Project Six – Research point: Domestic interiors

Interior art works are going far back in the past, some famous fresco works from Giotto with interior views alongside the portraiture, mostly in the context of religion and the church interior. Pieter de Hooch painted in the so called ‘Gouden Eeuw’ in the 17th century in the Netherlands the intimate domestic interiors of its wealthy inhabitants.

Recently I read an interesting article in the FRIEZE magazine from Jan/Feb 2015 (Sherlock, 2015) about contemporary perspectives on the world of interiors. Domestic interiors are till today a great topic for contemporary artists reflecting on the questions ‘What makes a room a room?’ and ‘What is the story behind?’. Domestic interiors are conveying very much an intimate view and insight of the people living there, and in case of the artist’s own rooms it shows a quite visible story about her/him. Doors are especially a topic more like a metaphor that ask questions like ‘Imagine a door with no room: are you inside or outside?’ that also leads to one comment form Andy Warhol saying about the door ‘because you go in and you go out and you never get anywhere’.  Looking through a door inside a room makes the viewer more distant, like an intruder in a private life. On the other hand looking from inside through a door give a sense of imagination and longing.

One artist mentioned there was Jonas Wood (b.1965), an Los Angeles based artist with some leaning on the approach of colorists from the beginning of the 20th century like Matisse, some surrealistic aspects as well as Van Gogh’s attitude to paint the intimate and closest things to him. Wood takes some references from Pop Art and David Hockney, with some abstract patterns in the paintings. He made a great amount of different works on his domestic environment providing an intimate insight in his life. He bases his works to a large extent on photographs taken from all different angles and viewpoints and cutting and pasting them together like a collage and composition study as an intermediate step towards his final paintings.

I took three examples of his works as they show the context of my current drawing project quite well:

JONAS WOOD (B. 1977)  ‘STUDIO HALLWAY,’ 2010

JONAS WOOD (B. 1977)
‘STUDIO HALLWAY,’ 2010

JONAS WOOD (B. 1977)  ‘ROSY's MASKS’ 2008

JONAS WOOD (B. 1977)
‘ROSY’s MASKS’ 2008

JONAS WOOD (B. 1977)  ‘Self Portrait In Downstairs Bathroom’, 2011

JONAS WOOD (B. 1977)
‘Self Portrait In Downstairs Bathroom’, 2011

The first two works in oil/acryl on canvas are rather quite large in format with around 2 – 2.5m in one dimension. The last one is smaller with around 70-80 cm, more like a study, and he used not oil but gouache and coloured pencil. Besides the interiors Wood is painting to a large extent sport figures and images with plants. Both subjects from his daily life and what interests him most. In the painting ‘Studio Hallway‘ he even includes some of his other paintings in the image. What seems to be a common theme is a certain distortion in perspective, more than just a foreshortening effect. With bold colors and stylistic shapes the artist puts the elements together to a whole. The other two works ‘Rosy’s Masks‘ and ‘Self portrait in downstairs bathroom‘ show quite strong markings. with outline drawing together with different hatching technique they are more drawn than painted. The first work ‘Hallway study‘ seems rather distant and impersonal. The other two have a  more personal touch to it by showing items of daily use.

Wood relives with these works his memories of the spaces around him and e.g. in his work ‘Rosy’s Masks’ the depicted masks and the flickering TV provides more insight in the memories of this room. There seems to rest a certain mystic at the place. Jonas Wood is considered as a sincere artist and is compared with David Hockney and Edouard Vuillard (Smith, 2011).


This led me to look at some works of Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), a french artist and companion of Paul Gauguin, Paul Sérusier, and Maurice Denis. He was member of the Nabis, a group that elaborated the Synthetist method, emphasising more imagination and mystic than direct observation. Form and colour were applied in the context of emotion and sensation. One of his main  themes were domestic interiors. In 1899 he produced a series of colour lithographs on the theme Landscape and Interiors. Although he is not a contemporary artist, for me some of his works show a good relationship to Jonas Wood as well as demonstrating a certain modern touch with regards to distortion and viewpoints as well as creation of atmosphere:

EDOUARD VUILLARD (1868-1940)  ‘INTERIOR WITH CEILING LAMP (INTÉRIEUR A LA SUSPENSION)’ FROM LANDSCAPES AND INTERIORS (PAYSAGES ET INTÉRIEURS), 1899

EDOUARD VUILLARD (1868-1940)
‘INTERIOR WITH CEILING LAMP’ FROM LANDSCAPES AND INTERIORS, 1899

EDOUARD VUILLARD (1868-1940)  ‘INTERIOR WITH PINK WALLPAPER III (INTÉRIEUR AUX TENTURES ROSES III)‘ FROM LANDSCAPES AND INTERIORS (PAYSAGES ET INTÉRIEURS), 1899

EDOUARD VUILLARD (1868-1940)
‘INTERIOR WITH PINK WALLPAPER III‘ FROM LANDSCAPES AND INTERIORS, 1899

I find it quite interesting how Vuillard used cut-off and off-center compositions with some viewpoints rather uncommon (‘Interior with pink wallpaper III‘ with an upward view), nearly modern, close to some works of Jonas Wood. Door openings one can look through and the main light is coming from there. People following their daily chores or just taken their time to inhale the atmosphere. The downward viewpoint in ‘Interior with ceiling lamp’ makes the person to the right even smaller and the lamp gets much more attention. It is an unbalanced composition, the eye moves around the picture without rest. The person in the picture seems to provide a bit of rest to the viewer. For me it is quite ambiguous, as if there are questions open that cannot be answered. Te second work is more balanced and restful. These works are lithographs, i.e. the image is drawn on the stone before printing. The colors used are somewhat limited, and it is visible that Vuillard is working on different textures and patterns across the picture, especially in ‘Interior with pink wallpaper III’ with quite contrasting line marks.


A contemporary artist who visualizes the further above mentioned question ‘Imagine a door with no room’ (Sherlock, 2015) is Toba Khedoori (b.1964) an australian born and Los Angeles based artist with Iraqi heritage. Mostly she is working on very large scale (4-6m) on wax coated paper.

TOBA KHEDOORI (B.1964)  ‘UNTITLED (Doors), 1999

TOBA KHEDOORI (B.1964)
‘UNTITLED (Doors), 1999

TOBA KHEDOORI (B.1964)  ‘UNTITLED (Window), 1999

TOBA KHEDOORI (B.1964)
‘UNTITLED (Window), 1999

Her few domestic images, doors, chairs, windows, are completely separated from any background, as if those objects are somewhere or nowhere in space. With that and the large monumental scale the works invite the viewer in a kind of meditation. The works are very minimal and simplistic. Although, the perspectives (e.g. ‘Untitled (doors)) are quite normal without distortion. It seems that Khedoori is trying to balance the busy time around us, like a paradox. Quite an interesting aspect is the wax coating for that large scale. Although the surround space of the few objects is blank, the space is not white as it takes up different traces from the environment (hairs, dirt) (Johnson, 1999). By that it demonstrates a physical presence.


I am coming back again to another contemporary artist: Robbie Bushe (b.1964). A few weeks ago I did already a visual research on his narrative work and his use of ink, pen, and ball pen (see Robbie Bushe -Visual Research). Somehow his work keeps my attention. Therefore, I checked out on his webpage some other works from previous years and I found quite interesting domestic interior works of his time 2007 when he returned to his place of origin in Edinburgh after several years away and on the route.

ROBBIE BUSHE (B. 1964)  ‘Wellington Place Hallway', 2007

ROBBIE BUSHE (B. 1964)
‘Wellington Place Hallway’, 2007

ROBBIE BUSHE (B. 1964)  ‘HALLWAY STUDY’, 2007

ROBBIE BUSHE (B. 1964)
‘HALLWAY STUDY’, 2007

ROBBIE BUSHE (B. 1964)  ‘CHANGING A LIGHT BULB’, 2007

ROBBIE BUSHE (B. 1964)
‘CHANGING A LIGHT BULB’, 2007

Bush just draws whatever he sees around him. It seems like a discovery tour in the new environment by drawing. I find it quite helpful to see his painting ‘Wellington place hallway’ and the study alongside ‘Hallway study‘. Amazingly these two works reminds me so much to the composition study #2 I did in exercise 2. The view from the hallway through two door openings, both door with different frames. He keeps the light coming from the openings, more in the study than in the painting. The drawn people convey a familiarity and emotional connection. There is a distortion of the floor between the rooms, like a upward movement, more in the painting than the study. His colours used are not so bold, rather pastel, and it seems as if there is a kind of soft ‘pink’ cloud laying in the atmosphere, quite strong in the painting. What is quite intriguing is a certain resemblance of these works with the two interiors from Edouard Vuillard.

Another work that I looked at is ‘Changing a light bulb‘. It kept my attention for his use of gouache color to create a certain atmosphere. With simple line drawing Bushe depicts the main shapes in the frontplane and the backplane. The environment of the room is set with a slight angle. There is an atmospheric depth with darker colour in the frontplane and less saturated colours in the backplane. There is a narrative in the picture, but I feel the atmosphere is giving more to the image and somehow adding another element to the narrative.

Robbie Bushe is very much a urban sketcher, even at his home, and his using line marks as well as colour to create shapes, perceivable forms, and atmosphere.


Learnings:

The research on domestic interiors gave me some more insight in how to use perspectives, viewpoints, distortion, and color to convey a certain atmosphere and narrative. It shows the broad spectrum from flat full covered picture planes to quite minimalistic rather meditative impressions. I think I can take some of this with me for the next exercises. I will try to get some sketches done in the ‘spirit’ of those artists, to see how this influences my own mark making.

Reference

  • Sherlock, Amy (2015) ‘World of Interiors’ in: FRIEZE Magazine, no.168, pp.114-119. Available from:  http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/world-of-interiors/
  • Smith, Roberta (2011) ‘Paintings by Jonas Wood’, in New York Times, March 17, 2011
  • Johnson, Ken (1999) ‘Art in Review: Toba Khedoori’, in New York Times, June 25, 1999
  • Oxford Art Online Library

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: