Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Venice Bag

I have been down to Marlow 3 times recently and will post some pics next week I hope.  Meanwhile the 10mm thick foamboard sheets arrived and I have started making wet-panel boxes again.  I needed a 10x14 carrier for the Venice trip although I may not take boards as big as that.  Also, I noted that BA would allow me two cabin bags, one of which would be for a laptop or similar.  I duly massacred an old laptop bag, reducing its weight to 1 Kg and made a box with the new foamboard, balsa wood spacers, sewing pins, glue and gaffer tape.  With 10 boards (4 of 14x10 and 6 of 12x10) in it the whole assembly weighs 3Kg.

Here is the box inside the laptop bag:

In this one you can see the slots for 10 panels, back to back in pairs:

All I have to do now is get it past those pesky bag inspectors at the airport.

On to the next box!

Monday, 3 September 2012

They Think It's All Over (It Is Now)

Handing out day finally arrived yesterday.  I returned with the 4 unsold pictures, 1 that had sold (must find out who bought the other one), a pastel by Michael Frost that Maddy had bought, an oil landscape by Liz Graydon that Anna my Sister-In-Law bought, the whole of my 'tomb' installation and a very heavy sculpture by Jill Sim.  Thank goodness for the capacity of a Berlingo.

I also returned with a wet painting.  Up at 4am, easy drive to central London, park in a pre-booked slot at the Mall Galleries, 20 minute walk to Buck Palace and viola!  I shared the session with a succession of cyclists waiting for a rally to start.  Mostly from the East End, very black, very fit and a delight to talk to while dawbing.  They almost persuaded me to get my old road bike out and start pedalling again.  I tried a 14x10 but ran out of time after 2 hours as I had to get back to help with handing out. 

Victoria Monument, London 14x10

I am trying very hard to stick to the 4-tone scheme used by people like Ken Howard and Bob Rohm (USA) as it seems so logical and helps you keep the big shapes distinct.  You can probably see from the bits of ground showing through that I cheated and raised the tone of the sky (my light half-tone) when it would have been better to stick to the original value.  That would have helped express the lights on the gilded figures.  Ah well, there is always the next time!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Figure 11 Concept

Since posting news of the AFAS contemporary show 'Out of Line', several friends have asked me about the conceptual basis of my piece 'Figure 11'. 

Briefly I have first tried to highlight the duality that exists in the modern use of anthropomorphic targets: they are both 'enemies' and 'friends'.  They represent real enemies but are also a means of ensuring safety through superior training.  I have also tried to underline the universality of this particular target form - used by so many forces throughout the world.  To enhance this aspect I have imagined that Figure 11 has a very ancient history (actually the image was first dsigned in about 1948).  To that end I have enjoyed making allusive references to elements of British myths and writings, particularly to Malory's Morte D'Arthur, the Gododdin, contemporary accounts of the Boudiccan (Iceni) revolt, the Mabinogion, etc.  I have also made use of various carved and written forms such as Etruscan, Early Roman Cursive and Ogham, to lend accuracy to some of the assertions. 

The term 'hostis humani generis' was originally established in the early days of the Roman empire to refer to pirates - effectively 'stateless persons' - and I believe the term is still used in legal circles today.  The other text (hic iacet instar undecim, hostis quondam hostisque futurus) is a straight lift from Malory but substituting 'hostis' for 'rex' and of course 'instar undecim' for 'Arthurus'. 

The 18 shot holes are 9mm in diameter - the calibre of a modern pistol and the thickness of a Roman auxiliary's arrow shaft.  Five of the shot holes are in the traditional position of Christ's wounds.  The Chi Rho symbol and other scratchings (eg Dux Brit) are all designed to add to the illusion.  I could not resist the quote from Aneirin (seinnyessit e gledyf vm penn mameu).  It appears on the title page of David Jones's In Parethesis, my favourite long prose poem and one of the greatest war poems ever written.  I also allude to Isaiah 53v5, not just to increase the sense of antiquity but also to heighten the importance of Figure 11's role in our lives.  'He was wounded for our transgressions' strikes a chord in the context of continuing strife around the world.  We should not need Figure 11 but we do. 

One thing I like about contemporary art is the use of words as 'signs' in many of the works.  This is discussed at length in the preface to David Jones's 'Anathemata' (1952).  Such signs are very personal but if one can find a common foreknowledge (the Germans have a special word for this but I can't remember what it is - vorausgesehen does not sound right) then there is the possibility of communicating through commonly recognised signs.  This is partly what I have tried to do but as Geoffrey Hill has pointed out in many of his poems, words are very  'slippery', whereas marks on the canvas are all too permanent.  Maybe the ambiguity inherent in language actually increases the chance of a meaningful relationship between the work of art and its public?

I hope that helps but part of the purpose of the piece was to invite thought - so I did not want anything to be too clearly said.

I have enjoyed the technical challenges immensely and was gratified at the PV night to be asked how such a large tomb brass could be cast.  I eventually admitted that these days one can do wonders with mdf, gilding wax, acrylic and marble dust!