My first trip was to the White Cube, the first piece that particularly interested me was ‘Receive Calls On Your Cellphone From Jail,’ by Mark Bradford.
As soon as I entered this room I immediately felt enclosed and constricted in some sense. It reminded me of a prison environment. I found some relationship with my current project, particularly when considering the work of Michael Foucault and his view on the panoptican society we live in. Researching the work after I realised this was the exact outcome Mark Bradford had intended.
Bradford goes on to reveal that the work was made specifically for the 9 x 9 x 9 space, ‘turning the room into a panoptican which evokes the strong sense of physicality that one experiences in jail.’ This is something that intrigues me in regards to environment. The suggestion of the contents suiting the environment, rather than the environment suiting the contents, isn’t that a reflection of a prison in itself on some level.
‘In 9x9x9, Bradford has created a site-specific installation Receive Calls from Your Cell Phone in Jail (2013). Based on a merchant poster found in his neighbourhood, this work focuses on an aspect of the economic and racial demographics of his locale, where social crisis is transformed into commercial opportunity and exploitation. Comprising one hundred and fifty canvases, installed in horizontal and vertical rows from floor to ceiling, each panel bears trace elements of the primary message. Positioning the viewer at the centre of the piece, a panoptic survey of the individual panels conveys an impression of solitary cells within a maximum security prison.’
This piece was part of Mark Bradford’s major exhibition, ‘Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank.’ Much of the work consists of found materials in the urban environment, for instance posters, billboard sheets and news print. Bradford’s expansive, multi-layered collaged paintings explore the dynamics of social abstraction, where image is fused with context. An example of this is shown below.
This Overlapping, collage approach in this piece is reminiscent of a prison structure in an abstract sense. The prison as an environment is something I want to work with in my work, I want to move away from portraiture and focus more on the environment. Mark Bradford is an artist that is inspiring to me, here is a video below in which he suggests certain perceptions of society, in this case language and the term ‘bad ass.’
His use of layers is also interesting to me.
My next visit was the Tate Britain, a part of me wants to gain inspiration from non-contemporary art, this came in the form of a Joshua Reynolds painting, ‘The Age of Innocence.’
It wasn’t the painting itself that interested me, it is what laid beneath. A recent examination by the Tate uncovered an underlying piece by Reynolds titled, ‘A Strawberry Girl.’ X-radio graphs of the piece indicate that only the hands of ‘A Strawberry Girl’ are left preserved by Reynolds.
I find this a very endearing quality that the subject’s unbeknownst to each other share an environment. All be it, to the discomfort and expense of the original model. On the other hand this reminds me of the corruption that history is really. How much of what we think of the past is actually fact, how much is myth?
The final visit was to the Saatchi gallery, which I was very impressed with, it was the ‘body language’ exhibition which seemed to focus on painting for the most part. The first artist that interested me was Helen Verhoeven. Her paintings of people in certain environments were relelvant to my work, as I want to move away from portraiture and focus on human enclosures or boundaries.
Something I want to paint is the panoptican prison-like environment, this reminds me of this to a certain extent, as it is the painter acting as surveillance.
Another painter who inspired me was Chantal Joffe, particularly in her approach to painting. Through analysing her paintings the under layer is very important, here below are two examples.
Notice the forceful drip across the upper thigh of the subject, the layering of this thinly applied flesh tone compliments this well.
Her work is like a ‘degenerate version of social realism.’ The paint in a sense acts as a therapy for these women, Joffe ‘seems to resurrect these women as real people, the paint reanimating faces that were previously mask-like.’
‘Chantal Joffe has a distinctive style of painting which offers an uncompromising sense of power, complexity and impetus to the female figures she portrays.’
There is a psychological aspect to Joffe’s work, it almost demands an analysis from the viewer.
‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ John Milton, Paradise Lost
‘Three psychological truths emerge from Escher’s image. First, the world is filled with both good and evil-was, is, will always be. Second, the barrier between good and evil is permeable and nebulous. And third, it is possible for angels to become devils, and, perhaps more difficult to conceive, for devils to become angels.’ Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, how good people turn evil
This extract is from a book I have been reading, a book written by the psychologist behind the Stanford Experiment, Philip Zimbardo. It is essentially a deep analysis of how good people turn evil. Escher’s piece above presents this aspect of human nature wonderfully, there is good and evil among everyone.
The suggesting of authority corrupting people was something that I was particularly interested in, especially in regards to propaganda.
‘The process begins with creating stereotyped conceptions of the other, dehumanized perceptions of the other, the other as worthless, the other as all-powerful, the other as demonic, the other as an abstract monster, the other as a fundamental threat to our cherished values and beliefs. With public fear notched up and the enemy threat imminent, reasonable people act irrationally, independent people act in mindless conformity, and peaceful people act as warriors. Dramatic visual images of the enemy on posters, television, magazine covers, movies, and the Internet imprint on the recesses of the limbic system, the primitive brain, with the powerful emotions of fear and hate.’
‘Human beings are capable of totally abandoning their humanity for a mindless ideology, to follow and then exceed the order of the charismatic authorities to destroy everyone they label as the enemy’ Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, how good people turn evil
The corruption of authority within history is horrific, a harsh reality and a shocking truth. How much of history should we believe and how much is believable?
Here I have explored with paint upon photographs. The paint acting in a similar way to the glasses, which is essentially a prop to conceal human floors.
This is the outcome, I then focused on this covering element. I produced two oil pastel studies of the piece above.
I found the effect in which I laid the paper with white spirit before I applied the oil pastel was more successful. It appears more distinguished the other study has become quite bland and blurred in a sense. Here are the other results.
I put some areas of acrylic paint after the oil pastel to allow the subject to come to the surface. The acrylic has an interesting effect with white spirit, the two can’t interact with each other.
The idea of evil being portrayed in film is something that I am studying. The Jekyll and Hyde relationship is something that interests me. Also the many adaptations, and how they differ. The present day trailer seems to focus less on the physical monstrous transformation of the character. This suggestion that there doesn’t have to be a physical transformation is a statement in itself, it can be perceived more real when it isn’t so theatrical.
The transformation scenes is perhaps the most intruging as it outlines the major change, however dramatic it may be.
‘Take the clown make up and make it more threatening somehow, more real world.’
This somewhat muted approach to horror is often more successful this classic horror humans, it makes the scene seem more realistic and something the viewer can relate to or a more normal level.
This is the next stage in this piece. Following the criticism that I received in my tutorial that I am too cliched when considering evil I have chose to brighten up the background somewhat. I done this by layering a thin layer of diluted oil paint. This also has helped me to gain a greater insight to the portrait. It has essentially brought the portrait to the surface. I will probably layer upon this background at a later stage of the painting. The last stage of the painting was a necessary stage, however it was the part of the painting in which it didn’t look its most appealing. The heavy dabbing and layering of block layers of paint was simply a stage that would be build over with diluted layers. The beauty of this part will come to the surface later on. I have now started to layer over some of these sections with diluted layers. Primarily black, yellow and red, and some areas of flesh tone.