Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Monday, 25 February 2013

#5 - Sean Scully

Sean Scully, #5, 1992, aquatint on paper, 312 x 258mm, Tate.

More watery abstraction from Scully's Heart of Darkness series.  This time the yellow ochre brings to mind the muddy bottom of the river.  I can imagine what it would be like to sink a pole into this.  It feels like we're going deeper and deeper into the Congo here.  It's an ominous image, full of sickly heat.  Once again, the deep contrast holds you back from relaxing into it, while the vertical and horizontal lines suggest imprisonment.  There's no gap through which to escape.  We've gone too far.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

#4 - Sean Scully

Sean Scully, #4, 1992, aquatint on paper, 205 x 176mm, Tate.

Here we enter a solid month of Scully, as we work our way through the Heart of Darkness series.  Obviously it would be tempting just to round them up in one blog post, but if I did that, I would be drummed out of the Obsessive and Pointless Blog Project community.  And besides, the whole philosophy behind this blog is to find out what happens when you don't just rush on to the next thing, and instead simply look at the thing in front of you.

Although ostensibly an abstract, all I'm seeing is Mickey Mouse with square ears baring his bloody teeth.  Now, obviously this is a stupid thought, but again, I'm interested in where stupid thoughts that have no place in any other area of art writing can lead.  The Mickey Mouse thing is probably just me, but did Scully really not think that vertical red and white stripes wouldn't make the viewer think of teeth and blood?    And a it's an accompanying image to a novel, is a figurative reading really so dim?  Is this image meant to conjure up the spirit of Colonel Kurtz, perhaps?  Whatever the intention, whereas Scully's previous images in this series convey a sense of place, this very much gives me a sense that there's someone there, looking out.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

#4 - Richard Diebenkorn

 #4, Richard Diebenkorn, 1978, etching, aquatint and drypoint on paper, 277 x 200 mm, Tate.

I'm generally suspicious when painters do series of prints, especially when, as they so often do, they resemble a photo of one of their paintings that has been sent via fax.  I find it hard to convince myself that the work has some merit in its own right, and that in fact it's just art world product, existing to provide a cheap range for those who might find the price of a painting a bit steep.
   Although I get a bit of a sense of that here, what this work does do is emphasize the importance of line in Diebenkorn's work.  Tying in with his 'Ocean Park' series of paintings, in which he captures the feel of the Californian coast (or to be tediously Marxist, the joys of Californian beachfront property ownership), we can see a fragmented Cubist approach to space, with lines that conjure up the sea sandwiched between areas of land.  Indeed, positively identifying much is tricky, but nevertheless a sense of place is expertly communicated.  An image that rewards close and sustained viewing, as a location slowly reveals itself from the apparent jumble of elements.  A formalist might argue that the work should succeed or fail on its own merits, regards of its ability to connect the viewer to its subject matter, but, you know, fuck 'em.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

#3 - Sean Scully

Sean Scully, #3, 1992, aquatint on paper, 319 x 260 mm, Tate.

Further into the Heart of Darkness with Sean Scully.  A simple checkered pattern given a rippling, liquid feel by the looseness of the borderlines.  I find I'm actually enjoying Scully's work a lot more sat at home in front of my computer than I have ever done when looking at it in a gallery.   There are two possible reasons for this.  Firstly, Scully's work is often grouped with other artists who rose to prominence in the 80s as part of the 'return to painting'.  In the company of their muscular, anxious, Expressionism-on-steroids works, his look unadventurous and timid.  It seems he really deserves his own space.  Secondly, the Heart of Darkness prints were never designed for gallery viewing.  They are book illustrations.  They are intended for the personal, domestic space.  (Glad they're online though.  The book currently retails for $4,500.)  So while any aesthetic joys that might be possessed by the Anthony Caro paper sculptures are lost when flattened by photography and parceled through cyberspace into your living room, these prints actually thrive.  Which is good, because there's about a month's worth coming up soon.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

#2 - Sean Scully

Sean Scully, #2, 1992, aquatint on paper, 323 x 278 mm, Tate.

The second from Sean Scully's Heart of Darkness series.  Still watery.  Actually prefer this.  There's a tension between the restfulness of the implied ripples and the contrast between the light and dark.  I want to sink into it but it won't let me.  I like its attitude.