Archive for category Medium: Collage
If that sounds like a different, and certainly intriguing authorship, this is a different and intriguing book. Kurt Jackson is unusual as a visual artist in that the written word is an important part of his work. He writes well himself and doesn’t adopt the painter’s common maxim that “my art speaks for itself”.
At this point, I think it’s worth quoting what amounts to a manifesto from the information sheet that came with the book: “A dedication to the environment is intrinsic to Kurt Jackson’s art and his politics, with a holistic involvement with his subjects providing a springboard for his formal innovations.” OK, I agree, that sounds about as pseud as it gets, but it also sums up Kurt’s work perfectly and I’d challenge anyone to put it better and avoid sounding as if they were wearing red spectacles and check trousers. If you know anything of Kurt’s work, you’ll know that his involvement with his environment is complete.
The book is a series of interpretations of single-point places around the United Kingdom – that’s to say, individual viewpoints rather than extensive explorations. They’re as varied as Penarth Head, the Grand Union Canal, Paddington Station and Spaghetti Junction. The places are chosen because they’re there, rather than because they necessarily have an attraction for the artist – though, of course, Kurt finds a kind of beauty in all of them. Each painting (sometimes accompanied by small details or sketches) is complemented by a description by a different writer, both friends and colleagues as well as people Kurt simply admires. A template of the letter that went out is included and this makes it clear that the locations were chosen by the writers rather than the artist, a brave and bold move that requires a large degree of confidence and even chutzpah.
If I say that the result is interesting, I mean just that, not as a sort of back-handed compliment. Kurt takes what he’s given and produces some amazing results. Many of the places have a natural beauty, or perhaps a sense of mystery, but some must have been a challenge. He’ll have known that, of course, and it’s a challenge he must have wanted to rise to. The result is an impressive, as well as rare, fusion of the verbal and the visual and there’s a link to readings of the pieces in there as well, if you want it.
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Collage has always been a hard sell in the amateur art market and I’m tempted to say that this contribution isn’t going to make it any easier. That’s a bit unfair and we’ll come to why later.
The problem collage has is its primary school associations. It’s hard enough to get leisure-time artists to consider coloured pencils; and show them any sort of oil-based crayon and they similarly run screaming for the hills. There have, though, been some successes with mixed media (meaning more than just watercolour with a subtle hint of pastel) in recent years, notably the popularity of Mike Bernard’s book. All of this means that it may be possible, eventually, to show that collage is capable of excellent and striking results.
I don’t think, as I hinted before, that this is going to be the breakthrough book though, because most of the work illustrated is probably a little too avant garde for the domestic reader unless they have a predisposed interest. However, if you’re adventurous, you’ll welcome this. Ann Manie provides a good survey of what’s going on at the present time, illustrating works by many contemporary practitioners from around the world. She also examines practicalities and working methods and provides a historical introduction to the medium.
Mike Bernard’s style is unique and in this, his first book, he shows how he builds up images, starting with a paper collage and then working up the shapes and textures using acrylic paint, inks and other materials. The results are a stunning meeting of the abstract and the representational, with recognisable scenes that are nevertheless constructed from geometric shapes and strong colours that add an artist’s commentary to the finished work.
It’s important to look at the title of the book in full, because this is by no means something about collage itself as the technique is only part of the final result and both the book, and Mike’s style, are about using a number of different tools and techniques in painting.
There’s no doubt that this is a style of working that’s so individual that you’d never want to emulate it completely, but Mike offers many valuable insights into the way he works that you can use to stimulate your own creativity and provide jumping-off points to get yourself started in a wealth of new directions.
Coming after Laura Reiter’s excellent introduction to the techniques and working methods of abstract painting, this book takes the study on several further stages.
There is, or has been, a tendency to view the abstract as simply a few daubs that can mean pretty much anything the artist (and that word can become controversial in this context!) says it means. Taken to its extreme this might be true, if the dictionary definition of abstract as the essence of a subject drawn out and abstracted from it is taken to its logical conclusion. However, it is perfectly possible to keep one’s feet fairly firmly planted in reality and to maintain a recognisable representation of a subject while, at the same time, recording only those parts of it that seem most important to the painter.
Done in this way, abstraction becomes about seeing rather than being about technique. Indeed, Claire’s working methods, the way she applies paint and uses colour, are really no different to those of a more conventional style. The book even includes well written and well illustrated sections on structure and composition which have a relevance that go beyond the immediate topic.
All in all, this is a worthy addition to the growing canon of books on non-representational painting. Claire will show you how to see and visualise your subject just as much as how to capture that vision on paper or canvas. And, yes, she does also have a look at works where the original subject as all but been sublimated out of existence.
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