Comments on: Closeness http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/ Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Terry Ryall http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-62080 Sun, 18 Nov 2012 13:38:03 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-62080 I certainly have no intention of denying anybody their points of departure or their valued assessments of admired artists from whichever period they might hail. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of other artists, and ourselves of course, is, or at least could be, a very important part of understanding how we might develop our work, manage its change, and also see its position in relation to what others have achieved.
So fear not Emyr,I do hear all that you say and please put my name down for one of those nice tea-towels and a tee-shirt as well, preferably signed by you and your two cohorts. But really! Tea (sweet) AND cake, far too much sugar!

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By: Robin Greenwood http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-61187 Thu, 15 Nov 2012 09:35:41 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-61187 Never mind the Tate, let’s do it on an abcrit teeshirt.

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By: John Holland http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-60986 Wed, 14 Nov 2012 17:31:42 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-60986 Could I suggest that Tate should put the phrase ‘ We are having tea with the subject but missing the cake of content’ on tea towels to be sold in the gift shop?

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By: Emyr Williams http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-60911 Wed, 14 Nov 2012 09:39:40 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-60911 Many years ago I taught a lad who said he wanted to be a bin man when he was older. When I asked him why , he said ” cos you get all that money and only work on a Tuesday”. I think you have to see a bigger picture here Terry. I am not grafting exotic sources onto anything (though “exotic ” is a backhanded compliment in a way). Delacroix to my eyes is a great painter, so is Matisse , so I have to ask myself “Why?” , why do I respond to these two artists amongst many others who are not abstract painters? If we are only going to view art through the ever more myopic lens of early to mid twentieth century abstraction our own practice will become impoverished as a result. You talk of building bridges to new lands. Yes I agree with that, but not from any sandy foundations: these painters themselves looked far and wide for their inspiration, mining any culture that they saw fit to. Matisse more than any other was a culture vulture of sorts, Coptic, Islamic, Pre-Renaissance, West African, Pacific, and so on and so on. What I have been trying to do in this article is find something that I feel unites all this work, something I am inherently responding to that transcends the time, place or even the medium used. I can turn that around to you too. Why bother with cubism at all- that was a hundred years back? You obviously get something out of it. You must permit me the same leeway to find my own points of departure. I don’t much care for the blurb around art and I certainly have no pre-disposition to “old master” painting. If it hits me visually then I will respond to it and learn from it. As Larry Poons once said, show me chipmunks that made good art and I’ll applaud them, but when the chipmunks start banging on about Romeo and Juliet or the Roman Empire in their painting then I’m not interested. Where is the Art? As to your last comment about Matisse – all I can say is look again. You are having tea with the subject but missing the cake of content.

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By: Terry Ryall http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-60810 Wed, 14 Nov 2012 01:22:41 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-60810 Emyr, I’ll begin if I may (unlike your illustrious countryman) at the end rather than the beginning of your ‘foot-in-my-doorway post’. I won’t spend much time defending what you refer to as my ‘approach’ but in case I have given the wrong impression I will just say that I’m not a sad quasi-Cubist entrenched in systematic ways of making sculpture and painting. I find the early 20th Century exciting simply because it is where we find the origins of abstract art and it is that fact of history that is as important to me (as an abstract artist) as the work that was created at that time and all that followed from it. It helps me to have a sense of context and continuity for what I’m doing, something that I can feel attached to.
When Cubism came to it’s cul-de-sac, Picasso, when he made his cardboard guitar, in effect, plucked a Cubist image from the canvas and brought it into real space. This opened up new possibilities for abstract sculptors of the 20th century and beyond and I believe that sculpture was/is/and will continue to be the real beneficiary of that explosive period. In any assessment of the comparative achievements of abstract art and the figurative art of the past our judgement has to be tempered by the fact that abstraction is still in it’s infancy. Is it really reasonable to expect this struggling infant to have equalled the richness and complexity of the likes of Titian, Poussin, Delacroix, Matisse et al in less than a Century? We must of course aspire to make abstract art that is ambitious, unpredictable and of our time, but in a sense considerations/calculations beyond that don’t really interest me. What concerns me is what I can do to find ambition within and by the act of painting and not by attempting to graft on any number of observed desirable characteristics from exotic sources (I’m certainly not suggesting that that is what you or anybody else is doing but I do find the trend on this site of earnest reverence being shown to the old masters a tad worrying!). A word of warning, Titian Poussin , Manet Matisse etc. all these artists appear to us as if they have crossed bridges to special places, but beware they will almost certainly have wrecked those bridges behind them rendering them useless to others. If wanting to get to a special place is your thing you’ll have to make your own bridge. Don’t you find looking at Matisse just a little bit like drinking sweet tea?

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By: Terry Ryall http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-60324 Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:49:35 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-60324 Emyr, “I’ll be back”

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By: Emyr Williams http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-60315 Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:16:14 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-60315 Terry, at the risk of appearing to put a foot in your doorway.. Picasso and Braque during their cubist phases created a pictorial vernacular based on the look of Cezanne, but failed to absorb his fundamental achievement of synthesis. Cezanne famously said “colour is where our minds and the universe meet”. How about that for a statement! Cubism was essentially a systematic approach, it created shallow space that superficially felt more “there” due to its containment of space. Yet it doesn’t feel spatial in the way we see or even in the way it portends to. Look at Matisse’s Fauvist works from 1907 and compare them with Derain’s exact same scenes and you will see what I mean by colour as a force to create space. Derain has passages of dark areas – still rooted in conventional local colour relationships – which are essentially tonal. Matisse on the other hand creates luminosity throughout all parts of the picture – the space surrounds you (if Dolby did painting….!) This is much more significant an achievement from the early twentieth century to my eyes. Go back a little further: If you look at Delacroix you will see a greater ambition than any painting from the cubist canon. How he gets incident into the top of the picture (compare with David which is bottom loaded in weight). He gets this from Veronese and Titian. What cubist work has as much fluidity, phrasing and handling of colour and drawing as a Delacroix? (please don’t say Guernica) We can jump around times and places and find numerous examples of painting that are more ambitious and relevant still than cubism (Titian was my other one and he doesn’t stack up too badly either! )- getting coloured glues onto a support hasn’t changed all that much really. So, no I am sorry, I do not see Cubism as any big bang phenomenon – I am not ignoring it, just clearly not as impressed or inspired by it as you. As I said before in the other thread, if it is important to you, then I’m not knocking that role. Though, I am more and more convinced that “systematic processes” lead to dead ends and shut more doors than they open. (I say this from real experience too) Finding new ways to engage with what we see without abstracting but somehow possessing it, is – I think – a better route. I am only going on my experiences in the studio and from looking at art and looking in general (what else I guess). I think cubism is more limiting than you are willing to acknowledge . If you don’t accept my point here then how about this notion – drop the lot, the whole of art up to this point. Where would you start from? What would you think would be the most you could aspire to do with your art? “sans references” so to speak. I cannot see how cubism would ever come back into your thinking once you address a question like that. Its all up for grabs surely, both painting and sculpture are only limited by an artist’s approach. I think that having a clearer understanding of the nature of each discipline, what they are capable of doing, not just what has been done so far, will also make it more exciting and far reaching for future development. I don’t really want to see too much more pictorial sculpture and I don’t want to see any more centrifugally weighted painting either (though I painfully accept this is a challenge and a half to get over!) One last point: The opposite to the drop the lot one, as a polemic: Ask ourselves this. Can we make art that enables us to engage with the greatest works that we admire – on our terms but with as visual an outcome? Is your approach going to reward you with as much richness, as much ART as these works possess? …..Cubism… shmubism! Regarding time: I think Robert’s reply was far more exacting than I could muster at this point…in time.

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By: Terry Ryall http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-60313 Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:14:08 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-60313 Robert,This has helped me enormously to get a sense of the characteristics of a sculpture that could form a perception of it creating an “illusion of time”. This doesn’t mean that I am any nearer to ‘feeling’ that particular sense of time that you experience in the presence of the works that you cite (if only life were that easy!). As you suggest it is not possible for words to substitute for experience, but at least it’s a start for me.

From Emyr Williams: “this moving relational give and take is dynamic, not static”

From Robert Persey: “not fixed but tensions in constant readjustment”

Perhaps these two statements get us a little closer to what must be considered by those who want to achieve a “cohesive sense of time” in sculpture. How we as makers, whether of the figurative or the abstract, might achieve it is another matter.

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By: Robert Persey http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-60168 Mon, 12 Nov 2012 11:20:28 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-60168 If I am hestitant in writing about time and sculpture it is because it is a quality that has to be recognised and experienced in the presence of a particular sculpture and sculptures that possess this illusory quality are very rare. I am also very aware that to describe it in any detail would be very difficult and would in any case reduce the quality to an explanation that could become a substitute for its experience.In fact if I knew what created it then I would do it, so what I have to say must be treated as speculative.

Firstly a sense of time in sculpture has nothing to do with traditional ideas of movement or aesthetic ideas such as flowing curves and the like.It has nothing to do with any overlaid psychology. Nor does it have anything to do with the time one spends walking around a sculpture, I cannot see how it can control the rate at which an observer circumnavigates it.

The first sculpture that made me think about the possibility of the illusion of time was Rodin’s “John the Baptist” in the V&A in London. Happily it is still on show and better shown than before, although last time I saw it I thought it had been raised too high but that’s an aside. It did not reveal itself on first viewing but only after prolonged aquaintance. The sculpture has a pervading, strong and persistent feeling of reciprocated pressures within it that are built up in the work; in a kind of forward and return manner. It can be sometimes be taken for a combination of before and after aspects of a body in motion but I think it is more than this. It is part of the nature of its physicality in conjunction with its structure that leads to an expressed sensation of relationships beyond mere position, definitely beyond presence. Its effect is to render the sculpture as vulnerable, not fixed but tensions in constant readjustment as it were.

Effectively the “John the Baptist” becomes something else. Not a copy after nature,not a narrative, not even a representation of an idea such as a fixed stride or a man walking but the creation of something you would never see or feel in life.

Emyr, quite rightly, asks us to see sculptural elements as forces. Forces in the physical world have a direction and significantly, a duration. Why not the same in sculpture? Except that real world forces ultimately reach equilibrium and/or are spent, whereas in sculpture they can be controlled and held forever.

I have chosen this sculpture for the reasons given and because it is available to see now. There are others,Rodin’s “Age of Bronze” also in the V&A and Degas’s “Dancer looking at the sole of her right foot” Rewald XLIX in the Ashmoleon Museum in Oxford are well worth seeing in this context. By way of contrast in the same room as the Rodin’s is Lord Leighton’s “The Sluggard” which is “in your face” space occupying, domineering stuff but compared to the Rodin’s it has no sense of time and is completely locked up.

The sculptures I have selected are of course all figurative but that is not to say abstract sculpture can learn nothing from them. Cubism may have been its birthplace but one does not stay in the cradle forever.

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By: Terry Ryall http://abstractcritical.com/article/closeness/#comment-59821 Sun, 11 Nov 2012 03:06:34 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6307#comment-59821 One of the features that I like and feel is important about this essay is that it articulates,as fully as seems possible with words,the visual experience of looking at a work of art . It does so with the studious insight of a practising painter who places the highest value on the visual experience. The comments that relate to the making of a painting or sculpture are equally insightful and revealing, particularly so for the painter/sculptor (or vice-versa if preferred!) who might be seeking, if not to integrate, then perhaps discover some meaningful dialogue between the two strands of expression.
If there is an area that I would take issue with then it would be the section on Cubism but that could raise such a wide-ranging number of arguments that it is probably best left for another time. All I would say is that whether we like it or not, working in the early 21st Century our birthplace as artists lies in the ‘Big Bang’ of the early 20th Century and we ignore/deny the significance of the ‘matter’,however flawed,that emerged from it at our peril.

Robin, as a sculptor I wish I could contribute something to the ‘cohesive sense of time’ idea but my understanding of time,which Robert Persey also refers to,in relation to sculpture is a little short and possibly completely absent. I understand Emyr’s point where he refers to the “continuity of time spent in visual dialogue with the work” which would seem to apply to the process of a viewer getting to know a sculpture. What I’m not clear about is whether that particular ‘time’ is the same “cohesive sense of time” with which the essay finishes and that you describe as a great aspiration. This appears to me to be something different, something that is not inherent in the making of a sculpture as I understand it.

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