Hockney: Ode to Invisible Blue

art, art notes, drawing, Exhibition, Painting, philosophy, Sketchnotes, text and image

 

Hockney’s Retrospective at the Tate Britain.

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I used to draw when I visited galleries, but these days I tend to lean less on the pencil, and more on the pen, making word impressions where sketches will not suffice. With notebooks overflowing and piling up around me I’ve decided now to share these reflections, not posing as a critic, but sharing and exploring experiences of art as I have encountered them and felt compelled to pen them from time to time.  

Hockney’s exhibition at the Tate Britain was the first thing I went to see back in London when I got home. I had so many notes that I planned to write a walk-through of the exhibition, a fascinating journey through the work of an ever changing artist. But in the end I found I had enough to say about a single painting for one post. What was surprising was that it was a painting I had seen reproduced, and did not expect to find fascinating. This reminds me that a large part of the ‘work’ that makes an artwork work is that it takes time, attention, and presence. It is the work of the viewer, as well as of the artist that creates an experience. After a long while of looking I felt very attached to this painting, not it’s miniature reproduction on screen, but the vibrating body of the canvas itself. 

Portrait of an artist 1972 – Pool With Two FiguresDavidHockney-PortraitofanArtistPoolwithTwoFigures. - light

Scale

First of all I need to note that although I have put the image here for reference, it is inevitably limited in in capturing the impression of the real piece which I would estimate to be around three meters wide and two high. The colours also are different in real life, some are brighter, some deeper, some subtler. I’m including a black and white image because I think it leaves room for the imagination to project the impressions described.

DavidHockney-PortraitofanArtistPoolwithTwoFigures. - bw

 

Summer Skirt Mountain

The use of colour in this picture edges on an impressionist realism, using the standard optical tricks to create spatial illusion, purple mountains, receding objects becoming opaque, tending towards blue and contrasting with the bold, bright, warm colours of the pool and the figures, pitching them to the front of the canvas. The stones around the pool are subtly coloured, and there are remarkable white lines with flashes of yellow in the water that truly seem to dance. These things are not just symbols – they evoke the scene through an artful illusion. And yet the whole effect side-steps realism. Two things stand out to me, the intensely saturated blocks of colour in the water, skin tone and salmon jacket, and the stylized patternation of the middle distance mountain, in floral pastel hues that put me in mind of an old fashioned tablecloth, or a faded summer skirt. These things flatten the spacial illusion. I found this over and over again in Hockney’s work, the play between depth and flatness that makes his pictures self aware, breaking their fourth (or only) wall sometimes harshly, sometimes, as here, with a gentle whisper.

Draft Line, “I drew this…”

Although the foliage of the mountains to the fore is more detailed, varied and realistic, the initial sketch lines of their gradients show through the trees that have been painted on top. In an image so consummately painted, controlled and detailed, leaving evidence of the drafting process can only be intentional. And so with this, and the domestic patterned mountain the painting becomes self aware, self conscious of its draftsmanship and decorative potential. The painting says “See this scene.” it also says, “I drew this scene, and then I painted it.”

We, The Watchers

The draft line of the ridge on the right passes behind the head of the standing man, tracking his gaze and drawing our eyes down to follow his view of the swimmer. It is a line of tension. We watch the swimmer with the man in the pink jacket at the pool edge. The sense of watching, and waiting, is static in a way that might be broken at any moment, like the surface of the pool. We are drawn into the scene as participants, sharing a view, “Look”, says the picture, “Let’s watch and see…”

Invisible Blue

I am most impressed by the heavy, soft blue of the body of water that hangs in shadow above the swimmer. It functions so well that it took me a long time of observing the painting to really notice it, despite being a potentially dominating colour and hue, and so boldly placed right across the middle of the canvas. It is a quarter of the painting’s height and two thirds of its length. And it’s almost empty, courageously so. There is some colour shift but no detail, nothing happening. It is painted quite roughly in comparison to other parts of the picture, and it is that emptiness and vagueness lets the eye pass over it without catching. Like meeting the pole of an opposing magnet, your eye rolls over the thick blue mass and lands instead on the bright colours and stark shapes that surround it. The deep hue, the soft and solid nature of this block of water in shadow throws the ephemeral swimmer and streaks of living light out towards the viewer. This blue is the drummer in the band, the broad base line off which the colourful melody plays. Or perhaps it is the silence, the space between notes that allows them to strike out with such clarity. Although as a portion of paint in itself, gloriously and deeply blue, it does not display the finest of Hockney’s talents, it is used in exquisite harmony with its surroundings and demonstrates his deftness with both colour and composition. So I make this short stock of observations an ode, to the invisible blue.

By happy chance today I came across a history of blue pigments

I cannot find a digital reproduction of this image that satisfies my memory of this blue. In the picture at the top of this blog it is far too light. Screen reproductions, besides being flat and small, also play with colour and tend towards brightening everything. The more I learn about colour theory the more I realize that the mixing of colour through light (screen) and pigment (paint) are fundamentally different. The picture below has a better sense of the blue, though all else is much too dark, you get a better impression of the light and shadow in the water.

DavidHockney-PortraitofanArtistPoolwithTwoFigures. - DARK bluejpg

If you have a chance to go and see the actual painting, (and get your own impressions!) and the whole exhibition then please do go. It’s on at the Tate Britain until May 29th. And besides this picture there is a wealth of artwork from Mr. Hockney’s varied and fascinating works.

I would very much like to write about Hockney’s in terms of his relationship with photography but…. He has written and spoken so eloquently about this that first and foremost I suggest anyone who is interested see his documentary on the historical use of camera obscura and camera lucida by many of the revered artists of the past, “Secret Knowledge”. I honestly couldn’t recommend this more if you have an interest in the history of western art and the ways we have learned to see, understand, and construct the world around us as a culture.

 

Thanks for reading my first ArtNotes post.

More soon from BlancheEllisArtNotes  

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Strange Familiars on Market Day…

art, Design, drawing, Exhibition, exhibiton, folktale, Illustration, Market Stall, press, Prints

Really looking forward to a return to market-life this Wednesday at Baxter Stores Christmas market where I’ll be selling Christmas cards, art prints, originals and framed work…. pop in to get ideas for art-gifts as the inevitable season approaches.

Find many of these things in my Etsy shop

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This guy might be appearing  in an exhibition soon, at 14 Bacon St, with the other Strange Familiars

If they don’t wander off the market stall on Wednesday that is!

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Ongoing CALL OUT to Authors and Poets – Textual Illustration for The Image.

art, Design, drawing, metamorphosis, Painting, poetry, press, Prints, Quotes, short story, text and image

In reverse of the usual order…illustrating drawings with text… to be combined into a book, and exhibition.

I’m still looking for contributors/collaborators for this project.

There are over 40 artworks to be illustrated and I’ll be publishing them gradually here and on my social media @BlancheEllisArt as the project progresses… so keep an eye out here. I may also be putting up snippets of the writing I’ve received… with permission of the authors.

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Changing shape…

Even since I posted about this last week the idea has developed, mostly because of the amazing responses I’ve had already from friends, strangers, other artists, an art-book maker and poets and authors from different backgrounds, and languages. And have found many secret authors in my acquaintances.

I’m so happy to be receiving this fount of creativity!   

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Words lead words… 

It’s even leading me to write myself, in an attempt to track what I am looking for. Other people draw out my words with their own wonderful phrases and I feel the pitch, the roll and magnetism of the word collaboration, a force all of it’s own… changing the shape of my intension as it unfolds. Perhaps a preface…

“Word-turns apt in riddle and rhythm to trip and roll the mind causing backtrack, retrace, and circled in so turning, the sentence sense embraced. The way a picture leads the eye, not forward to finality but, with concentric in-conclusions, as a dance that makes sense-of-a-step does so by leading you both too-and-fro and leaving you, not locked, but poised by punctuation.”

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Drink Me –

The Story-World…

The initial idea was that each piece of text be another ‘moment’ from the images story-world, a suggestion or clue that opens up the narrative to further interpretation rather than attempting to complete, or explain the picture itself. Instead of finished stories I’m looking for writing that echoes or extends the sense of mystery and magical-realism, and may do so without obvious reference to the image itself. It could be specific, detailed, atmospheric or impressionistic. All and any ideas appreciated!

As the project opens up I think the writing could be in anthropological, an impossible recipe, a critique of a non-existant novel (think J. L. Borges), a short letter, a completely brazen critique of a character, or of the picture itself .

Ideas abound

Please share any ideas here or by email at blancheellis@gmail.com

See more of the images on Instagram and in the previous post and call out

Thank you for stopping by!

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CALL OUT to Authors and Poets – Textual Illustration for The Image.

art, Design, drawing, Exhibition, exhibiton, folktale, Illustration, metamorphosis, Painting, portrait, press, Prints, short story

‘Cubs’ Another from the series – Mythologies.

CALL OUT: I have plans for a book and am looking for a writer.

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This series has over 40 pieces and most of them emerge as if from some old myth, folk tale or strange internal narrative. This is why I call them ‘Mythologies’.

But… the tales they tell have never been written. 

In the reverse to the usual relationship of text and image I am looking to collaborate with someone (or several people) to write text to accompany each picture, to illustrate the images, if you will.  The idea is to combine these into a book. This writing, be it a paragraph of prose or a few lines of poetry, will sit opposite the artwork on each page and make a pair to be ‘read’ together. 

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The Story-World…

The idea is that each piece of text be another ‘moment’ from the images story-world, a suggestion or clue that opens up the narrative to further interpretation rather than attempting to complete, or explain the picture itself. Instead of finished stories I’m looking for writing that echoes or extends the sense of mystery and magical-realism, and may do so without obvious reference to the image itself. It could be specific, detailed, atmospheric or impressionistic. 

I’m very excited to see what emerges from the birth of this project…..

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If you are interested….

I’d love to see any snatches of writing inspired by this as starting points and inspiration for the project which is just beginning and is a brand new idea, so do share this with anyone who might be interested, and email blancheellis@gmail.com for more images if you’d like to try writing something, or to discuss ideas for the project.

More images from the work can be seen on my Instagram @BlancheEllisArt

I also plan to have an exhibition of these artworks with the text in the future.

Thanks for stopping by!

Blanche

New work… Strange Friends….

art, drawing, Exhibition, folktale, Illustration, Painting, poetry, portrait, Prints, sketchbook

A new body of work has been growing… always bodies, always metamorphosing, always emerging from I’m not sure where, and becoming strangely familiar by the time they’re finished, as if I’d seen them a long time ago, and only just remembered them.

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As usual I don’t know their story before hand, but after I’ve seen them I can guess, and these guesses go into the titles.

The series is growing quite fast, the question really, is whether the pages of this sketchbook, or this particular 8B pencil, will run out first and mark the limit.

8B

I would like to exhibit them all together, as a community, but for now the community is still growing… you can see them emerging here

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There is a narrative stream working its way through these figures, like a collection of short stories, myths or folktales. I’m not sure of the theme, but the work reveals itself, and answers are dead ends.

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So, many minds, the crown hands, tea, and more to come.

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Portraits: Live Friday at the Ashmolean Museum

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Exhibition, Illustration, location drawing, press

Last Friday night I took a suitcase of hats and picture frames to the

LIVE FRIDAY: FRAMED at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford…

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The event was themed around Andy Warhol and having equipped myself with appropriate colours, and dressed up for the museums historical element…

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Portrait - 10

I settled down beneath some 15th Century Dutch paintings (including a rather scary portrait of Rembrandt’s mother), put out my hats for public perusal and invited the evenings visitors to sit for their portrait wearing the headdress of their choice…

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Photo credit to Ian Wallman / IWPhotographic & The Ashmolean

All together they create a multi-coloured portrait patchwork..

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I was even lucky enough to have my own portrait done at the end of the evening by the wonderful Dot and Maya….

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It was a really great night so thanks to the Ashmolean, the Live Friday team and to all the excellent models that passed my way on Friday! Especially 10 year old Max who stood in as both model and critic…

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If you would like the original of your portrait from the event please email me at blancheelllis@gmail.com

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Photo credit to Jessica Harvey

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ArtRabbit – Frontpage

art, drawing, Exhibition, Illustration, Painting, press, Prints

Happily a friend just found my artwork featured on the front page of ArtRabbit,

My self portrait etching is front-centre below.

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Nice to see my artwork getting around. I do always feel like it’s got a life of it’s own, especially when I release the image into the world, material or virtual.

Find out about the exhibition this Friday 18th December through the ArtRabbit article,

or the FB Event,

and come down – it’s going to be lovely 

Drawing Intensive Exhibition – Friday 18th

art, drawing, Exhibition, Illustration, press, Prints

I am excited to say some of my etchings – including the series of musicians, will be in the Drawing Intensive exhibition at Mercer and Chance gallery in Hoxton (details below) this weekend 18th-20th December.

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The opening of the show is from 6-9pm on Friday 18th. There will be wine, art and wonderful people. Everyone is welcome!

golden banjo girl blancheellis.wordpress.com

Sing Yourself – Etching.

 

Details:

Drawing Intensive: Exhibition

Mercer and Chance gallery

253 HOXTON ST, LONDON

OPEN SAT, SUN, MON – 11am-6pm & BY APPOINTMENT

FB EVENT:

https://www.facebook.com/events/451568941710173/

I haven’t posted much here lately as I have become a firm convert to Instagram for posting my new work/work in progress. If you’d like to see some of those things then look for @blancheellisart

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Miscelanea Art Club – Exhibition

art, Design, drawing, exhibiton, Illustration, Painting, philosophy, poetry, portrait, Prints, Quotes, sketchbook

Really looking forward to being part of this exhibition in Vauxhall at VGCC on September 19th – it’s going to be a real mix of artists and mediums and raising money to keep the community centre open.

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My contribution will be a little cast of characters that have been emerging from my desk of late, combining the strange bodies of my imagination with equally strange advice that has jigsawed into place from cut-up text, books, newspapers and other once innocently printed and now mis-used words.

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more info here :

https://www.facebook.com/events/1675668462652087/

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Exhibition and Instagram

art, Design, drawing, Exhibition, metamorphosis, Painting, portrait

New Instagram Fan

Well, after dipping a dubious toe in the waters of social media I have found that Instagram is a perfect language for me. Just pictures. So I have that now @BlancheEllisArt – as a way to share my daily sketches and reflect the way I work.

Exhibition in Vauxhall

Also… I will be part of a group exhibition in Vauxhall Community Centre on September 19th. It will be a mix of artists and of arts from music to sculpture and I’ll be putting in some of the characters who have emerged this summer from my pen, watercolour palette and cut up text. As usual they all appear to be in some stage of distortion or metamorphosis.

I’ll introduce you to a few of the ones currently tacked to the wall of my studio….

things you don't know

One untrouble

Mr Happy Hormones