Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Picasso, paintbrushes and patience

In my post yesterday, I wrote about Picasso being an influence, so I wanted to print a mask of myself as a picasso mask... unlike Picasso's, my image came out fairly 'subdued', but its a good introduction into ideas of transformation - of self, of mask, of primitivism, and of technique....

I have wanted to try two colour printing for a while, so I used this opportunity to experiment... The yellow ochre is actually acrylic paint, because I haven't got another oil based colour in the studio (yet!!). I would like to say tho', that I really enjoyed the results with the prints being inaccurate on the two colour print

Using a paintbrush on the glass was really fun (image 1) - I've used everything but - so I think the results could be pretty fun here. Fantastic tonal and mark making variation. I used a synthetic hard smallish brush...

With the two colour print, I found trying to line up the negative shape with the new print quite difficult, next time I'll be a little more academic about it: possibly even use registration points!

I also found the oil over acrylic isn't drying, so hmmm...

Anyway, the outcome certainly came out better than I'd thought it would.


The Idea of Transformation in Print -

the changes to an image recorded

I incorporated a few new methods and ideas into my work last night, which I'd like to touch on...

1. I thought of expanding the mask to add the dance mask - African myth sets rhythm as the creator of life... the world. And so the dance masks are incredibly elaborate with zoomorphic, pattern and female figures carved into the wood.

2. I took a look at dance masks and scribbled a few in my visual diary. I found that an 'automated' drawing of the masks worked well with the rhythm theme.

3. Tracing the general outline of the image done in the visual diary and adding a few of my own 'pattern' interventions... transformation of form and ideas just suit this area of creativity.
I took the traced image and using the transfer drawing method I again drew on top of the tracing paper, tracing the 'scribbled outline' onto a printed sheet...

4. I then began to experiement with the form in a sort of additive and subtractive method on the glass and came up with the final two images (last one being the 'ghost' print)... they weren't incredibly successful because I wasn't replenishing the ink from the first drawn transfer, but the scraping and painting on the glass certainly gave me additional technique ideas... I am really looking forward to working into these images.


Another area I started looking into, when going into the history of printing, was medieval iconography... I thoroughly enjoyed the Western/Religious symbolism, and found that coming through some of the transfer drawing method prints:

Rhythm and Dance, Transfiguration = Dualism and Mystery, Fetish 'traditional' vs. Fetish 'new' = Fertility and Nature vs. Plastic Sexuality,


So, this prac session, I spent time researching Picasso and then attempting my version of 'primitivist', as a self portrait. I had a go at printing two colours, for as much variation as possible, and moved the 'plate' around to experiment with form. Had a go with relief printing and direct application to glass for this one.

I spent much of the session working on the transfer drawing method (with an attempt at an 'automated scribble').

Incorporating fetish and medieval iconography ...

Still early days, butI'm looking at dance masks and the fetish theme... may look into woodcuts for this one...

Because of the research today, I think I've gone a little 'academic', and didn't get as much 'spontineity in image' out of the session, as the previous ones. But I certainly found experimenting with 2 or 3 images in various techniques incredibly useful....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ideas on Transformation_5

Picasso: Primitivism, Representation and Transformation

With the investigation into Orientalism and Primitive art and Transformations, I've come back to the works of Picasso. With the historical direction of primitive art, Picasso took up where artists like Gaughin and Van Gogh left off (so to speak). He also became obsessed with the power of primitivism, and it's profound transformations in Western art.

Despite this, Picasso's works still have their viewer contemplating the motive for using the mask in his works: was it about his search for new abstractions, which could allow him to move away from Western styles of perspective and space? Or was it about whether the masks represented 'himself', as a sort of diarising his life works and desires.

William Rubin, “Reflections on Picasso and Portraiture” says "...The self portrait created in 1901 is a very conventional approach to the human form: the face is realistic and the proportions of the body are true to life, there are areas of heavy brush strokes and perhaps an impressionist influence, but that’s pretty much the extent of Picasso’s questioning of realism in this image. The image created in 1972 is radically different, with an almost ape-like structure to the face, with Prinsen 2 extreme simplification and distortion of features and bright, colors. Comparing these two images is an excellent example of what Picasso was, and what Picasso became, and essentially why Picasso was remembered, because he presented the world with a new way of looking at the world depicted through art". (Rubin, William, Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation. 1996, The Museum of Modern Art - pgs 13-15).

I've found great videos on Youtube, which show Picasso in his studio working or discussing his work... prolific and symbolically filled with imagery which transformed, as the artist aged and moved from traditional painting to printmaking and sculpture...

Other interesting reads on Picasso:
H-France Review Vol. 0 (June 2009)
Irvine 1 - Painting the War

Monday, September 27, 2010


STILL haven't moved off the monoprints. I'm perservering, and think I have found an art form that is truly satisfying me. I moved away from water based inks, and found the oil based inks superb. I was able to work longer, get a ghost print, and then rework an area...

The stock of paper didn't matter. The quality of the print mattered more - I used the expensive paper I bought on recommendation, and I used the cheaper papers, including brown wrapping paper, and viola! I saw the light!

I have mixed the four techniques, because I found this the most successful way of developing my image.

Ideas on Transformation_4

Just a few notes... I'm going through a few trains of thought at present:

1. The religo-magical aspects of masks and the role of the wearer as 'human' and 'spiritualist' i.e. transfigurement and secrecy of the mask
2. Mask forms and meanings
3. Body modification in Primitive Cultures - scarification and tatooing...
3. The role of the 'fetish' mask/statue in older civilizations
4. Orientalism and Contemporary artists who incorporate the mask into their work

The religo-magical aspect - Transfigurement and Secrecy of the Mask
I'm reading a few books (African Masks by Paul Hamlyn and Secrecy - African Art that Conceals and Reveals by Nooter and Spirits Speak - A Celebration of African Masks by Stepan a& Hahner) which all discuss how the mask 'transfigures' the wearer, as he relinquishes his own personality, and becomes the vehicle of superhuman spiritual power.

Nooter says in his book, "Secrecy is central to all human affairs and artistic expressions: something is always revealed, something concealed. In African cultures, elaborate art works often announce the presence of secret knowledge while paradocixically protecting its contents..." I found this an incredible way to think about how mask 'transforms' its wearer... have a look at Leigh Bowery's work - his masks really do conceal an identitiy - but not necessarily his 'true' identity. With today's wearing of masks, the individual nature of the person is embodied in the mask, rather than the communal or spiritual essence of some tribal ancestry. Debatable, certainly. So for me, the mask hasn't removed this mystical spiritual aura in modern day culture, we've just replaced the completely religious/spiritual or magical aspects with something else - more individual, less communal.

In old tribes, the spirit spoke through the masked dancer (very much a part of Nick Cave's Soundmasks) and that the wearer became a 'sounding-board and mouthpiece' through which the spirit would communicate.

Mask forms and Meanings
The mask had to inspire awe as well as satisfy the spirit as a worthy medium for its 'temporary habitation' and to demonstrate its authority to the onlookers... the elongated forehead in the mask, the multiple eyes, the use of certain colours and The mask shape, pattern, materials and scale usually came about through passed down craftsmanship and ceremonial knowledge...

Body modification in Primitive Cultures - Scarification and Tatooing
Patterns developed over time to signify cultural events. As with why we tattoo and 'brand' today, there was a connection to the tribal past which carried a strong cultural meaning, which was usually experienced as a 'rite of passage'. Much of scarification and tatooing was based on initiation ceremonies and as with the spiritual side, these were designed specifically for body art or masks... I find much of the piercing, scarification and tatooing you find in tribal histories, a sort of 'bond' with why this sort of ritual is alive and thriving in many modern societies.

The Fetish is an interesting one - in terms of tribal history, its an object which is believed to have supernatural powers (man made or natural). According to a few online sites, Fetishism is an attribution of inherent power of a given object or 'fetish'. Contemporary fetish (seen in Bowery's work, for example), is synonomous with works of eroticism and sexuality. The traditional use of the fetish was tied with everyday living,froma griculture to weather, social harmony or discord, health, fertility and progreation. Fetishes were typically modelled after an object of concern, such as a person, animal or body part. I am looking forward to investigating how this fits into the mask transformation.

Orientalism - having a look at previous influences of primitive masks in Western culture, brought be back to the nineteenth century 'primitive' art. As more European collecters returned with artifacts from Africa (and other ancient cultures, including Japanese), so the interest in native living and traditions. Artists Gaughin (1848 -1903), Matisse (1869-1954), Van Gogh (1853 - 1890) and then later Picasso, were all influencedby the African mask in some form or another....

Another contemporary artist I'm researching at the moment is Zeng Fanzhi, who uses the mask to paint the state of modern man as "dark portraits of reality... [as] images of sickness, cruelty, pain and longing..." (

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Subtractive and Additive Monoprinting

The objective with this part of the excercise, is to experiment using some of the themes I intend to pursue for transformation...


Subtractive and Additive Monoprinting

Using a water based ink didn't give me much freedom: the ink dried too fast, and left most of my paper on the glass. I also realised I'd also chosen papers that aren't exactly the best for this sort of thing.

I experimented with too much ink, then too little, then too watery (which I tried to add a retarder to), brushes, rags, hands, cotton wool, knives, etc. and although I'm starting to see great potential in the medium, I think much more experimentation is needed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ideas on Transformation_3

For the week, I've gathered ideas, based on my assignment submission last week:

– Traditional/Cultural transformation -
Masks encompass many variations on the theme of transformation. How personality transforms through wearing the mask, or how traditional meaning is lost through transforming the 'use of the mask' by today's cultural understanding, as a purely decorative or scientific relic.

I have investigated artists Quon-Gean Ho, Deborah Klein and more recently, on recommendation, Conrad Botes, performance artists Leigh Bowery and Nick Cave...

I am completely taken with Botes, Bowery's and Cave's creative styles and hope to create a body of work on my interpretation of their 'intentions'. Botes "... mocks conventional notions of individualism and 'humanism', ranging from romantic love to self-flagellation." Ref

Weeping Zombies III

Bowery's work: peformance art, critical humour in music and fashion. "Leigh Bowery, peripheral in the notion of art practice by combining dandyism and body art, reconstructed his image while performing ...[he] uses the expression of the 'other' to create a form of cultural lip-syncing transvestism." Ref

Whilst Cave - an American fabric sculptor, dancer, and performance artist - creator of Soundsuits, explores the themes of durability and fragility, costuming and masquerading. " ... he discovered this identity-altering power early on". “When I was inside a suit, you couldn’t tell if I was a woman or man; if I was black, red, green or orange; from Haiti or South Africa,” he said. “I was no longer Nick. I was a shaman of sorts.” Ref

This is a rabbit hole - the further you go, the more you find. Each artist has influenced others, or has been influential in transforming social/cultural perception - not always without major prejudice. The strange thing about tradition is that I could look at each of these artists - South African Botes, Australian Bowery and American Cave's works - through some form or other, I associate with their use of mask in a form of social identity, tradition and cultural questioning.

With my own work, I'll continue to investigate how to bring the 'performance', masquerade, and 'spectacle' into printmaking: focussing on African heritage, masks, traditional folklore, the idea of 'plastic sexuality.

I'll just have to keep experimenting, because using elements such as the challenging of individualism, spectacle and gender (Bote & Bowery), reuse, tradition and (to a degree) folklore (Cave), prove that contemporary art thrives on a sense of 'transformation'...

Sketches -

China Markers and Whiteboard Markers over Photograph printouts