London Design Festival 2014 – Highlights

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Alan Kitching & Monotype

I discovered Kitching’s work last year whilst researching for my second year printmaking project. I instantly loved his creativity and playful way he approaches quotes, and the nature of text as image, which I found relatable to my own work. Kitching’s talk was very inspirational and the way he discussed his work rather nonchalantly was breathtaking considering the many years of work he showed us. Whilst appreciating his work for its composition and creativity, I had never noticed the details within his work. When referring to his locational pieces, he mentioned about the symbolism of colour in his work. For instance, his pieces representing London often portray the Thames by mixing light blue with dark teal in graduation to represent the river – to show to movement from fresh water to seawater. He referred to these details as a ‘suggestion’ rather than ‘explicit expression’ and delights in the fact that these works are a ‘map but not a map’. In his other map inspired pieces, he explained how he attempted to replicate light on top of the mountains. From this talk, I appreciate Kitching’s work a lot more and see his pieces in a different light, now often looking for symbolism or alternate meanings that he may have projected into the typographic pieces.

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Studio Tuck-Tite & The Concept Lounge: Off The Press. Workshop with Delphine Perrot and talk by Nicole Polonsky

I happened to stumble into this workshop between lectures, much to my delight. All the staff were so friendly, and it just goes to show that at events such as this there is a big importance to actually get involved and speak to people! There are industry professionals there for a good reason.

After attending several talks that were so graphic design focused it felt like I was the ‘odd fine artist out’. Nicole Polonsky completely subverted this feeling for me and demonstrated the inter-disciplinary nature the arts offers, combing fine art, printmaking, in culmination with a considerable focus on typographic design. As mentioned in her artist statement: ‘her practice celebrates the eloquence of language, symbols and media that may be dulled, overlooked, or otherwise obscured. Apparently neutral forms are interrogates and subverted to produce work that can embrace both the profundity and humour. It is increasingly metaphorical and allusive; lacunae, absence and loss are enduring motifs and preoccupations.

Arts Thread – Careers advice

I would thoroughly recommend this website to any fellow creatives. I certainly wish that I had it before I went to University, things may have been different! It is a fantastic platform where you can upload your portfolio, aswell as searching for other peoples/institutions. The website has an extensive amount of advice such as CV writing tips. It allows you to search Art schools all around the world from your fingertips. Such a fantastic resource deserves the largest amount of publicity it can get.

Hamburger Bahnhof

I was incredibly impressed with this gallery, the curation of the exhibitions and the aesthetics within the gallery were truly outstanding. Housed in an old railway station, the gallery has character, whilst remaining a fitting home for modern art with its white walls and fluorescent strip lighting. The ‘Wall Works’ exhibit also demonstrated an appreciative nod to the original use of the building; the corridor to the exhibit imitates a typical Berlin station complete with tiles, posters and graffiti with authentic ‘exit’ lights.

Whilst I did enjoy the whole gallery, my favourite exhibit was the Marx collection, holding the likes of Warhol, Kentridge and Rauschenberg. With an emphasis on outstanding work groups in particular, the Marx Collection is compromised of essential artistic creations from the second half of the 20th century. Being a fan of Warhol and Rauschenberg’s prints, it was utterly amazing to be able to see the prints in front of my own eyes. Unlike the reproductions of images people see over the web and books, only in the gallery can you truly appreciate the works. The scale of Warhol’s Chairman Mao portrait was simply overwhelming and much larger than imagined, as were his Elvis prints and car crash series. In combination to my awe for Warhol’s prints, I stood in front of Rauschenberg’s ‘Ohne Titel’ (1985) for about 15 minutes, before getting funny looks from the security guards. I couldn’t stop staring at his signature thinking ‘he signed that’. I know this is cliché, but surely it’s a sign that Rauschenberg has been an inspiration to my work. I couldn’t stop looking at different areas of the composition, the corners, the single turquoise brush stroke, the bold statue figure and the void spaces of white.

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Avant-Garde! – Public Publishing

Whilst visiting the Neue Nationalgalerie, I noticed that the Kulturforum was only around the corner, which houses the Kunstbibliothek so I thought I’d pay it a visit. Much to my delight, they had an exhibition on titled ‘Avant-Garde!’ featuring works from 1890-1918. The collection of work charts the movement from the emergence of modernism culminating in book arts, to the development of Futurism and Expressionism. Particular highlights for me were the opportunity to see work by Alphons Mucha in person and also a collection of typographic Dada pieces.

Due to the structure of the exhibition in which it is spilt into two parts, the viewer gains more of a sense of the progression from one movement to another. They show the public, dynamic aspect of art in advertising and publicity in its intimate, authentic aspect. In one room, beautiful coloured posters with a fine eye for detail and design. In the other room, a new focus on typographic forms is apparent, representing a clear break with modern pictorial advertisements in opposition to harmonious ornamentation, symmetry and opulent colours in art. The burgeoning modernity, as exemplified by Art Nouveau, the Art of Secession and Symbolism, called for a new understanding of art and came up with a rash of new visual forms. As the information for the exhibition states ‘the public arena became a laboratory for the arts’. Thus, the exhibition highlights an important period of time in art and design, demonstrating the early importance of publication and design for the mass market.

Other highlights were the opportunity to see works by Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Ricketts and covers for ‘The Yellow Book’, which were featured in a section about new book arts. I studied Beardsley and Ricketts’ work in a module last year titled ‘History of Graphic Art: British Illustration Since the 18th Century’. To see the works in person was incredibly breathtaking and was much more insightful than viewing scans or replicas on screen.

Alfons Mucha - La Dame Aux CameliasThe Yellow Book - Beardsley

Jet-Setting

Another day of being an unemployed student! What would most people do? Quite frankly, sit on their arses watching rubbish daytime telly! We’re all guilty of doing that in moderation but this summer I decided to quite literally pack my bags and leave having adventures to France, Germany and London.
Obviously as this blog is mainly for my Art antics I shan’t bore my artistic-minded readers with every minute details of my travels. However, the trips were really eye opening and I feel like I have a much better cultural awareness as a result. Whilst abroad I visited many many galleries, museums and exhibitions – some enhancing my latest printmaking/illustration practice, and others just for ‘the fun of it’. For anyone who hasn’t been travelling I strongly urge you to! It’s such an amazing experience, pushes you out of your comfort zone and opens your eyes to all the amazing things outside of your own country! As a penniless student I managed to do my trip to Berlin on the cheap. My friend from University lives about 30 minutes away from central Berlin, with train travel cards costing around 6 euros for the whole day (including tube, train, and other transport such as bus and ferry). Museum passes cost us 12 euros but lasted for 3 days, so that was well worth paying considering the galleries/museums are normally 8 euros each for students.
In accordance with my PDP (professional development portfolio) for University I will be posting my exhibition reviews and highlights of my trip on here should anyone wish to read them and learn more about a variety of Art Berlin had to offer.

Virginia Woolf – Art, Life & Vision

“Painting and writing have much to tell eachother”

This quote was on one of the walls in the exhibition, and I absolutely loved it. As a Fine Art and English Literature student it had a particular resonance with me showing how one influences the other. As Jon Day notes, though Woolf said that ‘writing and painting’ had ‘much to tell each other’, she also conceded that they ‘must part in the end.’ The conflict between writing and painting, and the way this conflict informed Woolf’s own writing. At the time, the rejection of Victorian narrativity and sentimentality in painting in favour of a formal coherence is echoed in Woolf’s short fictions, which often aspire to the condition of painting. What emerges most strongly at the National Portrait Gallery is the degree to which what Woolf called the ‘Sister’s arts’ of writing and painting fed off one another. The portraits of Woolf by her sister are some of the most interesting paintings on display, but the archival material is fascinating too.

As a fan of Virginia Woolf’s writing, I thought the exhibition would be incredibly fascinating to be able to have insight into Woolf’s life. The exhibition has a remarkable array of personal objects including letters, diaries and books. Particular highlights for me were Vanessa Bell’s original cover designs for Woolf’s books, and a portrait by Gisele Freund of Woolf and her dog. The portrait by Freund instantly captivated me, Woolf appears relaxed and almost inviting to the viewer. In comparison, other portraits in the exhibition by the likes of Man Ray appear much more stern and poised. I believe it is also a less well-published portrait of Woolf, it was certainly the first time I had seen it. There is a sense that in the portrait and the exhibition as a whole the viewer gets the ‘real deal’, surrounded by her most intimate writings and documents.

Back into the swing of things!

After galavanting around parts of Europe and catching up on TV shows I thought it was once again time to whack out the sketchbook (and coffee). I thought I’d try some observational drawing of a skull I have which I often use to practice tonal techniques. I decided to go out of my comfort zone and give a pointillist-like technique ago, creating shade using only dots and line. Although laborious I really like the result! Going to give it more of a go in future.

Skull Experiment
Skull Experiment

Educactus and the Royal Shakespeare Company!

So, after a comment on WordPress, a gloomy day of revision and bad weather has suddenly turned a lot brighter! A poster I designed in my first year Illustration class for a local play was spotted by the company Educactus who produced the play at the time. A year later, (how time flies!) they’ve received an email from the RSC regarding a possibility for posters advertising Shakespeare plays to be published in a book! Exciting stuff! So with all fingers (and toes) crossed, I may have a chance to be published in the collection. What an amazing opportunity, and to be part of the 400th anniversary too - it’d be an absolute honour.

A link to the post regarding the book is on the Educactus blog below, check them out! 

http://educactustheatre.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/the-rsc-have-been-in-touch-and-a-young-artist-creates-illustration-of-our-macbeth/

Going digital!

After advice from my lecturer and a desire to practice digital illustration, I finally decided to buy a Wacom tablet! After I figured out which way around you were meant to hold it…I was away! Within a day I had got to grips with how to draw lines using pressure and how it can effectively be used to draw/shade small and precise areas of images. I urge anyone to give it a go! It was relatively cheap, around £50 and I have now used it for all of my final second year pieces. Some, such as the ‘Tom Waits’ illustrations (in my portfolio section), were simply shaded using light brush strokes. Yet, others such as my Blodeuwedd project were transformed from sole watercolour illustrations to full scale digital paintings. I hope to continue practicing with it and become more aquatinted by the various techniques you can use. Just goes to show going out of your comfort zone does sometimes pay off!
Back to the coffee, red bull and mountain of work I go..

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A Universal Archive; William Kentridge as Printmaker

As an artist who finds an affinity with work surrounding narrative and literature, William Kentridge’s exhibition was a refreshing and inspiring experience. Kentridge’s concern with memory and perspective, and his absorption in literary texts are all in evidence. I found a particular affinity to his typewriter series (Unremember, Monitor, A Universal Archive, The Full Stop) in which he prints onto old dictionaries and encyclopaedias, stating that they are ‘all books which are destined just to die of mildew eventually’.

Aberystwyth Arts Centre note that whilst Kentridge stated that he’d ‘failed’ as an actor and a painter, he eventually stopped worrying about his ‘right’ to be an artist, or connecting his images to politics and social themes, to simply ‘let them emerge’. This attitude towards the process of art making is something I believe to be crucial, and found incredibly significant when creating my series of prints relating to Sylvia Plath’s writing earlier in the year. Rather than intensely worrying about compositions, colour, and if they conveyed an overtly feminist perspective, I too just ‘let them emerge’.

 

Aberystwyth Arts Centre – A Universal Archive, William Kentridge as Printmaker

8 March / Mawrth – 16 May / Mai | Gallery1 / Oriel 1