further painting questions

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example of Frottage

Following on from the last entry concerning a fear of the white canvas, Max Ernst has written:

“All my life I have faced what you might call a virginity complex when faced with a white canvas. I stand in front of a white canvas to begin something, to paint something – I simply found it impossible to put down the first line, I had to find some way of overcoming this – and I did, when gazing at the floorboards in an inn” 1925.

Max Ernst went onto name his particular salvation Frottage and Grottage. This initial effect was produced by placing paper over a textured surface of one sort and another, applying pressure with a pencil, charcoal etc and thereby obtaining a relief imprint from, for example, a tree bark or in this case floorboards, a technique commonly known as rubbings. Grottage was made by extending this kind of technique to a canvas in order to make paintings. These processes relate to both Montage and Collage, which Ernst also used a great deal in his work. I feel tempted to add pseudo names such as pottage and blottage which might equally be known as related techniques.

Flippancy apart, however, these processes defined Ernst’s work which makes it easily recognizable as belonging to his oeuvre alone. This then throws up the question – in the making of art, is a particular handwriting preferable to one that may vacillate between styles, materials, and intentions?

This is where I come in because my work does vacillate a lot. Should I be worried, or take the pragmatic view that this is what I do and just get on and do it? In fact, do I have much of a choice? I have come to the semi-conclusion over the years that my work reflects a kind of journal, as much as it is a reflection of what is going on with me whilst making it. The idea behind the piece or project, the materials, and technique used, reveal themselves as a particular personal involvement at the time of making. This process it seems usually works on an unconscious level, and the actual incentive does not reveal itself until halfway through the making, or when the piece is finished.

This throws up yet another heavy question that has caused me to ponder. How intently autobiographically valid can a work be before it becomes questionable? Should a quality of detachment be the aim, in order to make space for the audiences reading? Many artists that I admire think that it should, that they must step out of the picture in order to let the viewer in.

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example of Grottage

One thought on “further painting questions

  1. Interesting piece. I thinking about it I realise I have often used similar processes to begin drawings. On fresh sheets of paper I have made random marks, sometimes due to an accident with a particular medium, sometimes through various ways deliberately transferring partial images. Such sketchy/broken marks then hint at ideas and images and so lead the way into making a drawing.

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