Proud Bruises, Peacock Plumage (2018) – Emma Tann
Acrylic on canvas.
Intriguing Art Idea #3214: What on earth do you do when there are still splodges and smears of beautiful paint left on your palette? Too precious to go to waste. Drench some paper with it. Throw, splatter, flick, smudge, bleed. Work quickly, intuitively, honestly; no over-thinking allowed. Who knows what lovely things and serendipitous accidents may occur! Without the pressure of your own great expectations (and expensive paper) these moments offer freedom and clarity and, for me, often form the starting points for new work.
[For these paintings, I used brown sketchbook pages and acrylic paint; the ubiquitous red and blue (with a touch of sienna) acrylic paint. Imagine them nailed simply to a wall, arranged as a group. Why do I always want to hammer nails into my work?!]
Last week I ventured to the Tate to see their new exhibition, ‘All Too Human’, looking forwards to seeing uncomfortably realistic Freud and soul-sucking, nihilistic Bacon. I also discovered a new artist, who has certainly struck a chord with me… I even bought a postcard. Christ, his work must be good.
The work of Michael Andrews (1928-1995) certainly held my gaze the longest, captured both by the subject matter and his beautiful, ethereal painting style. In ‘Melanie and Me Swimming’ (1978-9) the acrylic paint saturates the canvas; the dark, cool water had seeped into the painting, pooling around the figures. It’s a snapshot of human interaction, a fleeting event that may not seem significant.
With ‘The Deer Park’, Andrews uses luminous washes of colour, muted shades of violet and green. An exclusive club inhabited for eternity by ghostly figures, whispered rumours, illicit dalliances and too much champagne. There is something very Twin Peaks about this… Andrews used photographs of celebrities for inspiration – can you spot Marilyn Monroe?
A current work in progress. The first time I’ve ventured onto canvas in a very long while… And I am rather pleased so far. I am convinced that it isn’t finished, although I feel too scared to add anything to it. I’ll just sit and look at it for a bit longer…. Ah, the heartache of knowing when to stop!
Blue and red feel like home; I cannot escape these god damn colours! Translucent, glowing. Serendipitous bleeding, uncontrolled. And white. White canvas. I don’t want to lose all the white canvas. I need to build up more layers. Carefully and patiently.
I had a crisis of faith not so long ago. I still felt that I was an artist, but, oh dear god, blasphemy – I was no longer creating art. A fake! A fraud! A misguided fool! I wasn’t proclaiming this status to the world, but even within the realms of my own mind I felt uneasy merely thinking of myself as an artist.
What criteria do you have to meet to be deemed an artist? A question that bears similarities to that fiendish art-school conundrum – “What is art?” I have lived by the rule that if an artist has said that something is art, then it is so. It is one person’s intention that counts. So why was the definition of artist causing me so much anguish? The guilt around not making art felt unbearable, and the prospect of just stopping, drawing that final line in the sand felt… relieving. The easy way out. I could leave it all behind me, accept that I was no longer an artist and move on with my shiny new teacher identity life. The word ‘artist’ has been so entwined with my idea of who the hell I am, this notion left me feeling… bereft. Irrational, peculiarly narrow thinking, wouldn’t you say?
I stopped obsessing. I let it be. I let it all be. I gave myself time and space… and waited for the blessed Easter holidays! And it all makes sense.
Painting makes me happy, and so I will continue to paint. Some days I will wear my artist hat, and some days my teacher hat. Most days, I hope to have both jauntily perched on my head, although they may be rather precarious…
The last few years have been tumultuous. Monumental. Exhausting, exhilarating and, quite frankly, a tad ridiculous. I began this blog almost 10 years ago, bloody determined to become the next Tracey Emin. Oh real life, how you changed those burning plans…
Muddling through the last decade, I have metamorphosed from a rebellious, gloomy, eccentric art student to… a creative, optimistic, and still-eccentric primary school teacher, who is blissfully married to a wonderful soul (found during those chaotic art school days). I fled the monotonous rolling green hills of Wales, to discover my very own patch of land in beautiful Richmond upon Thames, London. And here I will stay. Roots firmly planted.
(It awes me that I am somehow old enough to reflect on the last decade of my life, every moment of which was lived through grown-up-eyes! I have noticed one infallible truth – I am immeasurably more content and confident at 29, than I was at 19. A worthy trade for a few grey hairs!)
This blog has a new meaning. It is a resurrection. I need a way to focus my creativity, a platform to consider my tangled thoughts and flickers of inspiration. The antics of a lapsed artist. It is an attempt to rekindle my love for the art world, to resurrect my own creative ambitions. Art was my first love. Although it has spent these last few years waiting patiently in the wings, I am now settled and grounded; the time is right to rejuvenate, rekindle, resurrect. Let’s see where it leads.
Untitled (Catharsis), 2016
This new painting is all about that delicious gap; the white paper. Tension. Mmm.
Untitled (…or Buddleia?)
(I have an issue with naming my work that I have not yet figured out….. I do not want labels and superfluous words getting in the way of the image. I need to come up with a plan.)
Untitled (Long-lost Embroidery of Aberystwyth)
An old piece of work…. I still have quite vivid memories of sewing this in the final year of my degree, hunched up in my little corner of the school of art studio (the room on the left at the top of the stairs).
It was always very quiet up there (I wonder where all my fellow students did their best work?), and it smelt like a wonderful old art school should smell. Safe and quite comforting.
A fairly bad photograph of how my easel looks at this very moment in time….
I went back to some old (lacklustre) paintings that needed a little cheering up, things that had never quite felt finished… Some have been greatly improved, I fancy! Some – there is, quite simply, no hope. Into the bin with you.
Always satisfying to be able to rescue something, to bring a painting back to life. Proper pictures of resurrected paintings later this week (she says).
Don’t hold me to that.
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