Saturday, May 28, 2011

To frame or not to frame ... part 2

It seems such a simple thing to produce a series of small, hand-finished prints. I’ve done sets of them in different colours, sizes and dimensions.

The process is straightforward:
scan / upload photos; crop, colour and print; hand finish with paint, chalk, pencil, pen and fixative or spray varnish.

The last bit is the messy part. It also requires a lot of space for spreading out the pieces that are being worked on, to allow them to dry out before working on them some more and then fixing or glossing them.

It felt like I was making a big production out of a simple idea, until I read this, by Annie Dillard:

“How fondly I recall thinking, in the old days, that to write you needed paper, pen and a lap. How appalled I was to discover that, in order to write so much as a sonnet, you need a warehouse.”

("The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard)

I felt a little better after reading that.

Scattered thoughts about ways to present this series of hand-finished prints were at the back of my mind when I went to Bath one day a few weeks ago, to meet my daughter, her husband and a couple of their friends. I’d mentioned to them that I wanted to visit some galleries, bookstores and independent shops. As we wandered around the city we came across the historic Octagon building where there was an art exhibition in progress. The Octagon is disused nowadays and a little rundown. But it’s available for hire and had been taken over for a week by a local artist.

The walls of this huge space were filled with large, colourful paintings. And what struck me first and foremost was that many of them were unframed. The painted canvases were either attached directly to the wall or hung from bulldog clips and lengths of string.

They looked fantastic. There was an immediacy and an accessibility to them that was very powerful. They looked like they had only recently been painted and had been hung straight away. And some of them had.

Chatting at some length to the artist, Al Greenall, it turned out that not only was he exhibiting there that week but he was also working. He had a large canvas on the floor in the centre of the room and he was painting as people came in and out.

These are his words, taken from his website:

“Running from 18th - 24th of April, my Spring exhibition at Bath's historic Octagon building came to a fantastic conclusion. I wish to thank everyone who came, whether deliberately or simply passing through. Your time, conversation, and contributions made my fusion of hung works and live studio painting an exhilarating and enlightening process. The large painting that I created during the week - excerpts of which can be seen on the right - will be entitled 'Festival City' in acknowledgement of one of many Twitter descriptions of Bath I was sent when planning the show and asking for peoples impressions of the city. I hope it captures the blend of city/Spring/colour/people/celebration that I was feeling throughout the show!”

I came away with lots of photos and lots of thoughts, but I’d still not worked out what to do.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To frame or not to frame ...

I’ve just spent another half a day going to different shops trying to source just the right range of picture frames at just the right range of prices. With no success. Again.

Again? Yes, because a few weeks ago I did exactly the same thing. With exactly the same result.

Isn’t that one definition of insanity?

I currently have a stack of hand-finished prints – in colour and black and white. They are studies of water that I have been working on for some time. They would look good in frames – if I could find the right ones. I found some that would just about do but they were £4.99 each. I’ve currently got 60 of these prints - with more on the way.

I also want to frame some figure studies I’ve been working on. But there are 98 of these.

Clearly, this framing idea is not going to happen.

But maybe it doesn’t need to. Maybe I’m just being old-school.

I have to confess that the main reason I’m thinking about this is because I have the ridiculous notion that it might be nice to sell some of these prints and make a bit of money. You know, for the essentials - like fags and booze. And to do that, the image has more perceived value if it’s in a frame. Right? A decent frame sets a picture off nicely, presents it well, makes it look finished. A proper job.

But as I’ve been making these prints, the fun part for me has been giving them to people to hold and to feel. To feel the thinness of the paper and the thickness of the paint. Because I’ve used acrylic paint, the surface is tactile and flexible, almost plastic. It’s been exciting to watch people’s expressions as they actually handle a small piece of art. (I guess that because I have so many I can feel a little less precious about them.)

Thinking about the effects of framing pictures reminded me that a few years ago I made a series of 12 large pictures on paper. They represented 12 months of my life during what was the beginning of a “rather difficult time”. A couple of years had passed and I thought it would be interesting to exhibit them. Rather than frame and hang them I discussed with a gallery the possibility of simply stapling them to the wall. From there we went on to discuss the possibility of stapling them to the floor. Then people could walk around … or over … them.

The obvious metaphor suited my mood at the time.

Unfortunately … or maybe fortunately … the gallery closed before we could do anything and the pictures have been stored away never to be seen again.

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