OPTICAL INTIMACY – Investigations with Pattern | November 2018

OPTICAL INTIMACY – Investigations with Pattern | November 2018

During the past year I have become increasingly interested in exploring aspects of pattern making, as a separate exercise to those featured in the majority of my pictures.

Back in my days at the Central School of Art, between 1970 and 1973, a number of my fellow students were working on very large canvases, and producing abstract works [“colour field painting”], featuring minimal shapes and colours. Much of the work was produced using masking tape, and our tutors seemed hugely influenced by what was happening in New York at that time. 1971, as far as I can recall, saw the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement. The most famous was Jackson Pollock, but there were others, and our group at Central was very much encouraged to look at this approach to painting. From a personal perspective, I was drawn to Mark Rothko and a number of others, and was intrigued by the manner in which these artists made certain areas of their pictures ‘move’, whilst some shapes and colours appeared to drift or float. The term “push and pull” had been adopted by the New York group, and was embraced by a number of my class mates.

Some pretty basic study revealed that our eyes are simply extraordinary in the manner in which they try to make order of all they are presented with, and ‘work things out’. I was intrigued by some of the ‘energy’ such shapes and colours could produce, and this aspect of my art school education has been very much rekindled during the past year or two.

The overriding theme of my work is INTIMISM, and the subject has been the female figure, usually positioned in an interior. She is often engaged in some sort of everyday task or activity. Pattern making has been an integral component in these pictures, and introduced as a decorative element to embellish the compositions.

A fundamental to my process of drawing is watercolour paper of a substantial weight. It is robust and durable, and allows me to add and subtract pencil and colour pencil line, as well as apply and delete washes of watercolour paints. There are added dynamics, as I use my erasers [one of which is electric!] as drawing tools as well as for erasing. I also deboss into the surface of the paper using a special tool and hard pencils. The debossing process creates ‘channels’ into which I can add colour pencil line, or stain with paint. The process is transparent, and I am absorbed with the whole idea of layering, with the result that the viewer is able to ‘see into each stage’ that the picture has gone through in its production.

I see the relationship and response that the eye has with the marks and colours on, and also within, the surface of the paper as an abstract INTIMISM. Perhaps, in a sense, this is a purer INTIMISM, as one is not distracted by the figure . . . ? In recent months, I have produced a series of pattern works, and explored relationships between geometric and embellished shapes through a system of grids. I have worked to create movement and depth, which the eyes can pick up on. Some squares might seem to stand out, and then with a shift in focus, things change, and other elements seem to come into play. They may even seem to pulse . . . to ‘flash’.

Colour adds another dimension, and at this stage the palette, is somewhat limited. I began a series back in October 2017, when the Jacaranda trees were in bloom. It seemed a good idea to link the pictures, and so the theme “Jacaranda” was adopted, and the words like: “Blues” “Jazz” and “Jive” added. Recently, I completed two pictures titled “Jacaranda Madderness”. This name is derived from the colour Rose Madder, and madder is used in the making of my selected paint, Alizarin Crimson.

“OPTICAL INTIMACY” is integral to my current journey. I plan to develop this aspect in tandem with the figures, and influences from Japanese artist KITAWAGA UTAMARO . . .

Visiting the Queensland Art Gallery

Visiting the Queensland Art Gallery

A private viewing of prints by Kitagawa Utamaro

A private viewing of any piece of art in the Permanent Collection of the Queensland Art Gallery is only an email request away, and is available to anyone. After all, each piece belongs to the State, and is therefore ours to enjoy . . . !  From time to time, I take full advantage of this delightful facility, and on this occasion in the company of good friend Grev Patterson.

In recent years, I have been increasingly drawn to Japanese art, but especially the woodblock prints of Kitagawa Utamaro. He lived through the latter half of the eighteenth century, and died in 1806. Queensland Art Gallery has a number of his prints window mounted but unframed, to examine. A very special experience, to be up close and intimate, with these outstanding works.

Utamaro is one of the most highly regarded designers of prints, paintings and drawings from the Ukiyo-e [Japanese - “pictures of the floating world”] movement. His work reached Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, and influenced the Impressionists, as well as the modern art schools that followed, especially in that ‘golden age’ of French art in the 1890s. A rich decade indeed, and the impact of Japonisme was significant, substantial and lasting throughout Europe.

Many of Utamaro’s pictures feature images of sensuous female figures, and I am fascinated by his use of stylisation, exaggerated line work, exquisite pattern making, and masterful composition.

THE VIEW FROM MODEL FRANCES BALAN

THE VIEW FROM MODEL FRANCES BALAN

During our opening session of poses back in May 2012, I realised that Frances had a complete understanding of my expectations.

Fran is an enthusiastic and vital contributor to my process of practice. With this in mind, visitors to this site might be interested in seeing the work from her unique perspective.

ORIGIN OF "THE ANSWER IS THE DEATH OF THE QUESTION"

ORIGIN OF "THE ANSWER IS THE DEATH OF THE QUESTION"

On a number of occasions in recent times, I have been asked the origin of the statement: “The answer is the death of the question”, which is featured at the start and close of the video.  I share Hugh Mackay's books and the inspiration behind this statement.

Familiarity and Surprise from Andrew Baldwin - Emeritus Professor & Art Collector

Familiarity and Surprise from Andrew Baldwin - Emeritus Professor & Art Collector

Andrew and I are close friends, a friendship that dates back to our early teens. He is based in the UK, has been a collector for many years, and has taken a keen interest in my work since my days at the Central St. Martins School of Art back in the mid 1970s.

"As a collector of RWAllen artworks, each new drawing brings both familiarity and surprise.

Familiarity with the excellent draftsmanship, the finely executed line, the consistency of the pattern elements, the quality of the carefully constructed composition and the combinations of the selected palette.

Familiarity with his theme of INITIMISM. A theme grounded in the work of two leading French Artists of the late 19th Century, which has been revisited and developed in a modern context.

Surprise at the skilful development of the composition, the new variations in line and colour, the uniqueness of his reductionist process, and finally surprise at the overall impact of the work that makes each drawing both recognisable and unique." 

Greville Patterson on Time and Intimism

Greville Patterson on Time and Intimism

For me, Richard’s pictures with their highly detailed, grid-articulated surfaces SLOW THE EYE down.

They force the eye to LOOK LONGER . . . . . They stop it from scanning.

The grids break the pictures down into zones that allow the eye to settle for a more lingering and intimate involvement with the subject; the forms; colours; details; etc . . .

His pictures don’t have a slippery, ‘get-it-all-in-one-take’, easy to dismiss quality . . . “There she is, Mona Lisa, funny little smile, move on then . . . “

The slowed down visual engagement Richard’s technique creates is, for me, the key to his INTIMISM.

My Visual Perspective

My Visual Perspective

I’ve always been fascinated by geometric, organic and contoured pattern making, to the point where gridding and pattern making are features of every picture I produce.

I’m absorbed by surface and texture, and at galleries I get up close and examine the works from the distance from which they were produced. I love to slowly scan the surface textures, and see all the marks, strokes and nuances that were used in their creation. [...]