Friday, November 3, 2017

Oil Pastel on Monoprint Series

The technique used for the series emerged out of a time when I was experimenting with various techniques of how to present my work. I wanted to frame my drawings without the traditional Passe Partout, so I learned how to monoprint solid layers of ink, sometimes with gradients, to use as backdrops for my drawings and paintings on paper. I had a lot of these monoprinted papers left over, so I took them along with some oil pastels that I had since I was six years old to a party, to see what sort of drawings would emerge out of these materials and the social atmosphere.

These are the drawings I made that night.


This drawing is of a person whose name I forgot whom I met briefly at this party and asked to pose for a couple of minutes for me. In a way, I don't mind not knowing their name anymore, because for me they are the most perfect embodiment of my favourite type of nose, the aquiline. I delight in the jump of the line of such a nose when I draw it, it makes my heart skip a beat when I see it. 

These two drawings were followed by many more. 


This is one of the countless drawings I have been making this year of my fellow artist and best friend, Tess Glen. Following is an excerpt of a text she wrote about the Modern Woman, which we both identify as. 

In the bedsit, the decoration is fiendish. Velveteen beige walls and mint skirting boards. But there is a way in which everything is here in this room – pinned to the wall like colour swatches, all of her experiences, encounters, relationships. Her modest room has become regal to her. Adorned with a dried opulence.

In front of this backdrop, The Modern Woman isn't sure how to be idle. She sponges the floor where the dirt has been scribbled in. Once finished, she will lay herself down on the tiles and look up at the light fittings, imagining love. To make these thoughts more interesting she has been reading romantic novels and in one passage she has found a perfect companion, a sensitive young American called Chandler, who she sometimes picnices with before bedtime. Spread out there, she laughts like a drain when he tells her about his truly 'mad whack' boss at the department store where he works. 

The weather brings on fits of neglect. The Modern Woman stands naked in the kitchen in front of drapes, smoking at the window, or embroidering. In these spells she imagines herself as a woman in a painting. This bothers her. She feels naivety rise up in her, then to the patterns reverberating around the room. Her world is really quite padded.

At night the bedsit is lit up in a fog. A fridge of pastel drapes; ghosts of old colour schemes hang in the air. The Modern Woman looks at the phone ... most of her friends, she's decided, could use a two year break from her. Shes's hungry though, and so, in an uncharacteristic decisive impulse, she decides to visit the corner shop downstairs.

Defending her title as a Modern Woman, she steps out the door, without a glance in the mirror. 

Drawing of a doll by Louise Bourgeois at the Tate Modern

This is one of the also countless drawings I made this year of my fellow artist Eoin McEvoy. It shows him sitting in one of Edinburgh's more bohemian pubs called Paradise Palms, replying to a question he was asked by another friend of ours about what his perfect day would be like. He says that he never had a perfect day and can't even imagine what it would be like. 

 Soft White 

I have been keeping a written diary since I was ten, but have switched to making my drawings be my way of keeping a diary. This transition was completed when I decided to burn my last written diary because it lacked the positivity of my drawings. I did this because I aim to portray life as when I saw the most beautiful sight I ever saw – A sunset out of my studio window in Gothenburg years ago that was like a pink and orange zebra, all over the sky. Recently I found out that more pollution in the atmosphere correlates with more orange sunsets, which made this experience even more intense for me because its beauty contained that terrible truth.

The phrase in this drawing is a response and promise to my mother, who told me I have to stop feeling guilty about things I did, that I ought to stop eating my heart. It is a vibrant drawing with this thought behind it, and therefore rings true. 

This was drawn at a dinner party at the house of two artist friends of mine. We all just graduated this year from art school and most of us are still figuring out what to do next, and so this picture shows two of my friends sitting about and smoking thoughtfully. One of their projects is to make the large cupboard room next door into a Death Room. It is based on their research into a victorian man who had a room in his mansion that he used solely to contemplate death in. 


Now I am working on continuing this series with my new set of green monoprint paper.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Rounded marble forms remain,

the silken turn of the obliques,

the glutes,

a thigh,

the graspable circumference of the neck,

an unsmiling cheek,

and half-hidden spheres of eyeballs without colour

as if turned inward;

huddling up in every way to brave the passing of millennia

to outlive the passionate maker’s hand
with a dull life

seen and loved

but remaining cool
to the touch.

Hips tilting in a contrapposto,

yet there is no buoyancy in the flesh

and any abuse breaks you.

What force of nature found offence in the straightness of your nose?

Such a hit would render mine bent,
but you would rather abandon all than bear imperfection.

Yet I see that in this absence there is still the presence of completeness.

Like a beautiful noseless skull

I try to reconstruct who you were and regret

how I will never know all of you

and you cannot know me.


Tess Glen and I have an exhibition up at Edinburgh University's Coffee Shop Baristo. The show goes on till the end of August, so if you are around during the Fringe festival have a look.

Just dozing a little ...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Abject Object

Fernanda Gomes, Sem titulo (Untitled) 2013. Wood, paint; 12 x 12 x 12 cm 

Discourse on the Fruitmarket Gallery’s exhibit “Possibilities of the Object”, Curated by Paulo Venancio Filho with artists: Artur Barrio, Waltércio Caldas, Sergio Camargo, Aluísio Carvão, Amílcar de Castro, Willys de Castro, Lygia Clark, Antonio Dias, Fernanda Gomes, Jac Leirner, Antonio Manuel, Cildo Meireles, Ernesto Neto, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Mira Schendel, Tunga, Franz Weissmann and Carlos Zilio.

On display from the 6th of March until the 25th of May

With thanks to Anthony Haynes for his help and support. 


The Abject Object

The Postmodern Creation of the Object as a Category in Art


It’s Relation to Space

             What makes a window useful? Certainly not the frame, but what is missing, letting light illuminate the room. Similarly, in art the object and subject of a painting often differ—the object is exhibited, but the subject is also the surrounding space. This is the case with many works in the postmodern art category of the object—it activates both the space and the mind. Through the following discourse about the Fruitmarket Gallery’s show “Possibilities of the Object” the postmodern invention of what is known as the non-object, specific object, relational object, active object, poem object, book object, graphic object, anxious object, pluri-object, trans-object, as well as un-object (Filho, 2015: 56) will be explored. How it came about, what it is, and what it means will be explained.

Painting by Hammershoi (19th century) Not in the exhibit, but shown here to support the intention of the Neo-Concretists to make the viewer relate their work to other art objects they know.


The exhibit consists of two floors with objects from over 3 generations of artists. The objects are distributed in the most varying fashions; a long braid with a bow tie by Tunga is
snaking it’s way along the floor, discs are hypnotically suspended in air by nearly invisible strings, panels are protruding from the wall into the viewer’s space, and cubes are calmly standing on a tabletop. The intention of the object seems to be accessible, exemplified by a plate with rubber bands stretched across it by Caldes (1975) from the collection of the artist, which makes one wonder whether he normally uses it at home as a plate or displays it at all times as an artwork. Another uncanny experience was seeing Neto’s “Particula Passo" (1988), a nylon stocking filled with lead balls, tempting the viewers to plunge their hands in. Alas, one is only allowed to touch the things with one’s eyes, despite physical contact being the intention of the artists. This created a tension because of the desire of both the viewer and the object to touch and be touched. (Lehmann, 2014) That the work can still hold up despite this shows its strength. 

Waltércio CaldasPrato comum com elásticos ( Ordinary plate with rubber bands), 1978; plate, rubber bands; 30 x 30 x 30 cm

Ernesto Neto, Particula Passo (Step Particle). 1988. Nylon Stockings and lead balls; 4 x 50 x 20 cm
Particula Peso (Weight Particle), 1988. Nylon Stockings and lead balls; 20 x 20 x 6 cm 

How it Happened

"Modern art is usually measured ... in terms of how unlike the object depicted it actually is. For example, cubism is very little like its object, and abstract art, not at all. Before the modern period artists were praised for their attention to detail and the lifelikeness of their work: ... the notion of good practise can be summed up in the tale of the Greek painter (Zeuxis) who painted on a wall grapes that looked so ‘real’ that birds actually pecked at them. The modern period is marked by redefinition of art’s function in depicting as ‘real’ a representation of the world of appearances. Fountain (1917) by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) is more than lifelike: indeed, it was actually ‘real’—a ready-made urinal ...” (Meecham. 2000; 3) 

Marcel DuchampFountain, 1917; porcelain; 360 x 480 x 610 mm; Tate Britain.

The use of the real in art converged sculpture and painting to a common point with the abandonment of plinth and frame, removing barriers between viewer and object, creating a participant - object relationship insteadThe Non-Object, a new category in art, resulted from the crisis in painting and sculpture and reflected the expansion of consumer culture after the Military regime in Brazil from 1964-69. Initially, the death of painting began when the object and subject started to diverge with the impressionists painting colour as it hits the retina onto a flat surface, the object here still being the things depicted but the subject actually being the scientific discovery about the nature of sight. This is also when paintings began being exhibited without frames, which were the threshold between our world and the world in the painting, rather like a window.

As Asbury says “ ... when painting radically abandons representation ... the frame loses its meaning. The erection of a metaphorical space within a well-protected corner of the world no longer being necessary, it is now the case of establishing the work of art within the space of reality, lending to this space, through the apparition of the work – this special object – significance and transcendence.”

With illusion of a separate reality within the painting dissolved, painting began its trajectory into objecthood. Soon the use of things from the real world such as newspaper clippings for collage and sand by the Dadaists emerged, signalling a wish to substitute illusion with reality. The flat picture plane predominated until Duchamp exhibited his urinal, taken from the world of material things, away from its usual function, into a gallery space. “Things become art in a space where powerful ideas about art focus on them. As modernism gets older, context becomes content.” (O’Doherty)

Antonio Manuel, Urna Quente (Hot Ballot Box), 1975. Wood, sealing wax, tape; 20 x 60 x 33 cm 

The socio-political atmosphere in Brazil at the time can be explained with Debord’s words that the avant-garde can only be “an art of change and a pure expression of the impossibility of change” (Heiser. 2008; 181). The use of the cube shape in art was avant-garde, but at the same time it is a stolid shape suggesting imprisonment. The apparent stability of such a shape in the form of say, a briefcase, the quintessential icon of the successful entrepreneur then, when it is opened, is discovered to have a different reality—with nails like teeth inside a beast’s mouth (Zilio, 1974). Work like this began to be made because modernist, uptopia-aspiring Brazil, after the resignation of elected president Quadros in 1961, fell into economic instability and a subsequent military regime of torture and censorship. (Asbury. 2005; 184) After the regime, Modernist abstract geometry was exchanged with Duchampian Pop Culture because of the widened access to world culture.

What is it exactly?

While painting is conventionally flat, sculpture and the object are three-dimensional, which is the only thing they have in common. Conventional sculpture is distant and static on its’ pedestal, whereas the object demands contact and is portable. It could even be mistaken for an ordinary object of the ‘Lebenswelt’ because oftentimes it is composed by the artist but produced in a factory, thus also challenging single authorship. Drawn from the everyday, yet conceptualising its surrounding space anew because it can be found anywhere within it, and it is consequently anxious in nature. (Rosenberg. 1964; 275) Despite often being geometrical in form, it is neither objective nor cold, because the viewer is turned into a participant by being invited to handle it, “critiquing the technophile rigidity through a new corporeality” (Filho. 2015; 53) Simultaneously, it does not demand much of the space around it, perfectly reflected in the work consisting of panels stacked away shyly in a corner (see cover image). 

Lygia Clark, Bicho Pássaro do Espaco (Creature Passing Through Space, 1960; aluminium; 24.3 x 24.1 x 0.9 cm. (Note that it has hinges, enabling the viewer/participant to change its shape) 

What does it do? 

What it does is what all true art does—creating experiences. Instead of being focused on concepts, the object is focused on it’s relation to the viewer’s body. The tension between the two bodies in space, one waiting to be grabbed by the other, is the subject, while the object is, in a phenomenological sense, open to be perceived by the world within time and space as it appears.

“ ... the apparent impiety of contemporary art is only ever the inverted image of sacred art, the reversal of the creator's initial question: why is there something instead of nothing?” (Virillio. 2008; 45)

The space which is part of the artwork is not a thing, and all it takes to see the invisible piety is some mental participation to understand that “absence allows presence to be full” (Taylore, Winquist. 2003; 2) Many struggle with this because nothingness is an unnerving concept, even Heidegger stating that it is hard to understand and define what nothingness is because nothingness simply is not any-thing. Subverting the traditionally purely visual art experience, the Neo-Concretist “ ... artist plays with space—what is the figure, what is the ground? And what is the individual, what is society? What is in and what is out? What is sensibility, and what is sense?” (Pape, p. 8) In truth, I myself did feel like a very active part in the exhibit, determined to understand and make sense of the objects. The Acoluthistic Reason, “the summons of
the other that can activate my own free will and enable me to become what I already am potentially” (Taylore, Winquist. 2003; 1) explains how the objects lure the viewer to unveil their Being through participation, which is reflective of life; if one is active, things become clear and exciting. Duchamp said that all objects have a desire to be touched. The exhibit was problematic in this respect because it was forbidden to touch the pieces and the ones that were hanging from the ceiling actually had plinths beneath them, their only function being to blatantly tell the viewer to distance themselves. The braid snaking its way along the floor produced an interesting effect within me because I imagined the dynamic movement it would produce if I kicked it. One can only begin to imagine the experience one of those people in a nice neighbourhood in Brazil whom Barrio subjected to finding a mysterious, scary bundle he made from trash, excrement, blood, and dirt collected from slums. It must have been shocking for people who were far away from that world to see these objects out of context, the bundle looking even more bloody by contrast with a clean pavement or lush grass in a nicely tended garden. So in essence, objects propose “a multiplicity of relationships, ambiguities and contradictions that lead spectators to complete the work, removing them from their passive role.” (Doctors. 1990; 73) 

Tunga, Tranca (Braid), 1984. Lead, satin; 240 x 5.5 cm 

Into the Deep ...

This art principally emerged out of culture and philosophy. Firstly, there is the Brazilian mentality behind the word ‘Bichos’, or ‘Creature’, which Lygia Clark’s work is named after. The translation of this word is not entirely descriptive of the implications behind it, Bichos being a type of animal that humans can manipulate and be close to, domestic animals for one but also wild ones that are accessible such as ants. This mentality of physical proximity is where the participatory nature of Brazilian Neo-Concretism comes from (Conversely, the Americans at the time were wary of making their works intimate and therefore chose a scale between the monumental and the human). They created a phenomenological approach, making one feel the object and have an internalised experience. Feeling with objects is linked to consumerism in that we prize and fetishise our possessions because everything in Western society is material, and one could say that there is a new religion of the senses—the things we own are our companions in life and everyone has faith in their existence, unlike God’s. The artist therefore creates the thing itself instead of a representation. The participatory nature of the art object makes it more consumable than art of yore too; while you can buy a painting, it always will have a life of its own within the frame, a life you can observe but never interact with. 

“Modernism in art seemed to be implicated in a kind of crisis about its own objects of desire, which is to say that artists fetishised objects perceived to fall outside of the traditional remit of art. At the same time, there was a requirement to self-consciously interrogate art’s own internal, usually formal, functions.” (Meecham. 2000; 3)

This interrogation that the Neo-Concretists subjected art to was grounded in phenomenology, the study of consciousness and things as we experience them. Therefore the textures and colours used aren’t symbolic, and neither is the cube shape. The thought is that each angle you see an object from and the varying light situations make it look completely different, yet you still recognise it for itself. This defines ‘man’ as a being in the world. (Brito. 1976; 6) Morris elaborates on this as follows: 

“While the work must be autonomous in the sense of being a self-contained unit for the formation of the Gestalt, the indivisible and undissolvable whole, the major aesthetic terms are not in but dependent upon this autonomous object and exist as unfixed variables that find their specific definition in the particular space and light and physical viewpoint of the spectator.” 

Art has always been linked to religion, even now in times of relative atheism, and today it is still about the things we believe in and care about, which are science (relating to phenomenology through things we can perceive) and consumer culture. Art made is about what it means to be human in a given society. In our Postmodern society, it revolves around the object, but also increasingly around the naked concept. First Kant said that the Art lies not within the craft, which has led to an increasingly subtractive approach to art—“Remember what Friedrich Nietzsche advised: 'Simplify your life: die!' This extremist simplification in which 'ornament is a crime’ (Loos. 1908; 1), has stayed with us throughout the history of the twentieth century” (Virilio. 2008; 31) The illusion of an object in a picture on a wall proved to be too decorative, so the artefact was planted right before the viewer. The next step was Sol le Witt’s “Buried Cube Containing an Object of Importance but Little Value”; The Cube, which is the quintessential Art Object, was buried like a corpse and the ‘soul of art’, remained. Thus conceptual art was born. 


1 - 
Filho, P. V., 2015. Possibilities of the Object. 1st ed. Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery.
(All photographs in this essay taken from this publication)

2 - Asbury, Michael. 2005. University of the Arts, London. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// [Accessed 26 March 15]. p.186

3 - Lehmann, Maria-Rosa. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: 7632548/UCLA_French_and_Francophone_Studies_Touch_Conference. [Accessed 26 March 15].

4 - Meecham, P., Sheldon, J., 2000. Modern Art: A Critical Introduction. “What is and when was Modernism?”. 1st ed. Routledge.

5 - O'Doherty, Brian. Society of Control. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// [Accessed 26 March 15].

6 - Heiser, J, 2008. All of a Sudden: Things that Matter in Contemporary Art. “The Spectacle: Guy Debord’s Nightmare”. Berlin and New York: Sternberg Press.

7 - Virilio, P, 2008. Art and Fear. 4th ed. London and New York: Continuum.

8 - Taylor, V. E, Winquist, C. E, 2003. Encyclopedia of Postmodernism (Routledge World Reference). 1st ed. Psychology Press.
9 - Heidegger, M. What Is Metaphysics? 1929. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// GROTH.pdf. [Accessed 30 March 15].

10 - PINTO, R. C. Quatro olhares à procura de um leitor, mulheres importantes, arte e identidade (Four Views in Search of a Reader, Important Women, Art and Identity). Rio de Janeiro, 1994. Tese (Pós Graduação em Artes visuais, Mestrado em História da Arte, área de Antropologia da Arte ) - Escola de Belas Artes, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

11 -DOCTORS, M. Lygia Pape, A Radicalidade do Real. Galeria. São Paulo, Área Editorial Ltda, 21: 68-75, 1990, p. 73.
12 - BRITO, R. Neoconcretismo. Malasartes. Rio de Janeiro: (3): 9-13, Apr./ Jun. 1976.
13 - Morris, R. ‘Notes on Sculpture 1–3’, in Artforum, vol. 4, no. 6, February 1966, 42–44; vol. 5, no. 2, October 1966, 20–23; vol. 5, no. 10, Summer 1967. Reprinted in edited version in C. Harrison and P. Wood eds, Art in Theory: 1900–1990, op. cit., 818.
14 - Loos, Adolf. 1908. Ornament and Crime. [ONLINE] Available at: Temporary_SL/177/pdfs/Loos.pdf. [Accessed 26 March 15].
15 -Rosenberg, H, 1964. The Anxious Object: Art Today and Its Audience. 1st ed. New York: Horizon Press. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Michael Fullerton - Meaning Inc.

Portrait drawing I did during Michael Fullerton's lecture. 

Normally one leaves a lecture with a few interesting thoughts that the speaker conveyed, but after Michael Fullerton’s my head was buzzing excitedly with a whole way of thinking about painted portraits, from their creation to their life of hundreds of years of being in the world. 

For one thing, it was great to hear about his presentation methods for exhibits. One is that he uses texts like in museums. For example, he once exhibited work with a text that explained how Ultramarine comes from the words ‘over the sea’ because it was brought into Italy from overseas. Texts help him to create friendly shows. He doesn't “wanna be some cool black polo neck kinda guy”. In his exhibits one doesn’t have to know the theory beforehand to understand the art. 

He seems to be constantly questioning himself about many aspects of his practise. For instance, he asks himself if an underpainting already holds the concept of the work whether colour would then just be decorative. My view on this is that if colours are not part of the message behind the painting then it is, for people are seduced by colours, many buy paintings solely on the positive feeling they get from seeing a painting with a bright colour they like.

Apropos seduction, Fullerton uses sexual connotations to represent the physical relationship we build up to a painting we see or own and therefore gives some of his paintings intriguing titles such as ‘Lover’. Another title he used is ‘Cypher’, because a painting contains encrypted information that has to be deciphered by the viewer. I like how he combines both the immediately and visually enjoyable with concept art in this way. He is very conceptual in his approach to beauty by saying that the aesthetic experience of a beautiful artwork is very useful to the world but also very  powerful. While propaganda persuades, art seduces you. In relation to this he mentioned how the CIA promoted abstract expressionism to portray the USA as having freedom of expression during the cold war. On a side note to this he marvelled at how through abstraction paintings can just be themselves, how intriguing the idea is that something can have no content and still have meaning. But he said that personally he can’t be just abstract. So he picks people to paint based on their relationship to the media and politics, reinterpreting Gainsborough, who was used to document the political class of his day because he began his career with painting landscapes and landowners were the people in power. Therefore Fullerton portrayed Kimdotcom, who is the scapegoat of the file sharing world through whom corporations are trying to scare consumers. Just like in file sharing, paintings go places and the information encrypted in them goes all over and is seen.  “When I make a painting I am the media, competing with corporate journalism” he said. Thus painting is a curious combination of the personal (subjective, an artist singlehandedly creating in studio) and the public (culture, public domain, monumental paintings). Painting is an information technology, disseminating information. CDs, cassettes, and the like will probably be unreadable by future technology, but a painting is meant to last for hundreds of years. People in the very  far future will picture our time through the paintings we leave behind. So he asks himself “What am I recording when I paint this portrait? Where does the information reside?” and why one minute a painting looks good, another it looks terrible – whether he is getting information from the painting or just projecting onto it, whether it is a symbol (meaning in itself) or an allegory (meaning from outside).

His thought that Art has been almost always used in the service of Politics made me decide to delve more into the latter and get some well grounded opinions, so that my art doesn’t get snatched up to serve politics I don’t believe in. 

Michael Fullerton (2010) Chevalier d'Eon [Oil on linen 60 x 45 cm]

Thomas Gainsborough (British, 1727–1788) (1778) Mrs. Grace Dalrymple Elliott (1754?–1823) [Oil on canvas]. Fullerton's Inspiration.

Michael Fullerton (2014-15) Kim Dotcom Under House Arrest, Dotcom Mansion, Auckland 2013 (Third Version) [installation view]

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Carol Mavor

In her hypnotic, chanting voice artist-historian Carol Mavor wove together many fascinating strands of thought into a new story, one that she is currently working on for publication under the name of Aurelia: Art and Literature Through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale, which will be her 6th book. She is naming it Aurelia, because the name sounds like oral, and reminds us of the fact that such tales “grew out of the mouths of storytellers”. Her speech seemed like a quilt poem, wherein she said that fairytales tell us that everyone has a right to be happy and free, that the way we write the number 0 is derived from the Egyptian hieroglyph for Eye, that kissing is non-nutritious eating, that it is akin to Midas’ hunger for gold; In the ancient Greek myth he fatalistically desired that which could not nourish him, and when his wish came true everything he touched turned to gold and he perished of hunger. She highlighted the sexual overtones of the precious metal, such as the golden shower that befell Danae and impregnated her. She showed us an image of buttons cast in gold from nipples. Then we got to see the charming little toothmarks on the apple in the painting of Eve by Lucas Cranach. Mavor explores all these things like the card of The Fool in the Great Arcana, a set of cards whose designs are as magical and symbolically intricate as Mavor’s language. She was a marvel to sketch while she spoke, leaning over her projector like a sorceress over a cauldron of luminous melted gold shining out at her. 

Since she is a lecturer at a university and publishes many books the context she seems to be working in is to mesmerise her readers and listeners, but all the same time she is in her own world and is inviting us to dive into it ourselves instead of explaining it to her audience. I love how the worlds of artists are open for exploration, that through them earths' is not the only landscape we can observe and enjoy the wonders of, where the laws of nature might be different, where some things are juxtaposed in an unusual way and thereby perplex and through their surprise delight us.   

Janine Antoni "Tender Buttons" gold nipple brooches, 1994 Didier Ltd.

Detail of Lucas Cranach’s Eve – what charming toothmarks!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Andrew Cranston

It was fun sketching Andrew Cranston while listening to him talk about his figurative paintings, that sometimes even manage to be that without having any figures in them (see Image 1). He has many contradictions like this in his works, which look harmonious in their awkwardness and claustrophobic in their sense of space. Painting itself has the contradiction in it that while it is a very serious thing to do one needs to retain one's playfulness, to have fun with the desperation of initial plans never working out. This reminded me of my previous teacher Andreas Birath telling us  to keep in mind while painting that there are more lucrative ways not to have fun, so one needs to make sure it is fun even though it can be so difficult.

Image 1  Andrew Cranston (2000) Home [oil on canvas].

The hanging wetsuit enabled Cranston to be figurative without a figure.
Cranston described painting as living in one’s head, a loner activity during which one engages with the world. An example that came to my mind is the process of portraiture, being in another’s company physically and paying them full attention, but not in a social way. 

Cranston then showed his painting called Painterly Problems (Img  2). There was an awkward silence in the lecture hall. He broke it by saying that it’s not autobiographical and proceeded to elaborate on how he envies writers for having the freedom of people allowing their work to be fiction, while the visual arts are often read autobiographically. With that in mine he strives to go against the grain by creating stories in his images. 

 When I inquired as to whether he has to and how he defends the fact that he paints representationally he replied that art forms today run parallel so he has no anxiety about having to capture the Zeitgeist. Also, that communication is important, which is why he chooses to paint figuratively. 

Image 2  Painterly Problems, 2011, Oil on Board.

Andrew Cranston (2006) Illustration for Kafka's Metamorphosis [Oil, ink, varnish on board].

Cranston’s beautiful use of an old book as a surface to paint upon.

Andrew Cranston (2011) Saturday night in Glasgow [oil on canvas, 30cm x 30cm x 3cm].

This piece depicts an artwork by Jim Lambie (the colourful floor), whose exhibit I also saw at the Fruitmarket Gallery. 

Andrew Cranston (2012) Thinking inside the box [oil on canvas, 200cm x 161cm x 3cm].
Depicting that awkward moment when a model's feet get outlined with chalk.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Aldourie, I adore ye

View of the Loch Ness shrouded in the morning mist from my room's window at Aldourie Castle. 

The room I stayed in, called the Nursery. I was the youngest person there after all!  

Even the radiators were beauteous there! 

Probably one of the most lovely bathtubs on earth.

The Salon

This room is where the lectures took place. The pink walls reflected a sweet pink light onto every speaker's face.  

Being part of the Alpine Fellowship at Aldourie Castle was a life changing couple of days. The world feels like it's inhabited by many cultured and sincere people to be friends with.

We stood around the fire pit together one night and saw a gargantuan shooting star. We all made a wish. Mine was so continue feeling this close to people.

The great and amiable sculptor Marc Vinciguerra whom I had the pleasure to meet at Aldourie said that there is nothing more beautiful than seeing intelligence shining through good taste. I think this statement perfectly described our age-old surroundings at the time, this castle that was built and added to over generations, which has both large rooms and a myriad of tiny chambers to explore. There was even a chapel to be found when going up a long and narrow spiral staircase, the walls of which were covered in byzantine-style frescoes. Surrounded by objects infused with human spirit and thought, everything modeled by many gentle touches, it was impossible not to feel amazed wherever you looked. We all kept exclaiming about how splendid everything is. We didn't have time to get used to it – we felt like we were rapidly approaching the day we will die, which is when we were to leave the wonder of the place and each other's company. I hardly slept the entire duration of my stay there, staying up later every evening until it came to the point that my bedtime was 7 AM on the last night. I tried to make each moment feel eternal, savouring it.

Loosing one's sense of time was quite easy, considering the timeless environment, cello concerts by Moray Welsh, poetry readings Deryn Rees-Jonesand the generously star-sprinkled skies which made the remote past feel like the present. Furthermore, since Harry Eyres introduced the concept of being friends with people long gone (he wrote a book about his best friend from antiquity called Horace and Me), Heidegger and G.F. Watts were actively engaged with, the former's aesthetics being the topic of the symposium, and the latter's paintings hanging in the gallery. They felt very much like they were among us too.

As to the people in our carefully chosen little society that are very much alive – The charm of Roger Scruton was in a class of it's own, his blue eyes bright with wit and kindness. At dinner warmly told us of the history of wines, his family, amongst a great number of different topics that his erudite mind houses. He played us piano and gave a sparkling lecture. It was touching to see how adorably human and relatable this renowned philosopher is.

What I find amazing is how hard work at the academy for ten hours every day for years and the skill that was acquired through this gave me the opportunity to meet people I heard about and admired, and to live out such a royal experience even though I was not born into such riches. Court painters of the past must have felt this way, landing in a place where everything from the room decor to the manners are harmonious and pleasing. Unfortunately there was not much time for painting, but my teacher Andreas Birath painted me painting a landscape, surrounded by the foliage I was standing among. I wish I had had time to paint a portrait of everyone present, but I managed to sketch fellow painter Rachel Personett and the energetic filmmaker Tao Ruspoli.

Tao gave a talk about Creativity and Consciousness, and one of the many witticisms during his lecture was that Huston Smith said that LSD is Empirical Metaphysics. As far as I understood, it helped him see that the objects in a room seeming to stand still speak more of the immobility of our mind rather than of their actual rooted nature. Also, "that a transcendental dimension exists, evidenced by the fact that we are conscious and self-reflective" and that "artifacts of human creativity might be seen as representations of things that at first only exist in this conscious space." This conscious space being another dimension, which is why human creations seem so magical.
Brings being a painter (or creator of any kind) to a whole new level, doesn't it?

Samuel Hughes was another wonderful young man to meet. With his entire being like out of a Wodehouse novel he said things like "I wouldn't dismiss anyone morally, I am a Kantian after all" and gave a speech about how a tragic view on life necessitates a belief in human dignity, having faith in progress or salvation. That one's person is not merely reducible to one's desires because of moral or higher things like guilt and dignity being a part of our souls. That tragic theatre shows the value of the individual beyond the contingencies that afflict him or her, which gives the viewer pleasure in seeing a tragedy, making them feel uplifted despite the unfortunate events in the story.

A quick drawing of the enchanting, openhearted, and talented Rachel Personett, with whom it was a marvel to drive a golf cart around the grounds with lots of laughter before breakfast and talk deep into the night about everything concerning young women. 

It's fun to be in the zone while there is a lot of noise and action all around you, as I did while sketching Tao Ruspoli.

Returning to Berlin made it painfully apparent that city environments are deleterious to the human psyche with their screeching and the grey colouring. Circumstance obliges the modern person to trudge through this hell they were thrown into. No wonder people are engrossed in the virtual world, when the real one is so blatantly unattractive. This destruction of the Lebenswelt and the Digitalisation of life was actually the subject of many of the lectures presented by the philosopher fellows at Aldourie.

Airports were frequently mentioned after painter and thinker Alan Lawson gave his speech using them as an example to what our society has come to. Because philosophers are the diagnostics of social malaise he was examining how values that appeal to our senses are being faked so as to make us feel comfortable in our cages. He told us about how he was walking through an airport with recorded birdsong on loop and was feeling pretty good until he realised how wrong it all was. How things like nature are being kitschified in order to make us buy into the commercial world.

There seems to be an aspiration to be rid of humanity because being human brings with it mortality and vulnerability. We wish to be ethereal, one way is to be as skinny as possible, another is uploading one's consciousness onto a computer. Research is actually being made into how to do this already. You can read more about that here.

Painting can be tied into this line of thought in that it is a very primordial thing. The first paintings of the cave of El Castillo in Spain are 40, 800 years old. This proves that making images is one of the most human thing you can do.

It could be that there will be two directions people will go into in the future – the extremely technological or the back to the roots path. Either way is going to make for interesting developments.

In essence, I thank fate and the selection committee for giving a young person such as myself the opportunity to feel as part of the larger world and be able to develop through the encounter and exchange with people who have so much to say. You can see them in the photograph below.

One last discovery I want to mention is that the best compliment to give to someone is: "You're metaphysically interesting."

These people certainly are.

Left to right: Tao Ruspoli, Zach Kramer, Moray Welsh, Andreas Birath, Casey Larson, Andrew Huddleston, Marc Vinciguerra, Alan J Lawson, Jacob L Burda, T Carmen, Lana Svirejeva, Rachel Personnet, Roger Scruton, Samuel Hughes, Harry Eyres, Peter Trippi, Christopher Fynsk, Anne Wollke, Deryn Rees-Jones, Carl Korsnes and Basilio de San Juan Gerrero behind the camera.

Here is a link to the trailer about the Fellowship: