This year’s Royal Scottish Academy Architecture Forum will challenge the popular idea that ‘people make places’ by demonstrating that our ‘place on earth’ remains a powerful and omnipresent force that fundamentally affects our person, our national character, our culture and therefore our art and architecture.
We invite you to a dialogue with three critical thinkers, an artist, architect and writer, to deconstruct ‘the now’ through the lens of art and architecture. The role of art and architecture in society has never been more acute, come join us and explore together how we can alter or ignore our reality.
Jonathan Charley writer critic political character, recommended the reading, mostly vintage and untrendy. Cocaine Nights by Ballard included.
Patricia Fleming gallery owner administrator artist, says she was educated not in school, which she hated, but by looking at and understanding artists
I made a special effort to attend this, driving into Glasgow on a damp dark evening and getting lost! Eventually arrived at the Civic House. I am so glad I did make this effort, because the event was very encouraging and interesting.
HERE ARE SOME QUICK IMPRESSIONS OF THE EVENING.
The debate was lively and original, especially Paul’s music and Jonathan’s book selection. Jude made a great contribution from the socially engaged architectural standpoint and Patricia very insightful about the role and nature of artists. She is aware of the deep thinking that goes into making art, and commented that art works best if it combines an “instant hit” with thought and meaning.
Critical awareness of the pressurised consumerist and politically disoriented society we inhabit, social media included, was taken for granted, as was the call for an engaged art.
One of the panel, maybe the punk architect, Paul Stallan, maybe all of them, agreed that art is a destructive force before it can become a creative one. The deconstruction or destructive is a part of seeing the new and creating something from the breakages. I applaud this insight.
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I am showing work at my own studio VENUE 35 from Monday June 10th to Sunday June 16th between 12 pm and 5 pm each afternoon.
I LOOK FORWARD TO SHOWING YOU MY NEW WORK! This will include paintings and drawings from recent exhibitions in Edinburgh and Dunblane as well as current equestrian paintings and drawings. Also a range of beautiful cards, mugs, prints and my new calendar for 2020.
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I am showing work at the Westmossside Art Collective (VENUE 35) based on my experiences of working in the Flanders Moss area every day. This year I have been inspired by a visit I made on Christmas Eve, 2018, when the whole area was transformed by an intense frost. I have done my best to convey this experience by a series of small oil sketches, each 150 x 150 mm.
I shall be showing paintings of a different kind in my own Studio (VENUE 37) on the south side of Flanders Moss. Find out more here
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Whitespace Gallery, 76, East Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 8HQ
22nd to 27th September, 2018 12pm to 5pm
Private view Friday, 21st September, 2018
The Green Thought
This exhibition has been my project for the summer and I have been working on it since May. I decided to be bold and make three large canvases, sized 1200 x 900 mm, for the space in Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh. The idea gradually came to me on train journeys, first on a trip to Newcastle to see the David Bomberg exhibition, and then on a day out to Dundee to see the Duncan of Jordanstone degree show.
Ares in the woods Photograph
Detail charcoal drawing
Detail charcoal study
Where it started
I had spent the first few months of the year “dissecting” a complicated photograph sent to me by a customer. The picture was of a spotted horse in a twiggy winter woodland. I tackled this by gridding the photo into 64 squares and finding the miraculous unexpected abstractions within each thumbnail. The train journeys gave me the chance to look at the 50 million shades of green that existed in the landscape, near and far, and which would transform my twiggy drawings in paintings.
Dark trees Oil painting 1200 x 900 mm
From the train to Dundee Oil painting 1200 x 900
The Plum Tree Oil Painting 800 x 500 mm
How I did it
I selected three photos and gradually worked across each of them to create the three large paintings. In each case, there were moments when I despaired and lost track of how the compositon was going to work. I masked off all but the crucial areas so that I could observe more clearly and prevent my mind interfering and confusing me. The result was that I achieved three coherent paintings. I did the same in the smaller paintings of the plum tree leaves.
My plan was to build on the exhibition by adding larger versions of the charcoal thumbnail drawings, which are beautiful in themselves, but which, I found, did not translate to a larger scale of 800 x 800 mm without me taking a completely different approach. It could be that I did not have time to create very detailed drawings on this scale, which are at least as challenging as making a painting, or it could be that after this intense period of rigour and scrutiny it is time to have a play.
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ALL TOO HUMAN TATE BRITAIN APRIL 20 A PERSONAL ACCOUNT
Walter Richard Sickert La Hollandaise c. 1906
Stanley Spencer Patricia Preece 1933
This exhibition was a perspective on British figurative art over the past 100 years, the focus being on painters who worked with the human figure as their main subject. Featured artists included Sickert (1860-1942), Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), William Coldstream (1908-1987)and David Bomberg (1890-1957) from the earlier part of the century, to the post war generation (Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Lucian Freud (1922-2011), R. B.Kitaj (1932-2007), Frank Auerbach (b. 1931), Leon Kossoff (b. 1926), Paula Rego (b. 1935) and F. N. Souza (1924-2002). Contemporary artists on show included Cecily Brown (b. 1969), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977) and Jenny Saville (b. 1970)
William Coldstream Portrait of Walter A Brandt 1962-3
Euan Uglow Georgia 1973
This show was a revelation to me. I attended the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford at a period when it was dominated by the Coldstream emphasis on precise linear drawing from observation. Excellent training, no doubt, but contrary to my temperament, particularly at that time when art was my only means of expression. I became distressed and frustrated at the lack of ability to express myself in this environment. Artists who shared such an experience at the Slade School, for example, include Patrick Heron and David Bomberg himself.
David Bomberg Ronda Valley (detail) 1954
Leon Kossoff Self Portrait 11 1972
Dorothy Mead Reclining Figure 1954
Frank Auerbach Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station, Night 1972-3
This exhibition showed that the Coldstream approach was dominant in England, but by no means definitive. Taboos were broken by David Bomberg himself who focussed on the “spirit of the mass” and subjective experience. Many artists such as Auerbach, Kossoff and Mead were indebted to Bomberg’s classes at Borough Polytechnic.
Lucian Freud Two Plants 1977-80
Lucian Freud David and Eli 2003-4
Lucian Freud worked from intense observation but eventually transcended the extreme objectivity of the Coldstream school in his sensuous handling of paint and unflinching scrutiny and humanity of his subjects.
Francis Bacon Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne 1966
Francis Bacon Triptych (detail) 1974-77
Another taboo was crossed and ignored by the self taught maestro, Francis Bacon, who distorted the figure in extreme ways and used photographic sources to express a deep sense of angst and pain at the human existence. The Goan artist Souza painted in a symbolic and non-representational way.
Paula Rego The Family 1988
R.B. Kitaj To Live in Peace (The Singers) 1973-4
In the modernist aesthetic of the Coldstream school, formal abstract qualities of line, shape and colour were considered most important. “Illustration” and “narrative” was frowned upon as somehow inferior, yet Kitaj and Paula Rego painted human social dynamics and stories as their subject matter.
Cecily Brown Teenage Wildlife 2003
Jenny Saville Reverse (detail) 2002-3
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Coterie of Questions 2015
Younger figurative painters included Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
It was not until very recently that I returned to working from the life model in my attempt to improve my painting and knowledge of anatomy. I did this because I wanted to develop my equestrian art and there is little on offer in that department. I found myself still working in the traditional way that I had been taught. David Bomberg termed this ideology the “hand and eye disease”, and although some artists transcended it (Lucian Freud being a prime example), many became limited by it.
It was only because of my need to express deeper feeling and different ways of working that I have recently encountered teachers and artists who think in another way. Alan McGowan, Martin Campos and Pauline Agnew come to mind. I was amazed that the early studies had remained so powerful in my life and that I had been unable until now to work in another way, in spite of an inner energy in myself that forced me to circumnavigate this ideology. Only by working freely with colour on fabric (well outside the artistic canon) had I been able to work naturally.
The world has greatly changed especially over the past 50 years. In Britain we have a more liberal and prosperous life. Homosexuality is legalised, women are far more equal in expectation and reality. The bitterness of gay artists such as Bacon is expressed as a scream of pain and frustration in his work, but the art world of the time was also full of misogyny which made it difficult for a woman to progress. Fashions in art also come and go. For years figurative art was neglected and unregarded, while abstraction and conceptualism became the way to work. Even Lucian Freud was unable to sell his work for years, but he kept going in his metier. There are signs that the human body and human experience is becoming acknowledged again as a form of art and figurative art.
This was a marvellous and complex show, and I appreciate the curators for bringing together such diverse approaches to making art. Apologies for the artists I have omitted. The Tate catalogue “All Too Human” is excellent, with full illustrations and several interesting articles about this period.
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Preparations for the Class (detail) Degas (about 1877) pastel on paper
Jockeys in the rain (detail) Degas (1883) Pastel on tracing paper
Degas and his use of pastels National Gallery London
This was a fascinating exhibition of Degas drawings, which showed how working methods change with fashion and with available materials. During the second half of the 19th century, new dyes became available which were used for paper and pigment. These materials were quickly adopted by artists and altered the way they worked. This exhibition focused on Degas and his use of pastels.
Degas always started his work with charcoal drawings, but although at first he was a master in the traditional use of pastel, with a single layer of chalk, carefully blended and left unfixed, plus a few highlights (“Preparations“), gradually he became much more experimental, building layers of pastel with fixative until the surface was firm and translucent. On this surface he could then draw more texture and detail, often with rough scribbly strokes, unlike the traditional blending, and with brilliant colour (“Jockeys“)
Dancers on a bench (detail) Degas (about 1898) Pastel on tracing paper
Woman in a tub (detail) Degas (1896-1901) Pastel on paper
Eventually Degas began to draw with charcoal on tracing paper. The transparent paper allowed him to play with his drawings, to reverse them, take monoprints from them and to create multiple images, and to experiment with composition. It was a free starting point. He would then fix the charcoal drawings and have them mounted on a rougher textured board to create a stronger drawing base which also gave more tooth to the tracing paper. At the same time he often asked for the mounter to add more sheets of tracing paper to the original so that the whole drawing space was extended. On this he would work with pastels to create the whole layered surface, often covering the original charcoal completely. Final brilliant detail was added in relief by dipping the sticks of pastel into water to liquefy them and leaving the marks unfixed.
I was amazed and inspired by how unconventional and innovative Degas was, over 100 years ago, also so interested to learn just how his work looks how it does. These are (apparently) simple processes which I can and will try. I like the idea of creating multiple images and also experimenting with pastel in new ways. I later went to Tate Britain (“All too Human” exhibition) and discovered that pastel is the preferred medium of Paula Rego. There is an excellent catalogue accompanying the Degas exhibition: Drawn in Colour – published by the National Gallery. Thanks to Catherine Froy for telling me about this show.
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There is nothing like an exhibition brief for developing ideas. It is the fulcrum for focussing on what one’s real energy and interests currently are. For this exhibition “Wild Spaces” at the Whitehouse Gallery, Kircudbright, in south-west Scotland, I started with a large drawing of “Ares”, a Knabstrup horse. These are a particular Danish breed, established 200 years ago, and known for their spectacular speckled coats, as well as their talent for dressage and showjumping. I liked the original photo because the horse was photographed in a winter woodland which acted as a kind of dramatic camouflage.
But where to go from this big charcoal work of the horse with the black markings? I tried abstracting the main shapes of the drawing, but realised that I needed to go deeper (more of which later). I also remembered a lithographic print made around 2012, and returned to this for inspiration for some playful black and white drawings/paintings on canvas. The first time I had felt so free with paint. Eureka! I built on that spontaneous foundation with acrylic paint and charcoal, always working very freely.
At the same time, by way of this exhibition brief, I was practising my knowledge and skill of using oil paint in a traditional way to explore the form and colour of the horse, and decided to use a dramatic photograph as source materials. In contrast to the “flash” drawings above this was laborious and took a period of months to develop. I did a lot of basic drawing, alongside other oil studies of horses, in particular their heads, to make sure I could translate the anatomy into paint, however loosely. This was the meticulous side of my practice.
Gradually these two aspects came together as I became more confident about painting horses in a content. I began to bring together the freedom of the Wild Spaces work with the tight analysis of the studies. In the process I realised that I was interested and inspired by horses in their own social groups. I began a series of oil paintings on this theme, imperfect and exploratory, but thrilling for me to be able to introduce colour into my passionate depictions of the horse.
And what about the large Knapstrub drawing of “Ares”? How to work with that? The only way for me to truly honour this, with all its contrasts and textures, was to take it small section at a time, slow and deliberate. Here is (the beginning of) where my exhibition brief took me!
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A great trip to Venice in October to catch the 2017 Venice Biennale in the Giardini and the Arsenale. The Giardini is a long established exhibition site and many countries have a permanent pavilion here. There is also a major site for selected artists in the Giardini. The Arsenale (“arsenal”) is the old dock area of Venice, and a further exhibition featuring selected artists is staged in the spectacular long building once used for rope making. The year the exhibition was curated by Christine Macel, curator of the Pompidou Centre, Paris. The focus was on community and communication.
I liked the fact that in the Venice Biennale 2017 the human body was acknowledged as medium of expression. The extraordinary anatomical constructs of Piny are one example. The stitched and padded “skins” by Touloub is another. Marwan paints huge distorted portraits and Firenze’s semi abstracts show the human figure in a specific space. Eileen Quinian photographs her own body and creates abstract and fragmented images. Zec’s installation in a nearby church was a moving example of how traditional figurative art can be very relevant today. Tracey Moffat in the Australian Pavilion has an installation of 10 large photographs entitled “Body Remembers”. A woman returns to an isolated ruined house in the Australian outback. The title is inspired by the poem “Body, remember” (1918) by Greek poet Cavafy – “an exhortation to remember the power of desire and passions to do with forbidden love”.
Many of the exhibits focused on hand made work, such as Lanceta and Walther, who respectively work with weaving and stitching as forms of expression. Other makers such as Mark Bradford, in USA pavilion, made his huge pieces mainly from the papers used in hair salons to dye and tint hair. Bradford worked as a hair stylist before becoming an artist.
Cut the Mustard is a private gallery, representing 60 different artists, makers and jewellery designers. It is owned and run by photographer Barry Young, and jeweller Lisa Rothwell-Young. In their words
“We run 5 or 6 different exhibitions each year, alongside a gift area and our jewellery room. Our artists sell their work in the gallery for the same as they would via their own website or studio (there are no inflated prices here) just beautiful work (ceramics, sculpture, glass, printmaking, textiles, paintings, photography, wood etc) and a friendly welcome.”
We’d love you to come and visit us in the pretty, former mill town of Langholm, approx 20 minutes from junction 44 of the M6. We’re pretty central, about 1.5 hours from Glasgow, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and the South Lakes.”
I shall be exhibiting originals and fine art prints in this exhibition.
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