Showing posts with label the Fine Arts Degree. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the Fine Arts Degree. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Early Poem Painting like a Frank Stella

Continuing with my remembrance of my years doing a degree in Fine Arts in the 1970s, and finding myself in the middle of a Conceptual Art era in which I did not belong, I suddenly made the connection with an old painting of mine and Frank Stella's famous stripes

Now I like Frank Stella as a person, - what I have heard of him in interviews (a recent Frank Stella interview with Eleanor Wachtel is brilliant), and his views as espoused in articles I've read over the years. His stripes paintings (what I knew as an art student), however, leave me on the cold side. They are certainly outstanding for their time. It's self-confident work, sure of itself. All the stripes are hand-painted (pencil lines but no tape) too. But do these works of Stella's inspire me, inspire the poetry in me? No, rather, these paintings remind me of good geometry, bordering on an Op Art. Fun, a little play with the way the eye reads its optical images.

I understand that for Stella, abstract art is a type of landscape, this is its European roots, and that his aim was to create art that removed realism, all traces of Renaissance perspective, the way art up to the modern era normally represents the world, and so on. He was enormously successful in his endeavours - at 35 he was the youngest man ever to have a solo retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. His current work, which moves into sculptural paintings, is composed of a complexity of constructions, and is bright and busy as it approaches the rhythms of music, still doesn't make me want to rush to the easel.

Yet, yet. By my fourth year with my very avante guarde art teacher (who did huge 'shit-brown canvases' out of house paint, or made rooms of white sheets), I was very clearly doing 'a Frank Stella.' Why it has taken me this long to realize it, I have no idea.

I don't have a photo of my 'art school' painting - and the colour in these old snapshots does not convey the vibrance of the pure acrylic paint. I never personally liked this painting, though I got a top grade for it, and other people seemed to like it - and have no idea what the poem that I wrote for it was. Also, other than finding it mysteriously resting on the back of a couch in a photo with my Dad in his condo years later, I have no idea what happened to it.

I include some Frank Stellas so you can see what I mean. Mine, of course, a poor derivative, though this was never conscious till now (though I had studied Stella in university, of course I had).

The man in the first two photos with the roundish face and black moustache is my first husband, an Irishman from Dublin - a short early marriage that lasted 2 years. I'm in the 2nd photo (with straightened hair, oh the craziness of youth), you'll figure out which one. My Dad in the last. And then some paintings that are part of the masterpieces of Abstract Expressionism by Frank Stella.


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Those Strange Anatomical Terrains: The Underlayers of Our Bodies

Lateral Head 2012, Brenda Clews, each page: 27.9cm x 21.6cm, 11" x 8.5"; graphite, charcoal, Waterman sepia ink on Fierro paper.

I did a Fine Arts degree at York University in the 1970s, during the height of Conceptual Art. My painting teacher for 3 years, who I liked very much but who had a very different aesthetic to my 'natural' one, painted very large shit brown canvases and made rooms out of white sheets.  He was very 'in.' I was encouraged to make 'ugly' paintings that had no colour and no recognizable form. This era was a celebration of highly controlled abstract art (think of the critic Clement Greenberg and his group of artists, of Newman, Still, Frankenthaler, Bush [Pollock was passé already], of Colour Field (memory of how we were force fed this still makes me shudder) and of art in general in disintegration (a Modernism on the crux of Post-Modernism).

After finishing that degree, I did not paint for many years, only interrupting my hiatus when I was pregnant in 1987 (when I did the Birth Painting series knowing I was violating every single tenant taught by my teachers at York U in the 70s).

In 2004, I began to draw and paint again. It remains an uphill battle. Always looking over my shoulder are my old art teachers, who never taught us anything about the body itself. While we did have models to paint, we did not study anatomy, bone structure, muscles, anything of any use. It was about what you could say about your drawings or paintings that counted. The more indistinct and abstract your art, the better. So I learnt to be clever in the stories I wove about what I was doing. Dialoguing about my art was perhaps somewhat of a charade, though. I was never a Conceptual artist at heart.

Give me sensuality, rich colour, bodies that are embodied. When we painted with colour and with any sense of the body of the original model, be this a person or a landscape, we did it at home and never brought those paintings in to the university.

Of course, times have changed. It is not like this anymore.

Because of the era I studied in, though, there remain holes in my art education. Holes, like anatomy. But, hey, it's never too late, as they say. While I certainly know general anatomy, I was recently given some iPhone apps that are superlative guides to those strange anatomical terrains, the underlayers of our bodies.

Here are two of my 'muscle' drawings, which I am itching to paint. I deliberately did them in a throw-away sketch book so they would remain quick sketches - if they re-appear painted, ah well. The paper they are drawn on is good paper at least.