Friday, 25 February 2011

UnMasterclass 9

In W.G. Sebald's novel The Emigrants a fictional artist, Max Ferber (who is loosely based on Frank Auerbach)  toils away in his Manchester based studio producing an almost torturous creative drive of addition and subtraction of his marks. "Time and again, at the end of a working day, I marvelled to see that Ferber, with a few lines and shadows that had escaped annihilation, had created a portrait of great vividness. And all the more did I marvel when, the following morning, the moment the model had sat down and he had taken one look at him or her, he would erase the portraits yet again, and once more set about excavating the features of his model, who by now was distinctly wearied by this manner of working, from a surface already badly damaged by the continual destruction." Here at UnMasterclass we see no need for this struggle with the inner mind of the artist and certainly no need for erasure of marks in pursuit of perfection; we favour a more direct approach of revealing all the flaws and imperfections, leaving them bare instead of erasing. Why have perfection attained after hours and days of hard work when you can attain something quick, in a few minutes that will just about do?!  It later transpires in Sebald's novel that many of Ferber's 'models' are in fact his own versions of past masters painted portraits, so UnMasterclass does in fact share some similarities with the fictionalised Ferber after all. Oh and of course Ferber's fictional studio near the docks of Trafford Park is less than a mile as the crow flies from the UnMasterclass studios, serendipity you might say.
This week we take on a monolith of important paintings with a version of the Ingres masterpiece, The Valpincon Bather. You do not need us to tell us that our version is pretty poor in comparison to the original, but then we reckon it probably took him a week bit longer than 10 minutes. So nip over to the Louvre in Paris to see the original or click away to to see the UnMasterclass version.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

UnMasterclass 8

"If you imagine, you go to a museum, to draw a painting it makes no sense. Because you could easily sit at home at the kitchen table with a large monograph and just copy and draw. It's still a flat entity, it's not like drawing a sculpture that has three dimensional qualities, it's purely mimicking. so there's actually no reason for an art student or young artist to visit a museum to purely copy a painting. I mean it's of no worth, it's not honing drawing skills because it's flat....The reason why they are there really is because there this romanticisation through association. if you're an aspiring artist you want to be in a museum and you want to feel the magic dust and you want it to fill you with energy."
Ryan Gander

Unlike the aspiring artists that Master Gander mentions in his Work The Magic and Meaning we here at UnMasterclass are not trying to aspire through appreciation or mimic the museum based paintings. We are merely seeing if we can aspire to  unlearn. This week we encounter a musically themed classic and re-interpret it as a post-expressionist half-failure. Obviously you don't need us to tell you that you would be better skipping over to Kassel, preferably when Documenta is on to see the original, but maybe visit UnMasterclass 8 here are well

"I have a feeling that, 80 years ago people would go to L'Louvre and sit in front of a painting and they would study it and the'y sit still on a bench for 3 hours, staring at a painting, and they would look at it and concentrate on it then they'd go home and the'y come back next Sunday and they would sit on the same bench and the'y sit in front of the same painting and they would (Stare) at that same painting for another 3 hours. I don't think that slowness exists now."
Ryan Gander

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A hairy aside

A few years ago I grew a beard on a whim. My partner did not like it one little bit. Over a holiday break with my brother's family, my Nephew and Nieces voted, 2 to 1 in favour, of me shaving it off. In December 2010 I agreed to join my (male) 3rd year students in a sponsored beard growing frenzy to raise money for their degree show. We each drew a style of beard out of a hat. Mine was somewhat vaguely titled "The Artist". Blindly I carried on, stumbling over who to grow the beard in the style of; Cezanne (Bushy, but impressive), da Vinci, Titian, Manet, Monet (ditto), Van Gough (too orange), Toulouse Lautrec (Close to being the one), Brian from Spaced (too comedy), Baldessari (If only) and so on. Meanwhile each day I have actually looked more and more like Mr Twit from Roald Dahl's childhood favourite book and each day I have become more undecided as to what artist I should be. 
My students have finished with their beards and have collected their sponsorship money. Then on Monday, whilst taking a first year drawing class I run, it hit me, rather than me growing my beard in the style of a famous artist, I would grow the beard as an artist and get my students to draw me with the beard. So using the old nugget of the pencil on the end of a long stick I asked them to draw me in 10 minutes, here are the results, akin perhaps to Roman Ond├ík's self portraits. I then asked them to do more normal activities of my drawing classes like tying pens to trees and so on.
I have also asked my partner to draw me and to sponsor my beard/beard shaving off before I will get rid of it. She has done the drawing (spot hers below). However, before she pays up I shall ask one person a day to draw me with a beard. I imagine this will not last for long, she hates it more this time than before. 
An aside or a thought, I wonder if my first year students will remember that I grew a Sponsored beard to raise money for the current graduating students degree show and will I be asked in a couple of years time again? Will the biennial beard continue?

Saturday, 12 February 2011

UnMasterclass 7

"You see, painting has now become, or all art has now become completely a game, by which man distracts himself. What is fascinating actually is, that it's going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to become any good at all."
Francis Bacon

"You could say that I have no inspiration, that I only need to paint."
Francis Bacon

Here at UnMasterclass we are not really into deepening our game and inspiration is often in short supply, which is perhaps goes some way as to explaining why the paintings come out as they do. One of the big guns of the 20th Century comes under the UnMasterclass watchful eye this week and ends up not looking too far away from the postcard the copy was painted from and a million light years away from the Bacon original. So have a look at the latest UnMasterclass here - - and then pop along to good old Tate Britain to goggle at the original.

Friday, 4 February 2011

UnMasterclass 6

A couple of years ago I recommended a student to visit the Glenn Brown exhibition that was on at Tate Liverpool at the time. A couple of weeks later I had a tutorial with the same student and she mentioned how much she had enjoyed the exhibition and that she loved his work and brought out the exhibition booklet to draw my attention to the painting that had most inspired her Brown's The Day the World Turned Auerbach. I was somewhat surprised to learn that what she loved most of all was the thick impasto paintwork, the sumptuous ooze and materiality of the paint. I let her carry on for several minutes like this. I questioned her again as to whether she had in fact been to the show, which she assured me she had. I then asked to read a little bit about Glenn Brown in the booklet she had brought with her. I thought what gall to say she had been to an exhibition she had clearly not been too and  to not even read about an artist that she had earlier said was deeply influential to her work.
It also made me think how interesting it might be to purposely completely miss the point of paintings. the seeds of UnMasterclass was born.
The latest painting is a pretty poor copy more George Condo, than Sofonisba Anguissola.
Have a look here