Abstract Critical

Brancaster Chronicle No. 3: Hilde Skilton Paintings

Bumble Buzz, 2013, oil on canvas, 80x120cm

Bumble Buzz, 2013, oil on canvas, 80x120cm

 Hilde Skilton Paintings

The Brancaster Chronicles are edited transcripts of recorded discussions made in direct response to exhibitions of abstract painting and sculpture. More information here

3rd August 2013, the artist’s studio, near Bath, Wiltshire.

Those present: Hilde Skilton, Mark Skilton, Anne Smart, Anthony Smart, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood, John Bunker, Alexandra Harley, Nick Moore.

Mark Skilton: These paintings have been made over the last couple of years and are developed from earlier paintings that were more [overtly] structural in composition, in that the blocks of colour were all more specific and tended to define space through shape as well as colour. Hilde has in these new paintings started working in a more dispersed kind of structural fashion, in order to get the colour to work more specifically with space.

Hilde Skilton: What I was doing [before these] was bringing in the drawing element, which I am now trying not to do.

Mark Skilton: You felt the drawing element was misleading?

Hilde Skilton: Yes… I’m trying to find a way to work with space without the drawing element… and so for me space was the motivator, and colour; then gradually that also changed, because the tonal range of the colour became important in also structuring space. In fact, space became the main thing I was always thinking of; trying to get deep space but at the same time acknowledging the planarity or the picture plane of the canvas.

Alexandra Harley: I think they do both. I think that works really well. I love this one (Bumble Buzz). You have set up the forms that are going up and down; and I love the way it gets from way down at the bottom [left] of the canvas and then right across.

Mark Skilton: Is it the arrangement of the way the colour shapes have been put down on the canvas? In the others they are much more ‘random’.

Calendula Landing, 2013, oil on canvas, 80x120cm

Calendula Landing, 2013, oil on canvas, 80x120cm

Alexandra Harley: I suppose that the physical presence is what I am picking up on [in Bumble Buzz]. The structure of some of the colour-forms feel a little more coherent, in terms of ‘going somewhere’. I am not saying the others are ‘random’, but I don’t feel they come together in the same way. I think this one works across… you have got a set of colours going across, but you have also got the depth that Hilde says she is looking for. In Calendula Landing [by contrast] the colours-shapes feel to be floating around more. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but that there is a difference between the two. I like the way that [in Bumble Buzz] those knit together.

Mark Skilton: Your word was ‘physical’…

Alexandra Harley: Yes. The others, for want of a better word, ‘float’.

Hilde Skilton: But do the areas that go in, do they just disappear or do they manifest themselves again… because that’s my intention and I don’t mind the fact they ‘float’; and that they come [back] out. There seems to be air within…

Mark Skilton: So do you like the physicality in Bumble Buzz because it is familiar or….? Well, I am trying to find out what you mean by physicality in painting…

Alexandra Harley: OK, I feel the areas are more grounded. I still feel a sense of depth and a movement across; but the areas feel knitted together.

Mark Skilton: So you don’t get the feeling that one of them is going to slide off the painting…

Alexandra Harley: Exactly. If one slides off, it will take the rest with it.

Robin Greenwood: Is that because of the nature of the shapes in Bumble Buzz? That’s a very different set of shapes [pointing to another painting]… as are most of the other paintings… and there is more variety… This knitting together; is it a ‘spatial’ knitting together or a ‘surface’ one?

Alexandra Harley: It is a ‘surface’ knit. But I can see some spatial elements in it. It’s not a flat thing.

Anne Smart: When I came to these paintings, what I tried to do was to forget everything that you [Hilde] say about your intentions. I tried to look at them afresh, and as if I had not heard what you were talking about. Bumble Buzz I found myself rejecting the most, because in trying to look at it in a new way it seemed the most dated in its thinking. What I was impressed with in most of the others was the feeling that a new thing was happening. I remembered how I have read and listened to people talking about abstract painting, and found I couldn’t put a lot of those phrases to these paintings. For example, I saw a painter on a film on abstractcritical say things like ‘I created an incident’… I felt I had heard it all before, and thinking about the word ‘incident’ in terms of Hilde’s paintings, I thought there is no individual incident in them that makes them into a ‘thing’. The ‘whole thing’ is a happening. I like the fact that that each painting is a whole ‘happening’. The space you talk about, in a more technical way, becomes even more clear and more natural – an all-over space. One of the things that for some may be a problem is the similar shapes, the ‘head-like’ elements, the system of this; but I thought this was their strength. Each of them has so many different things happening within them… well, it’s just so surprising how a single shape slowly, slowly, builds up intensity. Some are not quite as intense as others, and some are more so, and then suddenly things come into focus. If you just look at the blue, for example, it comes through strongly in each one and that makes me think how everything else relates to that blue; so seeing them all together just tells me there is something new going on here, coming out of the combination of the new things you are using. I am really taken with that.

Mark Skilton: And do you think that the size and the uniformity of the shapes is part of that?

Split Shift, 2013, oil on canvas, 100x50cm

Split Shift, 2013, oil on canvas, 100x50cm

Anne Smart: I think there is something really strong about that. Say, for example, in Split Shift there is such a lot of movement in there. You wouldn’t have thought that; it manages to get this massive feeling of stretching. This white here it just goes on and on, solid and forceful. It doesn’t look as though it should do and yet it does. Then you’ve got this massive space again in a vertical painting without it becoming a vertical column or a ‘totem’, which could easily happen. I think that for a small painting it’s a ‘big’ painting. It has that thing that painters look for – can I make a small painting big? It does it in a non-gestural, non-stereotypical way, which I think is a lot to do with how Hilde is putting together these elements. There is a given intensity and a given complexity which you don’t get [straight away], and initially there is a tendency for them to appear bland. Then out they come. To continue the first point I made –  and it’s come up before, about how programmed we are to look at painting and sculpture in a way that we are familiar with – from my point of view we have a responsibility to try our hardest to  look at painting and sculpture as though we had not seen it before.

Robin Greenwood: So you are saying Bumble Buzz is a more conventional painting…

Anne Smart: Yes. More built in a way that we have some knowledge of. It is more constructed and it’s not as loose. The others have a naturalness beyond any references to landscape; they are more open.

Anthony Smart: Bumble Buzz is not really colour painting, it’s a more orthodox ‘composition’; and the elements in it have a role to play; they act out their roles and ultimately they may bore you. You get an understanding of it quickly. It’s the opposite of what’s happening in most of the others.

Total Turnout,  2012, oil on canvas, 120x80cm

Total Turnout, 2012, oil on canvas, 120x80cm

John Bunker: For me, the best one is Total Turnout. I’m used to dealing with lots of hard edge and strong colour hitting the edges of things, defining things; but what’s interesting is that the more time I have spent with them, the more interesting they become. I am too used to seeing one hit wonders, paintings that want to talk to you for a moment, and then you want to leave. The language of these paintings wants to maintain some kind of conversation with you; and I agree with the process of finding different energies through the painting. Total Turnout was the one that said ‘yes’, I can see this process. Once I had latched on to that, then the rest of the paintings started to come to light for me. I don’t know if it has something to do with the slightly muted quality of the colour; it’s not ‘in your face’. The colours are starting to breathe; they are starting to relate to each other in a more subtle way. It’s Total Turnout best for me at the moment…

Anne Smart: The strength for me is in the continuing of the similar scale, colour and shape across each painting, but each shape having their own space within. Say in Three of Three, there is a spontaneity, not gestural, but this constant moving backwards and forwards… spatial with colour… so constantly you are given more and more information to hold on to. So it’s not random like a kaleidoscope. They have a natural feel to them. That’s why for me Bumble Buzz doesn’t work. It’s a bit landscapey, the combination of verticals and horizontals.

Brancaster Bunch, 2013, oil on canvas, 120x80cm

Brancaster Bunch, 2013, oil on canvas, 120x80cm

Sarah Greenwood: Something you [Anne] were talking about in Split Shift – the white is pushing out there, tying all the colours into the space and stopping it becoming too vertical. It’s actually explaining that space. I quite like Brancaster Bunch where you have large areas, but their relationship with the edge of the painting is very different, where all these shapes seem to be working within each other. It’s a different space and quite deep; is that because that green catches the edge of the painting?

Anne Smart: For me, the space in that painting [Brancaster Bunch] is held together with this purple disk [top left] there, and that is turning the deeper-tone shape behind it, jerking it round and out of the painting. So the rest of the space is trapped by that… then the whites come forward. That is like a handle to the space.

Nick Moore: When I first looked at this work I had the same feeling as John, that Total Turnout drew my attention the most; and it still does it. It has to do with the way it’s been painted, with these passages where you have some red covering over the top of that grey, the way the red swirls around on top of it. I love this here where the yellow is covered up by the mauve, which is covered up by the muddy green. It’s those layers, and the way you see through them sometimes, that makes it more consistently fluid than any of the others, even though actually the colours are flatter than in some of the others. That, as a painter, is what appeals to me; the painterliness of it, the way you get things coming through, and the shifts in the colours. They are very beautiful paintings.

John Bunker: I’ll tell you what, though; Total Turnout was a way in for me, but since then, in a short time, I’m beginning to register the paintings in a different way.

Anne Smart: In Split Shift the tension across the painting is over-ridden by this orange hook here [bottom centre]. It comes into almost being a real thing, which hooks over and holds up all the rest of the passages of paint, and yet is so much part of something bigger; to me, that’s what ‘complexity’ [in painting] means. You have got something going on which is more than the sum of the parts. This orange thing acts as a driver for the rest of the painting; this element is sometimes in the front and then at the back, trapping big chunks of the rest of the painting. So you have it holding, and picking up, and doing something else. Then you start to read different coloured sections of the painting as bigger things. The purple up there is so strong on top of the other dark area it gives a directional movement out of the painting. This puts all the rest into a spatial context of deep and shallow space.

Roberts Heights, 2013, oil on canvas, 90x160cm

Roberts Heights, 2013, oil on canvas, 90x160cm

Robin Greenwood: Is that not going back to the conventional, slightly figurative way?

Anne Smart: Might be… but it’s doing it in a different way… and that’s the start of something new.

Robin Greenwood: And the orange hook in Split Shift, I think you were saying that there is more than one reading of it, functioning in different ways at different times. Is that what you meant, a hook or a continuous thing, behind the grey? You could read that as a continuous item; this orange with that grey over the top; or you could read that hook as a separate thing.

Anne Smart: So is that what complexity is in this sort of work, and if so, is that what is holding our attention?

Mark Skilton: …and does the space in the painting change if you look at the orange as one thing with a big blob of grey on it, or you look at the orange as separate parts…

Anne Smart: That is a complexity. You can do all those things. None of them has a fixed purpose. Whereas, going back to Bumble Buzz, that is never going to achieve any more than that [it’s compositional restrictions].

Three of Three, 2012, oil on canvas, 80x120cm

Three of Three, 2012, oil on canvas, 80x120cm

Mark Skilton: Yes, the compositional element of that will restrain any hope of spatial variation. It imposes a known kind of subliminal structure. It is a ‘certainty’ we are drawn to. We don’t like things we can’t define. Certainty limits what is available.

Hilde Skilton: What Robin has asked… can any one of our paintings stand up to a Cezanne or a Matisse? That as an aspiration is great, but that history, that has nurtured and sustained the work we can look at and have the privilege of seeing, also holds us back. At this point you want to find yourself not being aware of all that, but just being in the moment when you are working, to allow things to happen.

Anthony Smart: It’s a terrible responsibility to go down that road. It can’t work with that weight of history hung round your neck. All great artists have wanted to do something different from what the guy before was doing. They have turned their back against history and struck out, have either got somewhere or just been consumed by history. I think it’s time to put the question another way. With these paintings, we have to take more chances, we have to turn our back to their origins and resolve not to repeat those origins. What we want is the void over there, and to go and fill it. We don’t want Constable and Cezanne etc. in our spaces.

Stay in Play, 2013, oil on canvas, 120x80cm

Stay in Play, 2013, oil on canvas, 120x80cm

Hilde Skilton: And there is the history of painting… but there is also a history of language, how we talk about painting…

Anne Smart: I’m worried about how we are individually talking about painting… I’m hoping there might be a new way of talking about painting, and I think we should really try to do that, because, here we are in Hilde’s studio, and she is doing things that even she doesn’t understand; and we have a responsibility to try and see if we can understand them, and give it back to her, what we can see…

Anthony Smart: But to do that we’ve got to probably go away and think about it. It’s not going to happen in an hour and a half. The big expectation of these talks is to cut through the ordinary, and get to the extraordinary; and the extraordinary thing with Hilde’s paintings is that thing that you aren’t used to seeing. You are not seeing obvious structure, so the idea of ‘chaos’ or ‘random-ness’ pops up, but actually it’s more likely that we are looking at a new sort of structure – but we don’t yet know what the hell it is.

 

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  1. Terry Ryall said…

    The question of ‘feelings’ in relation to visual art is difficult. After all, nobody has the right to challenge/seek to change another’s feelings in response to a painting, sculpture etc. This does however beg the question as to what, in a general sense, can be established and perhaps shared from articulating feelings and/or associations about a particular work of art. Can such personally interpretable qualities as feelings and associations really be SEEN or do they only exist in the private domain of any given viewer. Is it sensible, possible even, to form the basis of an exchange of views on feelings if they are (in my view rightly) regarded as unimpeachable? Although I’m not persuaded by Chris Edwick’s forceful argument its good to hear it.

    • Robin Greenwood said…

      Well, see my last post on the Hantaï, Hartung show about Tania’s comment. I’m not interested in personal interpretations and associations, but in what the work is doing. It is not easy to be objective about this, but that is the job. Your feelings are indeed unimpeachable, but that’s not the issue.

      • chris edwick said…

        There seems to be a common thought amongst the following quotes.
        “Be ruled by your feelings and doubt the rightness of your mind. Through emotional, not intellectual development, grasp that something, that is almost dreamlike, that hovers out of reach. Artists who use the intellect at the expense of feelings, hoping to create order, balance, quietness, stability will have this result; order, quietness and death. The end in plastic art is to create life. “ Hans Hoffman

        “Hoffman felt that a structurally powerful construction is not a work of art until it is permeated with poetic and emotional vision. “ Tina Dickey

        “The final adjusted and resolved image is an expression of the artists’ sensibility or temperament working at full stretch. “ Alan Gouk

        “I believed that abstract art was an incomplete kind of art, that even at its’ best it did not achieve all that art could do, that figurative art could be more complex, more specific, richer in human content. “ David Sylvester

        “I like those criteria of Sylvester; “more complex, more specific, richer in human content”. Unlike a lot of criteria by which we judge art, they seem plausible and modestly objective, at least in the first two of the three; and the third, the achievement of “human content” is such a great ambition for abstract art to have” Robin Greenwood

        “Everything without the quality of vital forces is merely decorative.” Hans Hoffman
        I if I pick out the keywords….
        .”.. to create life”
        “…poetic and emotional vision”
        “…the artists’ temperament working at full stretch”
        “…richer in human content”
        “…vital forces”

        I’ve been referring to these same qualities in painting when I’ve said “feelings, emotions, meaning”. Lets sum it all up with the words “human content” for the sake of argument.
        After all Robin when you say you’re interested in what the work is DOING, surely it’s trying to create life…with the poetic and emotional vision…of the artists’ temperament working at full stretch……expressing vital forces… to be richer in “human content”.

        So my concern is this; that by only talking about the methodology of structure and composition (Mark) we artificially separate the horse from the cart and give the wholly misleading impression that abstract art is really only about process and re-configuring space.
        Mark you say “Talking about structure, how something has been achieved is far more useful and can provide insight into how to proceed.”

        My point, Mark, is there is a danger in that you avoid saying WHAT has been achieved!! In fact you seem to insist that you can’t say what has been achieved because it’s ineffable! If we can’t talk about WHAT has been achieved then how can we understand HOW it has been achieved?

        I’m worried too, that at the very least, this kind of critique that avoids “human content” and insists “I’m not interested in personal interpretations and associations” could alternatively run into the danger of giving the impression that process and structure are actually more important than “human content”.

        David Sylvester has no such problem with human content in Patrick Herons’ work.

        “What delights me primarily in Herons paintings is precisely the feeling of transport they convey. They look as if they’d been painted by someone who was intoxicated- by the air he breathed so long as his eyes were open.
        Herons’ dances of colour and line immediately summon up, vividly and electrically all sorts of floating sensations of the world, gloriously mixed and melting and colliding with entwining-leaves and flower pots and tables and breast and skies, all moving and growing, all breathing.”

        How you must hate that, Mark and Robin and yet look back to the earlier quote from David Sylvester who, at one time doubted abstract art could be rich in “human content”.
        I guess he changed his mind and we can’t complain now he’s found it and he seems to have no problem whatsoever describing something you said was ineffable; this very quality of “human content” and surely metaphor is of the utmost importance in trying to convey these qualities.

        My concern is THE IMPRESSION WE MAKE. At art college in the 70’s they told me Heron was some Cornish nutter meaninglessly moving colour around a canvas as they spat the disgusting word “formalism” and kneeled at their alter to Duchamp. I gave up painting. Now 58, and not so gullible I see that Heron made a life-long commitment to making paintings about the sheer joy of life; the very essence of existence and that Duchamp was just a miserable art critic who hated art and artists and not surprisingly left the art-world to play chess, leaving us a legacy of other art critics called Warhol, Koons and Hirst.

        That’s bad enough but when I hear that what’s important in abstract art is to do with “compositional elements that will restrain any hope of spatial variation” and that “there is no individual incident in them that makes them into a thing. The whole thing is a happening”…..I feel that a young art student today will glean the impression that good painting must be made by a Dalek in a beret “You will be exterminated…when I have finished re-configuring these pictorial, spatial complexities.” and that art students’ response might be…”Yeah but don’t worry about exterminating me, because you’re going to bore me to death.”

        There’s no such thing as formalism anyway. Well Spock might manage it but then he’s a Vulcan and I suspect that for him cursed with being half human he too will find it’s all emotional. There’s no such thing as dispassionate objectivity. Process, composition, and above all pictorial space are all emotional and so your claim to be objective is perhaps more ambition than actuality and I’m worried that we use it as a fig leaf to avoid getting down and dirty with the lovely, funky, stinky, sexy jissum of painting; that “human content”.

        For a final point I would say that the stuff other than “human content” is something that needs very careful emphasis anyway. When the artist changes he AUTOMATICALLY changes his process and pictorial space. Heron changed his several times, notably moving from his wobbly hard edged paintings of the 70’s to those “garden” paintings of the 80’s.

        Space and process are just servants to the artist. So what I want as an artist is not what you think of my process and structure but what you think of what I have said; that “human content” of my work. If my paintings don’t convey the human content I’d hoped for or if I simply change and develop as a human, then those very processes and forms will automatically change without my paying them any attention whatsoever. Surely, process and spatial configuration are just a manifestation of human content and not vice versa? (or do I need another cup of coffee?)

        That’s why I agree with David Sylvester that what an artist really needs are exactly those personal interpretations, associations and subjective reactions to their work and THAT is what tells them what their work is DOING out there in the world and at the same time, inspires other artists as to the real significance of good art.

        So I would vote for a critique with an INEXTRICABLE link between Process and Human Content, the former being but lightly touched on, to guide us to the latter all entirely subjective though it may be.

        To sum up, my concern is that a critique of dispassionate objectivity focussed on process and pictorial structure at the expenses of human content either implies that human content is less important or worse still, not even part of the mix. Also I’m concerned that there is the danger in such a critique that we bore, confuse or alienate those we hope to excite, seduce and enlighten as to the very power and significance of abstract art.

        Anyway…it was just a thought and a purely subjective one…I hope!

        Robin, my painting will always look akin to Patrick Herons’ as I agree with him on a fundamental, philosophical level that painting is one of life’s’ greatest pleasures and as David Sylvester put it “to be made with joy, to be permeated by joy, to provoke joy”. Smart artists stand on the shoulders of giants as you cleverly stand on the shoulders of Caro but I’m not concerned about “being genuinely new and original” as you recommend. I think that particular ambition is at the heart of the problem in art. With respect, I’m only really concerned about being honest and true to myself, cliché though it is.

        My respects and thanks to you Robin for your thoughts and feedback and to Abstract Critical for this oasis of thought. I have found this to be an immensely interesting subject. I hope I won’t appear to be trying to bulldoze anyone into thinking I am definitively right because I haven’t decided that for myself yet!

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        Great post, Chris, and I’m not going to take issue with any of it.

  2. chris edwick said…

    I’m glad you’re all wondering about how you talk about painting. From where I’m sitting I find it utterly bazaar the way you all talk.
    All you talk about is space, structure and composition!!!! as if that were what these paintings expressed!!!

    Why not try asking yourselves “How does this painting make me FEEL?”

    Everyone forgotten that?

    You sound like a bunch of musicians discussing Led Zeppelins interesting use of 5ths in their atonal symphonic re-structuring of time sequences….

    Duh!!

    Can’t we get over this nerdy, process, art college tutorial, obsession with how something is said and listen to what it actually says?

    feelings..emotions….meaning…not “compositional elements that will restrain any hope of spatial variation”.

    • Mark said…

      The reason that we talk mostly about structure and composition, is that the expression of a work is by its very natures ineffable, hence the need to express it as painting or sculpture and not literature. Talking about the expression of a work can at best only be metaphorical and is usually disappointing. Talking about structure; how something has been achieved; is far more useful and can provide insight into how to proceed.

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        I agree with Mark; I’m rather jealous of the musician’s or composer’s ability to talk coherently and objectively about their “language”. That ability undoubtedly enhances rather than impinges upon their ability to fully express themselves through art, and it is noticable that the general standard of musical analysis and criticism is way above that of visual art.

        But… if you think differently, Chris, the floor is yours.

      • chris edwick said…

        Thank you for the floor Robin.

        The first thing I FEEL is a sense of femininity. Had I not known these were by a woman I would have FELT certain they were and I FEEL a gentleness of spirit mixed with a sense of courageous tenacity. I FEEL a wry wilfulness of intent that seems to say “I may be uncertain of my direction but I am certain I have the courage and self confidence and belief to follow my own quirky road and therefore what I may lack in clarity I make up with authenticity of purpose.”

        I admire that.

        We understand each other through empathy. I feel the joy of a dancer as I watch them move, FEELING their movement in my own muscle experience and memory. I FEEL an exquisite sense of perfection as I watch a footballer kick the ball into goal from 30 yards out. I FEEL the almost butch masculinity and psychological sense of purpose in a slab of blue paint, knifed on to a canvas by Alan Gouk.

        I FEEL Hilde in a gentleness of brushwork making an area of colour that fits with almost politeness of purpose into a space. I don’t FEEL Alan Gouks’ almost aggressive application of pigment, applied with a pornographically ravishing, physical sensibility. I FEEL instead an almost tentativeness that says “Excuse me…colour coming in…make way please”, and this delicacy is feminine and FEELS playful by comparison, almost erotic to Alans’ more hard-core potency.
        I FEEL a refusal by Hilde to be drawn into a formal seriousness and dull minded rigorousness. This comes from the avoidance of a strictly disciplined FEELING for the placement of these colour swatches and a happiness of FEELING to change her mind about something previously said when a better idea/colour occurs. This FEELS like a mind at ease with itself that has a distaste of notions of perfection. I get that FEELING from the relaxed, correcting overlay of a new colour patch that lets the previous patch stay as old friends are introduced to new, who can supplant them for a while but without wishing to eradicate that friend once known. These paintings seem to convey of FEELING of a kind of freewheeling desire to follow where the road will lead that gives them an air of delightful curiosity, and a sense of relaxed ambition, so often far from what we feel in others.
        I’m looking at a Rothko; a psychological mile away from Hilde. I FEEL his philosophical remoteness in his full arm stretch of touch. Now I look back and can see Hildes’ hand making a touching, gentle, probing caress where Rothko is distant with his sweeping of a meagre gossamer film of barely palpable material while Hilde lovingly scumbles on a nice squidgyness of choclatey brown. Rothko you scare me. Hilde your hand is flesh and blood and warm and I FEEL your smile at something Rothko has lost; easy earthly pleasure.

        What makes painting and particularly abstract painting, (my only love) so vital is that touch of hand; the human hand that reveals all our FEELINGS that we understand through empathy, one human to another, whether a FEEL of despair or joy. Gone from that spot and spin painting. Gone from that readymade.

        Hilde doesn’t need to tell me she is a great painter. These paintings FEEL friendly rather than imposing, happy on their journey without needing to arrive. To look upon one in my living room would make me FEEL kind hearted today, that life need not FEEL a struggle in comparison to an Alan Gouk that tells me to stop fiddling and start knifing that paint on now because Rome is burning. Which FEELING matters most to me?

        Oh, for a dinner party with both of you there…..the perfect ying and yang of my FEELINGS.

        As for the “compositional elements that will restrain any hope of spatial variation.”…

        …I still don’t FEEL that……or that it conveys anything of value to anyone about abstract painting.

        Thank you for the floor though, Robin.

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        My pleasure, Chris, and a very interesting “appreciation” too. I can confirm that Hilde is a laydee and that Alan is a big moustachioed guy. The thing is, the Brancaster Chronicles are focussed upon the objective ways that we can help each other to collectively go forward with abstract art into something new, rather than airing our likes and dislikes, or indeed making some kind of act of confirmation of the present state of our individual sensibilities.

        You are in any case a little hard on us, since we often talk about how the work “feels” (rather than how we “feel”) as we stumble along trying to say what we mean. And what about us poor sculptors, stuck with our cold hard iron! How do we express our feelings through the sensitivity of our brushwork?

        Having had a quick peruse of your website, I’d rather cheekily say you could lay off the feelings a bit and get down to working out what it is you are trying to do, because you are coming at painting from a position of taking an awful lot of influence from the likes of Patrick Heron and Bert Irvin, when in fact your own true sensibility might be of a different order altogether (!), were you able to progress your painting to a point where it becomes genuinely new and original – which is where we all want to be in Brancaster. Feelings are important, but they are not the whole story.

  3. Robin Greenwood said…

    Still thinking about these paintings… about how the ‘elements’ jostle and rotate and jiggle about; it’s very lively, but they seem essentially about ‘push and pull’, backwards and forwards to the picture plane, even when they are sliding around and across it. Nothing does much in terms of turning into or against another thing, or turning at an angle, into or against the picture plane… ? Each shape is (mostly) a single colour/tone…? Is this good?

    • Mark Skilton said…

      Hi Robin
      I agree that the elements do jostle and jiggle about and it is essentially about push and pull, what I find surprising is that one element can do both pushing and pulling at the same time, depending on whether you scan to the right or left (or up or down). To do this each shape has to be a single colour/tone.
      Secondly, there are areas where planes do form a diagonal to the picture plane. What is particularly important is to experience each painting as a whole and let it vibrate.
      Yes this is good

  4. Iain Robertson said…

    I just wanted to put in some thoughts, I havent really had the time to keep up with all the debate although I am detecting a theme around , ‘familiar’ and ‘new’ which we can perhaps get a bit stuck on. I would firstly roundly support this series of events as I think as a practitioner it encourages me to go back to the studio and question my own practice so thanks as a painter particularily to Hilde and Anne for that and of course Fred later on. It is very unusual to find somthing completelty ‘new’ and there is ‘familiarity’ to be found in all work, of course every now and then someone comes along who produces somthing so unique it becomes a game changer and we all know who they are, but in truly venturous work perhaps we are all pushing various envelopes whether it be Anne disolving the form to find a new space or Hilde’s strongly colour driven work addressing the same problems

  5. Robin Greenwood said…

    Anne,
    I’d say that your last reply is at least as much a conversation-stopper as Sam’s ‘familiar’. The question is, now that we have had a few weeks to consider and maybe get beyond our feelings ‘on the day’, can we determine any better whether this work constitutes a ‘new sort of structure’; and if so, what that might be. Sam’s comparison with Fred Pollock seems a good one, though that may be best left until we see Fred’s work in a few weeks time. Meantime, can we winkle anything more out of this?

    I find myself thinking of Hilde’s comment about ‘air within’ the paintings; I seem to be inclined as much now as I was at the time to read a kind of ‘naturalistic’ or ‘atmospheric’ space into this work; whereas I get the impression that you think of them as doing something more radically ‘abstract’. My reading may be something to do with the particular nature of the light or colour in the paintings, as they shift and jostle themselves towards blue rather than red, perhaps? That atmospheric space seems to me to be at least a little familiar…

    • Robin Greenwood said…

      … and as you will see from my comment on the Alan Gouk paintings, I wonder why we need to always acknowledge “the planarity or the picture plane of the canvas”, as Hilde puts it; or as Gouk says, keep the colours “…side-by-side, front-on to the picture surface…” whilst trying to elicit some kind of illusion of depth. Are these homages to the literal flatness necessary, and are they the same thing as resolving the potential three-dimensional space of painting with its two-dimensionality? Has Hilde unlocked this dilemma a little, do you think?

      • anne smart said…

        Maybe she has.

        I find myself not reading any kind of naturalistic elements in Hilde’s paintings.I see them as fully abstract. I did bring up the word ‘natural’ in my “on the spot” analysis of her use of similar shapes scales and colours across the surfaces.I saw it through her instinctive ability to make those elements feel “right” I thought the group discussion covered thoroughly in talking about “Bumble Buzz” that the other paintings lost any references to a sort of landscape that “Bumble Buzz” had.
        I wish you had brought this up in the discussion .

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        It’s not really the landscape references, such as they are in “Bumble Buzz”, that I’m talking about. It’s the nature of the space in the other paintings; whether you read the “space” in them figuratively.

  6. anne smart said…

    It’s not good enough to say that Sam
    The word “familiar” is a taunt…It means nothing and is not worthy
    As an art critic you have a responsibility to look more closely and be more specific
    Anne Smart

    • Sam said…

      I wouldn’t say it means nothing – I’d say it contains as much specific content as a ‘new sort of structure’. But yes it is unfair to just say familiar. I would say in their mosaic of parts, in their total filling up of the picture surface / space, with some parts which sit back, some which sit forward, in the fairly consistent sense of scale and of movement they resemble Fred Pollock’s paintings. http://www.poussin-gallery.com/site.php?artist=8&group=38 The feel is different, as is the colour sense but the basic structural principle seems related.

      • anne smart said…

        Thank you for beginning to talk about the paintings.
        However the quote should read …..”its MORE LIKELY that we are looking at a new sort of structure…but we don’t know what the hell it is”
        This proposition in these closing remarks of Hilde’s talk is that we should be prepared to look beyond the obvious in anticipation of a new kind of structure. That is representative of a feeling of one of the participants based on what they were seeing ” in front ” of the paintings on that day.

  7. Sam said…

    Hi Tony, I haven’t seen these in the flesh, and through the screen they look like good paintings (Total Turnout and Split Shift for me), but I don’t quite see how they qualify as ‘things you aren’t used to seeing… a new sort of structure’. Maybe I am being v superficial but to me they look familiar.

  8. Sam said…

    I think the painter Anne Smart is referring to is Pete Hoida: see this film… http://abstractcritical.com/note/pete-hoida-in-conversation-with-graham-boyd-2/

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