A quick review of Part 11: this was a direct collaboration between myself, Petra and Franzi in 12 mixed media paintings on 4 x ⅞ x 6 inch birch wood panels. The image we worked with as our starting point was from The Good Witches of the Between, Part Six - Applying Petra. A similar methodology is being applied in Part 12, this time we selected one of the 12 paintings as the starting point of our next group of 12 mixed media collaborative paintings. Here is the image we chose.
The objective with Part 12 was to begin scaling up as part of the process of dissecting this image. Instead of 12 smaller panels the panels of this group would be 8 x 10 inches, six panels with a depth of ⅞ inch and six panels with a depth of 1 ½ inches. The image would be printed with the inkjet printer on three different types of paper - Arches grain satiné, glossy photo paper and a heavier weight bond paper- and the image would need to be scaled up to 16 x 20 inches so that when the 12 panels are grouped by fours to create 3 paintings, each 16 x 20 inches, the scale of the parts would remain true to the image used from Part 11. For the beginning stages of this Part the panels are being worked as three 16 x 20 inch paintings, however, at some point along the way (TBD) they could conceivably break apart -fragment- into 12 8 x 10 inch paintings. Or they could come together to form a single, 24 x 40 inch painting; or 8 x 120 inch painting; or … It is still early in our process.
Here are a few images of what has happened so far.
To quickly sum up. A base configuration of the panels, three groups of four, was decided upon using a mixture of fragments cut from the three printouts. After sealing the birch wood panels with acrylic matte medium, the fragments were glued into place with the matte medium using print outs of the predetermined layout as a guide. Parts of the Arches and the photo paper were left uncoated with the matte medium, other parts of the wood were given ‘texture’ using the matte medium. This will not be apparent until more layers of paint are added by Petra -who is next- then Franzi and finally, myself using oil paints.
Now to what happened in the between of Part 11 and the beginnings of Part 12.
Petra and Franzi are painters. Melusine is a writer. Ways of collaborating with Petra and Franzi through/in the painting is not to hard to imagine. The question is how to bring Melusine as a writer into the painting. I began exploring this in Berlin. Until then Melusine’s voice has only appeared on the computer screen. A logical point to begin exploring was away from the screen, so the question arose how does Melusine write...handwriting as opposed to on the screen. What was revealed was her ability to write in Sütterlin; having been taught as a child this older (but not really that old) form of script by an elderly aunt who looked after Melusine while her mother worked. Explorations with her handwriting and painting done in Berlin can be viewed in an earlier posting. These continue in the studio but have not found their way into or rather onto the surfaces of The Good Witches of the Between lineage. Here are a few hanging on the studio wall along with a close up.
A discussion about the photographic documentation/presentation of the paintings and their qualities as objects led to me considering what might not be revealed ...or better, attempted to be revealed… in the reproduction of a painting through photography. I have always had an issue of what is lost in reproduction. Further, I have an even greater issue when the viewer of the work as reproduction begins to address it as if they were experiencing it first hand...often raising as concerns points that would not be concerns if they were viewing the actual work. My point being, we should not talk of reproductions as if they say anything about the work, because more often than not they saw less about the work than about the reproduction.
Climbing down from my soapbox, I can get pretty windy about this, I will save it for elsewhere...not in this Making post. BTW -in case you arrived here via the image in the October 15, 2017 Update and you are wondering what is going on that ‘post’ was the result of the discussion on how the work is experienced live versus through reproduction. Next month I will most likely return to the structure I’ve been using so far, but for this month I’ve decided to play around a bit with the frustrations, breaking out of the square space a bit via a posting pun...with the assistance of the United States Postal Service.
Back to the work. What the thoughts and discussion surrounding the photographic documentation and presentation of the paintings as objects did do was lead me back to the back of the birch wood panels.
You might recall in the work A Little Madness in the Spring which Petra did this past Spring ...now scheduled for exhibition in Cleveland, Ohio in 2019, details to come… Petra also was working with the 4 x ⅞ x 6 inch birch wood panels. The painting was on the ‘front’ surface, and the ‘back’ -interior- space of each panel was painted a flat black and outfitted with a mirror. The paintings were then suspended by filament from the ceiling in rows...plants in a garden bed. The panels are hung back-to-back and front-to-front, so as the viewer moves around the work reflections of the painted surfaces as well as the mirrored surfaces appear and disappear...and sometimes the viewer’s own reflection enters the picture only to disappear as the painting sways in the wind.
Back to the back of Part 11… I sought a way to enliven that space on the back, yet I want to keep the paintings as paintings that hang on the wall...mostly.
About the same time I read in multiple places about Turkish artist Serkan Özkaya’s recent work We Will Wait (2017) which will be on view at Postmasters Gallery, NYC October 21- November 25, 2017. In this work the artist reconstructs Marcel Duchamp’s final -at least as far as we know- artwork, Étant donnés in order to reveal what Özkaya says is late-artist’s intention of the work as a camera obscura meant to project an image of Duchamp’s alter ego Rrose Sélavy through the eye-holes in the wooden door and onto the wall opposite. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, owner of the original work, would not let Özkaya test his theory on it, however he was able to receive permission to reconstruct the work in the studio in which Duchamp created it at 80 East Eleventh Street #403...from there it will be moved further downtown to the gallery on Franklin Street. While it would have been amusing to experience the work in Duchamp’s space, I can’t say I am convinced that what I see in the photo of the projection is Rrose. But then, the longer I look my brain begins to convince me that just maybe I am seeing Rrose. So are the tricks between what we see and what we perceive. And all of this is not so far off from being plausible based on what we know of Duchamp and his work...but then it is just as well plausible that this is just more hooey generated by Duchampian mythology. Either way I can almost see the ghost of M. Duchamp standing next to the door inside of #403 with that tight lipped grin on his face. In other words, I am sure he would find it -the effort as well as the presumption- amusing.
[A brief interruption to say in addition to the 'Making' that appears here the past weeks have been spent writing and revising the two chapters I am intending to submit for RDC2. These chapters, currently designated as the first two chapters of the Personas section of the written exegesis, are part of an ongoing conversation taking place in the studio between Melusine and myself on Marcel Duchamp, David Bowie and the use of alter egos and/or personas in a variety of artistic practices. Parallel to this I have been working on the transfer report, its structure and content.]
What this brought me to was to consider ways in which information can be ‘hidden’ in the work… not so much as a way to pull one over on the viewer, but as a way of offering additional information, or pleasurable tidbits, that cannot be had by viewing through a reproduction or by a mere surface glance. What can be given to the viewer who exerts the effort to get closer to the work in attempts to ‘know it’? What subtext can I offer as subtext that addresses how we perceive identity and the authenticity of the objects, the authenticity of identity?
Admittedly, this first attempt to do this in Part 11 is pretty basic. Yet this was also a way to bring Melusine into the collaboration. Looking for ways to freshen up her Sütterlin skills, they’d grown quite rusty in the past 35 years, Mel came across ten poems she had written in August 2015. Reworking them a bit she then saved them in Sütterlin font she had downloaded onto my computer. This allows her to print out a text in that script and then trace it onto a thinner letter writing paper I picked up in Germany when I lived there 20+ years ago, before email was de rigueur. I asked Melusine if she would mind if I printed her poems out onto 4 x 6 inch glossy photo paper, trimmed them down and glued them into the space on the reverse side of the Part 11 panels. Because she only had ten poems and was not in the mood to write more, I suggested in the two remaining panels to use two of the mirrors leftover from Petra’s A Little Madness in the Spring. Melusine agreed to this on the condition that the work, Part 11, be re-titled 12 Poems. A small price, so I acquiesced. Did I mention the poems in addition to being printed rather small and in Sütterlin font are also in German?
What this all means is, the painting-poems, meant to be hung as paintings on a wall -configuration and order TBD- have ‘hidden’ on the reverse side ten poems and two mirrors. A viewer of the painting hanging on the wall would not see the reverse side, but may still know that on the reverse side there is something to see. If a viewer does have the chance to view the reverse side s/he will find the poems are legible, but in a font that is readable by fewer and fewer people in a language that is only ranked as the tenth most widely spoken languages in the world as of 1996, therefore, s/he will more than likely be unable to understand what it is s/he is seeing...and even begin to question what is reflected back in the small mirror that can only show fragments of the face looking into it. And all of this is hidden in plain sight...on the back of the painting.
Returning to the discussion on documentation/presentation I have decided the reverse side of these paintings making up 12 Poems are not to be documented photographically. A viewer may describe in words what he or she sees, if it is in the context of an exhibition there might even be a description of the reverse side on the wall next to the work...but no photo. Of course, once the work leaves my studio this is beyond my control. My wishes could be blatantly ignored by whosoever hands the work falls into; the reverse sides of the panels might even be photographed and posted somewhere online...perhaps even in the comments section of my blog?