Visual research (3) – Process, Surface, and Environment

My tutor suggested some contemporary artists for further contextualisation in the area of process, surface, environment. I have to say I find it at times difficult to research the right artists for my subjects. I will look at possible take aways for my personal project.

Exploration of Process

Ian Davenport (b.1966)
and video about making of ‘Colourfall‘, 2014 at: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

A more recent body of work consists of the series ‘Colourfall’, or as he called them also ‘puddle paintings‘. He explained this kind  of work as a ‘performative kind of work‘ (Petersen, 2014). These are rhythmic works that consists of a controlled and uncontrolled space. Davenport used a syringe to inject the color into the canvas and let by gravity the paint drop to the floor. The traces left by the paint are first perfect parallel lines that turn into a chaotic mix towards the bottom. The process is rather simple. But by selecting a variety of colors. Overall one can call these series ‘Drip and Line’. Davenport takes references from old masters as Holbein (Colourfall: Holbein) or van Gogh (Puddle Painting: Blue Study) when he analyses the colors used by them and to translate those by juxtaposition  into his approach.

water-based paint on aluminium, mounted on aluminium panel
(98 1/2 x 147 1/2 in / 250.2 x 374.7 cm) [online image] Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

He even did a black/white painting in the same approach:
acrylic paint on stainless steel, mounted on aluminium panel (17 3/4 x 15 in / 45.1 x 38.1 cm) [online image]Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

In summary Davenport’s works are a simple and playful approach to painting, enjoying the process of paint flow, not having all the time control, and to avoid a over-intellectual approach. It is rather a painting approach of an intimate experience of physicality (gravity, density of paints)
I think this would be good reference for my next OCA unit ‘Practice of Painting’.
Take away:
– Reduction to one simple phenomena (dripping) can be quite powerful.
– A combination of controlled and accidental (un-controlled) elements can add to a new dimension to one perspective
– A process-based approach can be one way of exploring the space of the pictorial support.
– Exploring physicality of the used medium leads toward a pictorial image with its own right.

Question to me:
– What physicality of which medium could I use for capturing a time based drawing process of re-called sensations?


Callum Innes (b.1962)
In the series of ‘Exposed Painting‘ Innes applies a reverse painting process in his works. Innes calls them also ‘un-painting‘. First he applies multiple layers one single color oil paint in geometric shapes on the the surface till it gets quite dark or even black. Than Innes removes the paint with repetitive brush strokes with turpentine. The traces left on the support show the the influence of time during drying time as over times the oil paint is getting harder to remove. And the traces left show an intimate view inside the ‘colour’ as various hues are getting exposed and leaving a vibrating visual color field.

This series demonstrate also the effect of time. Effects of the drying time of the oil paint, the movement of brush strokes, and the loss of paint are becoming visible, the pictorial image captures the traces of the process. The pictures also can be perceived as a dialogues of presence and absence (OSL, 2015)

‘Exposed Painting Dioxiane Violet‘, 2015
oil on linen, 70 7/8 x 69 inches (180 x 175 cm)
[online image] Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

Another work demonstrating Innes’ approach of additive and subtractive process is

– ‘Monologue Black 22‘, 2008
oil on canvas, 222’ x 222 cm / 87.4 x 87.4 in
[online image] Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

For me there is another dimension of visual depth that I like.

Take away:
– Capturing time through painting and un-painting i.e. positive and subsequent negative painting, drawing (?) steps
– Process as a time-based activity were traces of time-elapse become visible and been captured. The physicality of medium and tools are impacting the effects.

Question to me:
– What media and tools could be used to capture the time effect of sensational experiences and re-called experiences (there is time elapse between)

Exploration of surface and environment

Boyle Family
The Boyle family if a group of collaborative artists based in London. They do not exclude any medium and worked with all various materials as well as with performances, sculpture, photography, film etc. One of the better known works and in my context are the ‘Earth studies’: three-dimensional casts from various and real locations including everthying that was there on one spot. Their approach is dictated by a random selection of materials, the created works are according to them an approximation to reality. They do not say it is the reality as the works are influenced by their interaction. The works are therefore a subjective view of one moment. This is rather a ‘constructisim‘ approach were the phenomenology of the environment can not be excluded from the the individual and his interaction with the environment. The individual views impacts the way the works are presented and how they are perceived.
One intention of them is to explore ways how to present the world to the viewer (parts of it as areas of earth) without ‘prejudice‘ and preconceived notions.

But what also the artist try to say is:

“It is about trying to tell the truth,” says Sebastian Boyle, “and it is about being as accurate as you can in the telling of that truth. We think the more accurate you can be, the more interesting it is. Lots of people say they are doing art for themselves – but we actually are. And we are the only ones that can check it is real.” (Miller, 2013)

About the process the artists state:
“The works are essentially reliefs, and in are hollow and relatively light. Colours are made from crushed rocks and other natural sources; instead of canvas, there is fibreglass. Rock, mud, earth, drain covers, a garden hose, a gym shoe, sand are all painted and hollow. The family usually work on three or four pieces simultaneously, making perhaps 10 or 12 large pieces a year.”
(Miller, 2013)


Sand, Wind and Tide series‘, 1969
Edinburgh: Scottish National Gallery, 2003
[online image]  Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

The Boyle Family dissects areas of the Earth surface, incl plants, animals, liquids, and gas. It is a nearly scientific approach – with the studied, filmed, recovered pieces new works are created. They also studied a physical response by regular visits to the sites.

Another approach is taken by them in the ‘Tidal Series‘ where the same part of a beech was casted in a 12 hour interval. It is a time-elapse approach and the artists stated the their ow influence was nearly none, all visible changes only with natural influence of the tides.

Tidal series‘, 1969
[online image] Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

The Boyle Family is presenting mundane subjects at large scale to enforce the viewer to look closer.

Take away:
– Basing a work on found materials to take the essence from it and to frame it without the surrounding environment: Isolating and focusing.
– Large scale works of mundane phenomena or sites enforces the viewer to look closer.
– Casting is one way of capturing the movement as a time-based phenomena.

Question to me:

– For me this comes quite close to my personal project and I am wondering how I could relate this further to re-called sensations (tactile, auditory), perhaps to dissect my approach in single phenomena only: a) close up view as a start to focus and relate to?, b) vision, c) tactile, d) auditory, e) time-elapse. But would this be possible? Relating back to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological approach that “we encounter the world with all senses in one (embodiment)”?


Anselm Kiefer (b.1945)

Kiefer uses various media for his work e.g. ash, along with paper, straw, glitter, fire. At times he is heavily working into the surface (Cordon, 2014). It is a way or construction and de-construction. This comes close to Innes’s works of painting and un-painting but in a more sculptural approach and for me more bodily and physical intensity.  With his works and chosen media and approach he approximates and confronts with destruction and devastation in history. The works have often a mystic appeal. Kiefer transforms found materials in an imaginative way, they are not any longer mere material. Contrasting to the use of found materials like Dubuffet who incorporated sand to contradict the ‘nobility’ of oil paint or like Jasper Johns whose attached found materials rather distort the paintings than enhance them (Falconer, 2015):

At times Kiefer uses more fragile materials (e.g. straws) in a kind of contradiction to the subject matter which is often related to stark emotional responses to history.

– ‘Nuremberg‘, 1982
oil, straw, and mixed media on canvas, 110 3/8 x 149 7/8 in. (280.35 x 380.68 cm)
[online image] Available from:ürnberg [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

Take away:
– How media and found materials can be used to explore in a physical intense approach history.
– How used material can be used in contradiction to a subject and by that emphasising


Other contextual sources with similar elements

John Piper (1903-1992)

There are two series of works where Piper explores nature and especially stones and mountains in his environment in North Wales. He was fascinated by rock formations and  The series ‘Stones and Bones‘  in screen print are rather illustrative with monochrome layers, sketchy lines drawings exploring forms and space, and at times collage.

– ‘Untitled‘ from series Stones and bones, 1978
Screenprint on paper (502 x 698 mm)
[online image] Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

-‘Cwm Tryfan‘, 1949
Pen, ink, watercolour, gouache and chalk (20 x 26 in)
[online image] Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]
– ‘Rocks North Wales‘,
Mixed media (4.5 x 10 in)
[online image] Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

Piper said about his sketchbook journeys on North Wales: I felt that I was seeing the mountains for the first time and seeing them as nobody had seen them before”

I like rather Piper’s mixed media works with a limited palette in Snowdonia (North Wales). I can see Piper’s exploration of space and forms through a dialogue line drawing and indicative and at times rather blurred areas. There is an atmospheric interaction of dynamic and static elements. The small drawing ‘Rocks North Wales’  is more simplified and yet expressive drawing with a few color spots indicating atmosphere and conveying a believable environment.

Take away:
– I do think that some of my own drawings from my personal project are getting close to Piper’s drawing from North Wales.  But I do find Piper’s drawings at times too illustrative through bold use of outlines where on the hand I tried to use masses and avoiding outlines. Further I understand Piper’s drawings as an act of observation though trying to incorporate elements of site that are. One element that is coherent to my drawings is a sense of multi layers and visual depth obtained by combination of line drawing, at times blurred coloured areas, and indicative markings as an aspect of ambiguity.
(see: click here  and  click here)
– What I can push more in my works is line strokes as an element like in Piper’s drawings to establish more visual depth and  (something I actually did more in some drawings from part 4 – see: click here )
Question to me:
– As my personal project is rather about re-called sensation and bodily awareness I need to consider that I do not end with drawings that are merely a representation of an act of observation (visual). Also I need to consider my use of tissue to indicate an additional layer – of what?)


Gerhard Richter (b.1932)

Webpage:  [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

Richter’s abstract paintings are in his own words an ‘almost blind, desperate effort, like that of a person abandoned, helpless, in totally incomprehensible surroundings’ (Richter, 1985). His is not painting a subject, this develops through the process of painting. His response to nature and its intrinsic ‘rightness‘ (structure, proportions) is a kind of ‘corresponding rightness‘ (Richter, 1987). Although the painting are abstract and he starts without a motif and not knowing what is coming Richter acknowledges that the application of paint by itself is not random. His approach to abstract painting is somehow split into two parts: a) based in initial idea or feeling application of paint and shapes, b) a constant interaction with the painting by changing, eradicating, and starting again till he is satisfied with the result.
– ‘Abstract Painting‘, 2005
Oil on canvas (30 cm x 44 cm)
[online Image] Available from:  [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

Take away:
– I find it interesting and quite resonating in the visual results for Richter’s abstract paintings with some of my own works with my personal project (see my last large scale assignment piece click here , or click here , and perhaps some of my narrative small scale works click here). Besides the use of color I can see that Richter is covering more the entire  space of the support,  still with some void areas at the edges, and the image by itself is more coherent as it is more reduced to a single vibration and interaction of shapes, color, and strokes. I see tremendous parallels of the use of horizontal blurred strokes across the support.
– A more interactive back and force approach with courage for eradicating and changing. Looking back at some of my works I feel that I stopped too soon.
– I relate to Richter’s approach in the context of my re-called sensations project by as he describes a ‘blind‘ and at times desperate effort, with the urge to build up something meaningful.

Questions to me:
– Would I want to push my limits further to create more layers of meaning as I’ve done only in some attempts?
– What would it make to my re-called sensations if I add the ‘meaningfulness’?
– How would I know if something is ‘meaningful’ in the context of my project?

Looking up meaningful (Merriam-Webster): ‘having a clear, great meaning’, ‘..with lasting effect’, ‘expressing an emotion or idea without words, ‘having real importance or value’


Richard Long (b.1945) – wall drawings

Available from:

Long can be considered as a land art and conceptual artist. In his early beginning and still a student he ‘A Line Made by Walking’, 1967 – a photograph of the walking line that he left behind. He established the concept of ‘Art as a journey’. Walking, time and distance are elements that Long explored further in his sculptures made from driftwood, stones, slate etc. He mediates sites he visits, he makes recordings with photographs, text notes, and videos and uses this as a source for new ideas.

Another series of works are his ‘mud works‘ where he applies in bold strokes and with his whole body engagement the mud to the wall in rotating and splashing movements randomly applied that at the end resembles simple geometric shapes. This is rather a performative act and several videos show how he is margin his ‘wall works‘ in various museums or galleries. Long says about his use of mud “ I like … that you have the infinitesimal little splashes and drips and crosshairs of the microscale, and there’s the big powerful image you can see when you stand back. As well as being about mud, it’s also about water and gravity, the way water falls down. So, in one respect, the mud just gives it colour. The mud makes the image of the water effects.” (Butler, 2008)

Youtube video on the making of ‘River Avon Mud Circle‘ at M-Shed Bristol. Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

Overall I am fascinated by Long’s approach of mediation of site where I can see a good relation to my approach for my personal project without knowing Richard Long before. A good source for inspiration. I am not so much attracted by Long’s earlier earthworks, Land Art, where the nature is being shaped as an art work.

Take away:
– I like his use of mud as a medium in Long’s wall works.  connects for me quite well with site material. The created shapes could either be a result of recorded site phenomena or as a process based explaration of space.
Walking as a key element (concept) in art.
– Drawing as a performative act. The viewer (either in real life or through video) is engaged and the process becomes as important as eventually the result.

Questions to me:
– How can I embedd the idea of my walking path along the river, over the pebbles with my sensational experience?
– Is the walk alone a subject per se?
– What would a viewer see and feel in such a visualised context?
– Long uses installations for that to enforce the viewer ‘walking around’ the work – what can drawing add here?


Glen Onwin (b.1947)
Available from: [accessed 10 Mar 2016]

Onwin is strongly interested in nature and environment and how one can bring a meaning to and out of it. He is interested in the microcosmic structures of the physical world around us and how they are altering over time – at times a quite slow development. One example is his interrogation of the scottish environment and the disappearances of woods by human activity. In another project Onwin looks at salt from salt marsh near Dunbar and its meaning from a physical and psychological perspective. He explores various areas incl. installations and sculptural works as the installation of crystals forming on a sea of brine. He use photography to make shots over time (time-elapse) of the crystal formation and alteration. A time based creation of forms out of chaos.

In another work ‘Sea Coal, Seafield‘ 1974-5 Onwin places in grid of 3×3 photographs of a beach with the impact of tidal changes (quite similar to the ‘Tidal Series‘ of the Boyle Family) in juxtaposition with close up views showing deposits of coal mine residues on the beach. It resembles rather a forensic investigation to me to bring the impact of human activity and its pollution to the attention of the viewer.

In his painting Onwin combines similar to the Boyle Family or Anselm Kiefer natural or toxic substances as earth, ash, wood, paper, metal, salt, bitumen and polythene. His  paintings ‘embody the complexity of the human relationship with nature, emphasising the destructive effects of human intervention on the natural environment.’ (Manchester, 2005)

Take away:
– Onwin does give meaning to physical phenomena in a visual articulation.
– Installations with the time-based development could be an alternative and at times stronger (?) visualisation for the viewer. More interactive, engaging.
– Juxtaposition of similar but slightly different views showing impact of human activity. To place a series of works in a grid can visualize time-based phenomena.

Questions to me:
– What are the key physical phenomena that underlies my personal project? What would be the best approach to it?
– Is a reduction to physical phenomena coherent with my project? What about phenomenological aspects,  re-called sensations (visual, tactile, auditory)?
– Can I draw upon Onwin’s exploratory approach?
– Would juxtapositions of two or more works be more effective than placing two aspect in one drawing? (thinking about my tutors feedback on reduction)


  • I really got new ideas form this visual and contextual research. I feel that certain elements (human response, walking, time-elapse, physical qualities of environment) are quite close to my project and how I perceive it. This research brings those elements into a new context.
  • I’ve noticed is that other artists were looking rather at one aspect at a time. Perhaps combining various materials, but one piece of works conveys in simple way one message. So instead of overloading rather ‘un-loading‘ (reminds me of ‘un-painting of Callum Innes). Reduction is more powerful!
  • A simplified focus on physicality of one medium to capture time effects (Ian Davenport) can be quite strong.
  • Through a combination of additive and subtractive process I could visualise time-elapse (Callum Innes)
  • Isolating and capturing mundane parts of the world around us, at times in a series of time-elapse works, could enforce the viewer to look closer (Boyle Family).
  • Fusing of materials and at times contradictive use of materials with the subject can add a meaningful elements to strengthen a narrative (Anselm Kiefer).
  • Combination of line drawing with blurred and at times randomly placed color spots can add visual depth and convey as sense of site experience (John Piper).
  • The meaning of ‘blind‘ and ‘desperate’ engagement with the material and surface to approximate the experiences of the world around us resonates quite well to me as it intrinsically would include the senses (Gerard Richter)
  • Walking‘ as an idea to draw upon is a both a performative act in site as well as a believable concept to the viewer that he/she could relate to (Richard Long)
  • An exploration of physical phenomena could be done through juxtapositions of moments or time-elapse installations that visualise in real time such phenomena.
  • Installations could be a more engaging way to visualise phenomena in time (tides) or in space and time (walking). Glen Onwin and Richard Long approach this quite differently.
  • Drawing as performance: a video take (or in real life) can add a process dimension that engages the viewer in a way of that they are curious to see how a work evolves (Richard Long).
  • The element of chance, a random creating of development, can be visualised though different approaches: physical phenomena making this happen (Ian Davenport, Glen Onwin, Richard Long), a random i.e. with no intention application of material (Gerhard Richter), a random image through subtraction  (Callum Innes) or a random selection of areas (Boyle Family). I can see there is always a non random element, the artistic endeavour to create something meaningful and a purpose.


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