Katja Strunz

The Berlin based artist Katja Strunz I thought would be interesting to look at. She had a solo show at the Camden Arts Centre about a year ago called ‘Sound of the Pregeometric Age’. Strunz works with the aftermath or resonance of history, unfolding in space and time. I liked her sculpture/installations a lot, especially as I am interested in combining my print work with some form of geometric form to act an equivalent to my print work. I also work with steel but so far I am only making prints from the metal! It is the reference to time or the idea of an aftermath of an event that interests me. Her ‘Oddball orchestra’ I find really funny to look at, the assembled instruments and objects taking on personalities once abandoned by their owners. 

Einbruchstellen, echibition view at CFA, 2008
Katja Strunz's Sound of the Pregeometric Age (2009)
Oddball orchestra … installation view of Strunz’s Sound of the Pregeometric Age (2009). Photograph: Andy Keate/Courtesy of Camden Arts Centre
Untitled, steel, 18 elements, 270 x 170 x 0,6 cm, 2008


John Cage 4’33”- The idea of writing a silent piece of music

I have been reading a book by Liz Kotz, Words to be Looked At, Language in 1960s Art, (2007) The MIT Press. Kotz addresses in this book how language became more evident and used in visual art from the 1960s onwards.

Kotz begins with discussing the groundbreaking silent composition, 4’33” made by the American composer John Cage in 1952. 4’33”, although composed as a piece of music, 4’33” was also notated entirely in words and numbers to make it accessible for people to read without musical training. This particular version of the score became widely circulated in the 1960s. What was ground breaking about this is how words could exist in a musical score, how they would occupy the space on a piece of paper. In his compositions that led to 4’33” in the 1930s and 1940s, Cage had gradually eliminated from his work many of the properties considered as musical conventions such as – melody, harmony and notes. Instead viewing music as the ‘organisation of sound and the musical composition as something like a time structure – a series of time lengths or “time brackets” that could be filled with any material or non.’ (Kotz L 2007)

In 1939 works such as First Construction (in Metal) and Imaginary Landscape No.1 dropped clusters of percussion sounds into pre determined grids of music. Cage came to conceive these as ‘musical structures based on lengths of time’ (Kotz L 2007). Imaginary Landscape No.1 involved records on different turntables being played at different frequencies. The use of recording instruments for music and tapes fitted with Cage’s idea of a pre determined time structure, available to be filled by any content with whatever happens at any time. For example just pressing the record button and recording the sounds in the surrounding space for a structure of time would also work.

Imaginary Landscape no. 1, 1939, Cubierta, cubierta interior y página 1, Credit line: Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing, Arts, Astor, Lenos and Tilden Foundations.

The score for Fontana Mix (1958) freely invented a complex, graphic notation. Cage returned to the idea of the music score but this time invented his own music notational systems, which correlated to similar systems found in conceptual art. It was a return to the idea that the artist puts forward a set of codes which are animated by the performer. For Cage, the relationship to the written score, time structure or invented graphic notation had a direct relationship to the performance. For example 4’33” may have appeared in some way an improvisation but it had to relate exactly to what was written down.

John Cage, graphic notation for Fontana Mix (1958) Hermmar Press Inc, New York

Motherwell on abstract art

Following on from the section of ‘Black or White’ I have found another interesting piece of writing from the same book, The Writings of Robert Motherwell, Edited by Dore Ashton and Joan Banach, 2007 – ‘What Abstract Art Means to Me’ Museum of Modern Art Bulletin 18, no3(Spring 1951).

“One of the most striking aspects of abstract art’s appearance is her nakedness, an art stripped bare. How many rejections on the part of her artists! Whole worlds – the world of objects, the world of power and propaganda, the world of anecdotes, the world of fetishes and ancestor worship. One might almost legitimately receive the impression that abstract artists don’t like anything but the act of painting…

What new kind of mystique is this, one might ask. For make no mistake, abstract art is a form of mysticism. Still, this is not to describe the situation very subtly. To leave out consideration of what is being put into painting, I mean. One might truthfully say that abstract art is stripped bare of other things in order to intensify it, its rhythms, spatial intervals, and colour structure.”


Motherwell on ‘Black or White’

In the book The Writings of Robert Motherwell, edited by Dore Ashton and Joan Banach, 2007 there contains a piece of writing by Motherwell on ‘Black or White’, 1950. In Black or White Paintings by European and American Artists, exhibition catalogue (New York: Samual Kootz Gallery, 1950)

Motherwell refers to black and white in their own physicality of weight and chemistry:

‘The chemistry of pigments is interesting: ivory black, like bone black is made from charred bones or horns,  carbon black is the result of burnt gas and the most common of whites – apart from cold, slimy zinc oxide and recent bright titanium dioxide are made from lead…. Being soot, black is light and fluffy, weighing a twelfth of the average pigment.’

The next area is to understand how light interacts with both black and white:

‘Black does not reflect but absorbs all light; that is its essential nature; while that of white it to reflect light; dictionaries define it that of snow’s colour’.

… And then the relationship that black and white have on a canvas or a sheet of paper. A blank white sheet of paper can be considered as a contained surface area, however, when black is added to that sheet of paper there becomes almost a negotiation between the black and the white as to which will remain the surface area and which one will be pushed back. Motherwell writes:

‘As the thought comes to me to exorcise and transform this black with a white drawing, it has already become a surface … A fresh white canvas is a void, as is the poets’ sheet of blank white paper…If the amounts of black or white are right, they will have condensed into quality, into feeling.’

Embossed print


Embossed print

White outs, black outs and a little bit of acid house!

I am trying to mix the prints up a bit, still panelling but going for an abstract combination the jars or clashes with each other. The idea is to work with abstract equivalents or elements forced to combine or work with each other. Plus I wanted to do something that looked a bit more fun. Hence the florescent colours in the top left panel.


One small step into sculpture…

I wanted to show some of my etching plates. The use of the plasma cutter has meant that I can create holes in my plates which print as raised embossed white surface areas. However the plates are turning into interesting objects. The question is can I develop this further? I would really like to make prints that exist with some relationship to a 3d form but I  need to get this right, otherwise it will just look like I have stuck my etching plates up on the wall!

MA Printmaking Interim show 12/12

The MA interim show in House gallery was a chance for all of the full timers to test our work out, with the knowledge that this would be outside of the safe confines of the ‘art school’. It was a great opportunity to break the ice and do a trial run with some of my new prints. My prints are growing and as I stick to the same size, the opportunity to work in panels and try out different combinations seemed like a good idea. Below is an attempt at at conveying a rhythmic, abstract sequence. What I have taken from this is that I need to continue working with sequences, keeping this idea of time, movement, rhythm but I also like working with the idea of ‘black outs’ and ‘white outs’ and somewhere in between both.

Below is the group flyer just which was the result of true MA printmaking group effort!

Contemporary Abstraction, 2 paintings

I have been trying to find some examples of contemporary abstract painting that potentially offers something new as I naturally seem to gravitate to any work made before 1960. The book ‘Painting Abstraction, New Elements in Abstract Painting’ by Bob Nickas (Phaidon) had a couple examples of work that interested me. The painting below is by Vija Celmins ‘ Night Sky Painting No.1 1990 – 1991. Abstract art has a strong relationship with language and the use of titles or the lack of a title shapes how the image is presented. Vija Celmin’s Night Sky painting does something interesting as it could rest in either an abstract or the representational area. The key is that the title alludes us to the night sky and without it, it could just be a black painting with white dots. 

Vija Celmins ‘ Night sky painting No.1 1990-91 oil on canvas on wood panel
22×181/2 in

Jules de Balincourt, primarily a landscape, figurative and sign painter seems to be somewhere in between abstraction and representational/figurative. ‘Untitled (Black Map)’ 2006 below offers an idea again of an image that could belong in either area. Even though initially it is titled as ‘untitled’ the ‘(Black Map)’ brings us to this idea of a map or a grid, possibly something nocturnal. This has got me thinking, I seem to be interested in transitional areas whether between the verbal and visual or between the figurative and the abstract.
Jule de Balincourt – Untitled (Black Map) 2006 oil and spray paint on panel

Print run

Picture blue 015

Print run

Work that I made today…

I have still to document my ‘5 stages of a spatial relationship’ which has materialised in some form and will hopefully feature in my first crit on 1st December. But instead I am showing my recent progression today. I am not too sure how I am responding to these prints. I have been working in very heavy blacks, enjoying the use of ink and allowing it to sit on the paper. But it has been a really nice transition to consider the subtleties of aquatint using spit biting and shorter etching times.

These prints are really about a light and dark pushing forward and back – another spatial consideration? I think for now these prints have to sit for a while before I consider titles. Maybe today was about letting the process do the talking.

First proof, I could not make my mind up which way up.
This way up looks a bit more sinister!
The yellow band at the bottom, I have had problems getting the balance right in size, plus the yellow is not as strong as I want.
Print number 2, spit bite coming from one side, I need to decide
which side!
I like this print, whenever I like my work most people often do not, but
I like the idea of a bit of a fight between light and dark, sense
of pushing back and forward in space.

Constructivist Poems – Pierre Garnier

Pierre Garnier in the early sixties would refer to constructivist poems or constructivist landscapes. He emerged in the 1960s as one of France’s prominent poets associated with concrete poetry.
‘Words are components of the constructivist landscape.They determine the poetic course evoked in the reader’s/spectator’s mind’ [1] 
I am interested in Garnier’s ideas – more in depth reading needs to be done but the idea of a constructivist poem which moves on from concrete poetry to looking at the spatial relationships.

Below is Garnier’s poetic categories which I thought simplified really well the different strands within the area of visual/experimental poetry.
Concrete poetry; working with language material creating structures with it, transmitting primarily aesthetic information.
Phonetic poetry: based upon the phonemes, sound bodies of language and generally speaking upon all sounds emitted by the vocal organs of man, worked on the tape-recorder and tending towards the creation of spatial sound;
Objective poetry: pictorial, graphic, sculptural and musical arrangement due to the collaboration of painters, sculptors, musicians and typographers;
Visual poetry; the word or its elements taken as objects and centers of visual energy;
Phonic Poetry: the poem composed directly on magnetic tape, words and sentences being taken as objects and centers of auditory energy; Cybernetic, serial, permutational, verbophonic, etc., poetry .” [2]
1. Garnier P.Constructivist poems. in:Experimental -visual-Concrete, Avant-Garde Poetry Since the 1960s.Ed Jackson D, Vos E, Drucker J.Radopi B.V.Amsterdam, 1996.
2. Garnier P, quoted in Mary Ellen Solt. Concrete Poetry (Indiana:Indiana U.P. 1979) 79.

Rene Daniels: Painting on Unknown Languages – Camden Arts Centre

Earlier today I was looking for an exhibition to go to that I could relate my initial research to. The Camden Arts Centre has a current exhibition on by a Dutch artist called Rene Daniels, focussing on his work between 1980 and 1987. He is seen as an important figure in the history of Dutch art and from the exhibition leaflet description he is also seen as an influence to artists such as Marlene Dumas, Peter Doig and Chris Ofili. I was drawn to the idea of his work being ‘…a combination of visual poetry on one hand and painting on the other’ ( Rene Daniels, 1983).  His work looks at the relationship between language and image, word play and painting.

I really loved the show at the Camden Arts Centre and I felt really excited to discover an artists work that I knew very little about. From the exhibition summary it mentions that after 1987 Rene, had suffered some form of an illness from which he has never fully recovered. His work combines a lot of areas that I am interested in, word and image combinations but his paintings also work around this area of interior space, painting rooms that open up and creating imagined spaces for the viewer. I have chosen a few of his images that I liked but also to indicate how the paintings work with words, symbols and imagined spaces. I would like to do some further research on this artist as his approach and ideas have a lot in common with my current ideas and research.

Cutting Space

First print almost complete (image to follow).
Printing and inking needs to be resolved and printed on 300gm textured somerset instead of the 250gm.
– Invest in carbon black charbonel to get a better covering of black.

However this can be done at a later stage – better to move on to the next print.

One thing that has kept on returning to me this week whilst making new plates is the idea of ‘cutting space’. In reality this is what I do with my plates. There are cuts between surface areas, some falling back and others moving forward. This feels at the moment a little simplistic but it would be interesting to see if I could expand on this.

The first artist that springs to mind is Lucio Fonatana – see below
‘Concept Spatiale’, 1959 painting by Lucio Fontana, 100 x 125 cm.