Thursday, 30 June 2011

Cezanne's Studio

Above is a photograph of Cézanne's studio in Aix-en-Provence is described by Robert Hughes as "one of the sacred places of the modern mind, a reliquary" (Hughes, R. 1991 p.124).

In 1906, just before he died Cézanne wrote a letter to his son:

"I must tell you that as a painter I am becoming more clear-sighted before nature . . .
Here on the bank of the river the motifs multiply, the same subject seen from a different angle offers
subject for study for the most powerful interest for months without changing place, by turning now
more to the right, now more to the left" (Rewald, 1995, p. 327).

On the 21st August 1906 he wrote a letter to Emile Bernard:

"Now, being  old, nearly 70 years, the sensations of colour, which give the light, are for me the reason for the abstractions which do not allow me to cover my canvas entirely nor to pursue the delimitation of the objects where their points of contact are fine and delicate; from which it results that my image or picture is incomplete"  (Harrison and Wood, 2001 p.39)

Harrison, C., and Wood, P., Art in Theory 1900-1990 Oxford: Blackwells.

Hughes, R., The Shock of the New London: Thames and Hudson

Rewald, John (ed. 1995), Paul Cézanne, Letters New York: Da Capo Press.


Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire 1885-7
The more I look at the new photographic joiners I have produced recently, the more Cezanne is called to mind. I have already discussed cubism and Cezanne, has be rarely referred to, apart from during a discussion of Diebenkorn. “Cezanne is famous for saying that any idiot can make deep space” Gilbert-Rolfe reminds us, and “that it is already deep”. The task then “of the artist is to carve out that space- an oxymoron that exactly describes Cezanne’s general practice” (Gilbert-Rolfe, 1995 p. 91).  Although the strategy of the photo-joiners seems radically different from the aims and ambitions of the first project, the formal qualities of the photographic pieces seem similar to some of Cezanne’s pieces. Cezanne’s aims have some similarities to my own. Cezanne according to Norbert Lynton “spoke as though painting were a desperately difficult matter of capturing ‘little’ sensations’ and disposing them on a surface, not to imitate nature so much as to construct an image that would be ‘parallel to nature’” (Lynton, 2003 p.23). Unlike Impressionism Cezanne’s art “is not concerned with light” (Lynton, 2003 p.23). Cezanne’s attention is on “capturing the subjects before him to show their physical presence and also the spatial relationships and tensions between them” (Lynton, 2003 p.23).

Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire 1904-6.

The emphasis “was on seeing” (Lynton, 2003 p.23) and I wondered whether this was fully the case with my own work. So, Cezanne avoids the mere “retinal scanning of the Impressionists” and engages “with the complex process by which we relate ourselves to the work physically and spiritually” (Lynton, 2003 p.23).

Cezanne’s work is a recording of forms through the juxtaposition of small planes or facets. Like Cubism it is a mosaic of experiences. A lot of abstract art emerges from Cezanne, but Cezanne can never be the father of abstraction. What Cezanne gives us however is “a process of seeing” (Hughes, 1991 p.18). The critic Barbara Rose is quoted as saying in a different context, the statement; “This is what I see” , is replaced by the question: “Is this what I see?” (Hughes, 1991 p.18). What we see in a Cezanne is a record of hesitation and doubt. 


Gilbert-Rolfe, J. (1995) Beyond Piety: Critical Essays on the Visual Arts 1986-1993, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Hudson, J., (2010) "Richard Diebenkorn"

Hudson, J., (2010) "Diebenkorn and Cezanne" 

Hughes, R., (1991) The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change London: Thames and Hudson

Lynton, N., (2003) The Story of Modern Art London: Phaidon


Monday, 27 June 2011

New Synths

 Here are some new experimental Photosynths using 250 photographs of Lincoln Cathedral.

The first looks like a great medieval city, a utopian dream.

This one looks like a Medieval replay of a cubist composition.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Jayne Jones: New work and New Exhibition 'Material Matters" 22 June-30 July, 2011

 Jayne Jones - Our greater Scheme for Happness - Mixed Media on Canvas - Size 90cm x 90cm

The artist Jayne Jones has a new show of abstract paintings at the Duckett & Jeffrys Gallery in Malton from the 22nd June until 30th July. I have watched her style and approach develop from the early-mid nineties from mixed media/collage  to  acrylic and oil, to  industrial paint. These works featured here are produced using mixed media; oil pigment, industrial paint and resin.

 Jayne Jones - Where Effort & Form Disappear - Mixed Media on Canvas - Size 400cm x 210cm

In the essay "Experiments in Painting"  by David Sweet he states that Jayne's interest in experimentation "stems from her interest in material processes that involve chance and unpredictable outcomes" (Sweet, D, ND).

Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea (1952)

Alpha-Pi, 1960
Morris Louis (American, 1912–1962)
Acrylic on canvas

102 1/2 x 177 in. (260.4 x 449.6 cm)

Puddle Painting: Mars Black
Ian Davenport 2009
40 1/2 x 31 in / 103 x 79 cm
acrylic paint on aluminium, mounted on aluminium panel

This is what was said of her work at the James Freeman Gallery: "while her practice is strongly indebted to important figures in abstraction such as Ian Davenport and Morris Louis, Jayne Jones articulates these references with a very feminine, and sometimes sensual, undercurrent that makes her work distinctive – many of the more figurative suggestions that seem to randomly appear as a result of her process seems to cohere around ideas of womanhood, which in turn makes an initially impersonal approach to painting seem extremely personal and private. In this respect her work contributes to the cannon of process painting, which is a result of her sustained commitment to experimentation and exploration in the medium".

Is her work closer then to the colour field painting of say Helen Frankenthaler?

Duckett & Jeffreys Gallery
2 Old Maltongate
YO17 7EG

Friday, 17 June 2011


Many of the shapes that photography is forced into by Photosynthing recalls the abstraction of constructivism. Featured here is a  Tatlin, or at least a reconstruction by Martyn Chalk. The work is Corner Relief from 1915. The reconstruction was made in 1982 (there may be more than one reconstruction of this particular sculpture as I have seen one dated 1979 and another 1980). Is not the title Corner Counter-Relief, a term that Talin adopted in 1914, "as if to signal a dialectical advance in his constructions since they extended from the wall" to act as a "counter" to architecture, painting and sculpture (Foster, 2004 p. 127).

 Tatlin's work was informed by Picasso's cubist collages and sculptures and constructions. Tatlin would use  "proletariat stuff of the workshop- wood, scraps of iron and copper, wire and rope, string and nails" ( Weston, R., 1996 p. 146).


Foster, (2004) Art Since 1900, London: Thames and Hudson

Weston, R., (1996) Modernism London: Phaidon.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dave Whatt: 2

Hi all,

The website listed in his bog entry from 7 June 2010 is incorrect. His MySpace pages seemed to have vanished.

I am currently following his daily blog at His music is available on his Soundcloud.

He is also on Twitter:!/DaveWhatt

John Harper: 2

John Harper: From Light, section 4, 'Gordale 4 days', 1997
600cm x 250cm resin based black and white photo paper, board, acrylic sheeting

Section of From Light series produced as commission for Photo 98 from location work in North Yorkshire. Large scale photo constructed works. From larger body of work called 'Collected Light'. Slide 'Four days at Gordale Scar'. From Light, Mappin Gallery solo show Photo 98 programme.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Eye Tracking and Interactive Art

Eyecode (Golan Levin, 2007) is an interactive installation whose display is wholly constructed from its own history of being viewed.

By means of a hidden camera, the system records and replays brief video clips of its viewers' eyes. Each clip is articulated by the duration between two of the viewer's blinks. The unnerving result is a typographic tapestry of recursive observation.

John Harper

A quick thank you to Barry Wenden: when Barry Wenden, an external examiner from Northampton for the University of Lincoln, caught a glimpse of my work on this blog, he mentioned the photography of his colleague John Harper. He then went on to show several web pages featuring Harper’s work. John Harper produces photographic joiners, which are very interesting and suggest an array of ideas close to my interests.  

Featured here are a number of photographic joiners that are part of a series called “River”.  John Harper’s work is concerned with landscape: “Geomorphology had always interested me, not from any scientific basis but more in terms of its essential relationship to the activities of the artist. It seemed to me that there were many associations between the practices of the artist and the making of the land, and such thoughts had played their part in previous work. In the mid seventies when I was working more directly with the landscape I produced a series of works which I termed 'Catchment'. I felt that the artist’s activities related to this concept in that we gather material from a catchment area around us to condense and reform it, much in the same way as a river does. This information is then carried along through time by forces that are out of the artists hands. We work with time, no matter what our subject matter is and are always conscious of our own temporality and transience” (Harper, J., n.d.). 

Although nature is not the subject of or referred to directly in the final project, the work does concern itself with landscape and to “temporality and transience”.  This is Harper's description of his relationship to landscape:

“I began to think of the river in allegorical terms and to realise the close temporal and physical relationships that exist between the nature of the river and the nature of film. Both are translucent ribbons that carry memory along in their flow, that have complex and overlapping time structures, and each in their own way transport light and reflection with complex plays on the nature of picture plane and space” (Harper, J., n.d.). 

The above work is part of 'Broken and Breaking Ground' a Book project with John Harper featuring recent work from Fermynwoods. Working closely with John Harper, the book was produced over a 3 month period between 2007 and 2008. It's launch coincided with the associated exhibition of John Harper’s work at Fermynwoods.

John Harper is a member of the creative practice-led research network LAND2 (“land squared”) - formally LAN2D) – which was started in 2002 by Iain Biggs (UWE Bristol) and Judith Tucker (Leeds) as a national network of artist / lecturers and research students with an interest in landscape / place-oriented art practice.


Harper, J., (n.d.) "The River" Land 2, Membership, Statement and Work:

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Project Three Presentation and Proposal

Themes and Technologies:

The third project:
–engages with the relationship between the representation of real spaces and places and their virtual equivalent
–Using software like Microsoft Silverlight and Photosynth amplifies photographic possibilities in such a way that it problematises representation

–Explores the architectural idea of deconstructivism associated with hyper architecture
–It is characterized by ideas of fragmentation, and an interest in manipulating structures.

•The final project concerns itself with the technologies that make it possible to construct photographic panoramas and auto stitch pictures to essentially create what has come to be described as auto joiners (Zelnik-Manor & Perona, 2008).

•The following images are achieved via the use of Microsoft’s Photosynth technology:

Photosynth Architectural Mutations:

Photosynthed architecture: algorithmic architecture (2011)


Key influences

•The visual artefacts
–corresponds to the mosaic of visual experiences contained within collage, and especially cubist collage and painting.
–a response to the expanding field of photography a response to Berger and Vertov’s description of a technological way of seeing:
-“the invention of the camera changed the way” we “saw…. The visible no longer presented itself” in “order to be seen.  On the contrary, the visible, in continual flux, became fugitive” (1972, p.18)
-Cubism “creates these fractured, multiple images which are like shifting kaleidoscopes” (Levy, M, 1969, p.322).
-Fred Ritchin in his book After Photography, states that photography is becoming “cubist” (2010, p. 123). 
-The “contradictory ‘double’ image” created by Photosynth “is cubist; reality has no single truth” (Ritchin, .F., 2010 p. 147).
-The imagery for project 3 attempts to describe in visual terms “the flickering ungovernable mobility of the gaze” (Bryson, 1983 p.121).
-Uricchio in “The Algorithmic turn: photosynth, augmented reality and changing implications of the Image” (2011):
Notes the temporal slippage contained within a photosynth. Something similar to “the ‘transient, the contingent’ that Baudelaire ascribes to the modern” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29)
-Uricchio argues that the photosynth recalls the imagery of the early-nineteenth-century, where long time exposure  often resulted in ghost figures (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29)
-This project concerns itself with Photosynth’s “radical disjunctures” and the “unstable nature of the composite” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.30).

Visual Influences
The photosynth is also referred to as the auto joiner (“joiner” is coined by Hockney). This term is associated with Jan Dibbetts, David Hockney, John Stezaker, Thomas Kellner and Gordon Matta-Clark .

George Braque Soda 1911

Pablo Picasso Still Life with Chair Caning 1912

Jan Dibbets Panorama Dutch Mountain 12 x 15° Sea II A  1971

Jan Dibbets, Musée Zadkine photo collages 1994

 John Stezaker Untitled (For Angus) Film Still Collage II, 2009 

 Gordon Matta- Clark Splitting, 1974
Chromogenic prints mounted on board

David Hockney Mother, Los Angeles, Dec. ‘82 1982

Thomas Kellner Houston Texas, Oil Refinery 2006

Tim Head’s Displacement installation also with similar themes. 

Tim Head Displacements (installation view) 1975


•The imagery is digitally projected
•Visually it is a mosaic of different perspectives of architecture
•The original idea draws from Tim Head’s installation: the building projected on to is the same building as the one represented within the projection. 


Baudelaire, C., (2008) The Painter of Modern Life, London:  Phaidon

Berger, J., (1972) Ways of Seeing London: BBC, Penguin Books

Bryson, n., (1983) Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze, New Haven: Yale University Press

Levy, M., (1969) A History of Western Art London: Thames and Hudson

Ritchin, F., After Photography London: Norton

Uricchio, W., (2011) “The Algorithmic Turn: Photosynth, Augmented Reality and the Changing Implications of the Image” Visual Studies vol 26 Issue 1pp. 25- 35

Zelnik-Manor (2007) “Mult-View Image Compositions”
[Last Accessed 10 May, 2011]

Zelnik-Manor & Perona (2008) ”Automating Joiners”
[Last Accessed 10 May, 2011]

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Utopias, the Cathedral of the New Worlds and the Microchip

Lyonel Feininger Cathedral Frontispiece from the first Bauhaus Manifesto 1919. Woodcut.

A minor scriptwriter for the Republican Party in the United States, called George Gilder once said “the digital microchip is the Gothic Cathedral of our time… It will transform business, education and art. It can renew and entire culture” (Winston, B, 2005 p. 375).
Before I explore the above statement within the context of Brian Winston’s book, it is worth pointing out that the image of the cathedral connects us to the history of immersion in art. The great cathedrals of Europe are models of the total artwork, the very basis of multimedia practices (Packer and Jordan, 2001, xxiii).  The image of the cathedral connects us too with utopian concepts.

       William Golding in his novel The Spire, describes the cathedral as a “diagram of prayer” (1964, p. 120), because it points beyond itself, in this case to heaven and to God or to the divine imagination.  Modernism, especially the progressive and radical strain of modernism, points beyond itself too. It imagines human perfectibility and imagines a better world. Is it all about transcendence?

     Who was it who said that the railway stations were the cathedrals of the 19th Century? Marx, Engels, Benjamin, Hughes or someone else?
                The great example of this is the Bauhaus, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. The word Bauhaus literally means “House for Building”. This name “carried the intentional overtones of the Bauhütten or the lodges where, in the Middle Ages, masons and designers at work on medieval cathedrals were housed (Hughes, 1991 p.192). This connects modernity with the medieval and to William Morris and the 19th Century Arts and Crafts Movement. The image of the Cathedral in modernist terms is then a “symbol of Utopian collectivism” which was “part of the Bauhaus myth” (Hughes, 1991 p.192).
                What the Bauhaus promised was an end of the snobbery between art, design and craft. This was claimed in his manifesto: 

                Architects, sculptors, painters, we all must return to the crafts! For art is not a “profession.”        There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman. In rare moments of inspiration, transcending the consciousness of his will, the   grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art. But proficiency in a craft is essential to every artist. Therein lies the prime source of creative imagination.
                Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an   arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist! Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith. (Naylor, G., 1968 p. 50)
The first manifesto had as its frontispiece a woodcut of a starlit cathedral by Lyonel Feininger (1919).

I doubt if George Gilder was considering the Bauhaus when he spoke of the cathedral. 
                Behind Gilder’s words, according to Brian Winston, “lies a hostility to the existing world of liberal free expression… Who was ‘tired of TV’? Who felt that an entire culture needed renewing? Who else but Gilder and those of like mind? His intervention made him momentarily a player in American Kulturkampf of the millennium’s last decades, a sustained conservative war on liberal expression which was part of a wider political divisiveness ” (Winston, 2005, p. 375).
                The idea of an “information revolution is mere hype” that “was dependent on a fundamental misunderstanding of the digital grounded in a basic loss of its history and an imperfect sense of physics” (Winston, B., 2005, p.376).  Professor Winston draws our attention to the origins of digital technology: “the first actual device to sample a sound wave digitally was constructed and patented by a sound engineer A.H. Reeve in 1938” (Winston, 2005, p. 376). By 1940, the first digital calculator had been built by the American physicist and inventor John Atanasoff.

                Brian Winston unravels some of the threads of the key stages of technological development: “the first demonstrations of semi-conductor materials in the 1870s; through the theoretical physics behind the transistor in 1920s; to the transistors themselves in 1948” (Winston, 2005, p. 376). The digital microchip described by Gilder was itself 25 years older, having been perfected by Marcian (Ted) Hoff at Intel in 1969. 
                Reconnecting us back to the metaphor of the Middle Ages, the cathedral and the medieval/Bauhaus model of the guild of craftsmen “these technologists – Kirby, Hoff and many others- who had a hand in   its development, remain as anonymous as any ecclesiastical architect is crucial to the oxymoronic idea that a fundamentally transformative ‘digital revolution is underway” (Winston, 2005, p. 376).

Golding, W., (1964) The Spire  London: Faber
Hughes, R., (1991) The Shock of the New London: Thames and Hudson
Naylor, G., (1968) The Bauhaus London: Studio Vista
Packer and Jordan, (2001) Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality New York, London: W.W. Norton
Winston, B., (2005) Messages London: Routledge

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Part 3 "The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey"

In the late 20th Century we have seen the political dreams of changing the world begin to collapse. Ideologies have become unpalatable and have been replaced by machine-fantasies that suggest that we have no control over our actions.

Adam Curtis in this episode suggests that the ideas that underpin this shift in thinking are connected to the studies of human behaviour and the human genome. Scientists like Bill Hamilton, the evolutionary biologist argued that it was the codes, our DNA that determined our behaviour. The scientist George R. Price is also a key influence in this shift in ‘our’ thinking. These ideas have been recently popularised by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. Human then are merely vessels for DNA code and that it is the code that determines our choices and our behaviour. Human beings are merely there to propagate that code.

This episode interweaves the story of scientific discoveries with the tragedy of colonialism and civil war in the Congo (Zaire) and Rwanda.  The Congo has since the 19th Century been exploited for its natural resources, first by the Belgians until the 1960s and then by the rest of us. . Today its minerals are vital for the continuing digital revolution.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Utopia and Designed Futures

There seems to be a number of themes emerging from the blog. Recently I have been viewing Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over by Machine of Loving Grace with fascination and I have already been struck by the similarities between the beliefs of techno-evangelists and those of the high priests of modernism. I discussed this issue in a blog entry titled “The ‘Architecture’ of the Web: Digital Utopias and Dystopias”

The first episode of Curtis’s documentary begins with the Ayn Rand and her philosophy of objectivism while the second episode deals with partially the ideas of the architect Buckminster-Fuller.
Modernist design and designers influenced by the ideas the Constructivists, the Futurists, the Bauhaus and De Stijl, thought they could change society with their creations. Architecture was the main expression of these claims. However, whole areas of our culture have been altered by the modernist belief that technology could produce a better and less divided society. Designers with their declaration that ‘form follows function’ have endeavoured to make designs seem progressive, functional and rational and less ornate, in direct opposition to the Arts and Crafts Movement and the luxury style of Art Nouveau. Architectural drawings have influenced science fiction illustration and writing, while buildings have been important backdrops to films and television programmes and are alluded to in graphic design (one thinks of Peter York's name for designers: "gridniks"). The novel Fountainhead (1943) by Ayn Rand, later made into a film (dir. King Vidor 1949), explores the idea of the image of the designer as a priest, social thinker and lifestyle guru. It is interesting to note that Rand’s protagonist was said to be based on the ‘image’ of Frank Lloyd Wright. Today, the more representational computer games include architectural renderings and web and multi-media design speaks in architectural metaphors. The modernist ideas in typography and the presentation of information in grid forms are reminiscent of the International Typographical Style and usability heuristics in web design. Post World War Two and certainly after 1960, designers opposed to what they saw as the minimalism and sterility of modern designs have been referred to as post-modern. Tom Wolfe in his book From Bauhaus to our House (1981) criticises Le Corbusier and Gropius and Utopia and the whole concept of architect as design guru.

Further reading and Sources:

Bock, Manfred et al. De Stijl: 1917-1931: visions of utopia Oxford: Phaidon, 1982
Fer, B et al. Realism, rationalism, surrealism: art between the wars Yale University Press in association with Open University, 1993
Lamster, Mark Architecture and film New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000
Loos, Adolf Spoken into the void: collected essays, 1897-1900 Cambridge, Mass.: Published for the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, Ill. and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, New York, N.Y, MIT Press, 1982

Mansbach, Steven A. Visions of totality: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Theo van Doesburg, and El Lissitzky UMI Research Press, 1980
Margolin, Victor The struggle for utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917-1946 London: University of Chicago Press, 1997
Moore, Thomas Utopia London: Dent, 1985
Overy, Paul De Stijl London: Thames and Hudson, c1991
Ward, Glenn Paul Postmodernism London: Teach Yourself, 1997