Bruce McLean

ExitTheModel

 

Exit the Model, 1982, acrylic and chalk on canvas

Found in Leeds Art Gallery, the description adds some contextual goodness:

‘From the ’60s onwards McLean had developed a practice centred on performance which took a subversive approach to formalist academicism of an earlier generation by de-materializing it.  From the ’70s he turned increasingly to painting, adopting a witty and subversive parody of current expressionistic styles while continuing to incorporate familiar and frequently used images from a repertoire of forms.  Ghost-like and schematic, his figures engage in a ritual-like game with rules known only to them.’

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IATEFL – A Week of Stewarding. With Some Sketching.

I spent last week in Harrogate, working (loose term) on the registration desk of IATEFL‘s 48th International Conference and Exhibition.  It was a superb time – many, many lovely and interesting people.  I have more sketches on loose sheets, but would quite like to work on them some more before uploading, but here are the ones from at the Open Mic session on the Friday night, here’s what I gat:

IATEFLOM

 

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I must remember that a fine point is my friend – be it a biro, fine liner or even just a mechanical pencil.  My softer strokes are awful to look at.

A few things from Walker Art Gallery Liverpool

Slightly less sought-after than the Tate, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool’s Cultural Quarter has a small-but-gorgeous sculpture collection in its sun-warmed front room.  Having been on my sister’s hen do the night before (what else was I doing on my first trip to Liverpool?), I was t’rificly hungover, and so my sweat production levels were up, my drawing quality way down.  Still, this Greek helmet was lovely to gaze upon – I felt maybe Moebius had been stealing the beautiful curves and slick curls from these old Greek boys.

Walker

This Adam and Eve from Arthur G Walker (gallery namesake) himself made me laugh so much.  Adam’s bunched fist and strong back; Eve’s quivering, cowed posture and desperate gesture of flapping her hair round him – ayah!  Lucky it covered up his penis too – that would have been embarrassing.

The next drawing is of a sculpture I fell in love with in passing, then felt the resentment of silly convention bubbling up inside, so the drawing got progressively dopey-looking.  I liked their gay dancing poses though:

Walker2

 

detail

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And this plate from Piero Fornasetti finished it all off quite nicely:

PLate

 

11 influential bits from Tate Liverpool

一 Sylvia Sleigh I only spotted these beautiful, hairy nudes in gift shop on my way out.  The luxuriant masses of hair in Sleigh’s paintings speak of a decadence too often rejected in the modern, flesh-gazing world.

Paul Rosana Reclining 1974.

Felicty Rainne Reclining, 1972 Oil on Canvas 42.5” x 60” (107.3 x 152.4 cm) Private Collection, New York

二 Eikoh Hosoe’s Man and Woman This too was spotted in the gift shop – it punched me in the eye as I leafed through one of Hosoe’s photography books.

三 Richard Hawkins’ Hajikata Twist

Featuring exciting turns of phrase from the translated notes of Eikoh Hosoe, such as ‘flowering epileptic pus’, and glimmers of magnificently strange painted artworks, including (四) Jean Dubuffet’s The Tree of Fluids:

五 Louise Bourgeois’ Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature – beautiful parallels drawn in this series between over-pruning/artificial enhancement and the destruction of the health of the whole organism in both plants and humans (particularly women):

六 The word ‘Gesamtkunstwerk‘, meaning ‘translated as total work of art, ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form or total artwork… is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so’

七 (Very important now) Len Lye’s Free Radicals.  Stumbling on this piece in the way that I did had a profound effect on me.  My preconceptions were shattered, I felt so full of potential, so new and fresh and filled with enthusiasm.  Looking at it now, on the computer screen – on YouTube, no less – I can’t reclaim that feeling.  The small, dark enclosure for the screening was essential to the power of the piece.  The sudden, independent, and personal realisation of the perfect synchronicity between the audio and the visual while being fully immersed by both was a moving experience.  Gaze upon it now anyway, it has made me certain my FMP needs to be a projected piece:

The attendant in the room also let me in on Lye’s motivation.  He says Lye was on a mission to find out what makes us happy.

八 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, a French sculptor and draughtsman.  I quickly became a fan, caught by one of his more colourful pieces:

‘Sophie Brzeska’, 1913

九 Valie Export’s Action Pants: Genital Panic, just look:

(single image) Action Pants, 1969

十 Robert Longo’s Sword of the Pig:

十一 Hélio Oiticica’s Tropicália, Penetrables PN 2 ‘Purity is a myth’ and PN 3 ‘Imagetical’ 1966-1967

This is something I would push anyone to go see, and don’t much fancy going into much detail on what this actually is, for the physical interaction with the piece is key to ‘Oiticica’s hope that this sense of engagement would spread to all areas of [the viewers’] lives’.  One of the most entertaining and interesting pieces of art I have seen in a gallery – though I benefitted massively from the guidance of a fascinating gallery assistant.  I thank her from the centre of my enriched soul.

I made a zine

These notes from ‘The Transformation of Eve’, by Robert Martensen (from a fantastically interesting book Sexual Knowledge, Sexual Science), prompted a swift leap into the craft of the 1-page zine.  It kinda counts as my first contribution to the 24 Hour Zine Thing, too, but I guess the components of its conception had been brewing away for a good week before the act.  The passage which sparked this zine’s inception was from a medieval French medical study called Secrets des dames, and reads thusly:

‘And whosoever were to take a hair from the pubis of a woman and mix it with the menses and then put it in a dung-heap, would at the end of the year find wicked venomous beasts.’

[I’VE JUST REALISED I SPELLED VENOMOUS WRONG IN MY NOTES AND THEREFORE THE ZINE – ASS!]

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Nuts.  Ah well, here’s how the layout went (gotta have some more fun with paper folds and flaps and all they might suggest):

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Opened out:WP_000360

 

And your fancy flappy poster to frame and hang in your boudoir:

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And some better scanned imagery:ManChurnLadiesVag

Impersonators Progression

Elvis copy

Though I was told several times in the last two Professional Projects crits that my ink drawings weren’t as expressive or interesting as my pencil sketches, I wasn’t in any mood to pass on this inking exercise.  I still think it’s fun to look through for the details of the different people behind the shower of Elvis facades, though there are a few faces/bodies in there I really buggered up.  I want to redo that kneeling one ASAP, but a slump in motivation has found me blogging instead.

These bits please me:

Elvisone copy

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Impersonators

I have been given a great opportunity to exhibit some drawing at a student-led exhibition here in Leeds at the start of December.  The theme being ‘Impersonators’, I couldn’t see a better subject matter than a full party of the world’s favourite breed of impersonator: The Elvis Impersonator.

Research sketchin’ – Google image referencing due to the distinct lack of Elvis in my real life:

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As I have never really exhibited any drawing before, I have been feeling nervous about the quality of my pictures, and unsure that the standard is ever good enough to actually call them finished.  Reading Taiyo Matsumoto‘s Blue Spring, and having some Moebius art round my bedroom walls has been stirring up jealousy in me for their crisp but crunchy linework.  The detailing on the Elvis suits is something I really want to include too – this pointillist-y technique with the 0.1 pen pleases me to some extent, but I think I’d need to make my other lines much more delicate for them to sit well together.Elvis5

I’ve been fairly engrossed in the much freer, curvier inking of Wesley Allsbrook too, and would like to keep practicing with the ink-and-brush techniques until my hand/wrist muscles feel strong enough to control a smoother line.

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So I fell to sketching out the Elvis party, figuring I could decide the best course of action to take as I went along:

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Luckily, while I was drawing, Tutor Graham came into the studio, informing me that I had a tutorial with him just then.  With all the festival-going of the past two-three weeks, I suppose I lost sight of the course and my responsibilities as a Visual Communication student.  Time to get back on track.

This surprise tutorial was immensely helpful.  Graham was able to point out the fact that the ink tests I had done (above) lacked the animation of my pencil sketches, which I could not argue with, and asked why I didn’t just submit a pencil drawing for the exhibition, but I don’t think I could do this.  I feel as though I need to finish this with ink to feel satisfied with it – and now I’ve had a second go at the overall sketch, I feel more confident with the image as a whole.  The composition seems better, the characters are more varied, and I have found a place for the kissing Elvises.  It still needs some work around the edges and between the heads and on many badly-proportioned body parts, but I think this could turn out to be a good piece of work.

ElvisI’ve been dwelling more on the Ralph Steadman exhibition I visited during the summer too, and the punches his work delivers on my brain.  I’d like to get that punchy, so I must work on my ink drawing.  I should really get a new nib for my dip pen too, but the finest ones are so difficult to find!

Chen Man exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

‘Young Pioneer and CCTV’ 2009

Chen Man, described in her Twitter bio as a ‘representative of modern Chinese visual artists’, is a photographer working in Beijing.  Though her work is most associated with the commercial fashion industry, it was the playfully hyper-futuristic aesthetic of her personal projects which attracted my attention most.  In particular, her Pioneer series exemplifies her wish to combine the two concepts of beauty which can often seem utterly disparate (by the consensual understanding of ‘nature’).  She discusses this in what her interviewer describes as ‘a lazy Beijing burr’ in this article from Time Out Shanghai:

‘There are two kinds of beauty: natural, real things – flowers, children, the sky – and artificial, manmade things, things derived from human wisdom like iPads, cars, design. Now I’m trying to combine those two kinds of beauty.’

A fairly simplifying approach to take to the subject, but one that produces images which are almost startlingly contemporary in their dedication to the surface, to the aesthetic value.  The skin-tight plastic of the Pioneer’s dress; her lean, straight frame; the uninterrupted smoothness of her skin and hair – all combine to give the impression of a commercial product.  The fetishisation of plastic, of sleek functionality, is projected onto this model, and one can’t help but note that when identifying the ‘beautiful’ in this image, we tend to find ourselves admiring more the ‘artificial, manmade’ category of Man’s description.

This is by no means a new phenomenon, and I do wonder at the perseverance of the appeal of beautiful lady-machines.  In particular, the potentially more modern occurrence of female artists (particularly in the pop culture spectrum) appropriating these ideas of the indisputably female cyborg and applying this to themselves, or their subject (I can’t help but think of Janelle Monáe… and not just because I’m listening to her Electric Lady album as I type).  The objectification of the female form has been long-practiced in art, this is an inescapable historical fact, but is the sentiment so changed when a female artist is doing the objectifying?  The image of a technologically-empowered female figure has been noted by many to serve as an illustration of the ‘Monster’ of modern times (Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a well-known, early example of this), and is very much present this photograph from Man’s Pioneer series (I can’t find the name for this anywhere – should’ve taken better notes in the S&A Gallery):

The model here has produced a satellite from under her skirt.  Her face belies sexual arousal, with no hint of shyness in the direct eye contact with the camera.  The troubling infantile costume is my only (yet overriding) issue with the series.  As an extreme vision of the strictures put in place by the mass media of our patriarchal society, and at the same time playing right into the overt sexualisation of prepubescent girls, the costumes in this series are a worrying indication of an all-too-common theme (particularly in science fiction) of the female giving up her womanhood, for an immortal life steeped in reticence.