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For some the sketchbook may be the definitive middle, between the conception, into actualisation of work. These are the thinkings become visible, existing as a real working element into the creating of art. An appropriately titled exhibition The Time of Privacy has Passed is soon to be holding a catalogue of sketch books (mine included).
Personally, in the past I was not impressed by the students’ sketchbooks, full of dodgy collage, news paper cut-outs, and a host of materials utilised. Clearly it was stuffed to the brim to ‘show your thinking’ (like you do at a maths exam) that to me seemed contrived to please the teachers. Yet, you can see how this should work as a methodology, for one, sketchbook work serves me as a memory for things I’d like to do, like to repeat, and importantly, where I wanted to go. Exhibiting to my minds eye ideal states of future artistic flourish that will be done.. I just don’t know how it will all evolve, yet.
The sketchbook work here could be generally regarded as a constant state of mistake making, incompleteness and potential. Possibly, with mine -usually in stark black and white pens- they are simple enough to look like the printed page, yet they are askew, randomised, with ambiguous dodgy thumbnail drawings.
When I was in art school, there was a painting professor who would shock new grad students by propping their palettes up next to their paintings and explaining, in great detail, why the palette was aesthetically superior. The students were crushed. How could a perfunctory manipulation of materials possibly be more successful than their über-personal paintings? He’d then rebuild their egos until they painted exactly like him, but I think he had it right the first time—materials are everything.
For Dieter Roth (1930 – 1998) everything in life was potential fodder for work. He brought a kitchen sink approach to the German concept of Gesamtkunstwerk that included rotting food, photographs, paint, crayons, film, sound and all sorts of random crapola. Although it could be considered a bit OCD, Roth saved the gray mat boards that covered his worktables and considered them objects d’art in their own right. Called Tischmatten (German for table mats), these works are currently enjoying their own lofty retrospective at Hauser & Wirth.
In the upstairs gallery, entire desk set-ups have been reinstalled as sculptures. Empty chairs and desks make the artist’s absence palpable. I tried to picture the famously reclusive Roth doodling away at these desks while ignoring calls from curators and galleries but somehow the whole thing felt sanitized. They’re way too boring to be good sculptures and way too clean to serve as some sort of studio period piece. Rather, they feel like lonely archival shrines that just scream “dead artist.”
Despite the dialog surrounding Roth’s work, which tends to focus on its abject qualities, a warm sentiment creeps into the Tischmatten that were family collaborations. Reluctant to play along with conventional art world systems, Roth included his family into his working process. Kaffeetisch-mit-Telefonecken-Matte, Bali/Mosvellsveit (with Björn, Karl, Vera Roth and others) reads like a haphazard scrap booking project as a chessboard mixes collage-like with photos and childlike drawings. Given the long history of male artists isolating themselves in their studios, it’s nice to see that Roth was a dad who didn’t care if the kids spilled stuff in his.
This is working towards a new methodology of my paintings. Transparent oils will ‘activate’ the drawing. Diluted into very organic washes and smears where the drawing can still be seen vividly underneath.. two studies have been posted which illustrate this type of painting, as I work further into the alchemy, and further into the decision making process.