Curated by Sally Eldars
Facilitated by Sue Evans
More More Than is an exhibition of work that extends the idea of renewal which was the foundation of our first online show. The choice for the artists was to swap a piece of work with another artist or look back into their own archive and renew the piece in the light of their current practice and concerns. The focus of thinking this time was around the concept of ‘finished’. Among questions to consider are:
- What does it mean to be finished?
- How do we know? What comes in to play to make the judgement?
- Does a work of art have duration?
It’s an age old debate and we add our contribution to the thinking of giants:
A painting is finished when the artist says it is. (Rembrandt)
Art is never finished, only abandoned. (Leonardo da Vinci)
A work is finished when an artists realises his intentions.(Rembrandt)
SVAF artists who looked back on their own work:
Amanda Hopkins, Ginny Legg, Jenny Dalton, Andrea Coltman, Angela Dewar, Diana Poliak, Anne Fontenoy, Maria Turner, Angela Stocker, Rosalind Barker, Jocelyn Bailey, Margaret Devitt, Sue Evans, Susanne Beard, Teddy Kempster
SVAF artists who swapped work:
Louisa Crispin/Cherie Lubbock, Sally Eldars/Franny Swann, Roger Lee/ Victoria Granville
What does it mean to be finished?
I am an artist whose practice includes landscape/garden design. Clearly these two areas of practice influence one another. I find though that I tend to want to ‘neaten up’ my artwork − code for finishing it. With design work I am happier to accept the stopping point is just that − a nominal end point − something you have to accept when working in the forth dimension with plants. So, for More Than, I have gone back to process design drawings on trace and torn up a pen and charcoal self portrait, reworking these into 3D sketches — vessels holding the space of the garden and the person. These are not finished, not explainable (yet) but maybe a starting point for new ways of thinking.
I’ve taken this as an opportunity to renew an unfinished painting from last year that got stuck and left in a state of incompleteness in a kind of no-man’s land.
At the time I didn’t paint over or discard the original unfinished painting as I felt there was already the painting there, it just needed to be brought out but I couldn’t find the right language to realise it.
There was a sense of absence in the original unfinished painting which I wanted to retain but I also wanted to continue the story with more literal language based references and depth through line, shape and colour to enhance a sense of time and space.
It felt awkward and jarring as I took myself through very deliberate steps to move the work forward. Then as I realised I could create the ‘finish’ again and again it makes my old understanding of ‘finished’ both arbitrary and elusive.
When I have completed a painting I always use the excess paint on a new canvas to form the underpainting for a new piece of work. I consider the underpainting to be a work in progress. They may sit in my studio for ages before I use them but thought this was appropriate for this particular theme.
I thought about it for a long time before I decided what to do, and then it occurred to me that it is spring and Boris has decided to lower the restrictions. This painting is called ‘Out of Lockdown’. Not too much of a cliche I hope!
My starting point was informed by a number of other bodies of work I have been working on within my interrogations of transience, psychogeography, nonplace, the fluorescent lines act as a metaphor for connect, disconnect & repetition.
I consider these particular works as an extension of my sketchbook. As such are these finished? I think not, there are always other ways of looking. If I were to find a resolution, then to a certain extent, I feel, what’s the point?
Generally, I work with series of work, when I come to a dead-end, I realise I should have started differently. The ‘mistakes’ then help inform the next body of work. This then becomes a cyclical approach.
These 4 works are small scale which, could be reimagined, reworked to large format or simply become an evolving installation work. They were started in 2018 when I moved studios.
The Wheatfield, first photographed years ago, in the Cotswolds, and made as a tiny piece of hand embroidery (a relief after working on a huge commission for the previous 9 months). I wanted to re-make the image onto some alpaca felt, cleaned and made during lockdown 2021. I needed to do hand stitching as well, after years of using the machine.
Cretan stitch is often my stitch of choice and I have used it plus a scattering of bullion knots.
Part of a poem is by William Morris and I have it on a piece of calligraphy, also bought years ago.
Now came fulfilment of the year’s desire
The tall wheat, coloured by the autumn’s fire.
My original ink and acrylics composition, inspired by the current Pandemic, and necessity for confinement, featured ‘bubbles’, where people could isolate in new underwater or space age spheres, to escape the constant media coverage of all matters alarming.
This became a ‘Muddled Mess’, lacking any clarity and necessitated closure, both literally on the canvas, (as the materials were quick to run and erase their original restrictions), and intentionally, pointing to the bigger picture of climate change, global warming and Man’s apparent inability to fully protect the Planet.
Leading to ‘The Final Melt Down’, when Nature will take over completely and destroy any unwanted interference and meddling from so called superior beings.
Looking on the grim side, ‘Finished” could be an ideal title for this painting, as the message does infer the end of the line. The ultimate collapse and destruction, however gradual, it’s already happening….
I made the original unfinished pencil sketch in my teenage years. I have been reworking some of my teenage art for several years. In the summer of 2020 I found some bits of blank cartridge paper, cuttings from trimmed down artwork. I painted these with watery fabric paint, scattering them with salt. Pondering on what to draw on this piece, I remembered the Droplet.I traced it, drew it with pencil on the background, working several layers of pencil to build some depth of tone. It looked unfinished so in 2021 I took a photo of it and realised that the white in the droplet shape was too white. I worked cream colour pencil over it which toned down the white. I still don’t know if it is finished but it seems more of a whole piece now, so I think I will leave it how it is.
The More Than project this time started with a focus on some wilting, browning pages from a 100 year old book. Through the transformative use of colour, how a painting can be produced from such a humble starting point and at what point does it become separate to its starting point and original context.
Since the last More Than project, I have not been able to stop experimenting with soft pastel within the context of painting and surface, investigating how the medium can be used with other materials in a painterly way, particularly on the pre-used\loved to investigate the dynamic between print, text and colour. I’ve had a crumbling, yet beloved old book in my possession for some time clued Hutchinson’s Britain Beautiful which contains illustration plates.
I wanted to hide, reveal and transform areas of the ‘plates’. This particular tome struck a chord with its ancient photographs of pretty scenes, no sight of blight from socio disharmony of its day. I had this same feeling looking into my garden haven. What story will remain or be represented in future tomes? I worked on several ‘plates’. Although these individual ‘glimpses’ are finished, I feel I can still run further with the series.
At this point, I intended to use old work on canvas to abstract the ‘plate’ format onto. This has led to a new series linked to the original paper works.
‘2020 Vision’ has been a year long creation that I now consider finished as I have managed to completely capture the vision which inspired its concept.
Follow Angela on IG: @Stockerangela
When is a work finished?
Following and developing an artistic idea to a consolidated ending is usually governed by a timed deadline, dictated by an exhibition, a module within a learning environment or a collaborative project.
While a deadline brings a conclusion, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the linked idea, research and satisfaction seems fully explored.
‘An artwork is finished when the artist says it is’ has always grated as most artists struggle with the concept of ‘finished’ and recognise the danger in overworking a piece and loosing both its essence and spontaneity.
As an artist you are the only person who can say when something is finished. but, on this occasion, I took a piece from a body of work that I considered both successful and finished as a start point for new exploration.
This original piece ‘Mothers and Daughters’ was emotional for me as it originated in a residency focusing on the loss of my mother and our childhood relationship. The rubbings of my childhood dolls were a tactile, awkward but quick process with compressed graphite sticks while dressing them up in various collaged outfits was slow but playful and fun.
Would this group of dimensional mixed media drawings about my dolls and their exotic costumed fashion have anything more to offer as detailed monochrome drawings? I had completed a small-scale series of observational drawings on this theme.
On my MA I had started to explore what drawing in pigment fine liner from a 3-dimensional rubbed drawing could offer in the way of looking, gestural or new mark making.
This time I limited myself to HB pencil as media on a support of Japanese paper replicating the scale and mark making of the original. Drawing in a photorealistic manner is beyond my skill and was not the aspiration.
More More Than gave me the opportunity of space and time to create this 2D drawing. It feels timely with its commentary on love, hugs and the importance of touching and being together. But does Mum and me offer anything new to my drawing conversation?
While it feels more conservative than its original, it could stand alone. I think it is deflated by comparison to the dynamic textures, colour and gestures of mark making and crumpling in Mothers and Daughters.
Did I enjoy this process? Yes.
Did it create the same meditative space that my work evolves in? Yes
Will I continue this process on the other drawings in this series?
Do I want to keep it or am I prepared to let it go?
Is it ‘finished’? …..the final questions yet to be decided
I’ve previously worked with ideas around beauty in maths and image, and I have worked with this notion in a project with young people. CP Snow wrote about the risks in dividing arts and sciences. I like to look at that. I had some sketches which I wanted to experiment further with.
In terms of the theme of ‘finished’, I like the sense of gap, the sketchy, the indication of ‘more research needed’, or room for the imagination, the undeterminate. I thought to try visual definition and statistical fact as I’ve used in the past. However, eventually the piece emerging was softer. Instead of my intended use of human population statistics, I’ve hinted at fluttering graph lines, fluttering visions to the environmental future.
PopulationPyramid.net (2019), https://www.populationpyramid.net/united-kingdom/2020/.
UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (2019). UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS). Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/gmqvmk accessed via GBIF.org.
Secrets of butterfly wing patterns revealed by gene hacking https://www.newscientist.com/article/2147852-secrets-of-butterfly-wing-patterns-revealed-by-gene-hacking/amp/ EARTH 18 September 2017 By New Scientist, Press Association.
Work in progress images
Edited Microscope photo of butterfly wing scales © Jocelyn Bailey
Sum on a wing, playing with symmetry and beauty of equations but also the role of averages (as a wing pattern).
Making the animal, a butterfly from human and butterfly population graph scales
Screen shot of my large file of data on butterflies.
All images © Jocelyn Bailey including concepts.
My starting point is a drawing made from graphite powder, water and pencil completed about 8 years ago and placed in an ill-advised heavy frame. It is the weakest of a series mixing random marks with constructed geometric shapes in the same register of colour and delicacy.
My current concerns have returned to those in this drawing: contrasts of chaos and order, layers and repetition of marks and unfinished or broken forms. The choice was whether to alter the drawing or take the ideas and mark making into my current stitching and collaging practice. I chose the latter.
Is it finished? Yes, the main motif, for now – just like the original was. Different aesthetic choices and methods make the original look anaemic to me now. As maybe the current one will in years, months or days. What remains as work-in-progress is the presentation.
More More Than – some stitching goes on a journey
My original piece was a sample I made while studying the Japanese technique of Boro – that is using sashiko stitch to reinforce a textile item with spare or would-be-discarded scraps of fabric. It is a practice that grew out of necessity, but has now found new life in the west as decorative a way to repair clothes and embrace the concept of reusing what one has rather than buying new .
The original piece (10 x 11 cm) was made on a piece of old denim with bits of fabric and threads I had to hand. So the tree is only half a tree as that was all that was left on the scrap. My plan was to take this stitched piece on a journey, using whatever I had to hand and see where it ended.
Images 2 – 6 show this journey – and it is only in image 6 that the original piece is secured as part of the work rather than temporarily laid down.
This is where the journey ends for now, but this piece may also be incorporated into something else. At least the tree is ‘finished’.
Now I See
I chose a painting begun in 2002 or so, when I attempted to portray an image of a memory of my mother. My starting point here is already the third or fourth try, layers of paint added or subtracted—it seemed the more I failed the more obsessed I became. It ﬁnally sat untouched for a few years.
That image evoked her, but the painting itself felt wrong, and I couldn’t put my ﬁnger on why. Resolving the dilemma has been the challenge.
What followed was a series of obliterations and reappearances—and a growing frustration. It may have been the change of colour to blues that hinted at the way forward. Although the image was always ‘there,’ it was receding.
Maybe it was the passage of years, or the intense searching throughout these several weeks. What began as the image of a memory has found a resolution of sorts in the memory of an image. Now I see.
This second edition began to feel like an intrusion. With the end of lockdown looming and a sudden urgency for ‘real work’, no time left to play.
I was enticed by the coloured piece. Boxes have become a feature in my recent work, maybe a metaphor for the restrictions or maybe simply a need to ‘craft’, the rhythm of process. This became an opportunity to try some techniques and gradually a collection of postcard pieces gathered ready to be glued and stitched. In places the net was cut out, allowing glimpses through the structure, in others part of Chérie’s work was sandwiched between.
Is it finished?
Once started this project became a plan, still room for manoeuvre, for experimentation, but an approach and an end in mind. It became compulsive, a need to check if it worked, an impatience with sticking to the process. The tight deadline helped keep it on track.
There are other ideas, further stages or sidelines, more practice, but as I knotted the thread I knew this piece was complete. It has a balance, weight and presence, a sensory experience in so many ways. This project drew on so many of the skills I have developed throughout my life and is now a part of that journey. The collaboration element was important.
Do check out Louisa’s blog post on the making of Intrusion https://www.louisacrispinart.co.uk/more/more-more-than-the-making-of-intrusion
I partnered with Lousia Crispin and received some completed butterfly and bee prints. I used the prints as a jumping off point.
It took more time to resolve the blue sculpture partly because it had not begun as I had intended, and I nearly abandoned it altogether. I experimented with a variety of ways to include the energy I hoped for.
I also made a large sculpture using fibres and wire, with the intention that a person could get inside and inhabit it, like a pupa. Thinking about the current situation and how we are all going through our own metamorphosis, I wanted to allow the viewer to experience this physically.
I find this an exciting concept and I intend to create a performance piece, so while the installation appears finished, it is still evolving. We, as humans, are not finished and I realise for me to be inspired, art is always about developing and transforming.
Sally Eldars and I swapped images. Her work was a very loose ‘seascape’ on canvas, so there was no ideological content to obliterate, honour or respond to. It was a very blank canvas, and blank page syndrome followed shortly!
I considered destruction and reconstruction of the canvas to overcome this, but couldn’t find an emotional rationale to justify it. In the end I was lead by my enjoyment of the ‘sky’ section of Sally’s work and my being primarily a painter.
My work grew organically. I think it finished itself by filling the space compositionally. Compositionally I wanted the image to be uncomfortable and to intimate possible jeopardy.
During the pandemic the selflessness of so many young adults has been little mentioned and undervalued. They have given up a very special part of their lives to keep others safe. I hope my work honours this.
Franny Swann and I swapped a piece of work. I received an interesting mono print. I liked the portrait, the layering and multiplying of the head. The shapes and shadows the ink had made looked to me like a dying forrest with tree stumps.
I started to cut out the head and to cut through the shapes. I had an old incomplete painting on canvas which I removed from it’s wooded frame and used that as the background to this portrait. I wanted to mix the materials overlaying the card on to the canvas and vice versa. I used this opportunity to play and experiment with materials turning the flat 2d painting and print into 3d. I folded and shaped the canvas back on to a smaller frame the painting into sculpture.
‘It’s Complicated’ refers to the process of making art and attempting to answer the question ‘Is it finished?’ It also, references the desolate landscape I saw in the original work, and somehow connected it to ‘Sinking’ the piece I did for ‘More Than’ and human kind’s relationship with mother earth.
Is it finished? In this case definitely not. I have been looking at it over the past couple of weeks and all I want to do is to chop it up even more…. to be continued.
There is nothing illusory about a three-dimensional artwork. It has time, space, the artist’s marks. So too a painting or drawing.
But a photograph is almost entirely illusory – an inhuman fraction of time, two dimensions and the marks merely of l’appareil.
Starting with Victoria’s two hand built vases I developed this disjunction by exploring the relationship between these objects and the marks explicit in landscape.
Here we attempt to continue to develop – by searching for intersections. Meditating on division to try to become intimate with the unknown, so to expand; displacing concrete tangibility by new reconnections; establishing a new relationship constantly open to growth and never ending potential.
Roger Lee sent me this photograph of fields. It seemed complete in its physicality, but I was interested in the quartered picture plane. I had just read about the practice of visiting every room in one’s persona daily, the physical, the spiritual, the emotional and the mental. His image seemed to resonate with that and I made a few small pieces exploring this.
Underlying the monumentality of the monotone image is its powerful life force. When I eventually came to the painting it was this that rose again and again, and the discrete areas of concern and observance became more united. This reflects the journey I have had through the pandemic, walking, seeking out alignment with a less fearful certainty and a moral pattern in the land. Thank you Roger Lee.