Art on the Hill

My friend transformed his flat into a gallery space for local artists as part of Art on the Hill in Newport.

11:00 – 18:00 : Art House #1, 26 Bryngwyn Road (19) *PG*
The first in a series of mixed media events that focus upon the more outer edges of Newport’s developing art scene. Featuring work by: Poddington Moore, Stephen Hammet, TEMMAH, Patrick Sullivan, Johnathan Sherwood, Barrie J. Morgan, Myrig Watkins, Ffion Trefor, Melanie Wall, Steven George Jones, Andrew Narowsky, Ariel Serotonin Jones, Sarah Featherstone, Eamon Sweeney, Philip Morgan, Jay Steward and John McCarthy.
https://www.facebook.com/events/317332562420476/

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New Work

Once again using set parameters of reclaimed tile 50x50cm, and circular form, I am continuing to experiment with elements of relief using plaster and glue to create texture (inspired by Ernst’s experiments). The composition, apart from these self-defined limits, is automatic.

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“The joy in every successful metamorphosis conforms . . . with the intellect’s age-old energetic need to liberate itself from the deceptive and boring paradise of fixed memories and to investigate a new, incomparably expansive areas of experience, in which the boundaries between the so-called inner world and the outer world become increasingly blurred and will probably one day disappear entirely.”

“What is Surrealism?” (1934), Max Ernst

New Studio Space

For a few years, when the Kings Road Artists have had open studio days, I have visited, and always come away thinking how wonderful it would be to have a permanent space in a building dedicated to working artists. I was warned that spaces were much in demand and hardly ever became available, so I was more than ecstatic last week when I found out that a space had been allocated to me.

The studios were established in 1986, and the courtyard in which they are located has developed into an exciting space to hang out, with coffee,  fresh bread, martial arts, and not forgetting Pipes Artisan Beer. There is also a farmer’s market every Saturday and regular craft and vintage markets, so I will have to be disciplined!

I think this is an important stage in my journey as an artist, as I can at last begin to properly develop my work. It feels like being able to breathe now that I have enough space to store my materials and to experiment without the inhibition of having to clean up after each session.

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My new studio.

For  now, I’m continuing with my textured pieces on reappropriated materials that have already ‘lived’ in a different form, building layers and scraping back to create a constant tension between destruction and creation.

 

Close Your Eyes and Sing

Our workshop ‘Close Your Eyes and Sing: Expressive Painting,’ for the community arts festival, Made in Roath was a great success. More than fifty abstract works of art were created by individuals using the backs of old carpet tiles, and Picasso’s advice that ‘to draw you must close your eyes and sing’.

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Our first participants were good on the eyes closed part, but struggled to think of song lyrics, and didn’t seem keen on just humming or la la-ing, despite much encouragement! We weren’t too strict about following the rules, and by Sunday most people were painting with eyes wide open, which produced slightly different, more controlled work, but overall there was no worrying about not being able to paint or draw, as everyone was willing to have a go at manipulating the paint.

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I loved how the works were all so wildly different: even though the only materials were basic poster paints in primary colours, there was a surprising range of tones and textures and some wonderful mark making and use of negative space.

Participants working on their tiles.

 

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A few people came back the next day for a second go, or to tell us how much they enjoyed it. As it was such beautiful weather, it was possible to dry the paintings in the sun so that participants were able to collect their work later in the weekend.

 

 

 

New Work

I have been revisiting Max Ernst’s work, specifically his frottage, grattage and coulage techniques that prioritised automatism. Using his grattage (scraping) technique, Ernst covered his canvases completely with pattern and then interpreted the images that emerged, thus allowing texture to suggest composition in a spontaneous fashion. In The Forest the artist probably placed the canvas over a rough surface (perhaps wood), scraped oil paint over the canvas, and then rubbed, scraped, and overpainted the area of the trees.

The subject of a dense forest appears often in Ernst’s work of the late twenties and early thirties. These canvases, of which The Quiet Forest, 1927, is another example, generally contain a wall of trees, a solar disk, and an apparition of a bird hovering amid the foliage.

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Birth of a Galaxy, 1969. Max Ernst

 

 

Max Ernst, Silence Through the Ages, 1968

Silence through the Ages 1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Ernst

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Moon in a Bottle

 

 

Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976) Demain (Painted in 1962)

       Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976) Violette Sonne

 

 

 

 

 

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Working on the back of a tile, building up texture, using scraffitio technique to scrape layers of paint about. I never know what the composition is going to be. It goes through many transformations and sometimes will not reach a resting point and I must begin again after hours of work.

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Landscape with Sun

 

Painting the Tiles

This year, the fabulous Made in Roath festival have received funding from the Welsh Arts Council, and invited artists to apply to run workshops or exhibitions throughout the festival. I decided to expand on the theme of my last year’s workshop, using one of Picasso’s quotes: ‘To draw, you must close your eyes and sing,’ as a way to encourage visitors to overcome inhibitions about painting and drawing.

I will be using the backs of old carpet tiles that were in my studio when I moved in, as, when primed with emulsion, they make ideal painting surfaces. So that is what myself and a fellow artist have been doing in preparation for the big weekend of 21/22 October. We will be inviting visitors to take a tile and paint it with eyes closed while singing. We are hoping to create a colourful Art Path around the space, continuing outside into the community.

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Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist

I first came across this artist at Tate Modern in 2013, surprised that this was the first exhibition there dedicated to African Modernism. Ibrahim El-Salahi has recently had a solo exhibition at the Ashmolean, Oxford where he now lives.

Ibrahim El-Salahi, ‘Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I’ 1961–5

I stood in front of this 8 foot square painting: Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I

(1961–5) for a long time, entranced by the otherworldly beings that coalesced into a haunting, multi-layered composition. It reminded me of elements of abstract expressionists and surrealists I admired, but with a potent style of its own. There seemed to be an integration of Islamic, African, Arab and Western artistic traditions, with the utilization of spaces and forms in Arabic calligraphy that I read were woven into memories of El-Salahi’s childhood in Sudan where his father ran a Qur’anic school in his house.

Interestingly, working closer with text brought a breakthrough for El-Salahi. As he began breaking down the letters to find what gave them meaning, animal forms, human forms and plant forms began to emerge from the once-abstract symbols. “That was when I really started working. Images just came, as though I was doing it with a spirit I didn’t know I had,” he says.

An early work, exhibited at the Ashmolean, represents the time when the artist was finding his own visual narrative, developing his own artistic identity. In Untitled, 1957 (below), he paints his own face, influenced by abstract writing and African and European visual culture, continuing to develop this style in his 1961 portrait  Self-Portrait of Suffering.

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                                                                                                     Self-Portrait of Suffering,1961

Other figures in El-Salahi’s works come into existence through an intuitive artistic process relating to the artist’s inner self rather than the outer world, the faces suggesting a spiritual dimension where human existence is linked to a world of dreams and meditations.

 

Pen and ink drawings on watercolour paper.

Meditative drawings that El-Salahi has made on envelopes and medicine packets when suffering from physical pain.

 

In the Oxford exhibition, El-Salahi’s works are placed in dialogue with specially selected ancient Sudanese objects from the Ashmolean’s collection that reflect El-Salahi’s use of rich earthy tones, a conscious attempt to create a Sudanese aesthetic.  Examples of pottery, decorated with images of the people, plants and animals of the region, were chosen together with the artist.

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                          ‘Untitled’, Ibrahim El-Salahi, 1967                ‘No shade but his shade’, 1968

The exhibition also featured works from El-Salahi’s Tree Series, the tree being a major motif in his work. He became interested in the haraz tree, an acacia indigenous to Sudan that grows in the Nile valley, when exploring the nomadic nature of Sudanese identity. The haraz becomes a symbol of the Sudanese and their resilience. It is uniquely contradictory, remaining leafless and bare during the rainy season and being the only plant that blossoms in the dry season. El-Salahi uses the tree metaphorically as a link between heaven and earth, creator and created.

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https://www.ashmolean.org/event/ibrahim-el-salahi-a-sudanese-artist-in-oxford