Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One step forward, two steps back, or the other way around...?

As promised, my "review" of the Golden Open acrylics now that I've worked with them for a few weeks...however I won't give out any stars as this really turned out to be an apples-and-oranges kind of matter.

First of all, going back to working with acrylics in general felt strange at first. The texture and workability of the paint compared to Cobra is so different - where the Cobra paints could irritate me for being thick, dry and sticky to work with, Golden is very translucent and thin and thus also very different from "regular" opaque acrylics that was easy to apply in thick layers. I was advised to adjust the opacity with regular acrylics and just be constantly aware of what effect I wanted and how to combine the paints accordingly, I suppose it will take some more time to get used to.

So far I have discovered that when it comes to whites and blacks I have to depend on other acrylic brands at least when it comes to the first layer, as the titanium white has the same "milky" effect of zinc white in other brands, and the bone black, even straight out of the tube, is just as translucent as watercolour. The raw sienna and Hansa yellow light are also quite low in opacity but in general it's a plus that the tubes includes an opacity guide to make the choice of colours easier, depending of the properties you want (as far as I could tell though, most of the yellows scored much the same on this scale).

Golden also has several mediums to go with it; Golden Open and other Golden products can also be combined for the desired effect. I have used the Golden slow-dry medium previously with other acrylics, which should be redundant in this case since the paints already have prolonged drying time, however I was encouraged to try another medium which supposedly would blend the colours together while they were still wet (but not just after application, and not actually mixed in with the paint). I've just used it on very small areas as of yet but I'm not sure I see the full potential in it yet; the effect was much the same as if I had just used water. In addition I suppose I'm more partial to thicker layers and tend to get more impatient with thin translucent layers - in this matter I have to say Cobra gets the upper hand because blending colours and thick layers weren't always mutually exclusive. It seems difficult to get both with Golden, however more experiments with Golden Open to regular acrylics ratio may prove me wrong.

One obvious advantage about Golden Open is that even though the drying time is longer than regular acrylics, it doesn't take months for the painting to dry. After the first stroke of Golden Open the paint was still surprisingly wet after a few hours, but it was dry by the next day and I didn't have to wait several days before continuing work. And since the drying time doesn't result in a sticky surface that collects dust like a magnet, the surface is cleaner (and easy to keep clean).
However, as it is now I have the Golden Open painting and a Cobra painting hanging next to each other and the differences, especially in terms of paint surface are highlighted: Compared to the Cobra painting with its glossy surface, colour intensity and brush marks still left in the paint in the thicker layers, the Golden Open painting has a matte surface with colours that almost seem to recede even though the colours are very intense. It may be just an optical illusion, something that's only visible while the two paintings are seen in the same glance, or just a question of getting used to this new (old?) medium.

In general I would say that both brands have obvious advantages and down-sides, and that the challenge is really to adjust the use of or combination of the mediums according to each project....and hope that I will never really succeed. If there is no room for experimentation or play and just an endless strive for perfection, there really is no need for art-making as I see it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It's 2013, and even though it's not really my thing I've actually made new year's resolutions. Not that they're completely new.
One of them seems to be a continously failing project; that is to update my website regularly and blog more often - as well as  my eternal promise to use my sketchbook more instead of letting ideas slip away the second after they appear.

I won't try to make excuses ....ok, maybe I will.

In august 2012 I began my first semester of the master program in art history. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I spent a lot of time trying to decide what to write about (I didn't even know at the time that you could choose whatever topic you wanted, not restricted to course related material). I think I've gone through 4 or 5 different topics or angles at this point and I'm still not certain I've made the right decision. To add to my frustration, the first presentation of my project outline went straight to hell and the panel of professors wanted me to reconsider the idea altogether - so I had to start over from scratch when a lot of the others already had the green light to start working, which honestly felt like a slap in the face (which I probably needed, in retrospect). I'm now waiting for my green light - if I have to rewrite it again I still (theoretically) have a chance of completing my degree on time, but I certainly hope my outline will make the cut this time around.

On that occasion, in addition to reflections on painting, the blog will now also include some perspectives on writing and how the master project is developing (I can't guarantee it will be the most interesting read ever though).

As for painting, I'm planning to enter the new year by trying out a new brand of paints - I know I told myself I wouldn't go back after I tried cobra water soluble oils, but I've noticed how the sticky slow-drying (or should I say never-drying) surface tends to attract dust at a rate I can't keep up with, and it gets more and more inconvenient - both in terms of storage and aesthetic qualities. Add to that the impossibiity of improving the fluency of the paint without affecting opacity, and it should be understandable that I want to try something new. The paint shop where I usually go recommended Golden Open, which is a slow drying acrylic paint that allows you to adjust the drying time further with different mediums, and it is said to be in general more popular and suit the purpose better than cobra paints. So I'll probably go on a mad paint shopping spree on Thursday - as mad as my already slender wallet will allow - and I promise to blog again with my "review" once I've tried them.

Happy New Year!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Inspiration & nostalgia

This is going to be a long post, but I had been thinking about writing something for a long time and here the other day I found some old photos that triggered a long string of thoughts.

I suppose it started with a general sense of nostalgia that I get when I look at photos from Strykejernet, and I do look through through photos from that period of my life quite a lot because it was at that point that the importance of documenting the process around my work became clear to me. As a consequence of that, paired with the fact that I worked more productively and systematically than ever before, I have several albums of photos from those months alone, including pure documentation of works, exhibition hangings, photo course work and general photos taken around the building. However these photos have more than nostalgia about them as they also have the function of transporting my mind to that specific creative point and I can use that as point of departure when I feel like I'm out of ideas or generally uninspired. Over the last few years I've found it to be a very fruitful method - I've also kept all my sketchbooks, stills and almost any other work or tool left from my time at Strykejernet to aid current creative processes.

However, these were not the photos refered to in the introduction. Those particular photos were taken from the other art school I went to before Strykejernet, Einar Granum School of Art. Looking back I've always thought they were kind of polar opposites in that Strykejernet focused much more creative processes, contemporary art practices, and finding your own voice whereas Granum was more about anatomy, technique and theory. In this way the two schools no doubt complement each other, which is why I think I'm fortunate to have attended both - however it is still Strykejernet that seems to have played the bigger part in shaping my own work and my thoughts around my own work. As I looked through the photos from Granum I felt almost ashamed that I had all but forgotten about my time there for so long.

I do have a lot of fond memories from those years, sadly much less documented than from Strykejernet, but what surprised me more than to find photos of old friends was the rediscovery of documentation of old works that are now destroyed or missing; works I had completely forgotten about.

Take this piece for instance. I remember it was the result of a course focused on space and we were asked to create "a comforting space". The minimalistic space I made includes a plaster cast of my father's palm - the cast of the back of the hand belonging to a kind volunteer in my class if I remember correctly, as the mold I made of dad's hand broke at that point. My interest in exploring sculpture in space never exceeded mandatory course work; I've never made anything like it since, which may be why it almost seems unreal that I created something like that at some point in my life, let alone at a point where my work had a much higher level of immaturity in general.

That's what made me reflect on the value of not discarding everything I've made before a certain point - which is what I've been guilty of since I left Strykejernet. For a time I've thought that what I was doing before Strykejernet, through some logic of my own invention, was void of meaning and consequence. Through a conversation with one of the guest teachers a few weeks into the semester I gained a new insight and starting point for the work that followed and from that moment on it became important to me to not look back at all. Now I wonder if it's time to at least glance over my shoulder for inspiration once in a while.

Not to say that I necessarily want to mimic the artistic expression I had at that specific point in time, but at least contrast it with what I'm doing now, reflect on the process - Have I gotten "lost" in myself, or found myself? Is it a development of a more or less coherent project, if so, how can it best be described? Is it possible to take one of my discarded ideas or past projects and use it as point of departure for something new? (The answer to the latter question will most likely be yes in many cases)

A case in point is my graduation piece from Granum, the documentation of which I was unable to find a digital copy of. The theme was unrelated to where my interests lie now, but it was a piece combining a painted canvas and printed/framed text, a form which I could very plausibly have used today. And I never thought I would have found such a direct connection between what I did then and what I do now, let alone through a piece that I had almost forgotten all about.

In closing I would emphasize that one thing in my life now of course has a direct connection with my years at Granum, even though I often neglect to think of its origin - my interest in art history.

My first year at Granum we had one whole day a week dedicated to art history, presented by Pierre Lionel Matte (shown here at the graduation ceremony where he was awarded with flowers). He has such enthusiasm for his field and more than any other he gave me the bug to delve into the history of art, other artists and their contexts. So come to think of it, Einar Granum school of Art has very much a relevance to where I am now, just as much as Strykejernet does, if in a somewhat different way.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Painting, theory and everything I didn't write

This is another one of those blog posts that are originally supposed to be an update but really is a therapeutic way of channeling built-up frustration, I'm afraid. I've been working hard lately, not so hard that I don't have the potential to work even more (there's always that potential), but I do find myself working on multiple projects and ideas at the same time. The only problem with that is it makes my inner people pleaser come to life and torture me.

Because out of all these projects and ideas, how many have I completed and how many will be completed in the near future? If they actually do get finished, are they any good at all or just ready to be trashed?

When I get an idea, I usually spend a lot of time going over it in my head, making sketches and trying out possibilities. It's when I actually start to work on it that things start to go south - especially when it comes to painting. Because when I paint, the original idea starts to fade and I become more and more eaten up with technical questions and whether the brushstrokes are "correct" or "incorrect" or look the way I want them to look like. Often I have an idea in my head of what I want it to look and this idea overshadows what I want to communicate, and just the fact that I allow it to happen frequently causes my self confidence to plummet. I just have to take a step back and try to understand what I'm actually doing.

I won't pretend that I have the answer to that question yet. Instead I marvel at how painting and theory (idea) become so separated in my head once I start the painting process. It genuinely scares me that I know that if someone asked me casually what I meant by my latest painting I wouldn't be able to answer, because a lot of the preparatory work probably was done by thinking in images or loose strands of half sentences.

 Taking that infamous step back I think that not letting theory or original idea get in the way of the exploration would be the ideal goal - but not an easily obtainable one. There is always that duality in me; one part wants freedom and creativity, whereas the other just wants to be acknowledged and achieve technical brilliance. The theoretical, art historical part of me continues to oscillate between the two and sprinkle whichever project I'm working on with self doubt and insecurities.

Which is why I have posted about similar situations before, and this probably won't be the last time. I had originally intended for this "speech" to be left offline in my own personal archive, but I decided to publish it anyway, hence the second point in the blog post title.

 I seem to "write" in my head continuously. A lot of the time I know very specifically what I want to write about, sometimes I would try to figure it out as I go but not end up writing or publishing anything. Bottom line - I chicken out. I feel the world (the art world in particular) could do without my views, and that the insecurity of not knowing the reactions is enough to keep me from writing altogether.

 I recently thought, where does all this unwritten text end up? Is it heaped somewhere in my mind's external hard drive like a back-up version you don't really need, or is it deleted instantly leaving only faint traces of its existence?

 Of course you could say that the art theoretical/intellectually stimulating side of the text would suffer on behalf of sincerity and whimsical language....I'm working up the courage to not care.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This is exactly what I meant to say

Other people sometimes express better what I mean to say, so as a follow-up to last night's blog I give you a quote from Chuck Palahniuk's novel Diary. It's a kind of semi-surrealistic story where the main character is failed art student Misty Kleinman, and this conversation takes place between her and her boyfriend-to-be Peter Wilmot on their first date:

Peter gave her the blank canvas and said "Paint something".
And Misty said, "Nobody paint paints. Not anymore".
If anybody she knew still painted at all, they used their own blood or semen. And they painted on live dogs from the animal shelter, or on molded gelatin desserts, but never on canvas.
And Peter said, "I bet you still paint on canvas".
"Why?" Misty said. "Because I'm retarded? Because I won't know any better?"
And Peter said, "Just fucking paint."
They were supposed to be above representational art. Making pretty pictures. They were supposed to learn visual sarcasm. Misty said they were paying too much tuition not to practice the techniques of effective irony. She said a pretty picture wouldn't teach the world anything.
And Peter said, "We're not old enough to buy beer, what are we supposed to teach the world?" There on his back in their nest if weeds, one arm behind his head, Peter said, "All the effort in the world won't matter if you're not inspired."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Be yourself, no matter what they say"

This could have been said (and probably have, too) by many people but I had Sting's line from Englishman in New York in mind. It sounds so extremely simple and logical, so self-explanatory and sensible. To put the words into practice is another matter.

How do you keep the balance between getting inspired by other people's work without unconsciously trying to imitate aspects of their work? Is it really possible to take part in the art world by working entirely in your own little bubble, shutting out any outside "noise" that would affect your ideas or make you reconsider your project entirely? And if you do choose this path, is it valid to work up a confidence about what you're doing, or is it a sign of naivete? Should you take control of your work, or let your work control you; that is to say, go wherever your work decides to take you?

These and other questions have been crowding my head lately - my facebook friends may already have noticed that I don't exactly have the best of confidence in what I've been working with the past few months. A long period filled with lack of ideas and inspiration, paired with inexperience with a new medium, hopeless dabbling with other techniques and topped off with a diabetes diagnosis that drained me of energy for a lot of the summer, culminated in a sort of mini-breakdown this past week. I felt completely lost and like I had nothing to do in an art world where originality and provocative qualities are a must - just the fact that I slap paint on a vertically placed canvas is enough to make me reactionary according to some. So the question that comes to mind is: Is it better to keep doing what I'm doing with a conviction that after all I'm following my heart and then nothing can go wrong, or should I move onto something else, in the hope that I'll have better chances of "making it" if I give in to what the critics, curators and experts consider to be groundbreaking and important in art-making?

Just by the phrasing of the dilemma I'm giving myself away - I feel like I have no choice but to go for the first option, but still I would ideally opt for something in between the two. The problem is how to get from here to there.

Lately I've been working on a painting which started out as an experiment in blurriness and abstraction, but turned out to be more of a figurative study reminiscent of something I could have made years ago, and it upset me more than I expected. Had I worked so hard for years just to end up at the starting point? One could argue that yes, it is just one painting and it is just a part of a long, experimental process; results aren't as important as the ongoing journey...and so on. Of course I can see the point in such statements, but as I am approaching my 26th birthday and people who are younger than me are already graduating from the Academy, I begin to feel like my chances of any accomplishment in art is next to none. And it worries me beyond words.

That said, I will try to update my web site soon, but as I've transferred the site files to a new computer and I can't remember my FTP password, I can't promise anything as to when it will actually happen..I'm also considering re-building the site in another software which makes it more low-maintenance. However since I'm also studying for 3 exams (last one will be handed in Dec 16) it might take a while - at least you know what plans I have for the site..I haven't given up yet.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Yes - It's almost time for exams again. In art history I have one April 27th (way too early as lectures started in February) and one May 2nd - I suppose that I, objectively speaking, have it under control, however there's one thing that's bothering me: Here the other day I was made aware of an art program on TV and I thought to myself - I can't stand to watch it. I'm sick of everything that has anything to do with art.

Ideally I should be drawn (pun not intended) to painting more and explore more visual opportunities, to counteract all the dry, complicated curriculum texts on semiotics, post-structuralism, psychoanalytic feminist theory and whatnot - but just looking at a paintbrush and seeing the paintings I've been working on for over a month already (getting nowhere), I feel a budding nausea.

A teacher once told me this kind of insecurity and hopelessness is extremely common and an "occupational hazard". However I don't think I've ever felt so completely drained of confidence in what I do, and I have no desire to leave painting or art practice behind to spend my days in an office writing essays that explore this-and-this as sign or simulacral readings.

So there you have my career crisis, if it can be called that because I don't have a career per se. I suppose I'm in need of some inspiration (and a lot of energy). So if anyone has any interesting art or art history related links to share, I'd appreciate it - comment or this post or on facebook :)