Starting with my strengths using directional mark making of varying size and weight and use of contrasts in tone and thickness, I decided to focus on the garden. The garden contains various tropical ornate plants and trees selected for their looks and is well cared for by gardeners. These gardens are repeated in every residential area of the village. Whilst these plants and trees are beautiful many of them have an element of horror or grotesqueness which I thought could be shown in contrast. Archie Franks plays on this in a fun way with his monster munch paintings (Franks, 2016) and lead me to think I could use his highly contrasting impasto marks to bring out these features. The form of the trees and plants are very much alien to me having grown up with more temperate vegetation and so thought sculpting an environment like Mimei Thompson (Thompson, 2014) would also help.
First I started making quick observational sketches from the list in the assignment to try to bring more inspiration and depth. Painting at night helps view life with a very different set of colours from the artificial lighting and with stronger shadows creates a different atmosphere. The view from the window is always interesting with the varying light and weather.
Then I started focusing on selected plants and trees which where new or showed signs of grotesqueness. The plant with large palm like leaves had a trunk with eye like features and tentacles which immediately inspired me to focus on capturing its form from different angles.
Monoprints were used to try to capture the twisting trees, roots and patterned leaves. I also tried out painting the oil + liquin on smooth card and aluminium (with enamel ground).
The beast draws your attention to the eyes with the dark hairs. The strong leaf stems lead the eye away towards the large leaves. The strong tentacle like roots hold the body in in place. It does have a slight grotesqueness about it although not as strong as I’d like. At the same time large leaves and strong colours provide an element of beauty. Shadows give it greater dimension creating more depth and realism. The background is brightly light but not dazzling making the whole painting feel light perhaps balancing the heavy looking hairs. In comparison to Bursting out it feels wetter and the perspective is lower. Composition is orientated for looking up so that the plant is towering above. The right hand side clearly drawing attention and is balanced by the lighter left.
The tree roots and flower appear more exposed to the sun with bright light, feeling much warmer and dryer. The eye is drawn to the flower leaves in the middle and then down the roots. The flowers stand out more alive and vibrant than the roots which are similar in tone and colour to the stones either side. The flowers burst out of the tree. The tree roots are pushing out of its’ urban walls which seems to be trying to contain it although this is somewhat happening in the background. Composition, the portrait view makes the tree long and squeezed into a tiny space between the walls.
The tree roots appear more abstract with their appearance broken up by the rough textured paint. Overall it is much darker. The eye is drawn to the roots which are sharp and rough with contrasting values. The composition in portrait gives detail on the tree but looses context. The roots are like fingers bursting out of the tree trying to pull apart the bark and get out.
Another idea was to focus on the leaves which have a very different look when viewed from below than above. It is interesting to see the leaves with light shining through and see bright colours and patterns. This painting uses white lacquer paint to mark out the brighter lines. I then layered paint on top with a mix of acrylic and finally oil.
Looking at the work as a whole, the garden is seen in a different light showing beauty, otherworldly grotesque forms and hints of urban life on the edge. The painting of leaves from below shows a beauty you don’t normally see when walking around the garden however it doesn’t contrast an element of grotesqueness and for this reason doesn’t quite fit with the others.
There needs to be subtlety and similarity perhaps in tone to tie together the paintings. Given these gardens are all around and form an everyday background I’d like to allow the viewer to see more and more as they stop and look. Therefore a natural and familiar feel at first glance would relate to the current experience and then start to reveal unnatural otherworldly things like the eyes on the plant. This could be interpreted in different ways, to put more in so that the grotesque elements are not so obvious and can be seen with more time or to tone them down. The idea of toning down the whole piece would need to be explored to see if the grotesque element works. Putting more grotesque elements in without toning down may become overwhelming. I like the potential for differing sizes and that the smaller ones encourage a greater focus compared to the larger more open and immersive paintings.
The ideas for displaying the work play on the experience of moving through the garden or feeling a little afraid when looking in dark places. Viewing them in the wardrobe was fun and made it feel like the plants were hiding. The darkness helped bring out the horror element. Looking at them on the floor created a pond like view with the reflection in the floor. The depth seemed to imply a viewing order from front to back. When displayed on the wall in a more traditional arrangement it didn’t feel as interesting or engaging. Using shelves creates darker views of the smaller paintings to help bring out the horror element. There is no space under our beds to set up the paintings to create a display.
What were my paintings depicting and why did I choose the materials used.
The beast is focussed on a plant which appears to have lots of eyes and tentacles which makes it a bit scary. Oils mixed with liquin on aluminium was easily moved and sculpted like in Mimei Thompson’s work. White enamel is used to ground the aluminium to make the paint glow brighter rather than the actual metal which can look darker. The oil used for eyes and eye lashes had an impasto additive and Liquin oleopasto added. Whilst both created more relief the impasto was glossy for the eye, the liquin oleopasto is more mat and very thick for the hair. Resin added a transparent shiny layer over the eyes. This was then about adding qualities relating to eyes and eyelashes rather than the actual plant.
The roots painting was focussed on the banyan trees’s varied roots and how they grow in tight urban spaces. The ornate flower which often grows in the tree was included because the roots were not as strong as I’d hoped. Oils mixed with Liquin is used to sculpt the roots on a canvas primed with glue and gesso. The glue is added to reduce the absorbency of the surface and make it easier to move the paint. The flower is oil with impasto and liquin original to give volume and make it more viscous. This was to follow Iain Andrews approach to painting impasto for the main focus of the painting. Emulsion was used to pour out the very thin roots.
Oil with Liquin oleopasto is used to paint reaching out’s roots which are like fingers pushing and reaching out from under the tree’s bark. I wanted to get an uneasy feeling of many fingers bursting out of the tree, reaching out. Card was used to give a rigid surface to support the thicker paint. Thinned down paint was painted across the dry surface to bring out a calmer view of the sea opposite the palms and the paint was allowed to drip down through the roots to tie them together.
How would I develop further?
The beast was painted in a similar fashion in the exercise except it was composed with a looking down view which lead to it being darker. Exploring painting at night whilst maintaining or enhancing luminosity may help increase the fear factor with different unnatural light shining on the plant. Furthermore making the painting bigger might make it much more imposing whilst keeping the same perspective. The background white was not pure white and would have reduced luminosity and so a pure white might help.
Bursting out’s background absorbed too much of the paint leading to a heavier feel with the yellow which was not intended. This is also meant the roots were not as strong as I’d hoped and would therefore like to explore stronger roots without the need to paint the flower over the top. Other thoughts are around how the roots grow contained within the bounds of the picture frame yet feel like they are not.
Reaching out’s roots whilst are bursting out are numerous and may benefit from a larger view with more a repeating pattern. Better yet a wider view of the tree amongst other plants and trees at night so that there are subtle shapes and forms all around and then the tree roots seem to have a light directed them highlighting the fingers reaching out.
Looking up through the leaves could explore use of Iain Andrews technique to paint the brightly coloured leaves. My mix of oil with liquin and impasto was not what Iain Andrews uses, he paints in acrylic so I’d like to try something closer to his mix for the leaves without oil.
Artists which influenced me. Mimei Thompson was a major influence with her fluid sculpting of otherworldly landscapes. Her work in particular has lead me to focus on smooth bright surfaces and to use paint which can be manipulated for longer periods. Archie Franks impasto with contrasting values to show form on the plant in focus (eyes, tentacles or roots). Iain Andrews for his swirling bright impasto work (Saatchi Art, s.d). Turner for his use of white impasto paint for highlights. I think Mimei, Turner and Iain have all shown that painting light to dark is best for getting the brightness in colours to then contrast against darker tones applied later. In addition they all show that its not about recreating what you see and that you can create something which works visually using their technique.
Franks, Archie (2016) Monster munch with moonAt:http://archiefranks.com/portfolio/monster-munch-with-moon-2016/ Accessed on 11/1/18
Thompson, Mimei (2014) Bin bag closeup.At:http://www.mimeithompson.com/work/view/binbag-closeup/ Accessed on 5/2/18.
Saatchi Art. (s.d) St Soutine. At:https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-St-Soutine/10759/1461952/view Accessed on 11/1/18