Take Two Influences - Feb 2011

Preamble: So my Two Influences are Jose Pedro Croft and Bridget Riley. I love Croft´s work. Having spent a happy couple of hours in the Library rummaging through books and catalogues I have come to appreciate the direction his work has taken over the last thirty years. It´s his most recent work that I will be examining, his outlines of impossible con-joined forms, created from steel, but presented as two-dimensional. I hate Riley´s work. A few trippy optical illusions left over from the 60s. But such depth. Physical depth, you understand; she isn´t speaking to me. And so, combining these two-dimensional into three-dimensional tricksters with new sketches for my "Abstract Heads" series I will play with the idea of creating a 2D form from a 3D model.

All the snaps I took for this exercise can be seen here.

My two influences are Jose Pedro Croft and Bridget Riley.

From Bridget Riley, I want to take depth perception. I am going to try to create an "Abstract Head" using coloured lines that follow from front to back of a box. This will give physical depth to the piece, but I want the finished piece to "work" in two dimensions. We'll see how it goes in my six hour study.

I bought half a metre of Art Books from a friend of a friend the other day, and in this pile was an old exhibition catalogue of the work of Jose Pedro Croft. It was beautiful sculpture using simple forms and objects, but I realised he must have moved on by now. And he has. So here's some work that I will take as "Influence 1".

In this task I want to explore 2D drawing in a 3D world. I am going to use a box to hold a 3D volume and then re-create an "Abstract Head" using coloured tape. If looked at from a directly frontal position, the work should look like a 2D Abstract Head, but it will clearly be a 3D drawing if you move from side to side.

Normally in a 2D drawing you can create perspective by making the lines thicker in the foreground and thinner in the background. With tape this will not be possible, so it will be interesting to see what this does to the perspective. [Of course, as I realised when I was talking to Jo about my work, this is irrelevant, as the tape will APPEAR to be thinner by virtue of it being further away!]


I found it very hard to get the perspective right... the angle of each line was difficult to place, especially on lines that I wanted to move from front to back, and diagonally. You can see above how the red line top right has been moved.

This first attempt was also difficult as the box was too small, not only to work with, but with the width of the tape. The second attempt was easier, though still not quite big enough.

However, there is no support at the front of the box, so no line can start from this front plane. Maybe with a piece of perspex I could try this (though I´m not sure how I would get my hands in!) Jo suggested a fish tank; and I could make a perspex box.

I´d be interested to see how it would work with no supports at all - maybe using fishing line to suspend pieces of wood, plastic or metal.

The next stage was to add a couple of planes to the lines.
This is fabulous. The "flat" plane is a twisting series of pieces of tape, though I had to add another layer of the original tape to re-instate the line:
Some of the tape in these planes is twisted, and this would need resolving in a solid steel form were I to make one.

So what would Croft do with a corner? Alexandre Melo discusses his work thus. "The second determining characteristic in the author's work is the dynamization of the spatial relationships within each work and between each work, and the movement of the viewer's body and gaze. This is precisely the effect of simply placing in one of the corners of the room, and half-way up the wall, a bowl molded out of synthetic resin, which, when we come close to it, we realize has no bottom. Without yielding to the artifices of staging or spectacle, Croft brings life, instability, and dynamism to a situation that would otherwise be stable and dead." Read more about Jose Pedro Croft.

In order to create the square in a corner that is the trademark of an Abstract Head, I used Pythagoras´ theorem to measure 50cm both ways from the corner of the wall and marked a height of 70cm to create my imaginary "square", and then started to create the form.

I did put a black frame around this piece, but Jo was disappointed with it so I took it off later to compare:

We also had a discussion about why "Abstract Heads" need to be square. This is really because, when I was creating the first abstract head I certainly couldn´t use a form as "landscape", and "portrait" could be seen as being a whole body. In order to emphasise the "head" part of the portrait I decided to use a square canvas. But why three canvases? Well, this was to take the cubist idea of giving a multitude of viewpoints to create a dynamic whole. It's for this reason that the lines are drawn freehand, quickly and without precision. It is to create a dynamism between the three images.

Once again, the planes make interesting surfaces, and I wonder how these would work in a solid plane, rather than as a series of "planks".

In order to understand my sculptures, I decided to take Richard Serra´s advice: "To draw from my sculpture after its completion is a way of informing myself about the work, trying to bring the piece closer to me, trying to have a look at what I am up to, trying to see it afresh. You only see a work with fresh eyes once; you never see it like that again. To retain that moment, to conclude the work, to distil it into another language, is the essence of my notebook drawings." Richard Serra: Drawings and Etchings from Iceland Matthew Marks, Publisher: Matthew Marks Gallery ISBN: 1880146037 Edition: Hardcover; 1992-01

I found these to be quite organic, and rather frightening, like zombies with missing flesh. Jo, however, suggested they were like maps or ley lines.

As I had run out of tape, but not time, I decided to do a final piece of exploration using some wooden off cuts that were lying around to create a quick 3D with a deep volume. I didn´t want to create a relief sculpture, but something more dynamic:


This last piece was very rushed but it does give some clues as to where I might take the idea into a 3D sculpture.

Overall the 6 hours taught me quite a lot about how I think as an artist. I have lots of ideas, and want to be able to try them all out. I like pottering about in the studio, and very much enjoyed the deadline of the six hours as a means to an end. I spent about an hour in the library the day before, looking at the work of Jose Pedro Croft and Bridget Riley which was certainly very useful in giving me direction for this work. This gave me some extra thinking time overnight which I used to figure out the mathematics of the corner piece; if I had just tried to go straight into it I think I would have failed to create a real square. I´m certainly going to continue investigating the wooden sculpture, which one of my colleagues at the studio likened to a Calder sculpture.

More on Jose Pedro Croft here.
More on Bridget Riley Here.


"Style is the sum of all your defects." Alan Bennett

A few Abstract Heads

Here are a few of my old Abstract Heads. Emma suggested that I put up some work to review, reflect and rejoice in.

From right to left, the last AH I painted, "Paula". I never really realised that the eyes were so far down, nor that her mouth was so wonky, but she was doing an exam at the time. I think the colours reflect her quite well, but I´m not too happy with the blue on the top right of the top painting. It´s a bit glossy compared to the very flat nature of the other colours.

Next up is is "Caroline (Playing the Guitar)" from 2008. A much narrower range of colour, using just blue and yellow, with the green stripe representing her hair falling across her face.

As an experiment I tried to create some AHs of famous artists, including Picasso and Hirst. The idea was to use photos of them at different ages to create the triptych. Only this one worked. Can you figure out who it is?

Finally, "David", who is a photographer, and whose pictures of Barcelona are fabulous, is another experiment, this time trying to add the feel of his work into the lines I abstracted from his face as I sketched him. I wasn´t completely happy with the result, and, as I was in my tissue paper phase, decided to add a few pieces to some areas.

On Jose Pedro Croft

Jose Pedro Croft
Publisher: Xunta De Galicia
ISBN: 8445335618 Edition: Paperback; 2004-01-02

"The sculptor suggests viewers engage in exercises of approach and escape."

"The hand as the extension of the eye, the eye as a prelude to touch."

"painting bronze (white) to relieve the sense of weight."

"He replaces volumes with their defining lines, he knocks down planes to create delicately balanced figures, extremely slight shapes the eye is continually approaching yet does never actually rest upon them."

"An object between painting and sculpture. It is not replacing anything; it does not want to represent anything beyond what it actually is: presence and witness of the world at the same time." [On "Sin titulo 2002, carton y espejo 35x21cm (Prada shoebox lid)]

"...totalising sculpture, where everything matters, makes a difference, makes sense."

"The important thing is to perceive the spaces between lines, between colour fields, exploring the representation of depth and movement. However, the artist despises the mathematic precision in favour of a more organic evolution of shapes and planes, incorporating work accidents: draining colours, stains, inkblots, fingerprints etc. The results of these procedures tend to adhere to the scaffolding where the drawing began, installing an increasing disorder by bringing about a stimulating energy to one of the founding structures of modernism."

Croft Jose Pedro - Cadernos De Viagem
Jose Pedro Croft,
Publisher: Xunta de Galicia
ISBN: 8445335316 Edition: Hardcover; 2003-07-31

"Drawings by sculptors are different, there is something about them which gives them a distinctive air, something that is difficult to pinpoint."

"Suffice it to vary by a millimetre."

"...he lingers before hollows, before the appearance of the three-dimensional as an emotion rather than as a certainty."

Finishing Work

Why is my only finished piece called "Alex (Unfinished)?

As my friend Ralph Bernabei said "People keep coming into my studio and saying "Oh, I like that.. how much is it?" and I look at it and I wonder to myself, if it is even finished yet. Still, if they want to buy it...."

Is it true that my work has a feel of experimentation, play, trying things out, using different materials but nothing really feeling finished? With work such as "Abstract Heads" it was easy to decide when a work was finished... the whole canvas was covered with paint. Though sometimes I would sit back and look at it and change one section to another colour. But one day as I was sitting at the dining table I looked at one work that I had not yet completed. And as I looked at it, I realised that it was, in fact, finished.

What does a "finished piece" mean? When do you know when a piece is "finished"?

Graffiti Slabs

Tutorial Monday 21 Feb 2011

MA Tutorial report form
Date; Monday 21 Feb 2011
Name; Jonathan Holden


Reflection on outcomes since last tutorial



Current projected aims and outcomes

Get to understand what my tutors expect of me from this course.
Get to grips with the requirements of this course.
Complete assignments as required.
Develop relationships with fellow students.
Continue reflections on first tutorial, and develop artistic ideas through reading, discussing with colleagues and working through issues to attempt to resolve problems.


Discussion and recommendations
Reflect on each series - values - did it work or not? Look at work as if in a gallery.
Work looks rushed/ impatient keep experimenting, but finish work FINISHING WORK What am I really about? find depth, commitment to method / idea / subject / value / judgement
E.g. Gender [why are all my Abstract Heads female? What about the “Seven ages of man”?? but no, gender is not something i am interested in... I read that females sell... I found the male mannequins (but have since given them away after selling two)]
Reflecting of myself > but what of myself?? Look at the work of Nancy Spero, Jonathan Lasker and Beatrix Milhazes to develop this idea.
How far can I push my work? What´s the next work after this? Which reflect me and what I want to say?
Sensitivity to materials - appropriateness / Capvespres are chunky Seven ages of man too literal.
BE METAPHORICAL a novelist might talk about the mundane (going to the corner shop) but I want to read it. It doesn´t have to be a great idea... take an idea to its boundaries... for example in the work of Helen Chadwick and Cornelia Parker
Painting into 3D - take a look at: Robert Rauschenberg Jasper Johns Julian Opie Patrick Caulfield
Abstract Heads Series - Interesting use of colour - seems thought about, distinct sense of personality. Think about how I am making decisions about colour - making / placing / playing
e.g. Ellsworth Kelly. Peter Halley - geometric abstraction/ architectural forms

Herbert Read "History of Sculpture" p.56 - Google Docs

Most of the exotic influences I have described are ‘primitive’ in the sense defined by Van Gogh - they proceed from works that are the expression of feeling and instinct - simple, serene, devoid of all intellectual sophistry. Other exotic influences on the development of modern art have been more complex, simply because they come from a phase of a past civilization that is itself more complex. There is, after all, a difference of both style and quality between African Negro sculpture
and Egyptian sculpture
, a still greater difference between Negro sculpture and Greek sculpture of the geometric period.
Etruscan sculpture also belongs to a relatively sophisticated civilization
and Mexican sculpture of the kind that affects our sensibility may belong to the decadence of that highly complex civilization.

Very few modern artists have sought in exotic art a simplicity ‘as beautiful as the Work of Millet’. Rather they have been attracted by its remoteness and its mystery, even its complexity. This is certainly true of Far Eastern art, the extremely refined expression of a metaphysical outlook that has nothing in common with the art of Africa or Tahiti. We know Very little of the religion and philosophy of the Incas Mayas, but again it was complex rather than simple, fearful rather than serene. Even when we do come to the primitive art of our own Christian civilisation, to Romanesque
or Gothic art
(both fundamental influences on Picasso and Henry Moore), we are in the presence of spiritual qualities that have quite a different metaphysical significance. But two qualities perhaps all these exotic arts have in common - their remoteness in time and the symbolic nature of their representations. Modern man has been in search of a new language of form to satisfy new longings and aspirations - longings for mental appeasement, aspirations to to unity, harmony, serenity - an end to his alienation from nature. All these arts of remote times or strange cultures either give or suggest to the modern artist forms which he can adapt to his needs - the elements of a new iconography.

Read, H 1964 “ A Concise History of Modern Sculpture” p.56