Making a Mark: The Art of Automatism

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Automatic drawing or painting can be described as “expressing the subconscious” using any technique that eliminates conscious control and replaces it with chance. The basic techniques originate from spiritualism, practiced by artists such as Georgiana Houghton and Hilma Af Klint, both of whom have recently had their work exhibited in a revival of interest and appreciation of automatism and early abstraction.

Surrealists such as Andre Breton and Andre Masson, were keen to experiment with automatic drawing and promoted it as an art movement. By this time, of course, psychologists of the unconscious had dismissed the idea of spirits speaking through the artist: it was the subliminal self that could express itself in ways that could lead to the development of real artistic genius. The new interpretive framework was now wholly secular and based on the insights of psychoanalysis, but the basic techniques were adopted from spiritualism.

Whichever way you wish to interpret it, drawing randomly without rational control is a good way to avoid inihibitions that freeze the flow of creativity. It is a way to bypass the ‘I can’t draw’ mentality a lot of people develop when the natural artistic confidence of childhood is abandoned.

Making simple marks and considering the relationships between them bypasses jugement by the logical brain about what is  “good” or “accurate.” It opens the doorway to the intuition, allows the emotions to be engaged, and allows enjoyment of the pure physical experience of artmaking.

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One of Georgiana Houghton’s spirit drawings – The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870), and  Joan Miro – Preparations for Birds, detail, 1963.

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Automatic Drawing

 

 

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Homage to Hannelore Baron

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There is something raw and deeply absorbing about Hannelore Baron’s multi-layered work. Found materials are combined with enigmatic text and abstract figures in her collages and box constructions.

The work suggests both the condition of entrapment and the possibility of release, no doubt informed by her early traumatic experiences of war in Germany in the 1930s. Unlike Joseph Cornell, her box assemblages are not wrapped — or trapped — in the air of poetic-romantic longing. Baron’s boxes and notations insist that the human spirit can persevere, however damaged.

 

 

 

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Hannelore Baron website: http://www.hannelorebaron.net/

Seeds of Change

Cardiff Print Workshop members are making prints in response to the theme of the Chapter Arts Car Bootique, and the Diffusion photography festival, which is Revolution. It was suggested that we do a ‘Homage to the protests of 1968’ (50 years ago next year) using posters from that time as inspiration: simple lino prints in stark black or red.

I struggled to know what to do for this theme, and also with lino cutting which I have only done once or twice. It’s a different way of working – very precise and bold, and it takes a while to work out what you need to leave and what to take away for tone and contrast.  I decided to make something in a folk art style, inspired by both the physical : the joy of growing my own food at my new allotment, and the metaphysical : planting the seeds of new ideas, visions and dreams. After all, every revolution must have started this way.

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Plant seeds of change

Collagraph Day

Seven gathered around the tables at Cardiff Print Workshop for a day of creating and printing. In the morning, collages were created from recycled materials, selected for the effect they would produce when inked and printed. From out of the gluing and layering, etching and sharing, scenes and shapes gradually emerged. A hare running through a forest, a sassy pineapple, boats in the mist and a lighthouse, a spider in a web. Blank white boards and shiny silver squares were transformed and transformed again as they were inked and run through the press.

 

Sian’s tetrapak plate and resulting prints, using parcel tape for lighter tones, sandpaper for textured bird and fence, and added plant material.

Witnessing other people’s creative work from conception to completion is as satisfying as doing my own work. Time dissolves as all are absorbed in the flow that comes with focusing on common creative goals.

 

A selection of prints from the day: Stevo’s bird, Sian’s pineapple, Jane’s flower, Mary’s spider and Karen’s hare.

The Language of Birds

The Green Language is a term used among Renaissance alchemists and mystics to refer to the Language of Birds, which was thought to be a divine and mystical tongue in which all true knowledge could be articulated.

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In Old English, the word for poet is scop, connected to the Old Norse skald, with the implication of both seership and also the verb scapan, which also means to shape, to create, to form.

“In writing a poem, as in building a boat or fixing an engine or mapping a river or treating a broken heart, we give ourselves to something else, which is not us. To do so helps to make us whole.”  Robert Bringhurst, The Silence That is Not Poetry

This is somehow true of all heartfelt creative accomplishments. Anyone who has been deeply immersed in creating knows how the rest of world fades away and reality blurs at the edges. Time becomes irrelevant and the process leads us on a journey that is almost beyond our will.

Sylvia Linsteadt speaks of how, although poetry is beyond language, it uses words to “allow the embers of being to kindle through us, that we might gather them in our pockets and warm ourselves with the remembrance that all things are in us, and we are in all things.”