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?
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…
It is cold and snowy and we keep getting power cuts. I am attempting to sew, but my fingertips are going numb. Work in progress:
We took a trip to the Tate Modern at the weekend to see ‘A Bigger Splash‘, which explores the relationship between painting and performance art. It was really inspiring and thought provoking, and I want to make art! I admire performance work, but it is something that I have never done myself (though I have often thought of it. But I’m sure every art student has their OH-MY-GOD!-naked-performance-art-epiphany moment.)
The show started out with a Pollock painting on the floor, underneath a film of him creating it. Excellent. Highlights were a beautifully messy Bruce Nauman video, a Yves Klein naked-women-painting video, and Eleanor Antin’s utterly captivating video of her putting on make-up. It struck a chord with me. Make-up is a peculiar thing. Slightly creeped out/morbidly fascinated by the work of the Vienna Actionists and all the documentation of painty, bloody orgies….
Anyway, it’s a really good exhibition- any exhibition that makes you WANT to get home and work has to be good- go see it! It’s on til April- you have time.
Sticking with performance art, I am reading a wonderful Marina Abramovic book. I love her. How she thinks about things, writes about things, and the themes and concepts she explores… I don’t like all of her work, but as an artist, she is truly admirable. Formidable. Compelling. Human. Honest.
An extract from the book;
“Attempting to escape the body is a dissociative response that produces a mental effect similar to that of self-inflicted pain, since the body in pain is a body without verbal language even though pain’s language is visually expressive. For Abramovic, performance itself provided a means of escape. In response to the question, ‘Who are you?’ Abramovic answered, ‘I don’t know; I learn about myself through work, not through life’.“
I am moving, and so, of course, I have a shit-load of work to go through and sort out and throw away. 3 A1 portfolios of work from university that I’d almost forgotten about/was trying to forget about. But I found some good paintings that I did…… at the end of first year?! So… from 2009? I had a spray paint phase (until my finger-tip went numb…. I lost all feeling in it… for about 6 months?! It still goes numb now when it’s cold.) Anyway, these are on BIG bits of paper, and I started off really loosely, sketching with spray paint, and then worked into them with acrylic paints. I really, really like them. I want to work big, but do not have the space. Or the spray paint.
Finding these old painting has inspired some new paintings… smaller, and neater, and watercolour…. But they’re nice. Not finished yet. I always surprise myself when I realise that yes, you can paint quite well if you actually try Emma. Not a very good photo sorry. Prettier in real life. But I’m very happy with them so far 🙂
Old spray paint ladies….
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