Having recently moved to east London, I've been looking around at the buildings and building sites around me, and am feeling really inspired by the solid, linear appearance that is common to both social housing and new housing blocks that are contributing to the gentrification of the area. And I live in such a housing block that is doing that gentrification - and feeling really aware of the strange position I feel like I am in because of that, and feeling like documenting it is, in some strange way, may lessen my liminal position.
These remind me of the work of Australian artist Jeffery Smart:
I really like how drafted these are. They play with line and space, there is quiet desperation in the architectural studies, that play both with the image and the text, in the titles. 'Portraits' that are more shipping container than person, and the bleak reality of an apartment block juxtaposing with our ideas about holidays.
This is something I'd like to play with, both within my still life paintings for part two of Practice of Painting, and within my drawing practice.
All photographs in this post were taking by me.
This is an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted.
While Chiarascuro - the 'light-dark' technique used to highlight though tonal contrast - is used in many different styles of art, it is Italian Renaissance and, particularly, Baroque paintings for which the technique is most well known.
The technique is used in both Caravaggio's and Artemisia Gentileschi's versions of the biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes, the former said to have greatly influenced the latter's two slightly different compositions.
In Caravaggio's work, the technique appears to be used to highlight Judith's purity - her pure white dress in the 'spotlight' her elderly maidservant falling into the shadows. The light cast highlights the unnatural angle of Holofernes's head, showing us the ease with which Judith's sword is slicing though his flesh, as though she is aided by god. His body appears to be turning dark, the light emphasising his twisting body and pained expression on as a way to serve the viewer's understanding of his position as the evil force. The gore is kept to a relative minimum for a beheading scene.
No such purity is highlighted in either visual representation of the biblical myth in Gentileschi's versions. Rather, the highlight falls on Judith's steely determination. The force with which she plunges the sword down and with which her maidservant holds the Assyrian king's body, unnaturally contorted, against the bed. These are two women who are working to ensure the gory, bloody death of this tyrant. In the second version, a brief highlight on Holofernes's red velvet blanket serves to remind the audience of the audacious luxury of the Assyrian court and the formidable strength of Holoferens's army.
In Caravaggio's painting, the light comes from beyond the left hand side of the composition, but Gentileschi's versions both show the light as though is emanates from Holofernes himself - or more accurately perhaps from the hilt of Judith's sword. This bizarrely unnatural light gives the impression of the assent of god, demonstrated by Judith's radiant purity in Caravaggio's version.
There are, of course, issues about the circumstance of Gentileschi's painting - predominantly being forced by her father to marry her rapist.
Both painters - as well as many others - successfully employ this technique as a way to highlight (though both what is brightened and what is left dark) and provoke question (where is the light coming from? why are certain elements made light or dark? what is the artists trying to convey through each highlight).
Over the last few days there has been a furore rising on Twitter over some comments made by a (white) man about the pretension of using the (earned) academic title Doctor. As in, Dr Mackin Roberts (which I am), rather that Ms or Mrs Mackin Roberts (which I am not). This furore culminated in the hashtag #immodestwoman. To which I added:
The use of titles in academia is fraught with bias (unconscious and conscious), and the anec-data suggests that women have a much harder time being recognised for their own expertise than men (read though the tweets on the #immodestwoman hashtag and you will see what I mean). Men who insist that they should be called by their first name and, therefore, everyone else should too, can actually perpetuate the struggle of women to be recognised.
Mistitling has, of course, happened many times to me, but the one that stands out is an instance in which a male colleague and I were both mistitled: my 'Dr' became 'Ms' and his 'Mr' became 'Dr'. This came from a student some ten minutes after we had been introduced as Dr Mackin and Mr Lastname.
This all came as I was thinking about my first assignment for Practice of Painting, feminist art, and female self-portraiture. Because I thinking about painting a series of self-portraits for the assignment (and perhaps continuing). Then I picked up Frances Borzello's Seeing Ourselves: Women's Self-Portraits, and have been devouring it: seeing women's faces and decoding the subtle ways that women artists have used themselves for their own betterment and promotion.
One of my favourite paintings has always been Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting:
I really started to look at this painting with fresh eyes, by being able to place it in an historical line of enquiry that later female artists were looking back into, through, and at. Part One of Practice of Painting also includes examination into ground colour, so for the first time I have also really paid attention to the mid-brown ground, and how that plays against Artemisia's deep green dress and brown apron, her creamy skin and dark hair. The darker ground makes it possible for her skin - and therefore herself - to shine out of the painting in a way that is expected in Baroque art, but here is softer and more calm than in most Baroque work (including Gentileschi's own work).
In the reading of Borzello's book I have really started to dive into the history of women's self-portraiture and am starting to think about how I can integrate myself and my own practice into this long history. (I will write more about Borzello's book in the Reading blog once I have finished it.)
There is much more thinking to be done about self-portraiture and representing who I am, and how this fits into my own struggles of identity (both related to the struggles I face with expertise and my doctorate, and the struggles of innate-self I rise against as a woman with BPD). I wonder how I can explore my own voice and feelings and emotive expression though self-portraiture. I have written elsewhere on the use of selfies as self-care, and want to explore ways I can pull this out into my painting practice, as a painter who makes predominantly abstract works.