Tuesday, 13 December 2011

That dislocated finger

In the  November 14th post I write about how I was pushing myself (and being pushed) towards a more personal engagement with the work I had been doing on the skull and bones. It has proved a fruitful development and it all began with that dislocated finger. Whilst in Thailand I slipped on the side of a swimming pool and dislocated my finger in an alarming way. I was taken to the local hospital where they took an X ray which I was allowed to keep:

I wanted to find ways to represent that view of my hand and its injury and thought about some of efforts to describe the bone shapes by rubbing into a charcoal field. It seemed an ideal way to capture the X ray effect, so I drew an X ray of my hand:

I then started to work on that charcoal drawing with a series of watercolour washes to try and show the way an X ray has  a ghostly shadow of your flesh and skin. The colour was not not really right, but the image did go some way to recording my experience and indeed the discomfort: and to reinforce the connection I added a fragment from the envelope that was presented to me by the Thai doctor:

The last stages of bone and skull

 Before moving onto my new developments around the hand, the impetus for which I wrote about in my last post,  I wanted to record the last few pieces of work I completed on the skull theme. I was feeling rather aimless and seemed to be seeing the skull work as a bit of a dead-end. However, looking back I now feel that there was some interesting developments in that work and I don't want to lose track of it.

I had been pleased with some of my experimentation with a range of media on one piece: it was something that had struck me about Henry Moore's drawings in the underground and indeed of the elephant skull. he layered a range of media: pencil, pastel, pen and ink and wash. At the same time, several people had reminded me of  Georgia Okeeffe's paintings of landscapes based on a skull. So, in the rather cramped circumstances of our art room (a circumstance which has indeed rather cramped my ambitions) I created a layered skull drawing which was pleasing in the way it suggested some of the rich texture of the skulls I have been looking at:

I then started to work with my soft pastels in a more expressive way. Still looking for a way to turn my skull studies into landscape. A couple of these suggested that this too was not worth abandoning totally.

Finally, I brought all this together with a longer and considered piece based on the skull that used soft pastel on rough watercolour paper, as well as a strong black ink wash to provide a contrasting background. Of course, it would not excite Tony, falling as it does at the hurdle of 'meaning' or 'malleability', but I want to allow myself at least some satisfaction in producing something that has some of the ambiguity around landscape and mortality and is, I think,  pleasing on the eye. It seems like a fitting end to a sequence of work that may be little more than a staging post for where I will eventually go with this, but still has some value in its own right.