New Romanticism

In her introduction to Vitamin D Emma Dexter mentions a tendency within contemporary art towards a new form of Romanticism I find very intriguing. It is something I had felt myself when looking at certain paintings but had never come across in texts about contemporary art. Now I have.

Romanticism, late 18th / early 19th century

Like Neoclassicism Romanticism has its roots in an interest in the past, i.e. ancient Greece and, for Romanticism especially, Rome. The two movements have gone side by side, each focusing on different aspects of the past, taking up different aspects of their Roman examples. Where for Neoclassicism it was the rules, the rational and universal that was important, for Romanticism it was the individual, the subjective and imaginative, the fantastic, poetic and melancholy. This found its expression in an interest in the past closely linked to the specific country and culture of the artist, including its legends, myths and folklore as well as literature. In Europe this meant among other things the chivalric romances of the middle ages from where the era got its name. Nature, too, played a very important role. Edmund Burke, a philosopher of the time, minted the concept of the “sublime”. He said that when we feel fascination mixed with fear, when we stand in front of something that is larger than ourselves, we are filled with awe and terror, although not in any real danger. It is thrilling and exciting. That is what he called the sublime. (Stockstad 2008). Nature could instill this feeling – vast landscapes, forests, awe-inspiring mountains, forces of nature such as gales, fires, storms. Turner was one who expressed this “sublime” in powerful landscape paintings. An other was the German painter Caspar David Friedrich who sought the divine through a deep personal connection with nature.

But Romanticism was not only idealizing the past, nature and the individual, it had a darker side to it where the fantastic and imaginary became haunted and nightmarish.

In the 1920s as well as in the 1930/40s there has been a revival of Romanticism with rich, poetic and often sombre figurative paintings. Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland are representatives.

 

Romantic tendencies in contemporary art

According to Dexter quite a few of the Romantic ideals can be found in contemporary art. She mentions a return to subjectivity and emotion, experience and feeling, to nationality and myth, legend, folklore and kitsch, also the sublime. There is a renewed interest in narrative and associations with literature, a leaning towards the popular, vernacular. She says that aspects of culture such as these have long been repressed under post-structuralist skepticism.

I find it very interesting that Romantic ideals should be revived now, at and after the end of the 20th century when art, as it was known, had been dismantled, everything been called into question and, as it sometimes seems to me, the human component erased. Not to have any rules at all can be a strong rule in itself. And in that one could see a parallel to Romanticism in the late 18th and the 19th century. Then it was a reaction to the strictness of classicism, now to that of post-modernism.

This development can be observed not only in art such as painting, drawing and sculpture, but also in music. The Ouverture to Kjartan Sveinsson’s opera “Der Klang der Offenbarung des Göttlichen” lends, in my oppinion, a very fitting stage for looking at the following artists’ work.

 

Examples

On his homepage Nick Alm states:

I aim to communicate what is inherently and universally human, transcending cultural codes and trends. It’s not my goal to criticize or change society; instead my work addresses itself primarily to the inner world of the individual.

In his paintings he makes references to mythical creatures like satyrs or Greek gods and weaves them into settings that appear to belong in both the 19th century and modern times. I can also see references to Swedish folklore and traditions, e.g. in allusions to Midsummer celebrations. Although these themes are historic, both in themselves (antiquity) and in their use in paintings (Romanticism) Alm’s pictures are unmistakably contemporary.

Anders Moseholm paints landscapes, cityscapes and interiors. I find his paintings highly suggestive, as it were not the actual landscape or interior the picture is about, but a subjective, very personal interpretation of it. In his pictures it is less the historic or mythical aspect that makes me think of Romanticism but the feeling that permeates them. One could maybe call it the sublime?

Sam Wolfe Conelly‘s work has a very strong narrative, often of a darker kind, reminiscent of the Gothic and dark Romanticism

Stephen Mackey‘s pictures are dreamlike, fantastical and filled with a symbolism with strong ties to myths and folkloric stories. His paintings are set in some kind of undefined historical time. At a first glance they seem lighter than Conelly’s work, but on closer examination I find some of them equally unsettling.

Johan Egerkrans, a Swedish illustrator and concept artist moves in an area that some would call fantasy art. But fantasy as such and especially his work “Nordic creatures” (illustrations and descriptions of figures from traditional Swedish folklore) stand with at least one foot firmly in Romanticism, I think.

 

 

Sources

Dexter, E. (2005) Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing. London: Phaidon Press

Stockstad, M. Cothren M.W.: Art History. Pearson Education Inc, USA 2008 (5th Edition)

http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/n/neo-romanticism

http://andersmoseholm.dk/onewebmedia/Texts/Right%20Here%20in%20Front%20of%20You%20(English).pdf

http://www.nickalm.com/

http://samwolfeconnelly.com/

http://www.stephenmackey.com/

http://johan-egerkrans.blogspot.se/

 

 

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What is Drawing?

Reflections on the definition of drawing based on the Introduction to “Vitamin D”¹

“To draw is to be human.”

With this statement Emma Dexter begins the text leading the reader’s thoughts to cave paintings (notice the term “paintings” here) as the earliest form of human image making and expression. Humans draw and have always drawn, be it historically or in the life of an individual. Children have a natural interest for it and in them we might glimpse something of the early humans’ relationship to drawing. It has, no doubt, something magical about it. And looking at those images in the caves gives us a strong feeling of connection with the people who made them and saw them. Dexter cites Picasso describing art as a “form of magic, designed as a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by  giving form to our terrors as well as our desires…”(Dexter (2005) p.6) . Rowan Williams, in A History of the World in a 100 Objects, also speaks about art as having deeper meaning to the early humans, deeper than, as he puts it, “managing animals or granting success in hunting”. He says art for these early humans is about “entering fully into the flow of life”, about “being at home in the world at a deeper level” and about “how to be here and now”(McGregor (2010). 9:36-10:33). I like these views very much and think that on some level they are still true today. Art can have an immediacy of expression that connects us – artists or viewers – to our surrounding world and to each other. There is a very nice scene in the animated film How to Train your Dragon, where the boy Hiccup and the dragon Toothless make their first connection over a drawing. The dragon reveals himself not as a mindless monster but as a sentient being.

So yes, art is part of our very being as humans. But I would say “art”, not “drawing”.

 

How drawing is not like painting

The introduction then takes up different aspects of drawing trying to carve out what drawing is and how it is separated from other art forms. Dexter starts with the “primal, elemental character” of drawing, the “simplicity and purity of the blank sheet of paper”and the “honesty and transparency” of the act of drawing. She puts these in contrast to (oil?)painting, where, as a rule, the ground is covered completely and the process of building up the painting is obscured – where as a drawing uses the relationship of line and supporting background and “wears its mistakes and errors on its sleeve”. Drawing, as the quickest medium, can protect the intensity of the thought, Dexter cites art critic Jean Fisher. In this view drawing is seen as having an immediacy, informality and an intimacy that painting is lacking. Following on from there the implications become quite philosophical when she cites Michael Newman: “each stroke is a sign of withdrawal”, “drawing (…) re-enacts desire and loss”, or when she states that drawing is characterised by an “eternal incompletion”.

Although I can see that drawing can be immediate, informal and intimate I cannot help feeling that this is not all there is to it. And I don’t see why painting as such (and indeed any other art form) should not be immediate, informal or intimate. The further this line of thought is driven the less I understand it and the more I think it confines drawing and robs it of its freedom. Painting, too.

This is strange because whilst drawing is presented as an immediate and direct, quick form of art – which I find limiting – the term is also stretched to encompass almost any medium, from sculpture to landscape art, video, photography… If I understand correctly the connecting element is the line (although I am not sure if the line is a defining element of drawing, there are other ways of mark making in drawing). Where the element of mark making can be seen as a line – be it trodden grass on a meadow (like  in Richard Long’s Line Made by Walking), or Monika Grzymala’s spacial drawings made with duct tape or branches in a room the art work could be called a drawing. This, too, is not a new thought considering ancient landscape art such as the White Horse at Uffington. But I feel I have misgivings to stretch the term drawing to photography and video. I wonder what the point is. Why is it important to define drawing to the point of limiting it, or to stretch it and call something a drawing just because it has certain properties normally associated with drawing? I see that by doing this and asking the question What is drawing?, or more to the point What can drawing be?, an artist can open up to new ways of expression and is invited to think outside the box. However, I do not think that we win very much by actually drawing a demarcation line between drawing and say painting . Quite the contrary. It will always imply generalisations that either make the term too wide so it won’t mean anything very much, or too tight excluding too much. I prefer a zone where different art forms meet each other, converge and overlap freely, where elements of art making can be used without having to comply to any predetermined set that can be combined into a “drawing” as opposed to a “painting”. As I believe it is actually done by artists. But in literature it seems art is separated into boxes.

My own understanding of what drawing is is very fuzzy. It has to do with dry materials, such as charcoal or graphite; with line; with immediacy, yes, and spontaneity like in sketching; also, strangely, with lack of colour; with representation. But as soon as I think one of the above I invariably find examples that contradict it. Obviously drawing can be done with wet materials and paint; the line is only one of many ways of making marks; drawings can be very thought-through and built up in layers as much as any painting; there is nothing strange with colour drawings or with abstract drawings. As soon as I try to pin it down, it slips through my fingers.

Dexter says drawings are “eternally incomplete”, she speaks of paintings having, as opposed to drawings, a filled in background and covering up their “coming into being”. But in the book, there are drawings by e.g. Graham Little in coloured pencil with nothing incomplete about them, nothing immediate and sketchy. There are very few lines, too. Following Dexter’s indicators they should be paintings, if it were not for the medium which makes them drawings, intuitively, as indeed Dexter says they are.

graham-little
Graham Little, Untitled (2004) above and Untitled (2005) below, Source: Dexter (2005)

But then again: what about the soft pastel portraits by Rosalba Carriera (1673-1757)? Does the medium make these drawings? In this case, I would say not, they feel more like paintings, although the way she handles the background has characteristics of a drawing. She made these portraits of visitors to Venice who had not the time to wait for an oil painting (Stockstad 2008). So one could argue that to all intents and purposes, they were paintings.

Rosalba Carriera.JPG
Rosalba Carriera, Charles Sackville, 2nd Duke of Dorset, 1730. Source: Stockstad (2008)

On the other hand, there is Joan Miró who’s oil paintings have quite a few of the characteristics usually attributed to drawings.

http://www.joan-miro.net/constellation-the-morning-star.jsp#prettyPhoto%5Bimage2%5D/0/

So where does that leave me with the definition of drawing? As mentioned above, I would like to refrain from a clear definition and instead try and find characteristics a drawing can have. This leaves more room for drawing to be given complete expression. I am thinking of Wittgenstein’s concept of Family Resemblance. He states that some words get their meaning from a set of common features that are present in various meanings of the word, and not in others, “but the general overlapping mesh of these features is where the word gets its meaning” (Philosophy-index). He takes “game” as an example: some games have rules, some don’t, some are played in teams, some not, some need, say, a ball, some don’t. No single thing is common to all uses of the word, and yet, the word “game” has a meaning. I think, “drawing” or “painting” are words like this and do therefore not need to be confined by a rigid definition.

 

Sources

  1. Dexter, E. (2005) Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing. London: Phaidon Press
  2. McGregor, Neil (2010) A History of the World in a 100 Objects. Episode 4: Swimming Reindeer. BBC Radio 4.
  3. How to Train your Dragon, DreamWorks, 2010
  4. Stockstad, M. Cothren M.W.: Art History. Pearson Education Inc, USA 2008 (5th Edition)
  5. http://www.philosophy-index.com/wittgenstein/family-resemblance/

 

Tutor Report 2

Report 2 reflects very well how I felt about the exercises in part 2: pencil drawings work well for me and I am able to work out an object’s form by using tone – but in order to develop I need to leave the comfort of what I know. I need to use other materials, go up in scale and find new ways of making marks. Diana’s key advice, I think, is to Combine the technical aspect with the expressive ways you can work. I have found that often, when I try to work more expressively I tend to forget the technical side of things.

My tutor suggests pastels as they do not lend themselves to detail but can be used expressively. Also my ocher stones are good for that, only I need to learn how to use them to best effect. I have worked in soft pastels and love them – but I don’t like using them in the house as the dust they produce makes my nose hurt badly and it gets everywhere. Oil pastels works fine and I am just about to discover them.

Diana also suggests that I apply what I learn from my research in my actual practice. Very good advice indeed and something I have not done yet.

Challenge accepted

As mentioned in connection with Part 2 and the last tutor report I tried to go bigger. Initially I thought the specific exercises in part 2 did not lend themselves to large scale and expressive mark making but I think that has more to do with me limiting myself than with the actual exercises. In the end I did make a large piece from one of my spin offs to exercise 2.1.

I´m not sure if the mark making can be called expressive. In the background maybe – it is made with a 20 cm trowel for surfacing and I could work with my whole arm. The pattern, on the other hand, was more restricted although I treated it less timidly the longer I worked.

Working big certainly feels very differently from drawing with pencil on an A4 sheet.

sphere
Acrylic paint and acrylic marker on drawing paper, 100 x 102 cm

 

3.2 Leaving my Comfort Zone

As suggested by my tutor I stepped up the paper size and chose chunky materials to draw. In my stash I found water soluble crayons, oil pastels, acrylic paint, conté, coal and soft pastel sticks, watercolours, acrylic markers and promarkers plus A2 drawing paper, coloured drawing paper and large newspapers.

With the first one I tried to achieve dynamic marks, using a broken piece of crayon on its side.

ohne-farbe
Water soluble crayon on A2 drawing paper

Apart from the beetroot I am quite happy with the result. But my crayon box contains coloured sticks, too. So I tried that, rather timidly.

fullsizerender

I then tried to add water to it, but it turned out I had used too much crayon for that. Everything went black.

How would water(colour) work on oil pastels?

oil-pastels
Oil pastels and watercolour on A2 drawing paper

Still a lot of black, especially in the pepper. Also the marks in the pepper make it look as if it were creased paper and the back of it jumps forward. But I like the way the oil pastel repels the water and so restricts colour to spaces between marks. I had used the groves technique on the beetroot again. The watercolour would enter into them making them red instead of white. I like that.

beetroot

I had tried to be more gestural with the application of colour and paint outside the lines. No success there. The cast shadows are smudged oil pastel. I found that the depth illusion is stronger if I smudge in the direction of the ground (horizontally) not in the direction of the light (dioganally). I used the side of my hand for rubbing. Flakes of pastel drew nice lines in the smudged areas. I like the cast shadows.

Now that I had begun using colour I moved to acrylic paint.

on-acrylics
Acrylic paint, oil pastels and ink on newspaper

To begin with I used the acrylic to make a white ground on the newspaper to draw on with oil pastels. I then tried shadowing with ink which did not work at all. The ink is not repelled in the same way as watercolour and just makes rather ugly and dirty areas. What I liked discovering was how the crayons work out the pallet knife marks in the acrylics beneath. I also like the rough edges of the white background, leaving not an edge but an area for the picture to run out.

So what if I use acrylics for the coloured bits, too?

light
Acrylic paint and acrylic marker on newspaper

I decided to draw the lit parts of the objects this time to see how that would work. My markers were not so opaque as I had thought so I first painted a white ground for the coloured parts. I used a rectangular pallet knife which made very distinct marks. I then coloured the white. The shapes were very hard to recognise so I added some lines to the mushrooms to suggest their form. It does not really work. Especially the beet root is all wrong as I also drew in the shadow. The mushrooms in the foreground are fine I think. If I had arranged and lit the objects in a manner so that lit areas define dark ones like in the middle mushroom’s foot it might become very nice.

Even if I consider these last two experiments failed I like the colours. So the next and final experiment I started with the colour. I used a pallet knife and had only roughly sketched in the position of the veggies in order to not being able to stay inside the lines. I then drew in the heavy lines with a felt tip pen.

akkryl-stage-1
Acrylics and felt tip pen on wallpaper

To add shadows for depth I used conté sticks in dark grey and black. I used them for the cast shadows, too, but they became very much too heavy. So I tried to get rid of them and use smudged oil pastels instead. I decided to add a bit of blue into those and also very sparingly in the shaded areas of the veggies. I like the effect very much.

akryl-stage-3

Acrylics, felt tip pen, conté sticks, oil pastels on wall paper

 

Conté for the cast shadows was a mistake and it mars the picture. Apart from that I am really pleased. I think this is the best of all the pieces I have done for this exercise, including the graphite ones.

 

Reflections

I am very glad I used larger paper and different drawing media. It really opened me up to new ideas. Changing paper and media kept the ideas coming so that each drawing jogged new ones. I tried to listen to my own reactions and curiosity and to act upon them.

I have kept to my still life throughout these experiments in order to concentrate on finding new ways without the need to get to know new shapes. I am quite tired of it now.

Looking back I realise that for the final picture I have used things I liked from most of my experiments and sketches and collected them in one drawing. This drawing would not have been possible without all the studies that went before. So even if most of the experimental drawings are failures, they were necessary for the process. It is one thing to be told this, and quite an other to experience it.

 

Add on

Is a still life a still life if it is not situated in an environment? Only one of the above pictures give any clue as to where the veggies are. I wanted to see what would happen if I add a dark background to the last of the still lives to suggest a table.  So I made two more of them. I found it difficult to duplicate the picture. The new ones lack the immediacy of the original. This is something I experience often, not being able to achieve a certain effect again. The following two pictures have aspects that are better than the original and others that do not work as well.

blaues-papier
Acrylics, felt tip pen and oil pastels on A2 drawing paper

The background hightens the sense of depth I think. And the mushroom in the foreground is very nice. However, the dark paper changes the hue of the paints. For the pepper this works well, as the dark in the thinner layers suggests a shadowing. The beetroot on the other hand turned out too dark and muddy so I decided to give it a layer of white first. Applying it I lost track of the shape so that turned out all wrong. Also the blue paper does not add any interest. The blue in the shadows does not really show in the photo, in reality it is much stronger and bolder than in the original drawing. I like that very much. I also like the shadow beneath the tip of the pepper which makes it arch over the surface.

buff-paper
Acrylics, felt tip pen and oil pastels on A2 drawing paper

In this version the paper works better and the beetroot turned out really nice. But I am not satisfied with the mushrooms and did not at all succeed with the pepper.

So even if certain details are better in the two latest versions, all in all I think I still go with the original.

3.2 Natural Form and Space

  • choose several organic objects and arrange them
  • concentrate on accuately representing their forms, considering light, shadows, ground and spaces between objects
  • Draw boldly, larger than life. Don’t be hesitant
  • Experiment with the weight of marks
  • Reflect: How can you describe the objects’ form through your marks, what is the surface like, how do the objects relate to each other?

Preparatory work

To start this exercise I googled “Still life drawings” to jog some ideas on mark making. I was initially looking for the “weight” of marks and for gestural marks and how they are used. I did not really find what I was looking for but ideas about other aspects of still lives started tumbling in: subject matter, arrangement, drawing surface… One of them was about combining media to achieve certain effects. This is new to me, I tend to restrict myself to one medium and often one way of using it, too. The different media should be contrasting in different ways: hard – soft, sharp – fluid, light – dark, b/w – coloured etc. I put these ideas into a research map which I referred to frequently during the following process.

I then decided on my subjects. I wanted them to have some kind of correlation and I wanted them to be different in their texture. With this last specification I wanted to challenge myself into versatile mark making. I found the following:

  • A beetroot: rough texture and uneven shape
  • 4 mushrooms: velvety texture and rounded shapes
  • A pepper: smooth and shiny texture, interesting bumps and indentations

Initial Sketches

I started in my A4 sketchbook to get to know my objects and test some of my mark making ideas and media mixes:

sketch-pilz
Graphite hatching (above) and ink with charcoal (below)

I like the ink with charcoal best as it renders the velvety texture of the mushrooms very well. I managed to place the different tones of the ink washes right so they reflect the actual shadows. With the charcoal I added detail and strengthened some contours.

The hatching is nice, but does not really fit the texture here.

 

 

 

 

 

sketch
Sepia and black ink, graphite (mushrooms), sepia ink, charcoal, sepia chalk pen

I found the cold colour of the graphite did not combine well with the warmth of the sepia ink. However, the colder black shadows work well.

Beetroot: Very nice ink marks in the right spots where the root has blemishes. The chalk pen was moody – sometimes it would make nice strong marks, sometimes none at all. And the tip broke all the time. When I got so frustrated that I used it with barely any tip at all I found that the wood makes grooves, where the later charcoal smudges would not enter. Very nice effect! I like the rough and dirty texture of this beetroot.

 

 

 

 

I like this very much. I managed to make the ink shadowing

sketch-peperoni
Black ink, graphite, charcoal

nice and soft without any hard edges. I also left one highlight. The hatching in patches of different direction and intensity gives an illusion of separate tilting planes which describes the shape of the pepper very well. However, I feel it does not describe the smooth and shiny texture. I tried to add highlights I had accidentally painted over with white acrylic marker. That did not work at all.

The charcoal on top of the cast shadow works well to show a smoothish non reflective surface (tabletop).

 

 

 

I then combined them into a first still life.

still-life-1
Sepia and black ink, sepia chalkpen, charcoal pencil, A3 cheap drawing paper, spotlight plus daylight from the right

I think this has a nice depth. I made the contours in the mushrooms and the pepper tip in the foreground stronger, in the background I did not add any contour lines and tried to be lighter with the shadows to give a sense of depth. I think also that the dark strip behind the table strengthens the illusion of space. Maybe even the arrangement of the veggies, especially the pepper.

Again I like the beetroot in its knobbliness and roughness.

The ink works well, as it reflects shadows and lights.

I did go for the hatching in the pepper and felt that for reasons of cohesion I have to use the same technique in other parts of the picture, so the mushrooms got it, too. I am, however, not sure if this is important.

I had put the veggies on a white cloth. I liked the way it messed with the cast shadows. But it does not work like this, I will have to study fabric separately some time.

First Drawing

For this I put the veggies closer together and chose watercolour paper for the ink to behave better. Also I skipped the cloth. As I wanted to use graphite I chose the black ink. I did not change the water, though, hence the warm tinge to the lighter areas.

graphite-and-ink
Ink, 9B-B graphite pencils, rubber pen without rubber, graphite shavings and paper stomp, white chalk pen on watercolour paper, A3

In this I was less successful with the ink, so the lit parts are much less prominent. I tried to remedy that in the mushrooms with a white chalk pen.

In the beetroot I overdid the pencil marks which caused it to lose shape and interest. However, the grooves (done with the metal tip of a pen eraser) work well.

The mushrooms turned out very nice, I think. For their shadow side I used the pencil on its side, trying to give no direction to the marks. The watercolour paper’s tooth thwarted that somewhat, but not too much, I think.

For the pepper I tried a paper stomp and graphite shavings. I do not do that usually, but I think it works better than the hatching for the pepper’s texture.

Apart from the beetroot which is quite flat there is some sense of depth. It is less than in the sketch above but then the veggies occupy a smaller space. Maybe I should have left the lone mushroom where it was.

Reflections

I felt the step to A3 changed a lot. The nice expressive marks from the sketchbook did not work as well as they are much thinner in relation to the size of the objects. Maybe this is why I overdid the marks in the beetroot. I felt that I have to find other marks and media for this size.

During all of these – sketches and drawing – I tried to be more adventurous in my mark making and get away from the pencil. It proved to be difficult. Maybe it is the wording in the exercise description where it says “accurate depiction” that held me to the pencils. I am very glad I had the beetroot! When I realized this, I decided to go bigger still and have a rummage in my art supplies. But that is a different story.

Spring Salon at Liljevalchs

Since 1921 Liljevalchs Art Museum in Stockholm hosts a spring salon where works of contemporary artists are shown and sold. Applicants submit their work anonymously and a jury chooses a selection of works to display. Application is open to everybody above the age of 18 and for works in any technique. Admitted works should be no more than three years old and preferably not been exhibited before. The jury will choose works that combine well to a “generous and exciting” exhibition. Thus, although they look for quality, the works chosen are not necessarily the “best” ones.

This year the exhibition shows 295 works from 127 artists. Of these 112 are paintings and 37 are drawings. There are a couple of sculptures, photographs and some textile works as well.

Liljevalchs’ director says this year’s works feel like a counteraction against the uneasiness in the world. Many are about interiors and houses. He would have expected some kind of punch in the gut, but there is none. Art is not taking a stand – rather it seems it looks for alternatives (Dagens Nyheter, 10th Jan. 2017)

I don’t know how representative this selection of artworks is for what goes on in contemporary art in Sweden. And yes, there was no punch. But I felt that a lot of works held a more or less subtle social critique that in some instances stood in stark contrast to the beautiful way the picture was painted. Here are some of the pictures that struck a chord with me:

Henry Svahn had four fantastic watercolours showing a barn in lush green vegetation, romantically dilapidated. He named them “Non-place”. He says that “a place” is somewhere with meaning, intention, made for people to be and often pimped up. A “non-place” would then be the opposite, which he finds more interesting. He says he sees these barns in the north of Sweden as non-places. For me, they bring to mind the state of abandonment of many houses in rural communities and all that that implies.

There was an other artist with, for me, a similar kind of message. Tobias Adamsson draws plans of old houses in a state of disrepair and adorns them with stories about the people who might have lived in them. The twist of these lies in the fact that the plan drawings show the broken beams and fallen walls rather than the house as it would have been drawn before building. He says he wants to raise awareness for the cultural heritage we lose for ever when we let houses like these – and the craftsmanship that built them – disappear. It is a critique of the replace-if-worn society we live in.

 

Other works were of a more fantastical nature, playful and light:

Lars Palm uses copperplate print for its visual qualities, but also, he says, in controversy to our fast lifestyles. Copperplate printing is a slow process. I like the strange reality in his pictures and the almost childlike style – a bit quirky but very sure. The fantastical animals Ida Rödén presents in the fashion of early scientific studies are based on descriptions by a Swedish early scientist – who may or may not have lived. She plays around the themes of reality and sanity, she says. I like the playfulness and I find the combination of picture and text appealing.

An other playful one is this:

img_5395
Siv Appelqvist, Ramar (Frames)

I like the way the artist treats perspective and fits together views, exteriors and interiors into a surprising and interesting whole. I find it playful. Whether that is the artist’s intention I cannot say.

This one by Sten-Yngve Johansson is technically very convincing and I love the light in it:

img_5382
Sten-Yngve  Johansson, Civilisation 4

I think he has first made an underpainting in warm rusty colours that shine through in the final painting. In the water the reflections are red, like the underpainting, rather than the white of the ship. I like the effect of that. I also like the gestural brushmarks.

img_5385
Detail of Civilisation 4

Reflections

The exhibition contains many very different works and if one has to set a common denominator then maybe it has to be a lack of overtly political statements. I liked that as it allows the viewer to make his/her own connection

How important is technical skill in a work of art? To me it is very important, however, I know there are many who would disagree. I have to think about this more.

Although there were a number of abstract non-representative pictures the bulk of the works of art on display was representative. Quite a number of them very realistic, moving away from the flat picture plane and gestural marks to a carefully built up three-dimensionality. This is a development I have come across in other maybe more representative contexts.

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Erika Canohn, Sumpan (Name of a Stockholm borough)

 

Sources

http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/varsalongen-ar-som-en-motkraft-mot-oron/ (Dagens Nyheter – National daily newspaper)

http://www.liljevalchs.se/utstallningar/varsalongen-2017/ (Liljevalchs Art Museum’s homepage)

 

 

 

 

3.1 Open Cupboard

  • Choose a cupboard containing packets, jars, boxes
  • Open its door and draw the contents and the cupboard with its open door
  • Use line only to achieve a sense of depth by means of perspective
  • Draw the items as if they were transparent

Once I had chosen my cupboard and sat down I first drew the horizon line at eye level and the central vanishing point. Then I sketched in the cupboard. For the open door I needed two more vanishing points, the right hand one on an other piece of paper. This gave me the frame for the items inside. Drawing all the lines to the central vanishing point was very helpful and prevented me several times from drawing awkward angles.

From my vantage point on the floor I had an interesting view on the scales, the honey jar and the toaster on the counter top so I drew them too. I also liked the idea of the wide angle so that I would see parts of the picture from above and parts from below.

I have made several versions of this and all have mistakes, mainly around the scales. This is the best one:

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2B graphite pencil and sepia ink pen, 2x A3

Reflections

It is very difficult to draw these long straight lines between two points. I was tempted to use a ruler but I fear the eye would become much less forgiving. Like this the lines are not really straight and thus indicate a certain margin of tolerance that also covers the angles.

I like the effect of space and depth I achieved, especially in the extremes like the door and the counter top. The boxes in the cupboard are rather boring on their own so the sharp angles and strange viewpoint add a bit of interest.

There is a major mistake in the top corner where the door should meet the frame – it does not. In consequence the upper left edge of the cupboard (inside) is wrong, too.

I liked drawing this as an exercise although it felt more like constructing. I think it makes for good training that will come in handy in more free drawings.

Ditch in Midwinter Light

On my way to the train I pass this ditch. I am intrigued by the shape of the drum and its reflections and wanted to draw it for some time. The other day the light was wonderful with its strong yellows that made the surrounding landscape almost colourless.

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In my drawing I wanted to get out the contrast between the yellow light and the black and white landscape with the graphic shape of the drum as a focal point. I decided to leave out the fence and to simplify the trees in the distance. I made some thumbnails and then an A4 sketch.

The sketch is made with ink brush pens in black and two shades of grey and yellow and orange coloured pencils. I like the contrasts and the disposition (apart from the sky which needs more room), but it turned out very flat. I tried to remedy that in the drawing:

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9B-4H graphite pencils, coloured pencils, A3

As there are no buildings or roads to show perspective to achieve depth I tried to exaggerate the tonal difference between fore- and background and to show difference in size in the diagonal grassline as the only feature present in both middle- and background. I also changed the right shoreline to help with perspective and the treeline to amplify the zigzag line leading the eye into the picture. I think I succeded with that.

My 9B – on its last legs, only about 2cm left of it – broke its tip at the first mark. I used the broken tip instead which made very nice marks. I could use it on its side for broad marks and on its tip for fine ones. In both cases control was limited which I think worked very well for the trees and grass.

I like the depth, the mark making and the effect of colour in an otherwise grey picture.

The contrasts could be made stronger, especially in the horizon. The line of trees there is too weak.

I tried a version in coal and coloured pencil and one in ink. Both are drawn mainly from memory with some reminders from the pencil drawing.

The ink did not work at all – wrong paper and patience ran out. The coal is better.

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Yellow and black ink, neat and diluted, applied with brush and bamboo pen

Cartridge paper sucks up the ink and does not allow it to spread, flow and merge together as it would on watercolour paper. I became aware of this right at the beginning with the yellow and I gave up on the picture.I did finish it, however, to see how other marks would work.

The contrast between fore- and background came out fine. I also like the marks in the grasses very much.

The water/ice does not work like this.

Neither does the yellow – it is too orange and too strong.

I lifted the drum somewhat compared to the graphite image. I think it makes a better focal point here.

 

The coal version:

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Nitram stick (HB, B), pressed coal very dark, yellow and red coloured pencils, putty eraser

I like the contrasts and the mark making very much in this. The HB Nitram coal stick works very well for the background as it is very light and makes an even colour. It did not like to mark on top of coloured pencil, I had to go over it often with quite a lot of pressure. However, this made it blend nicely with the colour underneath:

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I don’t like the grasses in the middle ground, they are too even and don’t look natural. Also the whole middleground seems to tilt to the right. I think it is the narrow line of soil visible in the water at the foot of the drum that is not horizontal and the diagonal grassline that rises too much to the left and is too straight.