and frozen in space, suspended.  The stillness of the piece was a contrast to the movements in the films.  It was more complex to find meaning in the 3D pieces which were less aesthetic and singular in colour.  The process was absorbing, the clambering into a metal chamber with a mask on.  I never quite fully comprehended what went on.

Researching her work further I found that she often uses her body to imprint herself onto the material.  Sometimes she uses ink on canvas.  Having painted her body in ink she lies on the surface and makes prints of her body.  I have myself worked with paint and canvas in this way but using formal ballet holds to provide the shape.  She has made work in which she pushes, for instance, her arms again and again into clay.

Juliana Cerqueira Leite  Sinew  (Object made by forcing both hands and arms into 10 blocks of clay at five different depths) 2010 plaster

This is quite an odd piece.  It is funny and peculiar.  The arms are recognisable but the elongation turns them into a kind of freak piece.  When you understand the action involved in the making, the action can be seen and the force behind that set in to a rigidity, working in opposition to the movement in the making.  A curious piece of opposites.

In one of the video pieces she wrestles with foam, kneading it as if if were dough like.


She plays with the sculptural form by using a sensual approach. Touching and feeling, squashing and wrestling.  It is quite a humourous piece.

Although Juliana Cerqueira Leite does not view her work a feminist it is interesting from the point of view of women using the body in art.  The body as a site of political and cultural significance has a long tradition in Art History.  More recently women have used the body to question and challenge the status quo.  To make the body powerful and strong and to use that to move in space and create an imprint is a concept I would like to experiment with further.

Julia Cerqueira Leite also makes drawings, some of them are body part prints which she has worked into.

Body Drawing

This is an idea I could take forward into my own work.  It is something I have worked into already, using paint and ballet holds and I would perhaps like to take further in some way.  One idea I wondered about  was to taking the muslin fabric from Gym Rings 4 muslin  and working into it with a sewing machine taking the black ink lines I often use in my paintings and using stitch instead.

Her sculptures often use the body pushed into clay or cast the outside of spaces made by this process.  Sometimes she envelopes herself with clay.  It seems to me that, there is this need to explore the body in space and it seems to suggest she wants to leave an imprint of herself.  There is an empowerment in that.

The idea of imprint is something I will take from her work and explore in the next project.  Where the internal and external meet, through the skin the internal world meets out there, space.  Two surfaces pressing together. It could be skin on clay, cloth on cloth (like with PNF), or skin on cloth.  To imbue that with emotion and take that into form.  Also to imprint the space on the internal world.  One pushing on the other. There is an energy exchange and perhaps a fusion and altering.

I could perhaps play with moves like the splits and imprint into clay or kick again and again into clay. Perhaps run in clay or use the Gym Rings to swing up to clay on the wall.  Juliana Cerquiera Leite’s work has inspired me to build further on my own ideas and to explore the use of clay and imprint in the future.


With movement there is a cutting through space, dispersing air, taking up space momentarily.  A dispersal which can seek and find other energies and dispersal.  An attraction or repulsion. Then a reaction.  And proaction. Or simply a passing by.  As if there was nothingness.  It is the attraction and reaction/proaction which draws my interest.  The meeting point and potential exchange of energy.  An alteration or not, it depends.


 Life Drawing Movement session and art practice Oct 2014

There is an exchange when a surface meets a surface.  A transference; an exchange of energy.  Passing on a residue to connect with the next surface which meets it.  One upon another, one against another, one welcoming another.

It can be benign or toxic, a contamination or pure exchange.  It can be charged or inert.  As the residue passes on it alters depending on what surface it sandwiches between.

The Clay met body, then plaster, then water, then plaster again, then silicon and plastic…

The body met clay, then plaster, then clay, then plaster, then clay, then silicone, and plastic bag.  The body always acting, always performing.  pushing up against surfaces and exchanging….


 Life Drawing Movement clay research

December 17th 2014

I have started working with my Gym Rings again in my B126 studio.





I am in the planning for two clay based projects.  Project one is making tiles.  Imprinting and painting on the surface with slip, using the Gym Rings.

The second project is to cast from my body into clay, possibly porcelain mixed with paper.  Or maybe other materials.  Working with the theme of surface to surface, energy exchange and residue.

I am training my body to increase strength for using the gym rings and to inform performance and also body sculpting to be able to register form expressing female strength and to hold poses imbued with grace.  The whole piece infused with emotion from the internal registering on the surface of the external.  When mold meets skin the energy exchange is recorded.

I want to use my own body because of the challenges of strength and grace I am working with and as knowing what is inside ready to meet the external, surface or space is key to conveying the emotion of the work.  I can relate to Anthony Gormley when he says about using his own body,

‘It is the only bit of the material world that I am inside.  The idea of inventing a body when I have a real one already is a pointless project.  And anyway, there is a huge advantage in knowing what it feels like from inside.  This is all about communicating feeling; I want to use ‘my;’ whole body as my instrument like a dancer does.  Even though this is about making still objects the ambition is the same: to find the closest, quickest, most direct relationship between experience and the registration of that experience.’

(p. 59, Anthony Gormlay, Still Standing, a contemporary intervention in the classical collection, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, published by Fontanka Publications, London 2011)




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