My Love Affair With Paint

 

Just More Smoke and Mirrors

If you catch my posts from time to time, then you will know that I am currently in the middle of an MA in Art and Science at Central Saint Martins in London.  I embarked upon the course for loads of reasons, but one of the principal ones was to develop my artistic practice….

Until now, I have always considered myself to be a sculptor; really because that’s all I have known, with the exception of drawing from life, to help get into a sculpture – as another way of seeing if you like.  That all changed for two reasons that happened more or less at the same time.

Early Experiment

Firstly there was the Abstract Expressionist Show at the RA.  My favourite art of all time (upon which I shall write another time) and the show was a blockbuster with all the greats represented.  Experiencing all these monumental paintings in the flesh totally blew me away (I went numerous times) – and in my note book I wrote in capital letters – I WANT TO PAINT!

The second thing was that during my screen print making induction at CSM, I got really excited by the mixing of the paints.  I chose bold primary colours and I just found them amazing – in their own right and in the way they combine / layer and mix as one pushes them across the screen: sublime!

Orange Swirl on Black Experiment

So with all this pent up desire, I started to play with paints in my studio – I’ve never had any formal lessons as such and this probably helped, as I could be genuinely open to experimentation.  I used household paints and quality ‘wallpaper’ lining paper because all this was readily accessible to me (and relatively inexpensive) and in strong colours – red, black, blue, yellow, white etc and applied them directly from the can.  I would then move them across the paper using a plastering trowel (well I am (was!) a sculptor…).

I wasn’t looking for any particular outcomes but being bold and experimental – pushing the paints around, allowing them to partly combine or not. I might add additional layers; looking to see what would happen if the layers were still wet or allowed to dry and so on. With this and by incorporating gestural mark making, an exciting way to express myself has emerged. I have made literally dozens of paintings so far and learnt much about the language of paint.

Shouting in Silence

A love of paint has developed – for the colours themselves and the textural qualities that can be achieved; the spontaneity of making it affords and ultimately because it enables me to achieve a feeling of expressive simplicity.  I have already posted on how I have taken my new painterly language on and developed my Interim Show work, ‘Hell is in My Head’. However, since then I have continued to relate my painting to my research.

A Life of Lies

The way I paint – intuitively, without forward planning, complements my desire for immediate and almost unconscious expression.  I look to explore emotionality and ‘what it is to be human’, but adding layers from a psychoanalytical and cognitive neuropsychological perspective.

Darkness Colliding

Mental health and fragility of mind are recurring themes and I am beginning to appreciate my work as a kind of self-psychoanalysis.  I continue to express my emotions and unconscious mind and ultimately aim to produce work with which the viewer will feel a connection; to be drawn into it and to develop an emotional response of their own.

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Central Saint Martins MA Art Programme Interim Show

So I’m about half way through my MA now and really loving it – CSM is just an incredibly vibrant, exciting and stimulating place to be… My only complaint is that it’s all going far too quickly!

My art has always been about what it is to be human and emotionality and I have continued to explore this, adding layers from a psychoanalytical and cognitive neuropsychological perspective (well I am doing Art and Science!).  Our very fragility of mind fascinates me and I am drawn to areas that highlight this and give insight into ourselves – I’ve also become increasingly aware of my art as a type of self-psychoanalysis.

Detail shot

The work I did for our recent Interim Show was as a direct response to something I found incredibly moving and insightful – I went to ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ at the Wellcome Collection… It looked quite complex so (and I never normally do this) I grabbed what I thought was an audio guide – only it wasn’t.  It was actually a piece entitled ‘Our Voices’ – an audio companion bringing together interviews and spoken word with lived experiences of mental health issues.

Detail shot

To say that I was moved by it is a serious understatement – I found it harrowing and shocking and was deeply and profoundly affected by it… It made me withdraw into myself hunched on a bench whilst the words washed through me.  The crazy thing is (and I was dimly aware of this) I was in complete control of the recordings – I could have turned off the voices at any point but instead I pressed play for the next track, and the next, and the next, until I had heard all ten.

It left me in a kind of dazed state… I felt like a zombie and at one point just wanted to collapse into the floor and be swallowed up – like I just wanted to escape the depths of suffering and hopelessness I had witnessed and now living on in my head.  I felt low for several days afterwards.

I’ve attached a link so you can listen for yourself if you want to, but please do be prepared https://wellcomecollection.org/ourvoices

Anyway, a few weeks later, I decided I should have another listen to ‘Our Voices’.  This time I was prepared for what I was going to hear and as a result whilst still moving, I was less profoundly affected.  I wrote down a few of the lines that most resonated with me in my journal.  And for no reason that I am aware of (I’m no poet), I felt compelled to write a verse as my own response to the voices:-

Hell is in My Head

Let me go under again

Got hell in my head

Sweet release

Hell in my head

Life holds no relief

I beg you

Let me go under again

I wanted to make an artistic response to this and found that with these words and in remembering the first time I heard the voices, I was able to take the emotions and feelings engendered in me and make a painting.  I felt that this work would represent much about where I had got to in my practice and research, so that it would be perfect for my Interim Show piece.

Instinctively I felt that large scale would be best – to give the viewer an immersive experience.  The painting itself was done spontaneously – working intuitively and quite rapidly with large gestural movements to make what I hoped would be my direct expressive response.

Installation day

I used a paintbrush to ‘write’ my poem on top of a large cube which I stood in front of the painting – I thought it might help the viewer into the piece and that there might be some sort of interesting dialogue between the painting, the physicality of the cube and with the words of the poem.  The cube was painted dark oxblood with a black top dripping down in heavily textured paint onto the red – as if smothering the box, a metaphor for the affect of the drugs.

The feedback was very positive and I was pleased with that and with the work itself (particularly not having painted much before and certainly never at this scale).  I’m very excited about where my journey with paint will take me next, and even have it in mind to start working back with sculpture (an element of my practice neglected of late due to my new love affair with paint and it’s ability for spontaneous expression…).  Watch this space!

In progress on studio floor

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‘This is an Art School’ at Tate Exchange

I posted recently in advance of this event with Central Saint Martins, UAL.  It’s now happened and I just wanted to share the experience.

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It was a real honour to take part in such a high profile event whilst raising issues close to my heart.  I was actually quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it, especially engaging with people and very encouraged by how positive their reactions were.

There was lots of media coverage about our project – this Channel 4  link is worth looking at if you’re interested in the bigger picture – https://www.channel4.com/news/is-art-education-struggling-in-the-school-curriculum

My contribution:-

Revealing Creativity 

I believe that everyone is artistic and that creative subjects must be made compulsory at secondary school; we would be a richer, more contented and balanced society that would find better solutions to the big issues.

The global concerns of our time (resolving conflict, climate change, immigration and a tough economic environment, etc) require creative solutions BUT our education system is producing a generation who think within the ‘academic’ box.  Most people believe that they are not creative /can’t draw and are not encouraged to do so.  My workshop was designed to inspire and ignite creativity in all and was a call for change.

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‘Students’ were asked to produce a ‘doodle’ – without ‘thinking’.  They were encouraged not to be considered in their approach but to ‘play’.  However, for me doodles are drawings direct from the unconscious and reflect the creative impulse.

Lack of expectation/pressure to make an ‘amazing’ piece of art (everyone can doodle) encouraged participation.  By combining all doodles into a large abstract assemblage on an expansive wall; each ‘doodle’ became a small but vital contribution to this collective installation.

This project might not have felt like a big deal to those of us in the art world but for many other people who feel marginalised, even afraid of art, the opportunity for them to contribute to an installation at the ‘Tate’ presented a powerful message.

garyscotttatedoodles-2

I was surprised how rewarding and enjoyable it was for me to take part in this and was bowled over by the excitement and enthusiasm of the public – not one person declined contributing; even those who initially said that they couldn’t draw or even doodle… Also, everyone seemed supportive of the premise that creativity should be encouraged in all.

garyscotttatedoodles-3

A huge variety of people took part from a 2 year old, through art students from Goldsmiths and Medical Students – What fun we had!

 

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THIS IS AN ART SCHOOL – TATE EXCHANGE Art Programme

Open to the Public on 5th Floor Switch House Tate Modern as THIS IS AN ART SCHOOL part of Tate Exchange 

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‘This art school, created by students, staff and alumni of Central Saint Martins (I’m currently in the first year of my 2yr MA), explores what the future of arts education in the UK might look like.”

With students becoming teachers and galleries becoming studios, standard orthodoxies of the art school will be upturned. The school will be designed, built and run in public view with opportunities for visitors to engage through workshops, talks, events and studio making.

I’ll be there noon until 6pm on Tuesday 10th – Please come and say and contribute to my ‘Doodle of Doodles’ installation as part of my ‘Revealing Creativity’ workshop.

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The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined

Check out my blog post for University of Arts London and our recent postgraduate community visit to this amazing exhibition…

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http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/pgcommunity/2016/12/05/pop-up-common-room-the-vulgar-fashion-redefined/

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Central Saint Martins baby

CSMEver since graduating from the Art Academy, London in 2013 I’ve contemplated undertaking a Masters qualification and since then I’ve looked at a number of the better known art schools and visited shows and open days and so on – trying to get a feel for the establishments, what kind of artists go there and (the big question) would I fit?

Practising artists who I respect and who are progressing well with their careers have consistently mentioned how important an MA can be – I think that it comes down to a number of factors that a top art school can offer including increased visibility and connections.  From my perspective I am keen to investigate more fully the art context of which I am part but also to more fully define my own languages and intent – to dig deeper, make better work with a peer network that will elevate me to new heights.

The break through in my research came when I went to the Central Saint Martins (part of University of Arts London) Graduate Show.  I was totally blown away by it – the scale and ambition of much of the work, the fact that there was lots of sculpture and that it all felt very ‘now’, really exciting… (btw – I already had an affection for the place having done a short course on fabricating steel sculpture there – see earlier post).

At the show I noticed that CSM offered something I had not heard of before – an MA in Art and Science.  It was impossible to tell the work of these artists from the regular MA Fine Art ones but what really interested me were their lines of enquiry.  The ‘Science’ related artists had artists’ statements which resonated with me and areas of interest which being science related are more tangible.

My first degree was in Psychology and my art is often an exploration of the conflicts between the conscious and unconscious mind – it seems odd but I had never made the connection before, in anything other than a superfluous way.  Discovering this course was pretty much a ‘Eureka’ moment for me and as I began to join the dots, it became more and more compelling.  It represents a real opportunity to explore my art practice with scientific reference.

Reading the website descriptions, case studies and details just served to heighten my resolve.  The only issue was that  I had totally missed the deadline for applications(!)  I decided to contact the course leader, Nathan Cohen, directly and to arrange a meeting with him – to investigate my suitability and to discuss the possibility of joining next year…

http://www.arts.ac.uk/csm/courses/postgraduate/ma-art-and-science/

Much to my surprise Nathan was able to see me within a few days and at that meeting he offered to consider me for this year’s intake if I got my application in quickly!!  Suffice to say, that’s what I did and then following a formal interview, much to my relief and excitement I was offered a place.

The course is full time over two years (2016 to 2018) and I will keep you posted on my progress via my blog.  I certainly can’t wait to see where my journey will take me – it feels as if my life has come full circle, being able to dip back into the fascinating world of cognitive psychology.

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New Sculpture for St Ives, Cornwall

mayorIf you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that in 2014 I had the honour of installing a Memorial sculpture ‘Free Spirit’ in the heart of St Ives, Cornwall.  It was unveiled with a flourish by the Mayor (I did a post on this at the time, if you are interested).

I was so delighted to be asked to undertake a second sculpture for the same development (St Nicholas Court, Porthmeor Road) as this was for me a massive endorsement of my work – after all the residents had lived with my first sculpture for a couple of years and were keen to get a second(!)

The idea this time was to reflect much of the same qualities as the first piece, particularly the sea and the feeling of the location between the bays in St Ives but not to overshadow the earlier memorial sculpture.  I worked up a number of sketch maquette ideas – many of which had similar lines to the original work but different in form – the new sculpture needed to sit happily alongside the original and not jar with it but complement it without being too similar…

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The piece that I developed through to the final work was inspired in large part by those lovely square sales you see on old fashioned Cornish fishing boat rigs – and by coincidence, much painted by Alfred Wallace who used to live yards away… It’s called ‘On the Wind’.

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