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Part 5: Assignment 5 Final submissions

January 21, 2014

After numerous experiments in my sketchbook I decided the most fruitful line of enquiry was the Modern Fossil. The umbrella heading would permit great freedom of expression but also facilitate experiments with acrylic media and techniques. I decided to blog the development of the pieces. My tutor report contained recommended viewings that were exciting , stimulating and liberating. In particular Terry Setch’s work includes unusual media that I was encouraged to be bold and extend my comfort zone. It was also apparent that each artist in my recommended viewing believed in their message and so Modern Fossil explores the notions of death and legacy in a symbolic way.


Submission overview

Submission overview

I got so absorbed in experimenting with acrylic techniques I looked up to see I was running out of time to meet my deadline. As artists are we not meant to be engrossed by what interests us? That is the essence of conviction and if you cannot convince yourself how can you convince the viewer. And so I began the final submission well and truly outside my comfort zone but with focus and determination to see it through. I felt the process was tight and the thinking rigorous and though anxious about the vision; the research had furnished me with a repertoire of symbolic acts and techniques to make art that was coherent, experimental yet planned.

Step 1: Gesso and jointing compound

Panel 1

The gesso was liberally applied with a knife and sometimes with a roller as this gives textural interest instantly. Also. I realised that the canvass would be treated quite aggressively and the gesso seals and binds. As soon as the gesso touches a blank canvass, possibilities suggest themselves and the painting act becomes exciting.

Panel 2

Several layers of gesso were needed and each new layer is influenced by the layers below. However, the jointing compound is needed to allow heavy textural work and permits sculptural treatment. It is very responsive and picks up movement and hesitation in the hand. It was applied to the canvass as I responded directly to fossil images that intrigued me While the process was identical on each panel; I wanted different approaches to distinguish them. I do not want to create a recipe for formula art. Shells, fish and lizard forms were highly suggestive. This is ancient element and the act of smearing very primal.

Panel 3

I have learned that parallel lines speak to me in a way I can barely express. There is something primitive and yet sophisticate. The primitive suggest traces of Nasca lines and sophisticated in the precision of printed circuit boards. The symbolism of ancient and modern is essential in this stream of consciousness. The parallel lines were striated using grouting cards of differing spacings. It is ironic that complex chemistry in acrylic and compound are being used, ironically to suggest something ancient.

Panel 4:

Imperfections and accidents were relished and encouraged. I enjoyed when the medium itself decided to dictate what it wanted to do. The next step is to divide the “page” up with direct reference to ancient fossil forms. We have built upon the past and the future shall be built upon our sediment.

Building in sculptural elements with Mod roc

Modr roc is plaster impregnated bandage. I sealed my jointing compound with system 3 acrylic gesso hoping to clean up the canvass and prime for  next layers.

I read the canvass as music and it makes perfect sense to think of rhythm and flow. I felt this canvass needed a twisted curve to balance the dominance of parallel lines.

The straight lines needed to be subverted with a loop. The parallels are a bit regular and so something organic was required to add dynamic tension.

Again I sought an organic line and irregular to divide up the canvasses surfaces unevenly.

I went for modulation on the surface. Essentially flat, I felt it was important to build in height and used canvass spacers to create hollows. Dynmaics provide contrasts and juxtaposition, loud/ soft, sound/ silence etc. Translated into art, we have smooth and abrupt, long flowing live with staccato broken burst. The marks had to relate to each other by working in unison, parallel or in contrary motion. This suggests energy and is appropriate as it adds layers and is made of aggregates gathered from the earth. This act therefore is SYMBOLIC and should enhance the message.

Transparent stains and glazes

I hoped that staining with transparent glazes would help me read the dynamic tension (or lack thereof) on the canvass. I felt this would help me make further compositional decisions.

I have not really decided how to view the canvasses yet. There is a dialogue going on between the media, the substrate and my imagination. The thinly mixed carbon black defines the lumps, bumps and striations on the surface.

It helps me feel harmony or dissonance between the various elements. I intend to make indentations into fresh areas of newly applied compound and texture with technology to make a reference to cutting edge of modern culture. The transparent glazes are exciting as the thicker opaque mixes dulled and looked heavy. Appropriate for the illusion of stone – but this is art.

Though my thinking was rigorous in my sketchbook and blog, they were leading me to a make up artist version of fossils. I am not inspired by a special effects for props and felt the experiments gave me an insight into the acrylic media and new techniques- but the finished outcomes looked phoney.

These fossils fuel my imagination and suggest new shapes and forms. I believe Leonardo advised looking at walls to generate ideas for landscapes but all manner of forms suggest themselves. In Art and Illusion by E.H. Gombrich there is much reference to the beholder’s share and stimulation of the imitative faculty by not spelling everything out. There must be fodder for the imagination but enough latitude for each viewer to project their own ideas and fill in the gaps.

Collaging references to arts, science, technology, achievement and legacy

I collected magazines Classic FM, Argos catalogue, New scientist and Guiness book of records. In legacy, I considered using porn to represent the more salacious and less palatable aspects of cultural legacy on a fifth panel under the title of “Consumed by their own greed” but at time of writing remain ambivalent.

New Scientist collagng

New Scientist collaging

Collaging culture The first canvass is New Scientist and the second Classic FM magazine. This phase has left me feeling uncomfortable. This is good- because at least I feel. I also look at the canvass differently and this must inevitably take me in a new direction.

Classic FM magazine

Classic FM magazine

At this point my work was commented on by a fellow student who asked what I thought I had learned about painting through this (OCA inspired) process. She said that she was interested to know how this is changing the way I think about painting.

 I replied :-
 I think OCA has got me making images for myself to explore an inner world in this case. There is a place for both  copying the world (that Gombrich call matching) and generating new images. Naturally experimental, it feel right to try and push the boundaries. I have spent a lot of time rationalising the modern fossil bit. In the absence of explanation, the work has to stand on its own merits. I have learned that not all artistic acts require justification. We are allowed to be inspired and within that inspiration we should enjoy some latitude.
If I died tomorrow, the work that I had created would be my PERSONAL LEGACY and onlookers would be able to deduce about me as an artist from my output. I would be intrigued to find out what they thought of this very personal journey. The more I learn about media and techniques the more I learn about myself and how I relate to my world.

First Impressions

Now the canvasses are “talking” to me and asserting their personalities it is time to introduce textured impressions in more specifically applied compound. This will have to respond to the specific dynamic of each canvass

visual resources from a computer

visual resources from a computer

I dissected a laptop to try to gather more visual information that could be exploited. These component can be used to emboss a soft, new applied substrate. They could be used as templates in conjunction with an airbrush; and, with the aid of heavy modelling compound, could be added to the surface itself. There is no requirement to make fossils or restrict oneself to colours reflecting stone palette. To do so could be twee or forced

humorous use could degenerate into slapstick

humorous use could degenerate into slapstick

While it is amusing it is not appropriate to to the message. There is no requirement to make pseudo fossils. However, the line of enquiry has generate a rich supply of visual information to respond to I suspect I may have been bogged down and early experiments though informative were like stage props.

Acrylic  Gels

Acrylic gels and media

Acrylic gels and media

Part 5 began with preparing textured grounds and mixing materials into paint. Winsor and Newton have ready made materials at the artists’ disposal. There is a vast range of additive from recent new developments in acrylics and I selected those that had a bearing on the modern fossil stream of consciousness.

25/1/14 Reflecting upon seeking permission

I wanted to date this thought. I teach children art in seven primary schools. One child bewildered by the open ended nature of the task asked can I have it portrait or landscape. I said thank you for that interesting question. The girl made me think about finding a voice and seeking permission in my own studies. I see that all the work leading to these finished pieces have been to legitimise a way of working to find a voice. Legitimising the work is seeking permission to use a voice. It is also a question of power. The girl in my class is seeking to validate her choice by confirming my approval. In a sense, I am trying to validate what I’m doing to  by tight reasoning through incremental steps. If there was no OCA third party approval, WHAT WOULD I DO? Surely I would explore the media and simple enjoy the experience responding to the stimulus that inspires me. The girl feared the novelty of her artistic freedom. DO I?

In development of a new art movement the role of the manifesto seems to be the codifying of a set of beliefs in order to legitimise the work that is to follow. This struck me most noticeably within Robert Hughes’ book “The Shock of the New” while considering futurists manifesto.

The essence of my personal journey is being fearless within the parameters of my thoughts and visual inspirations with no concern over third party approval. Therefore continue boldly with courage trusting artistic instinct. The blog so far has been therefore a search for a personal manifesto. Not asking permission but stating intention.

Embossing impression in compound 1

Embossing impression in compound 1

I thought that this would be a random part of the process. But I found I was selecting and planning positions in a fussy way. making tiny adjustments and “rubbing out” unsuccessful attempts.

Embossing impressions 2

Embossing impressions in compound 2

The surface treatment suggests forms upon my imagination and I am in constant dialogue with myself and the media. Questioning and manipulating ideas. I trust I have an open mind.

Embossing impressions in compound 3

Embossing impressions in compound 3

I believe so for I am not sure where this is all leading except I feel deeply involved in this because of my emotional commitment. I feel protective. Is this normal ?

Impressions in compound 4

Impressions in compound 4

New possibilities have presented themselves to me due to limitations in the media. I ended this section speculating that fimo clay, or salt dough would pick up the fine details I admire especially in the printed circuit boards. I could bind new segments from this approach but may reserve this for other works as this is most definitely me. I love texture and colour and this appeals to these primal needs in my “evolving” inner artist. How is it that I know I am past the half way stage and I am closer to completion?

Colour Coping strategy

The problem of showing the viewing sequence presented itself. Since each piece was created with identical methodology, how can I show progression. The answer emerged slowly as the paintings evolved. The whole project has been one of commentary on how culture has evolved  to the point of destruction to be viewed by a future, more sophisticated audience. This has resulted in the evolution of myself as an artist. It appealed to me that the human race evolved technologically through various stages. Stone, bronze, iron and industrial ages. Each suggestive of colour and that each colour could provide the missing link to bring the sequence to a satisfactory conclusion. Especially so since the works were symbolic in nature and everything had to have a reason commensurate with the message.

stone age

Finished canvass 1

Finished canvass 1

This actually began as a very dull stone wall. Thick impasto painting just responding to the texture and directions of the substrate resulted in the finished piece. I feel excited but unsure about this but I know it says what it is meant to say and is completed. I couldn’t get the colours thick and pure enough even using the palate knife so I started to draw squeezing straight from the tube. This was very liberating

It was at this point 26/1/14 I was notified that the Friends of Hugh Miller Society had covered some of my Modern Fossil sketchbook work in their Newsletter. Winter 2014 pages 10 and 11. 

I was delighted by the article.

bronze age

canvass 2

Modern fossil finished canvass 2

iron age

This one is fighting me

Canvass 3 finished

Modern fossils finished canvass 3 finished


Modern fossil canvass 4

Modern fossil canvass 4

A word of caution

I am growing uneasy at the thought that these works could have been produced merely by pushing paint around a canvass in an exploratory way without the possible over-reliance on he development of a personal manifesto to legitimise the work. What if after all the research, contextualisation and experimentation we are unable to state anything new and that it is true that there is nothing new under the sun and that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Especially if viewed fossilised in an unimaginable future.

Evaluation of my series of paintings

Demonstration of technical  and visual skills

Materials  – Good/ Average

The series features unusual media in the form of jointing compound to create a textured substrate. Some researching and problem solving was required to make this work. The addition of acrylic gesso and media is certainly experimental especially since this has been applied to a flexible base and the author is cautious about pronouncements on archival qualities of the media. However, since the subject of modern fossil, the notion of legacy, decay and interpretation; any damage sustained would/ could be congruent to that message. The artist has also ventured to use commercially available acrylic gels along with mod roc to add visual interest at levels of close inspection and a sculptural element to test boundaries of painting conventions and non-painting techniques.

Techniques- Good/ Average

The artist began to explore two themes in his sketchbook eventually favouring the modern fossil theme. In both strands of thought there was exploration into acrylic transfer techniques with varying degrees of success. Techniques displayed show peeled transfer and embedded transfer versions using modelling compound, cellulose thinners and GAC gloss gel. The author asserts that this would be a fruitful line of enquiry for level 2 studies with a focus upon surface treatment strategies. The plaster work involved screen printing jointing compound inside a shaped aperture  and/or outward buttressing from the aperture’s  resultant template. Their was printing using a variety of dissected technology including the complete dissection of a lap top. The printing was discovered to be more successfully performed when the jointing compound was partially cured. It became apparent that each piece had to be wet to create a cleaner image and to avoid unnecessary distressing of detail. The artist employed opaque and glazing techniques, heavy impasto and drawing straight from the tube. Collaging is also included in the symbolic building up of strata that the artist equates as analogous to the process of fossilisation that is at the heart of the theme. It is debateable if this action has an impact on the finished image. The artist also mixed media into the paint in the form of black lava and glass bead acrylic gel additives.

Observational skills- visual awareness – very good

The artist has documented various symbolic languages to incorporate into the finished pieces. These draw comparisons between modern and ancient symbolic languages. Aboriginal with electrical circuits; printed circuit board with Nasca lines; and ley lines with the the construction of communication technology. The choice of technology used to print in plaster related directly to fossil forms. Early tests printing with a Nokia phone “passed” as early fossilised forms from the Devonian period when presented to members of an archaeology society! The painting reflects all these inspirations and even the colour selections were influenced by evolution in their sequential ordering. Stone age inspired ochre and umber earth colours, Iron age suggestive of red rust. There is documentation in the artist’s blog of a break-though moment where the artist discovers there is no requirement to make copy fossil props and from that moment the painting becomes expansive and expressive to the point fury at times. The modern fossil theme remains a rich theme for future development and multiple interpretations. It is still a rich seam to be mined.

Design and compositional skills- satisfactory

The artist refers to the composition in terms of music, harmony and dissonance, tension and release, parallel and contrary motion etc.  While this may be the case, the impact of such may not be evident to the casual viewer due to the abstract nature of each canvass. However, there is a top left circular form as an idee fixee or recurring motif. In the absence of direct interrogation; the biblical notion ” there is nothing new under the sun” re-stating the ancient- modern cycle will not be identified and is not referenced at any point in the blog.

Quality of outcome- satisfactory

The ideas are expressed in detail in the blog. The artists even refers to tight rigorous argument and incremental steps- and the thinking, the theory of the piece is well documented. This is the very definition of coherence.It is debateable that these ideas have been successfully communicated and this is the second mention of the “viewers share” in this assessment. The author does not believe that the sinuous line of development leading to the finished work can be deduced from the work itself. The observer may detect crude primitivism in the brush work, or energy of application in some strokes, but it is unlikely that the symbolism of the piece could be guessed at unless the pieces are titled to encourage speculation in the “correct” direction. However, that artist has documented “we are symbols and we inhabit symbols” in the sketchbook and so any audience speculation, personal interpretation, reaction or response would be symbolic also and participating in the rationale of the work. The artist record a highly effective grasp of ideas but this is tempered a limited or reasonable communication of those ideas to an uninitiated audience whose appreciation may be reduced to ” I like the colours”!

Demonstration of creativity- Good/ average

There is evidence of imagination at work in this theme. The idea is original and the author is unaware of other atist’s working in this area. The artist has seen parallels between ancient  aboriginal iconography and demonstrated the similarity with modern electric symbols. Similarly the notion of ancient Nasca lines with their mysterious symbolism is juxta-positioned with printed circuit boards and the artist appears to exploit and subvert these images to provoke thought. References are made to poetry showing a desire to unify arts beyond the merely visual forms. To do this he has demonstrated and adventurous attitude and an almost scientific desire to test the boundaries of modern acrylic media almost to destruction. Certainly the approach has been experimental and expansive but has perhaps to its own detriment. The contextualisation of the works has perhaps muddied the waters and the artists own response become diluted from the original kernel of inspiration. Bolder statements can be made with less. However, there is some development of a voice. Whether it is a genuinely personal voice is questionable since there is much abstract expressionist work that shares the same voice. There is a slight concern that while the artist is developing a voice, he has a regional accent and may not be saying anything new. To his credit, the artist mentions this in his own commentary under the heading “a word of caution”

Context- Good average

The artist appears by his writings to be a self-reflective practitioner. He has a bias toward commenting on media and techniques rather than the emotional element. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he is employed as a teacher that there is a didactic or expository tendency in his commentary. A how to mind set that documents artistic problem solving. The artist does try to synthesise research but needs to do more to show his place in art, and be clearer about his influences that appear to ebb and flow according to whatever happens to be of interest at the time. Much of influence is subliminal and subconscious. There may be too much residue of the current studying of abstract expressionism or tutor reference directing attention to Terry Setch documented in his blog.

Level 4 Conclusion

The artist is informing himself about the art of others. Perhaps the relationship between sketchbook and finished work has been established only towards the end of the OCA studies but it is hoped that he will continue to develop the symbiosis at later levels He perhaps became so ambitious that the sketchbook became redundant thus explaining the reliance on loose sheet or work on surfaces to be collated later. The artist is autonomous and appears to actively seek out ideas for development and several interesting lines of potential enquiry are listed in part 4/5 of his blog. Viewing actual exhibitions is an area of weakness due to geographical considerations. This should be addressed by virtual galleries and there is greater evidence of Bridgeman and a growing number of allusions to Gombrich, Berger and Hughes’ set texts- although this could be more explicit. There is a suggestion that the artist is developing a voice but the jury is out as the artist has oscillated between realism, impressionism and abstact expressionism throughout his studies. A positive has been his desire to experiment and push his limits and his final submissions are certainly very bold at least



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