Workshop test

Studio Research - Reading a painting by Ally McGinn

Much of the research I've been doing explores and defines the ways we read visual information. The ways we understand it and the meaning applied by us and the artist. These themes have arisen in researching Heidegger, Derrida, Danto, Bell, Hume, Kant and others. This has led to a particular interest in the ways we read paintings.

So I today spent the day in the workshop cutting up two canvases to explore the practical idea of turning a painting into a book. Highlighting the ways we read paintings, and forming a new way of exploring a work.

The first test was done with a painting straight off the wall. It has a solid layer of primer (probably about 4 coats) and a mix of acrylic and oil paint on the surface. The template for this book is 19x40cm to make a book 19x20cm wide.

The second is with an unprimed canvas that was placed on a studio floor for two months. Acrylic paint and dust cover the majority of the surface. This canvas had previously been stretched and nominated as a painting. I applied a single layer of acrylic sealant to either side.

The template for this book is 36x25 to make a book 18x25cm, this measurement is taken from an art theory textbook, which generally have slightly different ratios to other books.

My aim for this process is to discover the best way to turn my floor piece (see here) which is 9x2.5m into a book. The pages will be the size of a traditional painting (which one I am not sure at the moment) and I don't yet know whether it will be displayed horizontally or back onto the wall.

Both tests should work through the next stage (binding) but the sealed canvas (experiment 2) has a tactile quality that is hard to define. The sealant has a plasticity that primer cannot achieve (due to the addition of pigment) and is something that encourages the viewer to flip through the pages of the book. It is a pleasurable experience.

I am going to have to decide whether the work will be shown on the wall or on a plinth as this will define the size of the pages. For now, the binding experiments will continue with these two smaller books.

 Cutting the pages, in a double spread, using a metal template and mortuary blades.

 Cutting the pages, in a double spread, using a metal template and mortuary blades.

Pages piled together. 

Pages piled together. 

Quills grouped into sets of two, due to the thickness of the canvas and paint. Ready for binding.

Quills grouped into sets of two, due to the thickness of the canvas and paint. Ready for binding.

Book experiment 2, with acrylic sealant. Ready for binding. 

Book experiment 2, with acrylic sealant. Ready for binding. 

Research - Deconstructing Canvas - Part 2 by Ally McGinn

In an earlier post, I began to deconstruct canvas in the paint workshop. The resulting creations (mixed with various mediums) are still drying a month later. The results of this experimentation are going to continue, and the deconstruction itself has proved to be more useful, so far, than any resulting materials or objects.

Ally McGinn (2017) Workshop documentation. 24.10.17.  The experiments begun in October are drying, slowly. This result, combined with the cost of the mediums and the practicality of deconstructing canvas in this way lead towards a rethink about the potential for this process as large-scale sculpture. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Workshop documentation. 24.10.17.

The experiments begun in October are drying, slowly. This result, combined with the cost of the mediums and the practicality of deconstructing canvas in this way lead towards a rethink about the potential for this process as large-scale sculpture. 

Canvas is a traditional material in painting, although that is not where it originated (I'll come to that later, and has been a part of art culture for centuries.)

A functional material used in the creation of paintings, canvas has traditionally been an unseen support of painting. Clement Greenberg's theories of the pure truth of the flat surface of painting codify canvas in Modernist thought. (Greenberg, 2008) Any deviation from its function renders it a failure, within this perspective. A perspective that post-modernism and contemporary developments have rendered mostly moot. Painting is more than the flat surface it often retains, a stance explored by artists like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Ryman, Fernanda Gomez and many, many others. We are seeing more often the canvas itself as the focus of the work, or at least it is no longer the hidden structure but a canonically validated artistic material in its own right.

In art, the word ‘canvas’ has two meanings. It can be described as both the fabric used over a stretcher, or the painting surface combined (including the stretcher, fabric and often primer). Canvas is a tool to be used by the artist, and increasingly an ideal to be subverted.

Tracing the roots of canvas through history leads to shipbuilding. Canvas was used in shipbuilding before it was used by artists. The most common canvas is ‘cotton duck’ which can be anecdotally back to its use as a sailcloth. (Please note, this information comes from a conversation with the, extremely knowledgeable, paint technician at Bath Spa, Tim Davies. This information cannot currently be referenced, but I trust the anecdote and am working on a reference for this information.)

I have been working with canvas, as a material and subject, in the studio. Working with it in this way it becomes something more than a hidden foundation of work. Using canvas in alternative ways diverts its purpose.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Cubes - form 4.  Canvas, with various marks, on wooden cubes. Size varies  Wrapping canvas around anything that is not a stretcher (tube or cube) challenges modernist theories of flatness, which in this case is in counterpoint to the chance surface that invokes abstract expressionism.

Ally McGinn (2017) Cubes - form 4. Canvas, with various marks, on wooden cubes. Size varies

Wrapping canvas around anything that is not a stretcher (tube or cube) challenges modernist theories of flatness, which in this case is in counterpoint to the chance surface that invokes abstract expressionism.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Fringe collection . Canvas with pigment. Size varies  Physically deconstructing the canvas transforms it into a state that both references and rejects its creation.  Kept from returning to its useful state, and stopped from it's intended use as a painting surface, the canvas questions what, and why, it is.

Ally McGinn (2017) Fringe collection. Canvas with pigment. Size varies

Physically deconstructing the canvas transforms it into a state that both references and rejects its creation.  Kept from returning to its useful state, and stopped from it's intended use as a painting surface, the canvas questions what, and why, it is.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Pile  [Ongoing performance]. ‘Found’ canvas. Size varies daily  While piling or shaping the canvas challenges both our reading of ‘painting’ and notions of value in painting.    By exposing the canvas to a non-permanent form we question its value as an object. Performance without the artist.

Ally McGinn (2017) Pile [Ongoing performance]. ‘Found’ canvas. Size varies daily

While piling or shaping the canvas challenges both our reading of ‘painting’ and notions of value in painting.  

By exposing the canvas to a non-permanent form we question its value as an object. Performance without the artist.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Studio.  Installation test view. Canvas with collected marks, stretchers, masking tape, acrylic paint and chair, size varies  Forcing the viewer to walk on the canvas, by placing it on the floor in a way that doesn’t allow any alternative, questions the value of the work, the moment of finishing and the way the viewer sees and interacts with the work.  Each use, or misuse, of canvas invokes a different conversation about the same subject.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio. Installation test view. Canvas with collected marks, stretchers, masking tape, acrylic paint and chair, size varies

Forcing the viewer to walk on the canvas, by placing it on the floor in a way that doesn’t allow any alternative, questions the value of the work, the moment of finishing and the way the viewer sees and interacts with the work.

Each use, or misuse, of canvas invokes a different conversation about the same subject.

I hope this post shows the ways that subversion can be applied to an element of artistic practice to form new conversations and perspectives on the things we assume or otherwise take for granted in art.

Bibliography

Marriner, R. (2015) Making and the Contemporary. Bath Spa University. October-December 2015.

Greenberg, C. (2008) ‘Modernist Painting’. In: Harrison, C and Wood, P. eds. Art in Theory:1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. 9. Blackwell: 773-779