On the 14th August I visited the Turner gallery in Margate to see the exhibition “Animals & us”
The Turner gallery is a large contemporary building close to the harbour with impressive sea views over the bay.
“animals & us” “is a major exhibition exploring artists reflections on the relationship between humans and other animals. At a time when scientists warn that humans may be causing the sixth mass extinction on Earth , how do we see and relate to other animals? Artists are using animal symbolism and creating human-animal hybrids. They are staging animal encounters, investigating animal intelligence and questioning the human-animal divide. ” ( source the Turner gallery
The exhibition featured an varied collection of art including drawing, installations , painting, video , photography and sculpture. As well as contemporary art there was examples of early art.
The first piece of art that I encountered was very large a late 18th century Mughal watercolour piece entitled ” Painting of a winged lady on a composite horse“. The work was brightly coloured and extremely decorative with added gold leaf giving the piece the feel of an icon.
“monkey King boudoir 2” dated 2018 was a large puzzling acrylic and mixed media piece by Raqib Shaw. I felt that the work had a nightmarish Bosch quality and I wondered if it was about greed as well as being concerned with commenting on society? There was almost a sense that Shaw is comparing human and primate behaviour, as well as demonstrating how the behaviour of an individual can be influenced when working as part of a a gang or pack . The work depicts a riotous scene with a group of monkey’s running wild and attacking their king. I thought the piece was fascinating and it had a very textile quality almost like a tapestry , the piece also had random rhinestones embedded into the paper.
Laying across the floor of the gallery space was a large installed piece “A Kings appetite ( the Giraffe ) mixed media 2017 ” by Laura Ford. The piece had a sad providence as it was inspired by the true story of a giraffe that was presented to King George 1V. The poor creature lived in Windsor a lonely recluse crippled by gout and obesity before dying prematurely. I thought that the Marquette was very moving lying with its mournful head resting on a soft cushion. The giraffe was incongruously dressed in an ornate Georgian costume that I felt highlighted its vulnerability and suggested a sense of the life being squeezed out of the animal. At first glance the piece looked like a child’s discarded velveteen soft toy but closer inspection revealed the tragic sad and poignant facial expression of the giraffe. Ford has cleverly conveyed in her work how human’s efforts at taming a wild creature actually instead in this case contributed to its demise.
Moving on though the gallery were four exquisite Turner watercolours – i particularly liked “three donkeys” 1827 gouache and watercolour it was a very simple work yet very emotive. The opacity of the washes appears to shine on the white paper.
There were two large glass topped cabinets that contained early illustrated books depicting pen and ink drawings of mammals, birds, and marine life. I particularly liked the drawings dated c.1590 by William Burch. In another cabinet were some early scientific drawings from 1679 by Maria Sibylla Merian. This group of early drawings were very interesting and detailed. Three years ago i attended a lecture at the National Maritime Museum about the anatomy of Stubbs Kangeroo painting and learnt that Stubbs never encountered a real Kangeroo instead the piece was painted from descriptions from a scientific expedition to Australia which explained the odd and inaccurate anatomy and strange proportions of the animal. This has led to me being fascinated by early drawings of animals, so to see these rare books collected together was a real treat.
There was also a Stubbs piece in the show – Bay Hunter by a lake” 1789 by George Stubbs oil on an oak panel – it was a very typical and fine example of a Stubbs horse painting. The work perfectly demonstrated Stubbs knowledge of Equine anatomy. Stubbs has skillfully captured the light bouncing off the flanks of the horse using rich chestnut hues to build up and suggest muscular structure. There is a real sense of animated life in the artwork.
“Hare and Helmott 2” is a bronze sculpture dated 1981 by Barry Flanagan it is a languid relaxed piece that I felt suggested a mystic quality.
“circus Drawing‘ by Dame Laura Knight c.1950 is a very sensitive and serene charcoal drawing that captures the poignancy and beauty of a performing circus lion called Paris. I also found it a very sad piece possibly as I really hate circuses particularly the way the poor creatures are treated – caged and expected to perform. despite the beauty of the piece i found it very sad and emotive.
“kananginak Pootoogook untitled ( whale hunt) “is a pen and ink and coloured pencil drawing dated 2009. The piece was extremely large and extraordinary. The artist has built up the colour in careful layers using minute pencil marks. The work had a very naive and narrative quality as it is essentially recording traditional Inuit hunting practices it also had a timeless feel. The beauty of the piece and the artists skillful drawing techniques at first masks the violence of whale hunting.
One section of the exhibition was devoted to exploring “Living with animals” which included looking at the relationship of an artist with his or her pet.
There were 5 c print photographs by Charlotte Dumas dated from 2011 the subjects were some of the dog survivors of the twin towers terror attack. There was nothing sentimental about the charming photographs of the working dogs.Instead they appear as simple portraits of domestic dogs.
“Pluto” a drypoint print dated 2002 by Lucien Freud was a sensitive and touching portrait of the artists ageing pet.
There was a fascinating video 2013 entitled “love never wanted me” by Tracey Emin that touches on Emin’s experience when an urban fox appeared in her garden. There was also a tiny sculpture also by Emin of her beloved cat “Dockett” Emin’s tiny cat sculpture contrasted with the early Egyptian sculpture of a cat god also in the exhibition. it was interesting to compare a deity to a beloved pet!
“Richard with dog ” by Alice Neal 1954 oil depicts the artist’s son posed with her pet dog. What I found interesting about this work is the way the dog almost merges into the greens of the landscape and the ornate patterning of Richard’s shirt. There also seems an air of ambiguity as son and pet share centre stage in the affections of the artist.
In contrast to our relationship with domesticated animals the exhibition also explored the relationship between humans and wild animals.
” Mobile wilderness unit – wolf” by Mark Dion 2006 mixed media presents a taxidermy specimen of a timber wolf mounted onto a moving cart like structure . It was a hypnotic piece that I found difficult to tear myself away from. The stuffed wolf had such soulful and expressive eyes that it was hard to believe the creature was not alive. I recently visited Dion’s one man show at the Whitechapel gallery but this piece was in my opinion much better than the work that i had seen earlier this year in London.
“ Offal deep darkness” 2017 LDC screen and video by Michal Rovner explores the artist’s relationship with wild jackals. The piece is dark , eerie and shadowy dominated by the luminous shining eyes of the jackal as it follows the viewer.
“I like America and America likes me ” is a video from 1974 by Joseph Beuys. The film relates Beuys experiment when he lived in a locked room with a coyote. It was at the time essentially a political piece and a metaphor for America’s involvement in the Vietnam war.
All of the works in this section of the exhibition were concerned with the nature of wildness and human involvement. Each of the artists have depicted the beauty of the wild animals , but there is the sense that the animals despite being largely charismatic are ever watchful , alert , curious , wild and dangerous so can never be owned or tamed.
There was an amusing yet touching video film produced in New Foundland the place where the Great Auks were hunted to extinction. The artist Marcus Coates managed to record the mayor of Togo reading out a public apology to the extinct Auks.
Further into the exhibition there were a troupe of Chimpanzees “The narrow abyss” 2018 Clay sculptures by Stephanie Quayle. The large pieces were installed spaced out over the gallery allowing viewers the opportunity to get up close and mingle with the lively and dramatic pieces. Each chimp had its own personality and it was delightful to witness children interacting with them. I felt the chimps were funny and happy pieces.
Another fascinating Pair of exhibits were “Sculpture for Octopuses ” 2013 and “Octopus stones” by Shimabuku both pieces are inspired by octopuses favourite colours and collections as octopuses are known to amass natural collections including stones and shells. I felt that in many ways the pieces are either intentionally or unintentionally adds a human traits to their mysterious creatures. A very curious, thought provoking and beautiful pair of installations that certainly made me think more about the intellect of marine life in a different way.
“We are all animals” 2010 by Permindar Kaur copper and fabric is a sculptured piece comprising four hybrid forms. The pieces have a primitive childlike quality like simplistic rag dolls. Yet these pieces are clearly not toys as each figure represents ways of being able to defend and protect , as each figure has weapons such as claws, antlers and horns. I felt there was an ancient primeval quality to the pieces.
Moving on “Museum of non-humanity” an installation by Laura Gustafasson and Terike Haapojaat the role of science and how this has led humans to begin to recognise the capabilities of animals , and how as a intelligent species we still cannot claim exceptionalism over animals . “As an utopian institution Museum of non-humanity demands that before we can move to a world that is post-human we need to build a world beyond animality” ( source The Turner contemporary gallery).
The exhibition also explored elements of human and animals as fables , stories and narratives, with two dark artworks – ” The cat transformed into a woman ” coloured etching dated 1923 by Marc Chagall and “Red monkey poisoned by Dove” an acrylic piece dated 1953 by Paula Rego .
“On being blue (Bower) ” 1981 an installed piece by Andy Holden constructed from dark mule willow and collected natural and man made objects placed next to Holden’s companion artwork called “a natural history of nest building (archive) collected and fabricated bird nests which is an ongoing mixed media project. The bower work explores an unique approach to nest building and is inspired by how Bower birds surround themselves with a collection of objects such as shells, stones and found discarded coloured plastic. The birds gather their objects to use as a backdrop for a display. Interestingly there is in these installations echoes of the collecting habits of the octopuses.
“Zoologischer garten Paris 11, 1997 , chromogenic c-print 2018 by Candida Hofer an ironic piece that places a lonely figure of a giraffe in captivity placed against a painted backdrop of the Savanna.
MY RESPONSE TO THE EXHIBITION
I really enjoyed the show – it was well curated and thoughtful. The show for me also posed many questions. It cleverly explored complex issues such as relationship between between humans and domesticated pets contrasted with human cruelty towards animals , human attempts at controlling wild animals , and it touches on how humans assume that they are intellectually superior to animals.
we are asked to consider how we incarcerate animals in zoo’s I myself do visit zoos but I do have ambivalent feelings about zoos and whether animals should really be in their natural habitat – however I do worry about the future of vulnerable species and whether zoos are needed as a vital part of conservation. In many ways I feel that the exhibition is all about contrasts and contradictions as it seems to make the audience reflect on what is a very complex theme,
that is also relevant. The show never makes a complete judgement instead it asks as to make our own conclusions.
Despite this there was also a fun element to to show. I enjoyed watching other people interacting with the works. The gallery had a comfortable feel and was popular with all ages. The quality of work on show was superb with exquisite drawings by Beatrix Potter, Turner , and Laura Knight contracting with darker and visceral work by Picasso, Marc Chagall and Paula Rego. I have been looking at Rego’s work so I was delighted to view her violent and dark piece. It was also interesting to see a piece of work by Mark Dion who I have also recently looked at.
“Animals have gradually disappeared from industrial and post- industrial societies, animal symbolism has morphed into anthropomorphism losing a connection to real animals ” ( source John Berger 1980 – why look at animals? page 11).
I left the gallery which lots to think and reflect on. In many ways I felt “animals & us” is probably the most interesting art exhibition I have seen so far this year – as it was emotive and relevant. I feel intrigued and want to look more closely at the natural work.
I began by buying a copy of Berger’s book to read!
RESOURCES / REFERENCES
Why look at animals? ( penguin great ideas ) by John Berger reprint 2009 ISBN 978-0141043975
A really interesting film compiled by the gallery
I have really enjoyed working though the exercises in part 4. It has been in many ways a very reflective unit really pushing me a lot further to really think about drawing and how I can move forward. I have continued to work on my visual awareness skills by working on observational drawings in my sketchbooks and at a recent life drawing session. I use my sketchbook to explore ideas and designs. For my assignment pieces I have taken an entirely different approach in that I had focused on process rather than finishing a resolved piece.
QUALITY OF OUTCOME
As I have worked though the unit I have recorded my progress and outcomes. I continue to present my work in a clear manner. My blog is organised and records my learning process, experiences and knowledge. I use my blog also to reflect on my learning outcomes and aims.
DEMONSTRATION OF TECHNICAL SKILLS
I have followed though the exercises carefully recording my thoughts and progress on my learning log. I have explored and experimented with a range of difference drawing media. I have used dry and fluid media. I have looked at ways of making marks. I have worked in my sketchbooks producing at least one drawing a day. I have looked at scale working on a number of different sized pieces. I have used a range of skills including monoprinting. I attended an OCA practical workshop coming away with a number of new skills such as how to transfer an image using an acrylic medium.
DEMONSTRATION OF CREATIVITY
Throughout the unit I have found ways of exploring my personal creativity. I continue to develop and explore my own personal vision. I have gone outside my comfort zone specifically drawing from my imagination . I have spend some time reflecting on my progress. I have chosen my own themes and ideas to work and develop. I continue to use my sketchbook which has been very rewarding and beneficial to my learning. I have used a variety drawing materials to experiment in a creative manner. I continue to push myself visually to encourage my own creative thoughts and processes. I attended an OCA practical workshop which focused on place and landscape to further explore creativity. I am beginning to understand more about myself and aim to explore this more in my work.
I continue to look at other artists recording my views on my learning log. I have been to see exhibitions with the aim of taking something away that can help me on my own learning path. I have recorded study points on my log again focusing on ways to learn from the artist and in some instances relating what I have discovered to my own work.
I have also spend some time reading though some of the key texts from my course handbook.
It has been a long hot summer so I feel I was not as productive as I had hoped due to the extreme high temperatures slowing me down – the heat did allow me to reflect and think much more. I did manage to spend a couple of weeks working though the pieces for assignment 4. I began by reflecting on trees and what they mean to me personally
These are my thoughts :
Trees are ancient, knowing, omnipresent, gateways of the landscape, they watch silently over the landscape a witness to human interaction with nature. Trees sustain and nurture. Trees are also shelter to wildlife. Trees provide knowledge as they provide material for books. Trees are an essential part of my artistic practice providing essential materials such as paper. Some trees even provide food. Trees can also be spooky and eerie. There is a lot that trees symbolise and represent. For me personally the most important thing is that they provide me inspiration as they are without doubt incredibly beautiful and fascinating.
During this project I sketched trees from observation in my tiny A5 sketchbook using different types of drawing material particularly using pencil to observe the shape, forms and structure of trees. I also explored other techniques such as collage , drawing using just a succession of tiny dot marks built up to suggest form and structure. I have explored mark making. I have used both dry and fluid media sometimes working wet into wet. In my large A3 sketchbook I pasted enlarged photocopies of the drawings that I did on scrap paper and added some collage elements and drawing to them. I also cut up some old discarded Lino and monoprints that I did And also layered them together with drawing and collage to explore the juxtaposition of images and memories.
Working on this project i have used a range of drawing tools including pen, coloured ink, different types of pencils and watercolour pencil. I have used collage elements, liquid fluid solution, masking and washi tape to experiment with form. I have produced three larger pieces – 2 of these using monoprint and water based inks. I produced a large A1 drawing using gouache with a brush i explored making marks directly onto my paper – I let the brush lead me across the paper, using a range of random marks and mixing areas of colour directly onto the paper. For this piece of work i used primary colours mixing them to produce different hues. I also used on this piece coloured inks. I built up some of the colours in fluid layers.
My monoprints explore memories layered in time I aimed to capture the feel of the intense summer sun glittering and bouncing off the leaves and branches of the tree. I essentially wanted to suggest my memories and the sense of timelessness that i feel when observing trees. I also gathered up some drawings I made on discarded old paper – these are mostly rapid and random sketches from my imagination.
I really found working in this way both liberating and interesting. I have began to use my imagination without a fixed idea in place which is not how I usually work. I found myself reflecting on the memories within the pieces and I really feel they are very happy pieces that in many ways recall my childhood and more recent memories of this years long, hot and beautiful summer. In many ways I feel the pieces are in no way resolved but I feel that this does not matter – as they are pieces that inform, inspire and evoke feelings. To me they are highly emotive and looking at them they tell me a memory.
I feel that if I had more time I would have produced more monoprints however I am fairly happy with the drawings. I have also enjoying exploring scale producing tiny A5 drawings and a large A1 gouache drawing. I am now feeling inspired and refreshed – wondering where my work is going to lead me next.
Working though part four drawing as process has really made me think a lot more about drawing as an artistic practice particularly exploring ways of using drawing as a process to inform . Up to this point being more focused on producing a resolved piece of work has been my objective. But looking at other contemporary artists Has helped to change this way of working and thinking instead it has become far apparent that drawing is not necessarily about the end product. Working though unit 4 has been a revelation leading to a much more revised way of working particularly using my sketchbooks in a much more exploratory way – this process Has been valuable and relaxing leading to a reflective drawing process as well as a way to prepare for larger pieces of work. This way of working in many ways is less pressurised as it offers the chance to explore and experiment much more without getting anxious about outcomes. As a consequence of this way of working My drawings are looser allowing ideas to revolve in a much more personal way. I think looking at my sketches has really helped me to be far more reflective about my work. There is a freer less pressurised feel when working in this manner. working from my imagination has always been very challenging but working though ideas in a sketchbook has the tendency to relax and focus me much more as a way to think though ideas.
For assignment four I have decided to forget about outcomes and instead go with the flow. I enjoy observing and absorbing the natural world. Since beginning my studies I have began to be fascinated by trees – there is a mystical primeval element about trees that has inspired me since childhood. I have always lived in a city so in many ways trees are the core nature of urban cities – as despite being in close proximity to roads and motorway’s there are plenty of green tree lined spaces where I live. So for my final assignment I am going to sketch and draw the landscape specifically with trees. I am going to draw from my imagination and from observation not focusing on a resolved piece, using a variety of media and drawing processes to inform this body of drawings. This assignment will also focus on scale as a way to explore the theme. My aim and objective is to produce a series of work that explores my relationship and curiosity of trees. Some of the work will be sketchbook based, that is not resolved or finished but instead Will evoke and capture overlapping memories that explore my relationship with trees. The work will not be entirely finished or complete but instead is concerned with atmosphere and ambiguity. I feel that it will be interesting as it is not how I usually work on an assignment but I am at the stage where I need to make sense of process to really push drawing into something far more evocative and personal to me. In a nutshell this assignment will be personal to me. I do not know in which direction I shall go but instead hope to be lead somewhere reflective and new.
At the suggestion of my tutor I have returned to assignment 3
Using my 3D drawing of a head I set it up on a plain table top placing a light source on it so that it cast shadows. The light source had the effect of softening the black wire and making the plain white background dance with grey hued patches. The head cast a soft spidery shadow creating the effect of almost having a place head behind the wire piece. Using A1 paper and a selection of pencils including some water soluble graphite pencils I blew the head up and carefully drew it . It was a very time consuming process taking about 20 hours. However I am fairly pleased with the outcome. I think I have achieved a shift in the scale managing to capture a tiny wire 3D drawing into a 2D A1 sized drawing. But I am a little disappointed that one of my grey water soluble pencil has taken on a strange yellowery hue after adding water.
I really enjoyed working on a large scale as it felt interesting to play around with space and scale. It was also in a sense a good way to resolve and push my migraine project – I have explored different drawing media including drawing, mark marking, collage , fluid media , 3 and 2 Drawing, spending time working on a drawing and looking at scale. I took some photos of the finished drawing with my wire 3D drawing posed in front of it to demonstrate the change of scale and dimensions. It was quite difficult to photograph and I had to alter the lighting as the photos did come out too dark. I feel that I have learnt a lot from really attempting to resolve a drawing project and it has really made me focus more and question more about where I am heading and where to push drawing. I am now beginning to see that is drawing has ambiguity and that there is still many ways that I need to explore , experience and experiment with.
Reflecting on the process of exploring a piece of work further has been a valuable learning outcome allowing me to look as scale , dimensions and form and translating a three dimensional piece into a large two dimensional drawing. At the Picasso exhibition at the Tate modern there was a large drawing in charcoal that Picasso had made of one of his sculptures that was also in the exhibition that I found interesting.
Working on a A1 size piece has also helped me to think about composition and size . I carefully planned and made decisions about how to place my drawing so that I captured the feel of the wire head paying attention to the light and shadows. The piece also allowed me to explore making a drawing that required time spent on it like exercise 4.2. It also made me reflect more on how to expand a “finished ” piece more and made me realise that as an artist a theme or piece is never really finished?
On Saturday 8th September I attended the OCA London study day. Our venue for the day was the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. The event was led by OCA tutor and artist Clare Wilson
Aims and structure of the day
we were asked to bring along a range of artist materials, paper in various weights and sizes, a sketchbook and two images – one image to be of a place that we are have a connection with. The second image should be of a place that we haven’t been to but it is a place that we found intriguing. We were all directed to bring along a small object that relates to the place that holds memories.
The specific aim of the workshop is to focus on exploring ways to interpret a place. “how the experience of making relates to the place it’s self and to memories of that place. And how as artists we can offer abstractions of the experience and the shifts in time and space- making work that suggests a place visited , experienced or imagined “ ( from the study day joining instructions.
The day started with Clare talking about her work. I was interested in Clare’s process – her use of a sketchbook to produce small studies – and that these sketches are to inform the work and not used to replicate in her large paintings s. Clare’s painting process is very interesting and intense. Each piece is built up of layers that focus on the time shifts that occur – using abstraction to explore the various shifts. Clare read out a very interesting quote from Prunella clough
“Each painting is an exploration in unknown country or as Manet said , it is like throwing oneself into the sea in order to learn to swim” ( Prunella Clough)”
to me this quote beautifully describes the process of making art,
We then had a general group discussion on landscape and place
After our discussion we began some practical work: we began by sketching our first image with the option of adding our small object. My image was a photograph of Margate seafront which I took 3 weeks ago. As a child we often visited Margate for the day and I have happy memories of the sandy beach. I returned to Margate a month ago ( my first visit since I was a child). I was again enthralled by the beach. On my recent visit to Margate I brought a pot of shells as I really liked their shapes. For today’s workshop I brought along 3 tiny shells including a small red star shaped shell. I very much doubt whether they are actually from Margate? But they reminded me so much of my childhood – collecting shells and pebbles and the nature table at school! I did a drawing from my photograph in my sketchbook using inktense pencils and a water brush. I also drew my shells. I found the exercise very challenging as I do not usually work from photographs as I find them very static and too busy. I then did some small sketches of my shells on their own – I added in the shiny paper they were lying on ( the table had clear plastic on it to protect it from messy art materials). I was particularly interested in the shine radiating of the plastic – it was very white.
once we had finished sketching we explored our image using collage. I found using collage very interesting as in many ways it added texture to the flat photograph. Using drawing materials we added lines to our collages – I used black ink and pencils. I also added a further layer onto my collage using white tissue paper to suggest the sea.
Before breaking for lunch Clare demonstrated how to use an acrylic medium to transfer an image to a canvas support. Using Plextol D 498 and a large pasting brush we all coated a canvas board with the medium. We then placed our second image face down onto the board. My image was of a beach in Orkney. Once the image was on the board we gently pressed down ensuing the paper was smooth with no creases or air bubbles.
One hour later using some water on a household scrubbing sponge we carefully removed the paper taking care not to rub the image off. We were then left with an image imbedded into our canvas board . Using paint or other drawing materials we explored ways to build onto the image. I used gouache in primary colours to add marks onto my image. I also decided that I wanted to add elements from my Margate photograph onto my drawing – I added a bright coloured windbreaker and I also added my red star shell. Once the gouache layer had dried I added some collaged elements again using white tissue paper. I was not overall as happy with this piece as I was with my collage – but I was interested in the scope that image transfer can add to my work. I did like the juxtaposition of the two different landscapes. I was interested to notice that I had chosen two seascapes for my source images – again this goes back to my childhood- I’ve always lived in a city and like many a London child I was always totally in love with the seaside.
I really enjoyed the day and I really found it useful and inspiring. Clare was very interesting and I enjoyed the introduction to her work.I have always been scared at using image transfer and thought the process looked too difficult and technical so it was particularly helpful to have at go at it and discover its use as a process. I cannot wait to experiment some more. I enjoyed engaging with and meeting other students as distance learning can be very isolating. It was also interesting to see everyone’s work.
The workshop has also made me think much more about landscape
these are my thoughts on Landscape
– landscape is fragmented with layers and shifts.
– Landscape is abstract yet filled with wonder.
– Landscape is endless and is vast so for me it’s about capturing an essence of a moment as it is essentially a footprint of a moment – a tiny moment in the history of a place.
– Landscape is old, ancient and primeval
– Landscape can be dangerous and wild and unpredictable
– yet despite landscape being strong it is also very fragile
– Landscape can be filled with narrative- with the viewer being an unreliable narracter as we all see something different
– Landscape can be lonely , bleak yet filled with nostalgic memories.
– Landscape can be visceral , overwhelming , emotive, evocative and powerful
– Landscape can be intimate and personal
– Landscape is quiet yet noisy and it is omnipresent
for me personally Landscape is essentially a relationship between what I am seeing and the marks I use to record it.
Finally a special thanks to Clare for her contribution to such a thoughtful and reflective workshop. This study day has really come at the right time for me in terms of my studying. It has offered me the scope to find ways to tap into my creativity and to explore and experiment.