POP TO THE SHOP!

Christmas baubles now on sale!

Discover my range of artist edition baubles now on sale in my shop!

To mark Christmas 2019 I’ve launched a range of individually painted artist edition baubles. There are 50 individual hand painted baubles numbered and initialled from 1-50.

Here’s a sample of some of them

Brighten things up this year and add a little pop of colour to your Christmas tree with a unique piece of art.  Create a neon and pastel theme or add a hint of bright, white and fresh colour and make your tree a colourful and contemporary work of art.

The first batch is now online!  Each one is ceramic painted with artists acrylic paint in a range of fluorescent and pastel tones, transparencies and opaque panels to mirror my latest works.

The Christmas baubles are tied with neon yellow elastic cord and packaged in a white gift box.

Delivered in time to give as a Christmas present or to decorate your own Christmas tree.

POP TO THE SHOP!


Scaling up and expanding

Sometimes working on multiple small paintings at once leads to results that require a little expansion - to further explore something to see how it might work if the areas and proportions changed.

I've always enjoyed large scale paintings, my work generally lends itself to a more ambitious scale rather than being confined into smaller dimensions, but smaller works do help to create a volume of ideas and exploration.

This is how a few of my recent big canvases started out. I scaled this smaller piece up to a really big painting as I could see the capacity it had that would lend itself to a bigger expanse.

The detail of the ‘balance’ (the linking of elements), the semi-opaque white as a leading element to this piece, are favourite points for me.

I had to scale the piece from rectangular portrait dimensions to square and devise how the colours would work on a white primed canvas when the background wasn’t a neutral base of ply.

With painting onto the white primer there’s a need to cover the whole surface, unlike with the ply, which means all of the painted shapes become more as one, rather than benefiting from the natural way the ply becomes visually, and tangibly another plane.

With the ply it’s more obvious that the surface is separate and the paint sits on top of it. With a canvas this is less so the case. And then there’s an element of illusion in the two dimensional effect as well where just by adding a painted colour, it changes the planes.

 

Yellow and white abstract.

This painting is another large scale translation onto square canvas from one of the smaller studies on ply that I did.

The asymmetric composition and diagonal lines with linked elements are where I feel the flow with this, as well as the introduction on this larger piece of the red triangle 🔺 contrasting with the subtle green and white, yet linking across to the fluorescent yellow.

As with the other large painting that evolved this way, there were changed and adaptations I made to transfer to a white background (primes canvas) and the larger, square format.

Now having lived with it for some while, and having progressed other pieces I’m eager to add something, another element, that was never a part of the plan when I started.

So you could say that this piece has taken almost 2 years to do!


Commissioning an artist

You might be asking “How do I commission an artist? I don’t know where to find one, What should I expect? How do I start?”

I’ve been undertaking commissions over 21 years, for me as the artist, it’s been simple, I chat to my client, we discuss what they like and I build a picture of what the painting is in my head that is what they want. But that’s not the scenario for the recipient as they just don’t know what they are going to get.

I don’t know where to start

Don’t worry, I do

So you might be asking the same question ‘can you do something for me? What’s it going to look like?’

There are so many ways of going about briefing an artist, or of carrying out a process for a commission. I’ve done them a few different ways:

  • the client asks for something that looks like something I have already painted and we chat about that and it either sets the brief immediately – style, colours, size OR it leads into new territory for something a bit (or completely!) different
  • I go to the house/ business/ location and we measure up, look at what’s already in the space (furnishings, furniture, light, space, materials and colours of objects in the room)
  • I take an existing painting around to a space to see how it works in the space, we talk about the colours/ space/ visual style and elements of the painting.

Trust

in the process

Be brave

There is a degree of trust and faith you need in order to take a risk. You aren’t in a shop looking at something that has already been completed and imagingin how it will look above your sofa or reception desk. You have to know and understand that the artist you’re working with has a strong sense of visual awareness and sensitivity both to you, your environment and the outcome you’re looking for.

Take a chance

This is the time to be adventurous. If you brief the painting to be safe, that’s what you will get. If something that is in the artist’s portfolio really appeals and is unique, stands out and is stronger than the rest of their work then that is the upper point of risk you might take. The more you talk the better the outcome. If you say ‘ I like that but that one is a bit adventurous, I feel like I should have this [safe] one over here, can we meet in the middle?

Perhaps you like adventurous, perhaps you need reigning in? Maybe the bold colours need to be brought into line with your interior so that they don’t clash.

There are so many variables.

You can be guided.

You can set the boundaries

You can choose the size

You can choose from a portfolio

You can guide the colour choice (if you need or wish to)

Or you can trust in the artist to create something with you in mind that is their vision.

You can commission something that you choose to have no input into

Their vision of you, or their vision of what you like. Or you can ask them simply to do something for the space that is completely of their own, that you will love, because the thing that drew you to them for a commission is an intrinsic part of what they do. You can work with their intuition and natural style. That way the piece you commission just might be the wonderful piece that makes the art collectable, valuable and unique and worth the most to you, to them and to the art world (if future investment is the thing you are after).

How would you choose to run your commission? You have the power to both choose the artist you want to work with and the power to decide if the choices I have outlined above are available from the artist you choose.

Trudie Moore abstract painting geometric 2018

My process for

commissions

How I take commissions

Here’s a sample of one of the ways in which I do commissions, hopefully you’ll find it a calm and reassuring process, there are some formalities but I try to keep it lightweight because that’s more enjoyable for both of us.

 

A bespoke commission for an abstract painting in the style of my current body of work (geometric abstracts)

You will enjoy the experience of commissioning a qualified artist to create a site-specific painting in collaboration with the artist. I have been creating commissions over 21 years.

I’ll come to your site and chat about the possibilities for creating something that works specifically within that space and which can be seen as an extension of your personality or business through that environment. You might wish to come to my art studio or storage facility to view more paintings and discuss them more deeply.

I will then send you a quote and a short contract to sign to commence work, I will also ask for a deposit to be used against materials (but the full payment is upon delivery).

We might discuss points in the quote or the brief further at this point to check that what was discussed and put onto paper is still on track.

If it’s an installation, or something more three dimensional, we might draw up some visual plans or light sketches to illustrate the mechanics of the piece, but you will be aware that the way that I work is an evolution with the painting itself and this is not controlled and contained planning as such (like for a design) it’s a piece of art that has a conversation with the piece itself.

It is unlikely that I will show you the painting prior to delivery unless there are any queries.

Your painting will be created and delivered within an agreed time frame (usually 6 weeks dependant on time of year/ drying times).

I will give guidance on hanging the work but will not install the painting unless it’s painted direct-to-wall. 

After delivery, I will ask to take photos and I might ask for you to send me photos after installation, or for a recommendation or social media sharing. I’ll ask you for permisison to share any photographs of your interiors or profile.

What I will create for you

You will commisison me to create:

  • A fine art painting on bespoke artists gallery canvas from Harris Moore or another professional canvas supplier, of your designated size (ply or acrylic on request) or an installation painting.
  • A specific piece of art that enhances and creates a feeling within your environment 
  • A site visit to your chosen location for the piece
  • The experience of having a piece of fine art created that will be specifically for you
  • All materials
  • Ownership of the final piece (creative license remains with the artist)
  • Installation of painting direct to walls OR delivery to location*

 

Who commissions work best for

This works best if you are:

  • Open to enjoying the process
  • Willing to place your faith in the artist to create something in their house style that has you and your space in mind
  • Have a sense of adventure and ambition about your project and its place in the artist’s body of work
  • Happy to work to the artist’s contract of sale

 


Hello world and welcome!

Welcome to my super cool new website!

It’s been years in the dreaming, weeks in the building and eventually I bit the bullet to get on with a new site to showcase my paintings and my new start in Cornwall, view on mobile, buy more easily online and see all of my key information in one place.

I’ve had a custom website built by Sallie-Ann at Hype Digital for probably 15 years and she’s been, and continues to be, a great web developer to look after my website needs.

Sallie’s capable of looking after all of your website hosting, set up, e-commerce and web design whether you use Wordpress with a template and are a savvy user or a complete website phobe, or if you need bespoke coding and database needs. (Just a little plug here as I have been with her for a long time and she’s been awesome, responsive and accommodating and I know people go to her because of her skill and friendliness).

I started a blog on the side of the website for my art interests at Blogspot (which I have kept live for now as I won’t be importing all of the posts are at the moment) and so this site means I can chat art and link al my inspirations through into my website so that you can see how what I see inspires me to practise the contemporary abstract painting style that satisfies me.

If I go to an exhibition, gallery or view then this will be written about here alongside with showing you my latest practice, new paintings, working process and the critical theory that goes into my paintings.

So for the first post, welcome and I hope you fin the site easy to look around, please let me know if you have any feedback on it that I can accommodate to improve it!

And while you’re here, why not take a look at my portfolio!

Trudie


Painting on plywood

A lot of my recent abstract paintings are on plywood. There's something architectural about them, it feels as though I can expand outwards from the surface. I feel as though that surface can layer with others. The ply gives me a really solid and resistant base whereas canvas gives and feels more fragile.

This has become something of a trend for me. Traditionally I've always used canvas - high-grade artists canvas on bespoke frames. But not as of the last few years.

Modern acrylic paints have a range of abilities and very satisfyingly they suit ply, and ply works well with my hard-edged geometric lines. The paint goes on super smoothly and the edges are much cleaner. I've been working with the ripples in the wood to help determine which areas of the surface I want to 'save' and which I want to obscure. This sometimes dictates the composition which gives me restrictions I have to work within - external controls if you like - of which I help to make and guide the decision.

Here are a few medium-sized pieces from 2015. There is some structure, there are divisions, there are omissions to the surface.

 


Trudie Moore abstract painting studio

I once had a conversation about how I develop my paintings, do I plan them? The suggestion was that I could plot them up on on a computer before painting.

But despite the time to learn a way that suits me for this to work, I struggle with that as my brain works better by using the paint itself. And actually a lot of the time what I plan changes as I’m doing the painting.

I can lose the impact if I try to plan too much. Perhaps you could say it was a 2-way conversation with the painting where it starts to guide you. You could say this was an intuitive approach but I think it’s more of a collaborative process with each piece.

Or maybe I prefer to just enjoy the moment or the instant that something reveals itself to me. A bit like running. I hate to run out and back on the same path, the run back is too difficult or painful to endure, I like the constant change of the new all the time. To plan a painting and then paint it, I think kills the joy and the thrill/ tension in the moment of actually getting the idea direct to the painting.

But I do use a sketchbook so that I don’t lose ideas and thoughts when they hit me or when I want to work out how something is going to work.

And so with the development of paintings, I love nothing more than to work on several at once. If my mind goes off on a tangent with an idea I can do it on another painting instead of being solely tied into the one and then losing the idea by the time I’m done. And I can develop nuances I think of once I’ve started by running those thoughts and ideas across a group of paintings at once.

That’s what’s happening in this picture, several pieces in development at once feeding into one another, a neon hotbed of ideas!

Inspirations from Tate Modern

Inspirations from the Tate Modern, November 2015

On my day out to see Ai Weiwei’s exhibition I took the opportunity to do some further research and to look for painting inspirations in the Tate Modern. Limiting myself to the free exhibits I was interested in narrowing it down to just the Energy and Process and Making Traces rooms. I was a bit disappointed in the painting selection, but there were a few key items that took me, and one completely unexpected body of work encompassing drawing, sculpture and performance by Rebecca Horn that was a real surprise.

First of all, the paintings.

 

Giorgio Griffa, Segni Orizzontali, Acrylic paint on canvas, 1975

This piece was of interest to me initially because the painting isn’t attached to a canvas stretcher, it’s simply painted straight onto canvas and pinned to the wall. There is a relationship between Griffa’s use of the canvas material as a raw object to how I apply gloss paint in the more process-led paintings where it wraps around the surface sides of the painting to amplify the three dimensionality of the painting’s surface.

Giorgio Griffa, Segni Orizzontali, 1975 at the Tate Modern, November 2015

Griffa is recording the process of painting which I feel is making a statement just about process. He uses a harmonious sequence of colours developing from one line to the next but after four lines of marks the brushstrokes taper off into nothing leaving the remainder of the canvas bare.
To me this is initially interesting but it feels incomplete, as though he’s given up on the painting and lost interest once he’s proved his point.
There is always a question raised when you do a painting of when to stop and how to know it’s finished. Perhaps he’d planned to stop at the moment he felt the point was made and that would be the end of the painting. Perhaps a second half of making that half finished painting into a statement about art is in the practice of folding the canvas up when in storage to retain the creases that will be prominent in its next display.
My initial interest was fulfilled quickly but I didn’t want to stand and stare at it or to come back for another look, the idea was quickly digested and I moved on in search of more.

Cy Twombly Untitled (Bacchus), 2008

 

I was particularly looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the work of Cy Twombly; massive, expressive canvasses with giant gestural marks of free flowing paint. Immersively large scale and full of impact.

I’ve always enjoyed doing large canvases, they are expensive to make and quite a big gamble to undertake given the cost involved to do one but when I do it pays off, the bigger paintings always lend themselves to space and freedom well for me and I feel able to stretch out and explore the space. I never like to waste resources or money so I know if I don’t get it right I won’t be a happy bunny.

 

Cy must have either been a wealthy man or he had big confidence that these would work, which is lucky as we can happily assume they have worked given they were made late on in his career. These three giant ‘blood splatterings’ of paintings are on display in their own room. They were painted using a brush attached to a long stick to achieve the huge swooping lines almost resembling handwriting.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bacchus), 2008 at the Tate Modern, November 2015
Detail from up close of Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bacchus), 2008 at the Tate Modern, November 2015

Cy said that he did paintings when he had an idea for them and so they came naturally. He let the painting idea and needs dictate the size of the canvas, which is also a concept I agree with. Some paintings can’t be contained into a limited space, it doesn’t work and the composition and scale don’t work – and why work at a small scale when really you intended to paint at a large scale as that was the essence of the painting?

 

Another practice of Twombly’s I agree with is that he paints three or four paintings at the same time as a group which is another natural thing about painting. If I am to do one painting I inevitably have three or four other variations of the same piece in my head at the same time and they don’t all belong in one painting. Each need to be expressed while the thought for it is there as they are separate entities and variations on the same theme. An example of this is in Abstract paintings numbered 1,2,3 and 4 (the first four paintings in my portfolio on my website). These were all painted at the same time, they are similar but they express different paces, compositions and colour balances and they enable me to be able to document the full range of the painting. The four paintings together in a way are of one painting, or one thought for a painting, yet they are separate and individual pieces where one thought leads to another and then another after that. It’s like a contained sequence of thought similar to the artist’s whole body of work where in order to do a painting, another painting before that has informed it and then that painting leads on to more. A creative gateway has opened within a painting that generates broader thought and a proliferation of variations.
I’ve seen graphic designers work in this way too, they have an idea but there are various ways of executing it, then they can drill down on the one that works the best and progress that idea forwards to create one final piece, yet any of those ideas could have been a feasible outcome. And it’s similar in creating a body of work with painting, it’s possible to create endless outcomes in abstract painting but a direction will work the best and that’s what needs to be continued.

 

I feel there is a relationship between my working practices and those of Cy Twombly, from a purely abstract painting perspective, I like scale and multiples of paintings, I love his large scale gestures and I love the intuitive and un-forced approach to letting a painting happen and creating the painting that there is an idea sitting there for.

Tomma Abts, Zebe, 2010

 

I next spotted a small painting by Tomma Abts, Zebe (2010). My contemporaries in Two Queens had recommended that I take a look at her work due to my current predisposition to using geometrics and tight control in my latest work (currently in progress and no spoiler alerts here!).

.

Tomma Abts, Zebe (2010) on show at the Tate Modern, November 2015

This was a very small painting with an undercoat of acrylic painted over in oils, neatly and flatly painted only 48 x 38cm. A slight contrast to the paintings by Twombly!

 

Abts doesn’t need the 3-4 metre space to execute this neat and controlled painting and she methodically applies the paint out of which the forms and shapes emerge, readjusting until the composition is arrived at. So here she seems to use a combination of method and intuition then makes a decision at the point at which she thinks the painting has evolved to a stage that it’s done.

 

Here there also is an element, as there has been in my work, of the painting helping to determine itself. It seems to me that this is a process by which she works with the painting, again with a degree of intuition and some control over it. As I find, there is a point at which the painting can’t be controlled (despite a controlled style of painting) because that would incur precise planning and knowledge of the exact outcome (which would be detrimental to learning from the painting) and at this point does it then become a design? The end result of this painting due to the flatness of the paint does seem to look something of a design to me.

Making Traces exhibit

 

Mark Rothko (late 1950s)

 

I had run out of time when I reached the Rothko room, and only had time for a very quick photo and glimpse which was disappointing. I wanted to have time to sit and think about the work but we were being ushered out.

Mark Rothko paintings as part of the Making Traces exhibit at the Tate Modern, November 2015

There were nine paintings in this room, very very dimly lit and hung against a mid tone grey wall. All of them were deep red with varying compositions. The paintings had originally been commissioned for a restaurant and I felt that explained the lighting as they would have been seen at this light level. Which is an interesting layer to add to the thought behind the paintings.

 

I felt as they were intended, claustrophobic, closed in and almost as though I were in a soundproof room, but visually soundproof. The light, painting colour and scale made everything feel muted and almost depressing due to the weight of the red, grey walls and the shapes within the paintings. A very heavy experience.

 

The board outside quoted Rothko to say of Michaelangelo, his influencer that he ‘achieved just the kind of feeling I’m after – he makes the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up, so that all they can do is butt their heads forever against the wall’. I couldn’t agree more and it wasn’t what I had expected to see.

Rebecca Horn

 

I mentioned earlier the surprise of the work by Rebecca Horn, an artist I was really not familiar with and whose work was not particularly directly related to mine, I didn’t think, also the work was quite a mix of video, performance, sculpture and drawing, so not an obvious choice but I did think it was rather exciting and interesting, probably because it freaked me out rather a lot.

 

Some of this was from the 1970s and other pieces were more recent work from 2005. It was the more recent body sized drawing-paintings that were the initial interest. Without reading the plaque the body sized marks and (almost bloody) fingerprints give an impression of the body and connect the marks on the canvas in a strong visual way. It’s incredibly clear to see and to feel the way in which the artist has applied the mediums to the paper, almost as clearly as though she had done it there and then in front of you. The marks left behind are raw and very exposed and I’ve not felt something communicate the action of the user in such an explicit way before. There seemed to be no barrier at all between the application and the viewing of the piece, which to me is really quite a freaky experience to feel given the theme of the work being meditation and energy, I really felt it myself and now I am starting to wonder if that’s got something to do with my own meditative experiences.

Rebecca Horn, House of Pain, 2005, on show at Tate Modern November 2015
Rebecca Horn, House of Pain, 2005, on show at Tate Modern November 2015

This is what the plaque says about House of Pain and Waiting for Absence, both 2005 (having read this after seeing the pieces):

‘to look inside bodies and meditate one’s own way into them… you approach a hidden centre, maybe the solar plexus, and follow the circular motion or energy threads of breathing’.

Rebecca Horn, Waiting for Absence, 2005, on show at Tate Modern November 2015

There were some other items in the exhibit that were quite scary and intimate. A video of Rebecca in the 70s making a drawing wearing a cage of pencils on her face, a Cockatoo headpiece that had ‘wings’ to envelope/embrace a partner into a kiss (this was really voyeuristic and a bit shocking) and then also, the piece that to me was the most raw and shocking item, a sculpture called Overflowing Blood Machine, 1970. This was bloody and to me, almost torturous looking, perhaps this was what gave such an impact of all the items that perhaps the mechanics had been inspired by medieval creations and inventions.

Overflowing Blood Machine was a plinth with transparent tubes that encased a wearer. I thought this looked less like a therapeutic hospital device than one of dystopia and torture or perhaps even unnatural genetic engineering or some other sinister device. The wearer (a performance artist) is ‘tied down on top of a glass container, tubes are wrapped around his body. Blood is slowly pumped from the glass container through the plastic tubes. This garment of veins encases his body, wrapping him in a pulsating skin.’ I think this is the stuff of horror movies, see what you think from the photos!

I’m now looking forward to my next gallery visit, but first some more painting of my own!

 

This blog post was first published by myself 23rd Nov 2015 at http://trudiemooreabstractpaintings.blogspot.com/2015/


Barbara Hepworth Studio

A rainy day in St Ives.

I once visited the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives with my Mum but it was such a distant memory that now we are living in Cornwall and I have a local’s pass for Tate St Ives that this would be a great little hangout with a toddler in tow – if we could get there walking …

So after a trip around the gallery this summer, we walked over the cobbled streets and took a look around.

Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic.. here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space.

Barbara Hepworth

Trewyn Studios.

Once you’ve gone through the museum you can go straight into the garden (safest bet with a small live wire). It’s not immense but it is well packed with hardy tropical plants which thrive well in the humid conditions in Cornwall, and Barbara’s substantial sculptures. Clearly the sculptural nature of the plants sits well with the sculptures themselves.

Now please bear in mind that with a toddler in tow I’m not stopping to have the opportunity to read the blurb and critically assess each piece (and it’s raining), I’m casting a swift impression and grabbing a few moments to take some photos as it’s really photogenic!

Sculpture Garden and studio.

The garden is a lush green space with a rooftop view and the studio placed towards the top by the house. There’s a simple loop around the garden with planting that creates vistas to enjoy the sculptures which make for a good photo composition. The bronze and stone pieces fit so naturally within this setting.

If you peer into the studio, you can see a large white piece and all Barbara’s tools laid out. This isn’t how they would have been placed while she was working, it’s definitely been lined up to look good as a museum piece to viewers as the placement is far too composed to be a realistic work station, but what is clear is that this was a large space in which to accomplish grand plans.

And grand plans take some money, which Barbara must have amassed some of over her career, I can’t imagine someone without great sales success (or being bankrolled) could have dreamed of getting a 3m or so high bronze sculpture (Four Square, 1966) cast and craned into position anywhere, let alone their garden.

So with the rain now parting we escaped back home – I feel lucky to have this so nearby even though it’s an exhibit that won’t change much over time.


Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts, London 2015

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts, London 2015

I picked up my camera and headed off to the Big Smoke for a day of treating myself to art gallery mooching.

 

I didn’t know an awful lot about Ai Weiwei before I spotted his exhibition was on at the Royal Academy of Arts, but I did know that it would be good with well executed work that would make me think harder and deeper not only about the work, but about its context.

He's the Beijing Andy Warhol... he wants to shock you

Never Sorry

Never go unprepared

 

Not wanting to go unprepared I did some homework in advance. My method of research is to ‘just Google it’ and put out a bit of lead-up content reporting my findings. So I started by finding the trailer for a video from Ai Weiwei entitled Never Sorry outlining Ai as “he’s the Beijing Andy Warhol…he wants to shock you…I love the culture but I want something new”. Not bad as a one-liner, in fact it could sum up Ai Weiwei within the 140 character limit. Which is handy, given that Ai Weiwei utilises the platform which is banned in China to expand his message globally.

 

So I continued my research. Having posted my excitement on Twitter, The Royal Academy responded by helping me along with a link to their bite-sized videos. I would recommend these to anyone about to visit the exhibition, there is an audio guide to support the tour but taking the time to understand the context first will help a lot, especially if you plan to visit as I did, carrying a bag, a camera, phone and the audio guide, the RA was very busy and taking the time to listen, look, photograph and think means you need to allow a few hours with the information provided, let alone really think about it as you look at it.

 

What my research revealed knocked me back and I can only say I was truly shocked. I watched this TED film with Ai talking about his work and restrictions. There were things in the back of my mind that I already knew but had never known the true impact of such as there being reported an earthquake in the Sichuan Province in 2008 which had killed thousands of people and that schools had fallen flat to the ground as a result. I knew that there were countless untold human rights abuses in China, that Tibet should be freed, that China has one of the world’s worst records for protecting its people. I recall watching a programme that reported prior to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, thousands of people were being displaced from their homes (read that as ‘being made homeless’) to make way for the shiny new stadium (you can read more about Beijing jailing and torturing protestors against this and Olympic city ‘cleansing’). Incidentally, now that the public land has been sold off for commercial gain, the Beijing Olympic stadium is now proving to be something of a White Elephant.

 

All this provides the vital context to Ai Weiwei’s work and, if you have a bit of time (and perhaps enough data) you should watch this documentary by the BBC Without Fear or Favour next because this is what will make you pay attention to the work, not just within the context of what’s on show in the exhibition, but because there is a much deeper level of understanding to be had of why Ai is so extreme in his approach and commitment to a life of making globally important art – so much so that I believe he is saying he would die for it; because art defines who he is and freedom of speech enables him to carry out his art.

The show opens with the first big piece, Bed, 2004 which is a piece recycled from Qing Dynasty timber, like much of Ai’s work, reclaimed salvage.

More photos of Bed

Headphones on

 

The show opens with the first big piece, Bed, 2004 which is a piece recycled from Qing Dynasty timber, like much of Ai’s work, reclaimed salvage. It is a map of China’s borders (I read this as restrictions and boundaries) rolled out flat that sits luxuriously on the floor creating a landscape of ripples that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The quality of the timber is rich and satisfying, a beautiful object in itself, a very attractive sculpture.

Detail from Kippe, 2006, on show at the RA, November 2015

More photos of Kippe

 

A couple of bigger reclaimed pieces follow, Table and pillar, 2002 and Kippe, 2006 the former considered important due to the technical challenges and insight into the country’s past. The next few pieces are quite simple and illustrative of Ai Weiwei’s approach to making art. My impression was that the majority of these served the same purpose; to demonstrate Ai’s desire to destroy the sentiment of the past by using iconic and deeply valued objects and to show their perceived value as intangible. By turning functional pieces such as valuable stools and tables into unusable objects, this would render them practically pointless, however by utilising the methods of traditional craftmanship (the assigned factor that gives them their worth) to alter the objects, Ai manages to highlight the unnecessary value that they hold. Perhaps you could ask a question here that if the model for these items means them then becoming art will it add further value to the item’s antiquity for the future due to the application of the work of the artist to the object.

In these pieces Ai Weiwei’s interest in Dadaism and influence by the work of Marcel Duchamp is easily recognised, that of items grounded in the everyday that are taken apart and put back together with meticulous refinement. It is really very clear to see and the reference to Western art history contextualises globally.

For me, the standout piece of this exhibition is linked to the shock of the background behind the piece Straight made between 2008 and 2012. My research defined the exhibition for me and this piece truly brings to life the reality of government oppression and human suffering. China has historically been a secretive nation, maintaining power through secrecy and control of information.

The deadly earthquake suffered in 2008 measured 8.0 on the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS – formerly known as the Richter scale). The scale defines this as “Major damage to buildings, structures likely to be destroyed. Will cause moderate to heavy damage to sturdy or earthquake-resistant buildings. Damaging in large areas. Felt in extremely large regions”. Given this definition and the population density, all buildings in the area should have been constructed to be earthquake resistant, however 7 years later 69,195 people are currently known to be dead as a result, with 18,392 still missing. The point of this for Ai Weiwei was that of all the buildings that were destroyed, these schools were completely flattened. The earthquake hit at a time when children were in school yet school buildings shouldn’t have fallen and the Government wasn’t telling people who had disappeared and what the reason was, giving rise to a feeling that the Government hadn’t ensured the schools were properly constructed. Parents didn’t know if their children had perished in the earthquake.

Straight, 2008-2012 at the Royal Academy, November 2015

For Ai Weiwei he felt that he couldn’t understand the event and the devastation of it and the Government’s response without going to see it for himself and so he travelled to the area with a team and they started to collect names of those children who perished which were collated and read out by followers of his blog. The blog was later shut down by the Government for revealing “state secrets”. This resulted in Ai Weiwei being beaten by police and denied the ability to give evidence in support of one his assistants, he was then hospitalised for bleeding on the brain.

Later, Ai and the studio team volunteers were able to return and collate the names and details of those children and the printouts featuring the details are exhibited alongside Straight with accompanying photographs showing the catastrophic devastation caused by the earthquake. In  the photographs barely a building remains upright and search teams are seen recovering few bodies.

 

Straight itself is constructed from bars of rebar that Ai Weiwei anonymously collected from the clear up operation. The metal rods that were supposed to support and reinforce the concrete and protect the buildings from falling in many cases were very thin and inadequate. Straight is made up of around 90 tonnes of the 200 tonnes of rebar collected and straightened out as thought new by the team in which time Ai Weiwei was imprisoned and intimidated by the government for 81 days. This act of dedication to represent the individuals who died in the earthquake, and the effort to memorialise and remember them brings an emotional and human level into the work that isn’t seen in the previous items in the exhibition, and I think this brings the piece up a level that makes it connect more deeply with the audience.

 

There is also an element here that the bars are so well straightened you would never know that they were once bent from the earthquake, and it is like they in themselves are covering up the event, but straightened with a desire to put things back to how they were before, to treasure and remember the lives before the earthquake. This video shows the Making of Straight.

Moving on from Straight, we move into a room that talks about Ai’s struggles with the Government, his oppression as an artist and the Government’s attempts to constrain his work by bulldozing his studio. Ai had criticised the Beijing Olympics internationally, fought for those who suffered as a result of the earthquake and for over 300,000 children who had been harmed by infant formula. He utilised this as an event to commemorate the studio and hold a feast of river crabs. Of the items in this exhibit, He Xie, 2011 is a pile of 3,000 crabs clambering over one another, I think is the most interesting part. The translation for river crab ‘He Xie’ means harmonious, which is a concept of the Communist party’s slogan ‘The realisation of a harmonious society’ and this is taken to denote censorship within Chinese society. The feasting on river crabs, to which he was then, due to the Government, unable to attend becoming a piece of performance art and defiance by those attendees. The crabs shown were anatomically correct and made of hand painted porcelain, a mischievous edge I believe is shown in the escape of one of the crabs up the wall. I later felt like one of the clambering crabs on the tube in the midst of the madness.

 

More references to surveillance, challenging traditional values and oppression follow, the use of craftsmanship carefully executed in the work, Ai’s art business giving work to skilled individuals using high value materials, marble, tea, crystal, Han urns and the highly crafted Treasure Box, 2014. All traditional Chinese items.

The exhibition becomes renewed when we get to one of the last galleries featuring the S.A.C.R.E.D. 2012 diorama depicting torturous aspects from Ai’s incarceration such as interrogations and being watched using the loo. These could be viewed from the side, but if you were tall enough (I barely was and I am average height) you could peer in from the top by standing on a step and experience the pieces in an ‘out of body experience’ kind of a way as though you were either Ai witnessing his own life, or a video camera surveilling the situation. This room was decorated in a blingy, gold-coloured wallpaper of handcuffs and Twitter logos with Ai’s face as the bird. I feel it is demonstrating that he can overcome the authorities and this treatment by still getting his message out through Twitter. The image of this was quite sinister, Ai playing the Government at its own game and by putting his face on the wallpaper as the bird, he’s become the more powerful force. The fact that the paper is only printed gold and not actually made from gold shows that the luxury material itself is unnecessary, but also refers to mass production techniques and mass distribution through social media.

More photos of Bicycle Chandelier

 

Finally the mass production is addressed again through the giant Bicycle Chandelier, 2015 commissioned to be re-fashioned with crystals for the Royal Academy, made from Forever Bicycles historically ridden all over China but ridden less in recent times due to increasing modernisation while riding a bike in China has become a luxury and not a utility. This piece suits the elegance and luxury gold leaf of its position under the atrium roof, the commissioning of the piece by the RA feeling like an act of extravagance by the gallery itself, possibly funded by sales of merchandise in the gift shop as you exit. I wondered whether Ai Weiwei embraces corporate souvenir sales to help fund his mission (given that some of the books themselves are his work) and the partnerships with galleries seeing it as a necessary way to enable art, or whether the monetisation of art, art galleries and the link to consumerism is seen as an additional issue, perhaps one not to be addressed given the number of problems he is already tackling.

I’ve since read some art reviews on Ai’s exhibition in the press. Although to a great degree the critics are understanding the work, they credit Ai for his celebrity and politics but criticise the value of the work as art. I think they are missing the point. There is a marketing aspect to creating art of asking ‘who is your audience?’ swiftly followed by ‘what do you want your audience to feel, think and do as a result of seeing your work?’. For this element Ai is strong, he’s embraced marketing to deliver his work to the masses in addition to the gallery circuit and achieved this within the West’s commercial and capitalist structure. He’s managed to reach outside of China. Despite the content of the exhibition, The critics fail to contextualise that China has a very different culture and the Ai has worked outside of this, he’s embraced a broader global perspective and has overcome huge restrictions. He manages to speak to a broader population and not just the niche of the art world, a clique that many of the masses struggle to connect with.

 

As an artist you have to adapt to the fast changing environment in which you are working. Ai combines his work with current communication methods such as Instagram and Twitter in order to not only target his audience, but to create a lasting digital footprint about his work that can’t be restricted by the government and this work has influence within a contemporary, global context. In China Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google are all restricted, Ai cannot be searched for using Google as his output is censored. Freedom of speech is not allowed.

 

For this I see him as a better communicator, I agree with his stance on producing work that is clear and straightforward to understand, that’s not tied up in the impenetrable jargon of the art world, that art should be available to the broadest possible audience, that it shouldn’t take a degree, a masters and years of training to be able to decipher the language of the pieces.

 

Ai’s work is current and relevant to the global population, if the West are to continue to increase trade with China, Human Rights abuses need to be addressed by politicians, the voting public need to be aware of the issues and to influence from the bottom up. The Human Rights Act needs to be kept strong and not watered down so that the democratic principles to protect people help to ensure that trade is ethical and that consumers are not unwittingly buying in to harming those who work for Chinese companies.

 

I left the exhibition feeling it was a job well done. I took quite a few photos of the exhibition that I’ve posted to my Flickr Gallery in addition to those in this article. Please feel free to post your thoughts below.

I first published this blog on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at http://trudiemooreabstractpaintings.blogspot.com/2015/11/ai-weiwei-at-royal-academy-of-arts.html


Neon linings

Back to school! Not the kind of BTS post that everyone else is sharing at the moment though!

I’m very excited to say that today I picked up the keys to my new studio space @krowji_ in Redruth. After putting my back catalogue paintings into storage, my artistic move to Cornwall is complete.

This is a new phase for my art career in Cornwall. The Krowji is a redeveloped Grammar school and home to around 200 other artists and creatives, I can’t wait to meet all the other tenants, see their work and businesses and get restarted.

Every cloud has
a neon lining

So here’s to the neon lining on that cloud that’s emerged after saying goodbye to @twoqueensstudio 🥂

Watch this space!