In the Poetry is the Painting: In Painting Poetry
14th - 26th November One Paved Court 1 Paved Court Richmond TW9 1LZ
Title Medium size
BOB ALDOUS Page 1
In my work- both in painting and poetry, I draw from the romantic tradition with a particular emphasis on spacial relationship and atmosphere. I paint on silk using a combination of watercolour, ink and acrylics which gives me the ability to produce a wide variety of tactile marks. The drawing with graphite underpins the glazing of watercolour and ink wash. I treat the silk so that it can hold thicker impasto to give the works a bold gestural dynamic reminiscent of Chinese brush painting. I admire the abstract expressionist painters of the 50’s particularly Mark Rothko and Hans Hoffman. I also admire Turner for his vast sense of space and Richard Parkes Bonnington, the English romantic painter whose oil landscapes have a sublime airiness, a quality I try and emulate within these abstracts. Using mixed media in this way enables me to articulate pictorial space that shifts from tactile close focus emphasizing the painting surface, through to a soft focused distance. I aim for a continual “Pull- Push” dynamic. A pull that places the mark towards the picture plane and a push that takes the viewer back into the illusionary space. These paintings have a dynamic, the “pull and push” gestural rhythm is like the pulse of nature.
A heart beat, Pumping light through chlorophyll green, Glistening sun on an azure blue lake, Pushing life from blackened soil, Pulling me back, Pulling me back.
The history of abstract painting has tended to emphasise the picture plane and thus diminish the illusion of three dimensional depth. The incorporation of the picture plane into the consciousness of the artist and viewer runs through the history of twentieth century painting - from Picasso’s experiments with cubism through to Frank Stella’s flattened rhythmical application of paint on the canvas surface. When I was studying for my degree at Ravensbourne College in the 1980’s I was influenced by Tapies who mixed thick clay and marble dust into his paint as well as using collage materials such as string and rags, this gives his work material substance. The informal use of tactile material and physical object within the painting surface was also explored by post pop artist such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, the physical object incorporated into the surface defines the scale and symbolic substance of the painting object. The German artist Anselm Kiefer is another contemporary artist who I admire who also works with the conscious application of paint and collage that substantiates the physicality of the Page 2
picture plane. He uses thick paint reminiscent of cracked mud that pull the viewer’s attention back to the material substance of the painting surface. This thick impasto application of paint is reinforced with the application of physical collage elements such as lead, broken glass and dried flowers. These works reference themes of western myth, German history and the holocaust. The heaviness in substance has a symbolism reminiscent of a tragedy. Kiefer often uses perspective as the three dimensional construct and plays with the implied pictorial space, although the viewer is always drawn to the encrusted surface as though the weight of history is buried within it.
The interplay between the physical object’s two dimensionality and three dimensional illusion defines the dual interplay of the spacial relationship that is inherent within the act of painting. In my use of silk as a support I aim to give the paintings an intrinsic lightness, combined with a lightness in tone and delicacy of touch to give the work a feeling of non material, slightly dream like quality. I don’t use perspective grids with a vanishing point on the horizon line but am more interested in a dynamic visual space through the interaction between marks and the implied spatial position. I do this through overlap, variation in scale of brush strokes and tonal gradation thus aiming to emphasise the feeling that the viewer is entering into the illusionary three dimensions and then is pulled back towards the rhythmic two dimensional gestural marks that lie on the surface. The three dimensions evoked implies a deep space, with a strong dynamic between pictorial illusionistic space and the immediacy of foreground. In this respect I am drawn to the renaissance artist Tiepolo. In Tiepolo’s work there is a dynamic Page 3
use of space- the same airiness that I admire so much within the works of Richard Parkes Bonnington. However with Tiepolo the viewer is brought into the illusion by the use of sphisticated composition, he does not rely on simple perspective. Tiepolo delights in making the viewer work out the implied space; forms and figures are often truncated and there are multiple viewpoints, often by the figures gesturing or peering in conflicting arrangements. However with Tieplo, the multi viewpoint is not as pronounced as the cubist splintering of space into pictorial planes, there is an unfolding of drama that gives the work the illusion of vastness. Tiepolo tends to use two cloud types Cumulonimbus and Cirrus that lie at a higher altitude. Clouds within Tiepolo paintings, particularly the painted ceilings, have a substance that allows the figures to interact - they are not copied from nature like Constable, but are a stylised device that allows him to construct the drama. I often use â€œcloud likeâ€? structures to allude to altitude and vastness. But for me there is the reference to cloud reflected in water. Here the space is implied by reflection. The space between the surface of the water and the higher altitude of sky. I like to think of looking as having four dimensions Looking atLooking through, Looking up And Looking down.
Much of figurative painting from the renaissance towards photorealism uses chiaroscuro to model form. In chiaroscuro the lighting source has to be, in some degree, fixed. The forms are modelled by the gradation between lights and darks. When I use thicker paint I have a tendency towards using white impasto, in order to emphasise the picture plane, placing the light source at right angles and putting the viewer directly at the source of the light. The darks within the painting could be likened to looking through the picture surface to a space that lies behind. In my paintings, light, space and transparency take precedence over solid form. There is an ambiguity in that visually we become aware of the material world through the non material actions of light. Air, Light, Smell, A memory.
That singular place, Particular, Crystalline.
Then goneOnly to return, A memory. Page 5
The symbolism of water becomes an important influence and holds the same fascination of surface and illusion. Like a malleable mirror, water reflects the sky and has a transparency through which we can focus. The dynamism of looking depends on where we focus our attention; when looking at a moving stream you can see the clouds, the ripples or the rocks that lie under the surface. Like turning the focus ring on a camera our attention is drawn to the point of interest but all contained within the same scene. The mirrored sky on the stream draws us to behold the vastness of blue beyond the clouds yet you can also perceive the rocks that lie beneath the clear water. For me the properties displayed within water also have an emotive quality that echo the drama of our existence. We are born breaking water and live dependent on water to give us life. Water through its mutability provides us with a metaphor for the drama of life. The same molecule of water can, through time, be contained within the depths of an ocean, evaporate as clouds, fall as rain or find its collective substance within a cascading waterfall- the same molecule that provides us with substance that quenches thirst and sustains life.
Reflecting on the tranquillity of the morning mist, Destructive as a tsunami, Thunderous as a waterfall, Delicate as dew on a spiderâ€™s web, All contained within this glass before me. Page 6
In poetry, as in painting, connotation and metaphor are used to evoke meaning. Memory and sensory perception are entwined, the emotional response to structure and form take precedence of mimicry of external stimuli. Poetry has a musicality where tone, rhythm and meter compliment and reinforce implied meaning. Our imagination and life experience both become intrinsic to our understanding.
In my view, our imaginative poetic space relates to non-linear pictorial space, the same dynamic space evident in Cezanne and Tiepolo. Linear or depicted space is likened to the fixed view found within rigid perspective; the scene is depicted rather than evoked. With fixed view perspective there is little room for interpretation and this negates the viewer’s internal space, strangling the imagination. The emphasis becomes focussed towards the external world rather than drawing from the viewer’s understanding and experience. The poet Guillaume Apollinaire coined the terms “Cubism” and “Surrealism” as well as “Orphism”. He rejected the overt narrative elevation of the historic past of classicism and at the same time was suspicious of the bravura claims of Futurists who looked toward the future with a naive optimism, an optimism that rejected everything that preceded their forward looking utopian manifesto. Apollinaire used historic form, rather like the neo-platonists, to illuminate our understanding of the present. Myth, history and the subconscious were intertwined into transcendental metaphysical understanding. Page 7
The abstract expressionists of the 50’s also had a similar reverence to a universalising past, drawing on Jungian and Freudian psychology that used myth and the historical past to illuminate the present. Freud used the analogy of the psychoanalyst being rather like the archaeologist. He saw the process of psychoanalysis as delving into minds to uncover hidden experiences, fragments of the past that he tried to put again into a living context.
Rothko through the influence of Adolf Gottlieb and Clifford Still used the idea of pre-historic and non-narrative that derive from the pre-experiential archetype lying buried deep within the unconscious. Here the explicit examination of the relationship between pictorial flatness and illusionistic depth become the main focus. The universalising element that drove Rothko to reject the subjective narratives within surrealism was the aim towards revealing a fundamental sublime. He was influenced by Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy with its argument that abandoned historical forms of myth for a new historical subject that is engaged in pre-narrative conflict. With a Rothko painting there is a continuous tension between the physicality of the painting surface and the non-materiality of the floating forms. In his words the pictorial forms function as “pulverising the verge of dissolution”. The problem for Rothko and pure abstraction is that you can easily paint yourself into a dead end. The studio wall and the painting surface becomes the main focus, as opposed to a landscape artist such as Turner where the focus is drawn towards sublime light. With Rothko the sublime space is akin to nihilism - a sort of self-sacrifice. Page 8
Clement Greenberg theories substantiated the Abstract Expressionist’s concerns with non-narrative archetypal form. He further makes a distinction between kitsch and art of substance. “Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money – not even their time.” Greenberg Art can easily get corrupted from the original creative impulse to become a mannered parody. In Greenberg’s view both communism and capitalist consumerism create pressures that deflect the artist from their pure purpose.
I question the value of much of contemporary art where style becomes the overriding factor. Art can become signs within a hectic lifestyle with little room for reflection. The art object can readily become fictionalised into consumer objects and marketable products. The branding of the artist becomes more important than the artist’s vision and their way of looking at the world. Art has increasingly become illustration through digital manipulation and the excessive use of programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop that has made the production of marketable images easier, with the effect that commerce has eclipsed the poetic impulse. Page 9
A poetic reading of art, through the use of metaphor and connotation puts greater emphasis on the beholder to use their imagination. The imagination has its roots in personal experience. Within our imaginative reading of the world there are universalising principles that can only be found through metaphor and filtering of sensory perception. Like looking at and attempting to capture the movement in water, this elusive poetic truth has a tendency to slide away once an attempt has been made to grasp its meaning. What is left is a feeling, an emotion, that binds us together through the medium of art; be it poetry in the painting or painting in the poetry.
Breath from the silent Lake 150 x 100 cms
Breath from the silent lake In the mirrored moon, on nights blue lake, gold carp spawn amongst, reeds touched with glass. Candle wax drips, through crystals light, into pool, behind closed doors. In the mist, formed from the embrace, boats are sent out ,where lovers part. A raft to journey, to other shores, and bring back the memory, where beauty met desire.
Diamond Dancer 150 x 100 cms
Diamond Dancer Diamond Dancer Shadows flicker from your mothers flame that cast an image, outlined onto ancient city walls. A dance conducted by musicâ€™s light, Swimming through air, a school of sardines that shoals its wave into silver dappled clothes. Cloaking your graceful contours, across courtyards, through doors, into under ground vaults enclosed by blackened stone walls, that shelter statues cast in gold and harbour your brothers warm reflection.
Diamond Dancer Your image alluded, thrown down and discarded the fallen icon of hope deluded. A grasp scooped through shallow water, scattering reflection in dispersed fright. To capture is to break. To hold is to loose. Sparkle dulled, tarnished, lying stagnant, in prisons and cities chores. Then, as ice melts into liquid, silver scales discarded, the slippery substance for your escape from the mortal boundaries of engagement.
From where were you born? Father of hardness and mother of light. The radiance of your shadow reflect the dance in memories mirrored palace. Chandlers, ballrooms, private quarters, and behind peppered screens that shield middayâ€™s scorching sun a transparent pool- tiled blue through silver surface. Through which we dive into your illusion experiencing the coldness of your crystal clarity. The shock of the plunge into absence.
Light Fall 150 x 100 cms
Into the Blue
150 x 100 cms
Air Water Light
150 x 100 cms
150 x 100 cms
Autumn Fall 100 x 60 cms
Flight 100 x 75 cms
Memories mirrored Lake
100 x 75 cms
The Black Wave
100 x 150 cms
Poseiden 100 x 150 cms
50 x 50 cms
Sky Stream 50 x 50 cms
50 x 50 cms
Study in Grey Light 76 x 56 cms On arches paper
Study for Light Fall
76 x 56 cms On Arches Paper
Ink and Watercolour on paper studies
Ink and Watercolour on paper Studies
The show at One Paved Court in Richmond runs from the 14th - 26th November and accompanied with a series of poetry performances and discussions. Tuesday 14th November - Opening Wednesday 15th - 6.30pm Private view ( invite only ) Saturday 18th - 3pm Poetry performance - Diamond Dancer. Sunday 19th - 3pm Talk and discussion- Abstraction and metaphor. Saturday 25th - 3pm Poetry performance- Songs of the heart. Sunday 26th - 3pm Talk / discussion- Emotion and states of water.
One Pave Court, 1 Paved Court, Richmond, TW9 1LZ
All images and text the copyright of the artist ÂŠBob Aldous 2017
In the Poetry is the Painting: In Painting Poetry. Exhibition at One Paved Court, 1 Paved Court, Richmond TW9 1LZ