Sunday, 28 February 2016

Moving Through A Field - Study 1 - Short Film

This is my first short field study film called Moving Through A Field - Study 1. It's a combination of clips, cuts and slow motions from a walk I did through some fields in Hertfordshire. I have also manipulated the sound.

Influences and Aims

The idea for this came from a number of influences. The first being the need to gather visual imagery, the second from my study of Peter Doig's method of image gathering (some of which is detailed below in other blogs), thirdly from the desire to gain a perspective of a crow or something living (the camera being the eyes of the crow) and lastly to see if I can manipulate the images.


This short study has produced some really interesting imagery. The blurring of the images has created a real sense of movement, but more importantly a collection of marks I can aim to replicate in my paintings. I am really pleased with how the video looks and also the sense you get from the experience, a presence in the field, a feeling of being there.

This is the first of a series and a great way to collect and experiment with imagery. I'll be making more of these and potentially they will become more abstract the focus being on pushing the visual understanding of the trees, fields and movement as they appear in the frame.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Doig's Image Appropriation

These are notes and observations on an Artist Talk - Peter Doig in Conversation with Ulf Kuster (Curator, Foundation Beyeler) 20.06.2014.

This text will be used to fuel my final written work for my MA but is also an intriguing examination of Doig's appropriation of image for use in his paintings an area I am very interested in. The way in which contemporary painters find an image to work with is massively open too interpretation and how these are manipulated by process has a large part to play in the final formation of the painting.

In these notes I have quoted and further examined through my own reflections the meaning of some of the image appropriation that Doig draws upon in his answers.

Peter Doig talks to Ulf Kuster before his exhibition at the Foundation Beyeler in 2014.

When Doig is asked what does tradition mean to him in his painting in particular reference to Gustave Courbet and Paul Gauguin, two artists exhibited in the same space in Germany before Peter Doig's exhibition he said:
                "I don't think there is the same type of influence as there is for a painter these days as it was 100 years ago....It may seem strange to take inference from artists from such a long time ago.
                I'm interested in different types of technique to suit the subject of the particular painting. Some paintings may require something a bit more real or traditionalist and then I might look at Courbet. I think I was very influenced by his use of the silhouette, the silhouette of the   figure. It was made more powerful by the white of the snow."
When asked about his snow paintings that he painted in the 1990's Doig explained:
                "I wanted to bring subjects to my paintings that I felt had been neglected and never used in  painting. Skiing seem to be something that and in some ways a really bad subject for paintings because it was so white and middle-class and unexpected as well. I just thought I could try this out and then by doing so I found how to paint in a different way."
When I asked did he use a curtain of white snow as an affect Doig explained:
Bruegel painting 'Adoration the Kings in the Snow'
"I was in Switzerland in Winter and saw A Bruegel painting 'Adoration the Kings in the Snow' and I was interested in the screen of snow. It was like he had painted the painting then added a screen that you look through that suggested it was winter. Yes, I think at that time I  was interested in it as an affect (referring to his own paintings) and then I thought that this is getting too easy...I wanted to make a much plainer painting."
When asked are you actually telling stories Doig replied:
                "There's always an anecdote, and is always a story, often an incident, often an experience   but I don't know important that is to anyone else other than me but if I don't have that then  I wouldn't make the painting. They are not other people stories.

                I purposely trying avoid other peoples stories."
Doig is asked how does he develop an idea?
                "The process often comes from seeing something, witnessing someone or something and  then taking a photograph to recreate that possibly, it doesn't have to be something extraordinary it can be ordinary. Just the combination of things."
Peter Doig explained that sometimes his choice of image is because of something that is associated with what you can't see but is actually visually there for example in one of his paintings (Lapeyrouse Wall, 2004) a man walks  along a wall and there is a cemetery behind it but you can't see it. But yet this is what inspired Peter Doig to paint this particular picture alongside the composition of the subject matter.
As Peter Doig is explaining this process though he apparently struggles to really nail it down and this is because for him the choice of image very much occurs instantly as if he himself is the recorder of the event that he will eventually portray. His own experiences feed into this visual language but he then interprets it into his paintings. It is apparent that he has no rules when it comes to choosing his subject matter because for him he doesn't know when this moment will come, when the inspiration
will move him.
He talks about aspects of the painting that people who know the location of the subject will have a familiarity with. This demonstrates that for him people experience his paintings in different ways which he sees as a totally acceptable and doesn't seem to assign a value to this other than the fact that they will experience a different set of realisations.
Peter Doig is asked whether he uses photography as inspiration:
                "I try to avoid painting from photography. As far as I'm concerned it became totally         ubiquitous really, this use of trying to reproduce the feeling of a photograph in a painting and I'm not interested in that at all. But I am interested in the feeling you may get in a photograph that you can't get in real life, that you can't get from your imagination.
                I think there are many ways to use a photograph. I think it's a good tool for a painter."
When cited for saying that he compares his paintings to collage Peter Doig explained:
                "Yeah  I think a lot of the paintings are collaged images, collages that become images.    Sometimes I would literally make a collage and then make the painting after the collage or it's just elements collaged together.
                It's like a tool. I think it is just a way of piecing things together isn't it, it doesn't have to look like what one thinks of a collage."
Peter Doig then goes on to talk about the appropriation of a magazine image that he found in 1979. This shows a nudist image of a naked woman that up until now he has not had the confidence to approach and put into his work. This image of a nude woman isn't something that he has taken himself, more an appropriation and a recording of a feeling he has about the image and whether he can interpret that into his painting. The collage here is his past experience, how he feels about the image in that moment and the actual image itself, plus social associations we have with this type of classic naturist Image and nude. Deep down we as the viewer will never truly understand his motivations for liking the image yet on some level this could be a great tool for him to inject an atmosphere into the work.
When asked about whether music influences his painting Doig says:
                "I can't think of any one painting that is directly influenced by Music."
When a painting featuring loud speakers is cited to Doig says that he was more interested in the monolithic nature of the speakers and the fact that someone wanted to stand on top of them rather than its musical associations. This highlights again Doig's compulsion towards collecting visual motifs.
When asked about painting in Trinidad he says:
                "I guess I'm more interested in capturing of the atmosphere of Trinidad in a painting rather  than being a Trinidadian painter. I'm not a Trinidadian, I don't feel in a position to make comments."

When discussing the concrete cabin painting series;
                "I was interested in this building because of course the architecture, but much more for the setting. This building is quite close to Verdun and there are many many military graveyards in the area, a lot of people lost their lives there and the woods are very sombre. And then the building is, when you turn your back on facade of the building and then you walk into the woods, and then you look back I was actually very surprised at the sight of this facade of the Modernist building broken by the trees and I felt like there were people looking at me through the trees. That's what attracted me to it, it felt haunted and haunting."
Doig was asked if he was influenced by horror movies.
                "I'm not actually, it reminded me more paintings to be honest, it reminded me of a painting.

                It was the atmosphere was interested in."
In the interview it is suggested that Doig paints atmospheres rather than stories. He replies that he
doesn't want to be pinned down.
He is asked about his use of prints and printing:
             "I think that itching is a good medium for a painter, a good way to do things, you know you're not always in control of it and sometimes when I made etchings alongside paintings of the same subject I would get information that I needed to complete the painting."
When Doig talks about this appropriation from itching he is talking about a number of things. Not only compositional elements but also the quality of the mark. Doig has talked about the process of etching and how it can distort aspects of an image. These are very experiential and unique to particular prints. At times the way Doig use's paint it reflects something broken and it could be argued that his experiences with etchings have heavily influenced this practice. 


Artist Talk - Peter Doig in Conversation with Ulf Kuster (Curator, Foundation Beyeler) 20.06.2014.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Notes on the Origins of Peter Doig's Visual Language

(Note: This is research for my final critical writing for my MA and much of what is written here will be referenced to my own practice.)

In his Lecture from 2014 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Hartley talks about Doig's use of visual language, the way he works are thought processes made visual, these being deduced in a non-linguistic way. This in turn he relates to what Rudolf Arnheim called Visual Thinking. The Gestalt philosophers of the time stated that acts of visual seeing are not purely mechanical or an act of receiving data. They argued that intelligence and memory are part of perceiving the world about us. This helps use recognise the patterns and objects that constitute the appearance of reality creating an Intelligence of the eye. Visual artists have the ability to develop these skills and give enhance meaning to the realities they depict or create. Doig's visual stimuli were complex and his ability to interpret them visually advanced.

Doig was first at College in 1979 at the Wimbledon School of Art when some of the materialistic elements of Neo-Expressionist painting  were bold and questioning of the established image of painting and artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat were prominent. This rich use of colour, partly inspired by graffiti art and the loosening of the formalistic nature of histories predeceasing paintings.

He was at St Martin's School of art from 1980 to 1983. This was a continuing of the time when painting was being rediscovered. In 1981 the highly influential exhibition 'The New Spirit of Painting' (15 January 1981 – 18 March 1981) took place at the Royal Academy in London. It questioned the role of painting, it's academic necessity and The New York school of Abstract painting as the only source of direction within the painting arena. It championed the London School of Bacon, Freud, Auerbach and Kitaj and independent spirits such as Guston.  For any college student at the time this challenging of convention would have been highlighted. Through the works of these noted London based artists Doig would have seen more of an acceptance of the metaphorical interpretations of experience through visual dialogues, a discourse that moved away from traditional modus operandi, potentially freeing up his options.

Gerhard_richter Öl auf Photographie ; 1989 ; 10 x 15 cm
Also during this period of development Nicholas Serota, who was at White Chapel Gallery, was showing works by Gerhard Richter and David Bomberg in 1979, Max Beckmann in 1980 and Brice Martin in 1981, Anselm Kiefer and Philip Guston in 1982 and Malcolm Morley in 1983. Doig acknowledges the influence of such artists on his work but says that he tended to look towards American painters. Yet the process demonstrated by artists such as Gerhard Richter, who used photography heavily in his work, can be cited here as giving acceptance to using such devices to generate imagery for paintings.

Another exhibition that had an impact on Doig was the Who Chicago? in Camden Arts Centre in 1981 which contained paintings by Ed Paschke, Roger Brown and Jim Nutt. Malcolm Morley was also very influential especially seeing he was inspired by the New York based Graffiti artists who, as mentioned, were question the role of painting at the time.

Having spent some time in Canada Doig returned to London to do a Masters Degree at Chelsea School of Art in 1989. By this stage the debate about painting had moved on and a Neo-Conceptual environment was emerging with its visceral approach and the YBA's show Frieze in 1988 had broken new ground. Painting was far removed from the critical agenda and Doig himself has said in an interview in 2006 with Karen Wright that "the powers that be were almost embarrassed by painting in those days." But Doig was already embroiled in his own painterly journey that had its roots in his previous two periods at college in England and he would not steer from this path despite the hostile pressure at the time.

Partly because of this pressure and his rich source material of lands and processes: Canada, England and Trinidad with photo and film influences, new technologies and an interest in print, Doig justified his work and claimed it was conceptual yet rooted in a tradition of painting. His images were a formation of process, he had assimilated naturally and through practicing in the diverse source material of the time, where he created an imaginary place. Doig was expressing his thought as a complex visual language, as ideas or concepts. For example he uses notions of advertising or film as leads for elements of his framing, the language of mass media or an establishing shot from a movie, stitched into an exotic landscape, combined with the colours of the neo-expressionism and the broken surface of a blurred video still. These are the visual collections of Doig that he has gathered through his own experiences.

Peter Doig, Concrete Cabin II (1992)
One visual tool that Doig uses in his work is the foreground screen. This is a device that Film makers use to make the viewer feel present and closer to the action, as if this area is approachable and is a deliberate tool to draw the viewer in. This instinctive use of the foreground in such a way will have been a motif recognised and reinforced by Doig through mainstream cinema. In the Concrete Cabin painting series of 1989 we look through a thicket of trees to the cabin as if the tense beginning to a suspenseful film, the building a location of something unsavoury.

Gerard Richter and Edvard Polker who were widely shown in London during Doig's formative College years painted over images derived from photographs or prints. They worked up the surface of these images manipulating the paint to generate a range of effects. These use of photography became an accepted part of the artists cannon during this period.

Doig's resolution to hold his course, within a turbulent period of conceptual expression, demonstrates that his visualised internal thought processes and collection of motifs and stimuli were very much a representation of his own personal visual world.


ARNHEIM, R. Visual Thinking (1969) USA: University of California Press
HARTLEY, K. Peter Doig: Visual Intelligence Lecture January 23, 2014. America, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts [online]
Who Chicago? : an Exhibition of Contemporary Imagists : Camden Arts Centre, London, 10 Dec.-25 Jan.; Ceolfrith Gallery, Sunderland Arts Centre, 16 Feb.-14 Mar. 1981; Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, 21 Mar.-30 Apr

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Installation as a Good Source of Visual Imagary for Potential Paintings?

Running along side my main research has been an Installation project for which we were formed into groups on the MA course. As our ideas developed we began to form some strong visual motifs within the design and I realized that I might be able to use some of these within my paintings. That they could even result in a series or at least the source material working into some of the visual elements of my paintings.

Once complete I produced a short film that can be seen here. Arguably I could take some stills from this, much like I did for my field walks, and either focus on those and some of the broken aspects of the images, much like Doig did for his Concrete Cabin series, or even mix the two sets of stills together to create a ethereal landscape. The question is is this aesthetic recipe valid in my line of research or am I plucking fruits from my experiences that skirt around the narratives and become more conceptual when considering the illustration narrative element?

Monday, 8 February 2016

Field Filming

Following on from the last blog post in which I talked about some of Peter Doig's methods I decided to film some of my own films and see how I interpret the results.


While out on a walk I filmed agricultural views as in fields and field verges. I was keen to introduce a movement to the footage and tried not to frame the images too much as if the incidental nature of the footage may reveal some interesting images, which Peter Doig talk about.

I then selected a range of stills from the footage to help inform my paintings.These can be seen here to the left.


Interestingly its the pictures which are slightly blurred, or close to the brush, which I feel work well. The presence of the foreground being active makes me more interested. I feel there are really useful images here that could form important parts of my work. 

Why use these when illustrating the crow poems? This is very much the environment of the crow, the land from which Ted Hughes drew his inspiration to write and on some level this is what I want to reflect in my work. This is where the crow comes from and then by adding the crow we have him there. 

I am considering leaving the crow out of the work and use this rugged view of the field as a metaphor for the poem.

Either way I am very pleased with this and these will add to the collection of sources for my painting.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Mark Making to focus on Painting inspired by Peter Doig

Concrete Cabin II (1992) Peter Doig

The question of surface, combined with the closer examination of mark making and it's processes, has opened up other possibilities for my practice. Rather than restricting myself to the ink on paper approach which is a process I had wanted to experience from the beginning, in some respects steered by my own expectations of an illustration course, I now feel I can be freer in my materials.  

This includes the use of colour and the actual process of the mark making.

I have begun a series of paintings based upon the crow theme and one of my inspirations for this move is the work of Peter Doig. His painting process uses film and an element of narrative to form colour cinematic landscapes and it is the landscape that I will be working with  as this is where the poems of Hughes, and the narratives I'm illustrating, are set. I will be examining the processes of Doig and how he gathers materials to build up his paintings.

In an interview with Richard Shiff the artist Doig says this about his process:

"I made, you can't call them films, moving moments of walking towards the building through the trees with a video camera and then I took stills from those and the stills actually were far more accurate, as to the way you actually see the building, than a still photograph taken when you're standing still. A still from a walking motion, looking and walking."

Crow's Fall I - work in progress Toby Lattimore
What Doig is saying is the actual process of filming something engages with the movement that he hopes the viewer will engage with when looking at the painting. Rather than posing a shot the still that is captured from the moving moment, that he uses to etch or paint from, is embodied by the cameraman and we see as if from that person's eyes. Perhaps this makes it more real.

These images of my painting show that I'm now engaging with a landscape, one that I walked, experienced and photographed, and the environment of the crow where his exploits are set. Ted Hughes very much wrote from within the landscape, an environment that he understood from his own experiences and one I want to express.