These are all my contextual research pages I did this year including the two artists talks. As I have researched so many, I felt that putting them all onto one post would make it easier for my summary and allow me to be more concise and reflective without simply listing all of my research pages and using up my word count.
Alongsiding Exhibition by Anna Lucas – information about Anna Lucas’s small lens based exhibition at a science building at the University of Leicester with reflections and my opinions of specific pieces
2. Robert Phelps artist research – information about the artist, links/images of his website, images and reflection of his work with a particular focus on his uses of colour, YouTube videos giving an insight into his process, how his work will impact on my practice
3. Rebecca Haines – artist research, information about the artist, images and reflections of her work with a particular focus on pattern, texture and colour, YouTube videos giving an insight into her material choices and artistic process, how her work will impact upon my practice
4. New Walk Museum Exhibition – images and reflections of different exhibitions at the New Walk Museum including Indian Modernism, Leicester and the community through the pandemic and the classic art history exhibition that is on permanent display, my opinions of pieces
5. DMU Exhibition – information about rhe exhibition ‘Art by Post: Of Home and Hope’ concerning the community in Leicester coming together in any way possible during the pandemic, images of the work and information, reflections of the works and how the work will influence my work particularly in terms of colour
6. Henry Moore’s sheep drawings – brief information about the artist, information about his sheep drawings, images and reflections of some of the sheep drawings, how the drawings affected my practice and the ways that I collect drawings from life for my project
7. Andy Warhol’s serial cow imagery – information about Andy Warhol and the serial cow imagery, images of the art and reflections, YouTube videos about the work with interesting facts, how the work will influence my project particularly in terms of colour and repeated images/how it is relevant in terms of subject
8. Franz Marc – research into the artist, his fascinations with colour, YouTube videos giving information about his practice, how the incorporation of colour and animals in his work influence my own practice, images and reflections of his works – particularly the horse paintings
9. Artist Talk 1, Grace Ndiritu – information about her and her practice, q&a she answered during the talk, images and reflections of her work, how her work is relevant to me/influences my practice, what I like/don’t like
10. Cheri Christensen – information about the artist and her focuses of colour and lighting, images of her work and reflections, YouTube video explaining her artistic process, how her work will influence my project, what I like/don’t like about her work
11. Pat Saunders-White – information about the artist, images of the art and reflections, links to my work/how it will influence my project in terms of colour and subject matter
12. Artist talk 2, Kasia Redzisz – information about the curator, information about the exhibitions, images of the work and information learned about them during the talk, reflections of the talk and why I found it interesting
13. The Blue Rider Group – information about the group and why it was founded, key focuses of the group, particular focus on colour, information about members of the group and images of their artworks, reflections of the work and how it is relevant to my own project, YouTube videos with information about the group
14. Dana Ellyn – infromation about the artist and her intentions, interviews and videos giving information about her processes, images and reflections of the artworks, how the work is relevant to my project and how it is different, how it will influence my work in terms of colour and pattern
15. Jackson Thilenius – information about the artist and his intentions, images and reflections of the artwork, what I like/don’t like, how the work is relevant to my own project
16. Art on DMU walls – art that was suggested for me to research due to subject matter being animals, reflections of the artworks
When I was walking to my CPS lesson, I came across these paintings done by a previous student at DMU featuring crows. There wasn’t any information about the artist but I still feel that the art itself is interesting enough to consider in relation to my own work. These paintings are quite realistic and muted in colour which is very different to my own work but these paintings are very effective and could be a good colour scheme to explore in my own work – it won’t hurt. I like that this also demonstrates how different people’s approaches can be to animals with people having their own styles and particular focuses.
Jackson Thilenius is an artist and architect who has explored a range of topics in his work including still lifes and portraits. I am mostly interested in his works involving the meat industry which show the suffering that animals go through. Although I am not exploring the meat industry specifically in my work and my work isn’t as brutal or serious, I feel that looking at the way he has depicted farm animals could influence me to try to make my work more serious to see the outcome and then if it doesn’t go to plan, at least I can say I tried.
This is a zoomed-in painting of a cow’s eye which shows cows being slaughtered in its reflection. This is quite a distressing and sad image which shows that not only are animals subjected to immense violence and brutality, they also have to witness members of their family or herd being killed before them. The title ‘next’ implies that the cow who is the main subject of the painting is going to be slaughtered next and it creates a sense of impending doom with no way for the cow to escape. This is definitely a message about the meat industry and makes the viewer feel a lot of sympathy for the cows. The details of the cow’s fur work really well and the colours are used to contrast with the silhouette of the slaughtered cows in the eye reflections.
This painting shows pigs in their individual compartments in a slaughterhouse. The main pig is making direct eye contact with the viewer which evokes a lot of sympathies as it seems as though the pig is asking for help. This is made worse with the other pig-sticking their nose through the bars as if they are trying to escape but there is no way of escaping. This could also be an idea of how small their individual compartments are. The blood on the bars adds a sense of brutality which again creates sympathy. I feel that my work resonates with this piece as I do paintings of animals looking/staring at the viewer although my work isn’t as violent or brutal as I am trying to be more subtle with my outcomes. However, I feel that it is important to see how the brutal side of the subject could look, most likely making the viewer a lot more uncomfortable than my own work. Also, this painting seems to be an idea about the meat industry and although my work may be interpreted as that, it is not a direct message about the meat industry.
This painting shows a lot of brutality and violence which is a norm in the meat industry. This painting reminds me a lot of the first painting of the cow’s eye and the reflection of other cows being slaughtered. However, this painting is a lot more graphic and shows the harsh reality of the production of meat. Although this is known by a lot of people, the actual depiction of it would make a lot of people very uncomfortable. It creates a lot of sympathy for the pig that has been killed as well as sympathy for the pig that is still alive who was a ‘witness’ to the brutal murder and is going to have the same awful fate as nothing it does will save it. The hooks and wires in the background make this painting a lot more sinister, even though that is what slaughterhouses look like (not that many people are aware of this other than from films).
Reason that I decided to research into Jackson Thilenius’s work:
I feel that the subject of Thilenius’s work links to mine effectively, although a much more violent and brutal story is told while I am trying to be more subtle in my approach. I find it interesting to see how many different parts there are go animal rights – predominantly being the meat industry and animals living conditions before slaughter. My own work is trying to create sympathy for the farm animals using emotion and the animals having a direct eye contact with the viewer – I hope that the animal itself can get the message across with their cuteness rather than doing art which is too violent or shocking. However, I feel that seeing other people’s approaches to the subject is vital in allowing me to develop my own work.
Thilenius’s work is very realistic and mine is more abstract but I like the smooth appearance of his paintings and the way that the pigs make eye contact with the viewer. A key theme in his work is a sense of impending doom with animals being aware of the violence that their herd or family have been subjected to and the sad sense that there is no escape for them. Their main purpose is meat despite that they are living animals who deserve more than that.
Dana Ellyn is a vegan artist who explores a lot of controversial topics and challenges social norms from religion to not wanting kids and our relationship with animals, particularly in the contexts of which animals we decide to eat. Although I find all of her work interesting with powerful messages being presented within her art, it is the animal subject that draws me in as it is relevant to my subject and her unique ways of working could allow me to develop my work in ways that I haven’t thought of yet.
As well as subject matter, her bold choices of colour interest me as the uses of abstract colour seem to take away from the subject, maybe as a way of showing how the animals are often overlooked by society and not deemed as important, which is something I have been exploring in my own work – although not to the same extreme levels.
This is a fairly large painting of a cow and a dog staring at the viewer. Although the animals are painted in a way that makes them look distorted and disproportional, I feel that the painting is very effective and unique. Since they are painted in a similar way, Dana Ellyn is showing the viewer that there isn’t much difference between them at all. I find the fact that they are staring directly at the viewer very interesting and this is something which I have been exploring in my own work but seeing it achieved in a different way is very inspiring. The green background works well as it reminds me of a field or a park, areas in which cows live and dogs go for walks. This painting raises the question of how can we choose which animals to eat and which animals to have as pets.
Dana Ellyn has had trouble eating meat since she was a child, often feeling sick at the thought of it and having to have her meat well cooked or she would refuse to eat it. Chicken, in particular, seemed to be a big problem for her – reminding me of a phobia that some people have of eating undercooked food, chicken, in particular, being a tough food. She was unaware that being a vegetarian was an option and so only took that step during adulthood, eventually deciding to go fully vegan.
In some of her work, she places animals next to the foods that they become after slaughter, for example, a piglet near a piece of bacon, to make people think more about where their food came from. This is an interesting concept as although many people do know where meat comes from, they may have never been confronted with the animal and byproduct side by side. To Ellyn’s surprise, meat-eaters were more interested in her work than vegans/vegetarians and so she hopes that her art can encourage people to eat less meat or become completely vegetarian/vegan.
In this painting, I love the fact that some of the bare cardboard has been left in the background and the floor as this looks incomplete and careless which could be a reflection of how humans can be careless towards animals. The colours used work well together and the different textures created with brushstrokes are effective. The gaze of the piglet evokes a sad feeling, which is made worse with the bacon next to it as the piglet could be looking towards the viewer for help so that it doesn’t have the same brutal outcome. When I first looked at this painting, I didn’t realise that the words bacon and pig were added beneath but when I looked closer I realised. I believe that this was added in such small writing because it doesn’t matter, people know what they are and still engage in eating meat.
Some of Dana Ellyn’s more controversial works involving the meat subject including ‘Baby Back Ribs’ are images that people do not want to see or think about. This shows that sometimes people who consume animals are content with doing so when it is out of sight, out of mind. But they don’t like to be confronted with the brutality or a dynamic shift that evokes disgust. Due to the outrage that some of her works got in the past, Ellyn tries to get her ideas involving animals across in a more subtle way with animals gazing directly at the viewer in a cute manner to try to get viewers to sympathise with the animals.
This is the painting that was mentioned above which shows a role reversal between humans and pigs. It shows a human baby which has a lot of its back flesh missing with pigs’ portraits hung up like humans have. Though I understand why this painting can be hard to look at as it creates a lot more uproar since it is humans being tortured, it also shows how brutal humans can be. This shock factor could be enough to put a lot of people off of meat, especially since the baby has such a pained facial expression. There is a large contrast between the light wall and the red table/bloody baby and flesh tones. I believe the colours used are to emphasise violence and brutality. I find the dark border – sort of reminding me of a vignette effect works really well as it makes the viewer zone in on the image depicted.
The two paintings above demonstrate some of Dana Ellyn’s paintings in which she paints one animal on one side and one animal on the other. Though they are both painted in different styles, with ‘pitbeef’ being realistically painted and ‘pug/pig’ being painted in a more abstract style with lots of mark-making and pattern, they both show how animals are quite similar and it is unfair to worship and care for some (the pets) yet not care and slaughter the others (farm animals). These paintings remind me of the ‘staring contest’ which I wrote about at the start of this blog post, however, I feel that these paintings explore the ideas in a more interesting way which captures my attention more. The choices of animals used work very well, as Pitbulls and cows both have long faces so their faces fit together well and pugs/pigs both have quite rounded faces. I love the fact that the animals are making direct eye contact with the viewer as this evokes a sense of sympathy yet also makes the viewer uncomfortable which is essential in exploring such topics.
Full time painter based in Washington DC.
In the video she is talking in her studio
Best known for her paintings concerning vegetarianism/veganism and animal Most current series called ‘look me in the eyes and tell me I’m delicious’ where she paints cute animals looking at the viewer with the intention to make the viewer not want to eat the animals as they are too cute
Shows some of her vegetarian themed art works – pig painting inspired by the mcgreet painting that says this is not a pipe. In her work she put the text ‘this is not bacon’ in French underneath a pig painting on a bold pink background. Ellyn sees animals and just sees animals but some people see animals and see food which she is hoping to change with her art
‘To bee or not to bee’- concerning the death of bee colonies and how when bees go away we’re in big trouble as we won’t have any food
Inspired by tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, ‘Goldilocks and the three meals’ – pig head is too fleshy, fish head is too fishy and the plate of fruit is just right
‘you’re gonna eat that?’ Little girl licking her fingers thinking the chick is a chicken nugget and the child on the right represents Dana Ellyn’s complete horror of ‘no it’s a cute little chick, why on earth are you going to eat that’ and then the child on the left represents people who are too young to understand.
Reason that I researched into Dana Ellyn’s art:
I decided to research into Dana Ellyn’s work as she explores animal ethics subjects which is related to my own work. Some of her work is quite extreme whilst my work approaches animal ethics in a more subtle way focusing more on emotion rather than violent imagery. Despite this, I still feel that it is important to explore how this imagery can affect an audience and see how Dana Ellyn’s experiences with feedback could make a difference. Ellyn’s work is more focused towards the meat industry since she is a vegan but she also explores how we treat the animals we eat -farm animals- so differently to the pets we have -dogs and cats- even though they are so similar. These paintings really make you consider how similar all animals are and how we as a society are so disrespectful to certain animals as we have always seen them as animals we eat rather than seeing them as having a right to live.
I also like Dana Ellyn’s uses of pattern, detail and colour as these are important factors in my own work and so I could adapt Dana Ellyn’s bold colours to see how they affect my work. Colour is such a vital element of my work to draw on the humorous aspect of people who claim to care about animals yet don’t do anything to better their living standards or make any sort of change. Dana Ellyn’s paintings have animals which make direct eye contact with the viewers similarly to my paintings which I find captivating and make you feel sad for the animals – which is an interesting concept in my opinion.
The Blue Rider Group consisted of a range of artists located in and around Munich. It was founded in 1911 by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. The group represented part of the German Expressionist movement. The group was around from 1911 – 1914, cut short due to members of the group, Franz Marc and August Macke being called into the military for World War 1. The after-effects of the war completely shifted the art scene in Germany.
The Blue Rider Group made art to explore relationships between art, colour, music and spiritualism. The group was formed in rejection of another German group called Neue Künstlervereinigung München (Munich New Association of Artists). They were interested in presenting art that showed their emotions rather than just doing literal scenes or realistic art. Although members approached their work using different techniques or subject matters, they all expressed spirituality through their uses of colour.
Information about the different members of the group:
Wassily Kandinsky – He was the focal point and intellectual head of the group with his work becoming semi-abstract in 1912. After the war, he moved back to his home country Russia and was considered the inventor of abstract art over there as he introduced the idea. Although the name ‘The Blue Rider’ was believed to have derived from a 1903 painting by Kandinsky, at that time he hadn’t developed his colour symbolism theory yet and so this is rather unbelievable. Kandinsky was very important in the group as a theorist, publishing essays and an experimental theatre piece for the group, as well as his other visual offerings.
This woodcut, the cover for ‘Der Blaue Reiter Almanach’ portrays the groups’ aesthetics and ideals in an effective way. The use of the prehistoric woodcut technique shows the groups’ interest in the direct representation of Primitivism. The use of the colour blue represents spirituality and the rider symbolises mobility making this woodcut a visual manifesto of the groups’ important concepts (since the blue rider group didn’t have an actual manifesto).
Franz Marc – He had a preference for environmental themes in his work – with a particular fondness for animals in their natural environment. His paintings became nearly abstract at the end of his life, sadly lost due to World War 1. During his artistic endeavours, Franz Marc developed a colour theory that ran parallel to Kandinsky’s, yet the two overlapped at points with the pair doing some collaborations together. Spiritualism was something Franz Marc explored in his work throughout his life, with a key idea of his being that animals were much closer to a natural state of spirituality due to them being at one with nature, while humans were too civilised to reach the same state of spirituality – animals were purer in spirituality than humans will ever be.
“Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay, and spiritual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color to be opposed and overcome by the other two.” – Franz Marc. In ‘Yellow Cow’ pictured above, Marc through his colour choices was demonstrating femininity resounding in spirituality not being able to be silenced by the opposition.
Gabriele Münter – She became companions with Kandinsky and they spent a lot of their time at a house in Murnau outside of Munich. This house became a common meeting point for the members of the Blue Rider group. Locals called the house the Russenhaus (House of the Russians) as a lot of the members came from Russia originally. Münter’s work often had black outlines with bright uses of colour and often have a compact perspective which creates a flat effect. The uses of simplistic shapes demonstrate her influence of folk art and children’s paintings. She never went completely abstract as she enjoyed doing figurative art that showed the reality of life.
The colours used in this painting by Münter are very delicate yet have a completely different effect when viewed against the black outlines. The black outlines and bold colours make this work similar to a colouring book page. The application of paint holds texture which with the colour selection works well. Different tones of colour in each section create dimension and make the work more realistic.
August Macke – He was close friends with Franz Marc and went on various trips to different places with different members of the group. He also sadly died during World War 1. Macke was critical of the blue rider group in a humorous way.
Macke often painted forms cut into sections/fragments with common angular shapes and often focused on depictions of women doing different things. In the above painting, four women are gathered in a forest with high amounts of contrast between the subjects and the background which pushes them forward and makes the viewer focus on them. The use of the shapes in Macke’s work is often linked to cubism.
Alexej Jawlensky – His style involves broad brush strokes and strong colours. At the end of his artistic life, he suffered from arthritis which made painting difficult for him.
The works of Alexej Von Jawlensky, including the painting above, have similarities to a colouring book due to the heavy black outlines and bold solid areas of colour to create contrast. He focused on head portraits a lot in his artistic endeavours to portray emotion, often using bright colours to show how colour can become the essence of one’s being. Expressive brushstrokes are shown throughout a lot of Jawlensky’s work. Although I know this is created using paints, the textures created do remind me of oil pastels which I find interesting.
Paul Klee – Until 1914, Klee mostly did watercolour paintings and graphics in his very unique style. He loved to explore form and colour, both figurative and abstract but reduced to the essential. He did small scale work, sometimes miniature. Paul Klee’s exploration of colour began with the Blue Rider group. He became inspired by Kandinsky’s writing and so started an intense study into abstraction and colour, with the two going hand in hand at times. This made him a central member of the group.
The painting above is considered one of Klee’s first fully abstract works and exchanges familiar imagery into a balanced composition of different shapes coloured in a variety of mixed hues that make the piece very eye-catching. Although this piece is rather simplistic, the colours balance yet contrast in areas which makes the viewers’ eyes travel along the painting rather than just staying in one area.
Alfred Kubin – His works were much different to the rest of the groups’ colourful explorations. His work is nightmarish and apocalyptic. His preferred medium was drawing ink mixed with watercolour. Out of all the members of the group, Kubin was the only one who wasn’t outlawed by the Nazis.
Marianne von Werefkin – She joined the group at a later stage than other members. She focused on women and the impoverished in her work, showing how differently people were treated at the beginning of the 19th century. She often depicted the women in dark coloured clothes to demonstrate the harsh reality of women in her era with a splendid landscape.
This painting demonstrates the experimentation of the blue rider group that was semi-abstract explorations of colour and forms. Werefkin often had loose brushwork and uses of random colour which showed how artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch influenced her. I feel that the bright yellow highlights on her face work really well to draw the viewer in as a lot of the other colours are quite muddy and dark, so the highlights stand out and bring the painting together.
Albert Bloch – He was the only American member of the group who moved to Germany in 1909. Kandinsky and Marc visited his studio and convinced him to join. He developed his own unique style, often incorporating harlequins and clowns dancing and playing instruments in his work.
This painting shows Boch’s connection to the Blue Rider group which has no visible foreground or background and makes it seem like objects are floating. This is to show the combination of the physical and spiritual world. The fruits have their own auras which shows how Boch was giving life to inanimate objects. The fluid and wavy lines also link to spiritualism. Albert Boch continued this style in his work even after the Blue Rider group ceased to exist.
Information learned from the YouTube video above:
Many artists during the early 1900s wanted to take their art in a different direction, they didn’t want to just paint and sculpt realistic images. They wanted to express their feelings in their art and make viewers feel the same emotions when looking at their work
The blue rider group came together to rebel against the way art was created and created a new art standard of creating work from within rather than from external sources
They were a part of the art movement called German Expressionism
They expressed feelings and abstract ideas that paved the way for Abstract Art. They wanted to express spirituality in their work, beyond reality and life as they knew it
Blue represented a spiritual colour, part of the reason for the name of the group. The action of riding a horse represented the fact that they were riding beyond realism in art
In 1912, Kandinsky and Marc produced a collection of art essays with a woodcut cover created by Kandinsky. This was titled ‘Almanach Der Blaue Reiter’ and the name has only been explained with speculation, nothing was confirmed by the group. Franz Marc has always had a fascination with animals, in particular, horses which he painted a lot through his artistic career and Kandinsky had always been fascinated by riders on horseback, with one of his paintings in 1903 being titled ‘The blue rider’.
Influence of colour on the group:
Each of the members of the group had their own individual applications of colour but all used similar colours in a lot of their works, with blue being a popular colour for all of them. Colour allowed the group to be more expressive and allowed the artists to convey their spiritual feelings in their paintings. Their work was freer than other artists at the time and very eye-catching, no dull work was created.
The colour of music:
Synaesthesia – the ability to hear taste or smell colour introduced Kandinsky to the idea of using colour to represent physical senses. Each colour represented different parts of an orchestra to create a colour symphony in the painting. This was significant to Paul Klee in his progression to abstract art. Yellow – earthly colour, brighter yellow = chaotic feelings. Blue – calming and created balance with the yellows. Reds are powerful to represent drums or trumpets. Green – calmest colour to represent violins. Violet – melancholy and sad to represent horns or bagpipes. Black – represents the finale. Every placement of colour in Kandinsky’s musical pieces was intentional with some pieces taking him years to complete due to the deep considerations.
Artist and movement inspirations of the group:
Robert Delaunay/Orphism – influenced Franz Marc and August Macke, particularly the way colour was fractured into different fragments of colour
Fauvism – Gabriele Münter and Alexej Von Jawlensky
Music – influenced both Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee
Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh – Marianne Von Werefkin, influenced by their use of colour to demonstrate the soul
My reasons for researching The Blue Rider Group:
I decided to research into the Blue Rider Group as colour is an important part of my project and so since each member of the group explores colour in different ways, I felt that this would be good to inform some of my colour decisions rather than just making the colour choices up as I go along. I got encouraged to research the Blue Rider Group as a whole by my tutor after they heard that I was being inspired by Franz Marc and I feel that this was a good idea as although the group all have used colours to express particular emotions, they all have very unique styles and relationships with colour which is something that has always fascinated me – two artists focusing on the same subject with the same colour palette and materials very rarely, if at all, produce the same outcomes, each person’s art is completely unique and new and this is a concept which I love about art.
Redzisz organised the exhibition with Mihnea Mircan (another curator) in Transylvania which is a cultural crossroads that provides a chance to see art which is unique.
She proposed that the exhibition be split into two parts, one being an historical exhibition and the other being a contemporary exhibition.
For the historical exhibition, she wanted the artists to focus on combining art and nature in a way of questioning how we spend time in nature together. Creating a new language in a context of a historical show where artists were going into nature to create art since they weren’t allowed to experiment within the accepted institutional artistic language. Also mentioned was that traditional ways of making isn’t always good for the earth and so sustainability was explored.
Historical exhibition was situated in fairly contained, traditional gallery space – white cube painted green to counterpart the black and white colours of archival images featured in show. Space was split into six different parts.
Contemporary show was just down the road, important for viewers to make parallels between the historical and the contemporary.
The contemporary exhibition involved exploring feminism in art. Some of the works in the exhibition aren’t directly feminist, some have a community of charity based practice, very big part of how they live their lives and see themselves.
It was situated in a transport museum which had train tracks on the floor. Approximately 33 artists were involved in this exhibition, but this number includes collectives and groups.
The contemporary exhibition still had links to nature through the materials used or imagery included in the works. Caramel used in one of the sculptures, coal in another sculpture. Recycled mount boards/walls from previous exhibition
Sculpture with sponges, metal and caramel. Interested in natural processes, mechanisms and substances. Sculptures evolve – science fiction and post humanistic themes. Cooked sugar which leaks and is very sticky which adds a sense of the sculpture being alive which links it to nature, animate and inanimate matter.
Sculpture piece – Czech artist grew up on farm and actively cares about the land and our relationship with the land. Interested in the mechanisms of food production and damaged ecology of food production through big companies not caring about land. Also interested in social realism, utopian moment when social realist figures are very much alive and in perfect sync with machinery.
In background you can see Lala’s photographs. Reconnecting with the identity of the place she was born. Haystacks, changing over times, shapes of them are determined by humans and animals that eat them, nature and elements. Mark the complex and wounded territory of the balkans. Photographs are used as a frame for the exhibition to locate the show, show the artists legacy and where they situate.
Space lures you to go more into the exhibition, move into the exhibition. Painting – commissioned to do it in response to the biannual tactic. Living nature of nature and the pleasure that we can get from being with nature.
Pinky fleshy curtain contains commission for biannual of a film about plants that are able to eat and digest meat. There is a region in Romania where there is a certain climate where the plants are still present – unveiled the unsettling similarities between humans and the plants digestive systems. The sculptures represent the plants and was the first time that the artist worked with glass.
The artist who made these works is interested in minimal aesthetics and relationships with technology. Painted onto canvas, inspired by imagery of Apollo 13, blue planet (earth from distance) inspired theological differences.
This work represents intersectionality, experience of being a queer black woman. Body presence with nature, colonialism. Drew upon times she felt excluded because of her roots, race and appearance. Soil, braids of hair, her body cast in woks, plants sprouting from soil. Utopian vision of nature, had to be watered so it didn’t dry out in biannual
Soil work was shown in front of two colourful paintings – one ‘rehearsing death’, sunbathing or dying. Very religious work, painted after the premature death of her sister, showing the meeting point of life and death. Second painting called ‘roaming’ where she is looking for her sister in a landscape. Feminist angle in this work
The Sculpture piece showed in the above 3 images was borrowed for the biannual and is a series of 9 sculptures, your view of sculpture affects how you see, choreography changes the way you see it. The third image shows the meeting point in the exhibition, showing how objects in an environment can change a space.
Duo of sisters with a feminist approach. They do a lot in terms of animal rights and food waste. Analysing language and visual style of activism. Sleek costumes on sleek bodies associated with fashion companies and modelling. Want to see if activism can not only be radical but a socially accepted way of life and society. Selection of five videos.
Four paintings a nod to historical moments, depicted the chipko movement of women embracing trees and protecting them from being cut away. Associations based on women protecting seeds and rivers. Nod towards women.
Porn industry focused work and how the sexualisation of women’s bodies is out of their control. Puts women in nature to allow them to reclaim their sexual imagery.
Final installation – polish artist dealing with nature and ecology for many years. Large amount of fabric, made collectively in river that they were navigating through during a residency. The ceramics are a nod towards the artists general practice with a fascination of working with clay as a material – naturally produced too so another link to nature.
Kasia said the exhibitions were like a local economic force in the pandemic which helped to influence young artists.
My opinion of the talk:
Although I have no intentions of becoming a curator anytime soon, I found Kasia’s talk very interesting as it allowed me to see her thought process in initially coming up with the idea for the exhibitions, as well as the way she put the exhibition together with careful consideration into the arrangement of works and where they were situated in the context of each other. The works in the exhibition were very diverse and I liked that they all connected to nature and feminism in sometimes subtle ways as it made you think about the works more. The curation is just as important as the art works and I feel that people who curate are very talented in putting in a good show.
The links to nature in both the historical and contemporary exhibitions are very relevant to my own practice as animals are currently my main focus and so it was refreshing to see how different artists incorporate natural themes into their own works, The use of colour was very influential in some of the pieces too and 8 was fascinated to see them all as the talk progressed.
Pat Saunders-White is a fine artist who enjoys working with clients to create pet portraits. She enjoys making art that makes people happy. By focusing on composition and colour, she tries to capture more than just the physical aspects of the animals. She uses a lot of contrast, black lines and whimsical cropping to draw in the viewer.
I feel that the subject matter of this painting relates a lot to my project as I have painted a lot of sheep and so I felt researching this artist was relevant. Although I wouldn’t expect the colours of the sheep and the red/blue background to work, the black outline breaks the two things apart and makes it effective. I love how the texture of the wool contrasts with the solid background colours. Though abstract it is still easy to identify the subject matter.
The subject matter of chickens for this painting was selected by one of Pat Saunders-White’s students. I love how this painting looks like an abstract drawing as it is really simple but the arrangement, composition and colours used work well. The fact the painting is a diptych also works well as it allows the viewer to spend more time looking and wondering why this decision was made.
I feel that this painting resonates really well with my project but this painting is more of an abstract take on it which works really well. I would like to further explore experimenting with colours in my own work to hopefully achieve something similar as it really works and draws in the viewer as the colours work well together yet contrast with the black outlines.
I love the colours used in this piece as they are very bright and work well with the dark outline. Though simple, the irregular shapes in this painting adds to the whimsical vibe and adds more to the overall effect. The eyes make the cow look quite crazy which I find humorous. Though a different outcome, this painting initially reminded me of Andy Warhol’s serial cow imagery which is an interesting link.
How Pat Saunders-White’s work is influencing my project:
In particular, I am interested in Pat Saunders-White’s use of colour to explore animals and bring them to life. The colours used are often bright and abstract which makes them very eye-catching and evokes emotion from the viewers, with the colours being used to possibly portray how the animal is feeling or to show how amazing animals are.
The works above, particularly the last two of the donkeys and the cow in bright colours remind me of my work a lot in terms of animals being in enclosures/captivity and the animals making direct eye contact with the viewer. As this creates a lot of emotion, it is perfect to inform my decisions going forward and could help me to be more decisive about my colour choices rather than being random.
Cheri Christensen is a fine artist who does a lot of drawings and oil paintings of animals. Her main focus is conveying the effects of colour and light on form. In particular, she focuses on capturing farm animals which are part of the reason that I decided to research her, as there is a great significance.
I like the way the brushstrokes add texture to the painting and make it seem like real feathers. I also love the colour scheme of this painting as it is very balanced with complementary colours. I always find it interesting to see the way different artists use colour.
Cheri Christensen does paintings of individual-focused animals as well as groups of animals in the same painting which is really interesting and something I hadn’t considered doing in my own work. However, this could take away the sympathy for the animals as they have company so individual animals may be the best idea within my own work. Lots of animals do survive by having company and I feel that Christensen truly captures animals in a realistic and beautiful way. The focus on lighting is very effective and I am drawn to the golden shades of the sun in most of the paintings I have seen.
The playfulness of this painting works well as goats are very playful animals. I feel that this painting resonates with me as I have painted a lot of goats in my project so far. The layers of colours are built up to create a captivating result. Again the colour scheme works nicely even though it is quite simple and I like that.
In particular with this painting, I love how the bright colours work well together yet contrast with the darker areas as it is eye-catching. I like that Cheri Christensen does paintings of zoomed-in segments of the animal as it allows her to capture a lot of small details and create a different effect compared to the full-body paintings.
Things I learned from the video:
Cheri Christensen was a part of the 2021 Texas Masters show, she discusses her love for backlighting
She does a lot of photography and considers the time of day vital, she doesn’t just go and rim light anything
The Colour is reflective, the weather affects the outcome of the lighting. She mainly wants nice sunny late afternoons
The fun yet challenging part of her process is finding the animals during that time period as a lot of them are free-range so it’s not guaranteed that they will always be there
She enjoys working with cool and warm colours to make her work pop
In some of her paintings, she combines using brushes and palette knives
When painting roosters in particular she likes to use mostly palette knives as it gives more energy and it’s more realistic as they are always moving
She uses a lot of paint as the texture is important
She sometimes paints while listening to music to get a rhythm going
Influence of Cheri Christensen’s work on my project:
I am interested in the ways that Cheri Christensen varies her focus on animals in her paintings – doing groups of animals, individual animals and certain segments of the animals like faces. As I explored earlier, doing a group of animals wouldn’t go well with my intentions for this project but I could always try to eliminate that option for my own project. I also feel that it could be interesting to explore doing segments of different parts of the animals that I am focusing on in my work to show variation.
Although lighting is not something I am focusing on within my own work necessarily, I still find it captivating to see and learn from Cheri Christensen how she captures the lighting and how it can completely change a painting.
Cheri Christensen uses a lot of contrast with her colour choices which is an aspect of her work that I am very interested in. The colour aspect of my work is used partly because I enjoy working with colour, and partly to show the irony of people claiming to care about animals in captivity but never doing anything to actually help them. All talk, no action vibes. Although some could consider this making the subject less serious, I feel that it works well when the paintings are grouped together.
In some of her paintings, the animals are gazing directly at the viewer which is something I love to explore in my own subject as a way of making a connection with the viewer and making them uncomfortable or sad for the animals.
Grace Ndiritu is a Kenyan artist who uses film and photography in her work. She currently has a show at Nottingham contemporary called ‘our silver city’ created with a group of curators, with some of her work featured in it, favourably reviewed in the Guardian.
During the artist talk, Ndiritu was asked a range of questions to give us an idea of the ways she works and the thought processes she goes through which I found interesting. Summarised answers to these questions will be listed below:
Question One – why do you work the way that you work?
She has a background in textile art (origin study subject) then went to work in Amsterdam for a postgraduate study where she started making video art and experimenting with different things. This was a key factor, within textiles she felt restricted and knew that she wanted to work with a range of mediums so she bought herself a video camera and was self-teaching.
Family background – from rural Kenya and working-class Birmingham, lots of contrasts culturally and historically in her head, feminist family (political household) which shaped the way she made work from the very beginning.
After she graduated she started living a double life, rural with wild animals starting to affect art practice but there wasn’t much room for discussions about spirituality in the art world at that time and so she felt people were rude or made fun of it. Doing guru spiritual things as well as having contemporary art shows. 2012 was when her art completely changed direction – started to add spirituality into her work and mix that with the political side of things.
Question 2 – what is your ambition with your work? Grace Ndiritu wants her work to always tell some sort of truth, authenticity is key but can have some added humor. Always thinking about some sort of truth. ‘the nightingale film showed at the icon in 2005 was made through a process where she had started to put herself into a state of trance which allowed the performative aspect to be more authentic as she wasn’t focused on acting or being theatrical. That’s how she got into video art.
This image is from the performance series ‘healing the museum’ authenticity key in live performance work too.
These are some images of live shamanic performances with different audiences in museums this aspect of having to tell the truth or be true is vital, comes through in her social practice projects working with different types of people like refugees, migrants, people working at UN or NATO or parliament. Ambition is important.
Question 3 – who/what are you fighting against in your work?
Grace said this was an interesting question. Depends on what is making her angry at the time. In her ‘Healing the museum’ series she was fed up with museums and felt they were disconnected from the outside world both politically and socially so she came up with an idea of wanting to reintroduce non-rational methodologies into museums such as shamanism or meditation and to reactivate the museum back into being in a way, new audiences and energies.
This came to a head in one example – a project from the GERT institution who were investigating the restitution of objects back to Africa (debate surrounding that) so a group of scientists, academics, museum directors, actors, and artists were brought together from Africa and Europe and had these close workshops over 2 years – African museum in Brussels, an ethnographic museum in Barcelona, Italy, and France. Idea was to debate and look at this issue, a very complicated issue. What was really fascinating was the interception of the social and the political and spiritual coming together, especially within her practice.
In the background of this, remember in 2016 there was a thing called the macron report which was given to the French president about restitution of objects and then Merkle she wanted her own report so the gerta institute was involved in this new report, so she’d be involved in conferences in the mornings involving academic opinions and she decided to bring everybody into the general room (a room full of gems, minerals, precious stones, known as blood diamonds as they were materials taken from the Congo when it was colonised by Belgium) she got everyone to sit on the floor including the museum director who had never sat on the floor before so it was a big thing for him to do, but then for them all to meditate in that room together.
This image was taken in the museum of modern art in Paris – an example of what they were doing, not at the time though) some of the scientists and artists and activists from the Congo who were part of the project started to get very upset as they were tapping into the energy of the horrific nature of how the objects got to the museum and so the whole process became very cathartic and after the performance when we went back into the normal conference mode it made the conversation much deeper because it bonded us and we went through this thing together, so when we were discussing very practical things like the legal ramifications of sending objects back together to Africa, all the practical application of doing it. Been through a psycho-spiritual experience had a group bonding although you had people who were a very anti museum and people who were very for museums in the workshop so she found.
This image was taken from a project in Vancouver called ‘healing justice’ where we wrote love letters to strangers. Found and formed different methodologies by working with different types of people, for example doing holistic reading rooms where you read texts and meditate. Spent a few years coming up with ways of activating audiences in museums. Ndiritu discussed how at the beginning of her artistic career she did one or two things a year but recently it has become very full-on (at least once a month).
Question 4 – where do you see yourself in five years? What does success look like to you?
Possibly moving away from social practice as it can be exhausting, she would like to publish more books (first book called ‘…modification’ which is a book of interviews with radical women, a hacker, a photographer, an artist, activists, we talk about everything including sex, money, interracial relationships and the art world. This is a project that is dear to her heart as she began it in 2013 and started doing the interviews self-funded and getting them transcribed one by one but it was really hard to find a publisher for them as not everyone is famous in the book. Found the stories really inspiring, worthwhile conversations)
Recently she started making films, many years she focused on video art
This was a nice, fun evening, retrospective. Showed many pieces of video art at the cinema in London, price Charles cinema – in 2009. Over the years been working with Lux a lot (in London) but now she’s started working on longer films, films with scripts, and working with a team, much more technically challenging but you can do a lot more cinematic things. One of the films is in Coventry at the minute so if anyone is going to Coventry to see the turner prize it is in the same building, worth going to see as it is a lot about social practice and community groups whereas currently, the film is more time based, object-based which is a good contrast in the same building.
The reason why she would like to continue those two things is that her favourite types of artists such as Mike Kelly, Jimmy Durham who don’t care about what medium they’re using, it’s more about the idea and so she really likes being able to work whether it’s writing, film, textiles or performance. She likes a more wide ranging point of view.
These are some tapestries that she has recently made, as she got back into textiles her origin art medium.
This is an image from the show at Nottingham where some of her tapestries are and other people’s tapestries are exhibited. Created a space called ‘the temple’ on this wooden structure, kind of a museum display but as a place where we can have spiritual gatherings.
So for the inauguration of that, she did a shamanic performance called ‘Labour’ where she invited ten pregnant women to come in on the second and third trimester to go on a shamanic journey. Called ‘labour – the birth of new museum’ and the idea was to connect with the unborn audience and to think about different generations as obviously the show is set in 2094 ‘our silver city 2094’ so it’s about the end of the century.
All the babies born today are going to be alive and in 94 the world will be quite different. Interested in how to work and tap into that kind of energy and mind focus even now, even before they’re born to see how that develops as they grow up. All women felt the babies very strongly and got messages of what they needed to know the very powerful experience. The nice thing about the gallery, the temple space, is that when you go in you have to take off your shoes, quite a quiet contemplative place where you can sit on beanbags and sit for a while
Success is being alive and being able to maintain her practice and live off of it. Just keep going
My opinion of Grace Ndiritu’s work and significance:
Although I am not involved in video art, film, or performative art, I found Grace Ndiritu’s exploration of different mediums very interesting and something I can relate to as throughout my personal artistic experiences, I have never been able to just use one medium and I often like to dabble in different mediums depending on my intentions.
I hope to start exploring different mediums in the rest of my third year as I feel that I have gotten stuck in a rut of using the same materials and I would like to make art exciting again.
Learning about Ndiritu’s use of different processes has inspired me and has reminded me that although we have subjects we specialise in, we don’t have to limit ourselves to those and can cross boundaries.
Franz Marc was a German painter and printer who was influenced to create vibrant coloured artworks through inspiration from the cubists and Henry Matisse. Animals feature quite a lot in his work and are easily noticeable even when the forms of animals merge together.
I felt that researching Franz Marc was essential especially due to his abstract colour schemes in a lot of his work as I have started to use vibrant colours in my own work and this will inform these decisions in a contextual sense. Franz Marc uses a lot of complementary colours in his works which I find fascinating as these combinations are one of the first ways I like to incorporate colour into my work.
Information from the video:
Happy picture of a cow
Franz Marc rejected the notion of the city, all the sounds of the city and the pollution, the corruption, the materialism. He retreated into the countryside in the Alps to commune with nature. He became very drawn to animal life and spent a lot of his time painting horses and cows as he believed that animals had a god-like presence and power.
Marc believed that yellow was a feminine colour embodying sensuality and warmth. While the blues tended to embody the male, the masculine and the intellect, the spirit. A curious combination of these two colours in this painting. All of the experts believe that this is a rather odd marriage portrait as he had recently gotten married for the second time, experiencing the joy of new love. Embodied in the cow
Information learned from video:
Franz Marc died on the frontline in World War 1 with his sketchbook with him which had drawings of animals and landscapes with violent lines
He liked to visit different museums and learn about different art circles
He founded the Blue Rider Group in 1911 (Der Bleue Reiter) which I have done another research page into. The name came from Marc’s love of horses and another group member, Kandinsky’s, love of riders which they combined with their love of the colour blue
Marc saw the colour blue as “the masculine principle, astringent and spiritual”
Marc saw the colour yellow as “the female principle, gentle, gay and sensuous”
Marc saw the colour red as “matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour that the other two must oppose and overcome”
The blue colour represented spirituality to both of the founders, something bigger and more powerful than ourselves
“On the whole, instinct has never failed to guide me…especially the instinct which led me away from man’s awareness of life and towards that of a ‘pure’ animal…an animal’s unadulterated awareness of lifemade me respond with everything that was good” – Marc talking about why he decided to focus on animals rather than humans, they are purer and have more harmony than humans.
Humanity is corrupted by industry and modern life but animals have a pure innocence. Humans can only access the spirituality of nature through animals
He reproduced paintings of blue horses throughout his artistic life are one of the best searches for spirituality.
In ‘Blue Horse I (1911)’, the horse replicates the shapes of the hills which allows the colours to create harmony through the combinations of blue, yellow and red. However, ‘Blue Horse II (1911)’ depicts an image of the backside of the horse as if we are seeing what the horse is. The crucial difference of the two paintings is that the view from the horses perspective has no red, no brutal or violent colours which puts across Marc’s idea effectively
‘The Large Blue Horses’ (1911) show harmony between horses and nature. The organic shapes show harmony yet are only different through the different uses of saturated colour
The war approaching led Marc to change his art style, becoming more interested in violent outlooks and darker spirituality
Robert Delauney introduced him to cubism and futurism
‘The Tower of Blue Horses’ (1913) is more dynamic and violent than his previous horse artworks. This painting was confiscated by the nazis and deemed to be degenerate art which was going to be exposed in a degenerate art exhibition. This didn’t happen due to Marc’s death and the painting got lost at the end of world war 2
How Franz Marc’s work is influencing my project:
I was suggested to research into Franz Marc’s work during my crit to inform my uses of colour in my project which was a good idea as colour is an important part of my project and Franz Marc was a master of colour in his time. His work is very abstract which is interesting to apply to my own work as I am trying to show the irony of people claiming to care about animals in captivity but never doing anything to help them in the real world, it is a subject that is so normalised and overlooked and so I am trying to explore this idea in a subtle way without being too extreme or violent.
My work inspired by Franz Marc’s use of colour:
These are two of my current paintings in which I was inspired by Franz Marc’s use of blue and yellow. I feel that these paintings are very successful and were related to Franz Marc by my peers so I believe that they worked well. I prefer the yellow shade in the first painting but I felt that the yellow shade in the second painting balanced with the purple shade nicely.