exploring art and writing

Not Thinking About Art.

In Fine Arts on May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

I hastily drafted this post in a local coffee shop, where for all intents and purposes I had gone to read. It didn’t occur to me until I had typed it up later that, whilst I made it explicit in the article that it wasn’t going to be a Fine Art-related post, it ended up being entirely about art.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 'Akashi Gidayu Writing His Death Poem Before Committing Seppuku in 1582' (around 1890)

This is the first time I have written anything on a napkin. Anything coherent, that is; I can’t count the hours me and my classmates wasted doodling obscenities on school canteen napkins. I don’t intend for this post to match those expletives in quantity (or quality), however. No, this is more intended as a harmless meander through my thoughts right now.

Depsite leaving the flat unarmed, my mind immediately set itself the task of writing something, anything, as long as it wasn’t about art. Fine Art that is; I’m still open to thoughts and ideas about the wider arts.

The previous statement no doubt sounds more pessimistic than my disposition genuinely is toward Fine Art at the moment; I’d say that my attitude towards [relationship with] the subject has actually reached a relatively ambivalent level. It’s certainly giving me more joy than it has at any other point since graduating last July. As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to recall some of the reasons why I chose to study Fine Art in the first place, and for once I’m not completely clueless regarding the possible causes of this: it is because, despite my recent silence on this blog, I have been writing about art – and art only – elsewhere. And in order to do that I’ve had to really start looking again.

It’s so easy to forget to look at something, or to forget how it should be looked at. It’s even easier not to bother contemplating or writing about what you’ve observed. Luckily for me the two activities are naturally symbiotic; if I take the time to do one I will inevitably feel compelled to do the other, because I can only discover what I may or may not know know about something if I put it in writing.

So I was really, really lucky when I landed a voluntary job writing for a small art and design column. There is something exciting about having a weekly deadline and knowing that by this time next week I will have discovered another artist or artwork that excites me. It has, for the first time in well over a year, encouraged me to spread my prized art books and texts in front of me, looking and reading for hours until I find that one piece or story that makes me want to devour more. Moments like that are often fleeting but they are precious reminders.

All this time spent observing has also begun to make curiosity re-spark certain queries in my mind. I had forgotten, for instance, how few contemporary women artists are represented in the books that I own. The drastic imbalance is intriguing and is a subject that I don’t wish to shy away from.

Another curiosity is of a more personal nature, one I haven’t properly considered since I left drawing and painting behind: my increasing aversion to oil painting and my affection for monochromatic draftsmanship.

Ernesto Caivano 'Philapore Tug (Due Tension)' 2009

In life drawing classes I was only ever interested in the lines that constructed the form, not in the gradients that rendered it life-like. There is something about a clean, delicate but confidant black line on a piece of quality cream paper that satisfies me more than any other aesthetic. It was the Japanese artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi‘s drawing of Akashi Gidayu (see beginning of post) that first reignited my feelings on the subject, inspired further by my research into contemporary draftsmen such as Ernesto Caivano.

This re-acquaintance is tied in with yet another that has technically already been made explicit: draftsmanship. It has been over three years since I completed a painting or drawing that wasn’t a hasty caricature or frivolous parody, despite my dedication to both mediums for the majority of my first twenty years on this planet. I almost feel ashamed that I abandoned them, as if I have callously forsaken a faithful sibling.

I suppose I left drawing and painting behind because I know that one day I will revert back to them; there will come a time when I will experience something and instinctively reach for the pencil or paintbrush. It’s not quite the right time yet, but it will happen. And, as I am beginning to now, I will savor the joy of completely re-acquainting myself with an old friend.

Old school - my last completed portrait (2005-6)

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  1. I like this. It has very much the flavour of napkin writing: concentrated and excited.

    I was puzzled by: “It’s so easy to forget to look at something, or to forget how it should be looked at[…]”

    I think I know what you mean. But how one looks at things isn’t someone I ever see written down, where I come from (philosophy). Is this something you learned about that I did not?

  2. Hi Jesse, thank you for commenting!

    I can see how that sentence may not make much sense to people. I take it for granted that in art school ‘looking’ seems to become an actual hobby or something! Because we are constantly looking at so much visual stimuli it can become easy to get complacent and not really consider what you’re looking at (which is pretty bad when you’re supposed to be studying art! 🙂 ) so you train yourself to really consider things. For instance, in a gallery I try to look at paintings for a few minutes or longer, rather than a few seconds (a few seconds being the statistical average). Then I tend to contemplate the images that interest me most.

    Everyone does this; it’s all just habit really. I suppose this blog entry is all about me learning to stop and really consider the artworks that I’m looking at again, because recently I’ve been quite lazy and disinterested in the subject.

    I hope that explains it relatively coherently. Thank you again for commenting – I look forward to reading your blog!
    Lucy

  3. wow… yeah, I know… leave it to the American to say, “wow.” Honestly, this drawing you did left me speechless. You are an amazing artist. I’m not exaggerating. It’s brilliant! I love how complex and beautiful it is. It appears to have many different interpretations. Mostly, I love how it makes the people who view it wonder about it. I always thought the best art was the kind that gets everyone who sees it to think about it. Wonderful job.

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