after cecille / prismacolor / 5″ x 6″
© 2007 gordon fraser. all rights reserved. www.gordonfraserfinearts.com
I posted the above drawing to a drawing forum on artreview.com and received a number of replies from the impassioned defense, to the legitimate questioning, to the ridiculous dismissal/panning by the court jester who’s now out rummaging through his kids nursery school art projects in the hopes of getting rich. I then posted the following reply. [see the whole conversation here...]
Byron, Alaleh and Jonathan all raise some interesting questions, establishment vs. anti-establishment, abstraction vs. realism, illustration, decoration, basically the stuff we as artists (an the non-artists critics) have been tangling with for the last 150 years! I started to jot down some notes and realized I have a lot to say about all of them. At this point I will have to sidebar those discussions to a different forum so as not to take away from the art being shown here. That being said, given that this is “Show and Tell” I will offer a few comments. For the purpose of the discussion I will try to separate formal questions from questions of content, but in reality in the process of drawing, the concerns interpenetrate and cannot be separated. First, in terms of content, this painting is about desire, pretty straight forward establishment content going back hundreds/thousands of years, so to byron’s point I do not view this piece as anti-establishment. It is a question/conversation/meditation I have been engaged with for about six months and it offers one viewpoint among many. The brief history is that this project began as 5 minute poses in the studio with a clothed model, who happens to be a dancer, over a two week period back in october. The initial studio sketches were executed in watercolour and I have carried on this work in oil, watercolour, collage, and prismacolor pencils, using both the sketches and memory of some poses as inspiration. This is one example.
Now to the more formal issues:
1) Mark making – I have used gestural marks and scribbles to convey the energy and excitement of desire, which often can feel uncontrollable and overwhelming when it is being experience.
2) colour – the dominant colour of the piece is red, chosen first off because the model has red hair and there was red fabric hanging on the wall behind where the model was posing. I then pushed and changed the hue, layering different reds (which unfortunately can’t be seen so well on the computer screen) in order to develop a sense of the warmth, heat, and excitement of desire. The red moves very quickly toward the viewer and allows me to pull the background right to the surface, compressing the space of whole composition. Secondarily, the two blue planes sandwich and squeeze the red plane, creating a dynamic tension and opening up the space of the composition.
3) composition – the compositional structure is very simple, built on a tilted plane, stolen from the italian masters such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, etc., to provide a dynamic structure to both house and convey energy and excitement. It helps create the movement and space in the drawing.Tags: illustration, Artist, composition, theory, realism, structure
March 28, 2008 No Comments
As a human my experience is embodied. I am not a disembodied reason or a brain in a vat. For a more in depth discussion see Lakoff and Johnson’s Philosophy in the Flesh. In other words, Descartes’ idea that “I think, therefore I am” is totally wrong. The language of representation is built on linear perspective, an “abstraction” that is not true to our embodied experience. Thus most representational work feels dead. The exceptions are when the artists breaks the rules…but that’s a whole other discussion (David Hockney talks at length about these issues in a number of his books). Anyway, the language of abstract painting is the language of shapes and forms, of color, of overlapping plains, on a flat surface. When we as abstract artists speak in this language, we create paintings that have more life, are more real. They become living moving objects, because the surface of the canvas has been activated. Shapes, forms, colors, gestures, marks, etc. become carriers for our thoughts and feelings, both conscious and subconscious. Creating an abstract piece of work can be described as the process of embodiment of the artist’s thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. in paint.Tags: masters, abstraction, artist writings, abstract art, theory
February 23, 2008 2 Comments
So a lot of readers have been asking me about the origin of name the blind swimmer. The first part of the answer is pretty straight forward – I used to be a competitive swimmer. Then, I was reading The Writings of Robert Motherwell while I was trying to come up with a name for the blog and came across an awesome little essay from 1949 entitled “Abstract art and the Real,” where he used the phrase, and I had an aha moment.
I’ll reproduce the essay here:
Abstract Art and The Real (1949)
Excerpted from The Writings of Robert Motherwell p. 85.
Tags: abstract art, abstraction, artist writings, theory, masters
Indeed, abstract art never would have been invented, except as the result of the moste obstinate and sensitive effort to go with art’s grain. Abstract art is not something, as are certain modes of Surrealism – though not all – that a “literary” or “philosophical” mind would have imagined a priori. In this sense, abstract art is not invented or arbitrary at all, but found, found in the sensitive, passionate, and profoundly accurate – in terms of feeling – adjustments that constitute the immediate act of painting which is an effort, often clumsy and sometimes desperate, like a blind swimmer, to cover the abyss , the void that the world sometimes presents, with our love, with our sensualty and passion, our sense of commitment to a mode of expression that becomes ideal, whin it does, only because it is so deeply rooted in the real. It is this sense of abstract art’s reality that Mondrian must have had in mind when he remarked on his own art, “Squares? I see no squares in my pictures,” and led him, at the end of his life, to speak of his art as a ‘new realism.’
February 23, 2008 No Comments
Excerpted From Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes – February 21, 2008
So on Saturday afternoon I found myself at the Phillips Collection, which had just installed a show of recent acquisitions that might as well have been subtitled, “While you’re here, perhaps you can explain to us what in the name of Duncan Arthur Phillips three Elizabeth Murrays are doing here?!” when I bumped into an old friend, Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park No. 38.
I love the Ocean Park seris. As far as I’m concerned it’s the apex of American abstract painting, a notch above Mark Rothko’s color clouds and several notches above anything else. (Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, you’re next.) Selecting my favorite Ocean Park painting seems mostly to be a function of which one I’ve seen most recently: FAMSF’s, SFMOMA’s, Hunk & Moo Anderson’s (recently on view in San Jose, Calif.), MoMA’s and of course, maybe the Phillips’.
One of the reasons these are such great paintings is that there are umpteen ways to approach them. What are those lines there for? Is there anything specific Diebenkorn has abstracted to get to this painting? To what is he referring with that diagonal or that color ? And as I find myself thinking about these things, I feel like I’m standing amidst the painting, that I’ve somehow entered the canvas. [...more]Tags: abstract painting, masters
February 21, 2008 No Comments