Book Review Painting today – Tony Godfrey

Godfrey, T., 2010. Painting Today. Reprint. 1st ed. London, Great Britain: Phaidon Press Limited.

I say review, mostly I just write down the bits I think are important from each chapter, the bits I think I may need again, there is generally a review right at the end.

Introduction – 

Brief piece about the authors assertion that painting isn’t dead, its just moved on, wherease the message before 1968 would have been obviouls as would the genre of the painting technique, after, this would be more likely to lead to more questions. As in other books, artists are going to appear in more than one chapter

The Global Scene –

This is mostly about the struggle of art from other cultures to find its place in a strong western tradition and market and against the cultural issues of the artists own origins of practise. Homi Bhabba “We are de-terrorialized in the contemporary era and how we are all exiles.” about how we all hail from more than one tribe.

Looks at the history of Australian art and its emergence in an era of oppression for its culture and how it was used to explain the indigenous peoples place on the land. Also the problems of the outback men becoming disillusioned with their artistic success and lack of direction for the displaced maligned culture.

The art works on 3 levels, one as colourful wall decoration, 2 as a source of anthropological data 3 as complex and comparable to any 20C abstract art.

Gheeta Kapur “The problem for Indian, as for African and Latin American artists, was how to escape not just the programmatic avant-gardism of western modernism but also the conservatism of national culture.

Bernard Heisig said that “no nation can live without its past… A nation without history is incapable of making art.”

I’d say that my art is defined my our culture in a huge way, our successful canvases record that which we know over all else and that the culture is definitely defined by its history, clearing offering the specific path for its artists and how much it values their output, however, within that, our world is moving very fast now and cultures clash, merge and artists travel and learn..

Western Traditions –

This is modern take, explained by old ideas. I read this chapter with a hangover, so I’m fairly sure some of the meaning has been lost and as its snowing again in the south of England (which is rare) I’ve been distracted looking out the window.

However, the links have been interesting to read, artists discussing their work in terms of light and looking, or traditional views of figurative art. The quotes are quite inspiring Philip Guston – “To paint, to write, to teach, in the most dedicated sincere way, is the most intimate affirmation of creative life we possess in these despairing years. I have never been so close to what I’ve painted, not pictures, – but a substitute world which comes from the world.” (Simulacra? or is it not trying to be a better view of the world?).

A look at the work of Richter, and his Titians, following a master, but obviscating each subsequent image further till its merely a beautiful blending of colours.

Looking at the figure in a contemporary way, although I’d argue that Freuds take on contemporary leads more to his use of paint over his motives for unclothed form in a picture. The female artist within this genre is a route we didn’t have, so it is an original set of questions and motivations at the least. Eric Fischl’s Bad Boy I can’t help thinking as he was late to painting, the boy could represent Fischls own feelings of looking at the female naked form and coming to terms with life studies, doing something he shouldn’t be doing, but not turning the other way…

Neo-Expressionism – 

A dark deep look at the cosmos “Jannis Kounellis – said America had no culture, Kiefer disagreed:’ it does and its culture is predicated on the media: a tradition of media and information, Europe has a culture with a tradition of history.’ Fair point, not going to argue there.

Schama pointed out the issue with the movement, where it uses myth and gets too drawn into its own poetics to remember the myth.

However it could remember its place ‘it is a play both on how in the 1980s painting has become trophies and how it was the event of exhibiting that had become truly noteworthy.’ ‘a podium ready for the speeches that will conclude the institutionalisation of the work.’

section about simulacrum…

this is the emo section of the art world, where we see the meaninglessness of it all and art leads down the rabbit hole.

Photographic – 

Use of photography for paintings asks deeper questions about the world, we look at pinpoints of time.

Clemins- ‘The photo is an alternative subject, another layer that creates distance. An distance creates opportunity to view the work more slowly and to explore your relationship to it.’

has to be said, my notes on this section where longer before they didn’t save….

Pure Abstraction –

Abstract art is the absence of a subject, which was easier at the inception of the style.

monochrome paintings are difficult and most don’t get them, the serenity they have the potential to engender. however, with the way paint is applied, they can have a lot more interest up close than on a page.

This can be said for a lot of abstract art Scully in 81 stopped doing neat strips and went for a more organic use of the paintbrush wet on wet to create and leave marks, over brush strokes, a history in the painting process.

Davenport who has experience in sculpture plays with his application through drips and pours to create a structured thought through work that plays with the surface

playing or praying was repeated as a theme to this chapter Briget Riley ‘is, I think, inevitably an archaic activity and one that depends on spiritual values. One of the big crises in painting- at least a century or two, maybe even three centuries old – was precipitated by the dropping away of the support of a known spiritual context in which a creative impulse such as painting could find a place.’ maybe abstraction is a way to fill that void?

Presence is also dealt with here, the effect a painting has on a space as you walk into it, are you aware of it as an entity in its own right? as the artist, should we be organising the space around the art, the lighting and the written paraphernalia that describes it?

Ambiguous Abstraction – 

Exploration of abstraction searching for subjects, through nature and pattern or mixing objects and metaphors.

Kngwarreye’s pictures of ‘everything.’

The Figure – 

Places the figure as something that should never really be out of fashion, however our view of it has changed, as has our painting of it, courtesy of ‘abortion, paedophilia, race and gender.’ The stories we use in paintings have changed too, modern myths or retold old ones (Paula Rego)

Artists that use paint to show bodies (or flesh) over the figure. one farts the other doesn’t, I think thats a good analogy, Freud’s paintings always make me think of the word flesh, Jenny Saville’s also. Then discusses scale of the work, from Saville’s and Dumas’s huge in your face bodies on canvas to small works by Sikander at 12×10″.

Scale is one of those things that I think influences the medium and how its applied. the smaller the picture, the greater the expectation that the viewer is going to be closer to it when they look at it and in which case, shouldn’t it have greater detail, being a tighter worked piece of art?

Painting Space –

place is a time and ‘space is everything else. so artists play with our perceptions of space, whilst still paying homage to place. Mehretu creates large stadiums of space and then places huge vortexes of movement above and around them, to represent our modern spaces and use of them. Matthew Ritchie takes over rooms and fills them with swathes of fluid art in 2 dimensional form over the floor, on the floor, round the walls etc this is his place in a world with everything in the internet, a space filled with everything.

The rest of the chapter is about how we deal with interiors as spaces, both the gallery itself and the work on the walls which are still places because of the memories in the paintings.

Landscape –

The landscape, as a personal memory of the artist that resonates with the observer or as a place we aspire to, now we all live in cities? People in landscape pictures as devices to help us experience the view.

I like the words ‘dark pastoral’ as an antithesis to the turner/ Constable pastoral chocolate box images of the country, the dark pastoral is the double take that brings the history of the earth into the picture as well (think John Virtue) I think thats what I aim to achieve, All the energy of a setting, not just the bit available now.

Landscapes require ‘Participation of the viewer.’ to engage with the landscape shown or the picture hasn’t worked.

Death and Life – 

Deals with the place/space of death, the act and the aftermath. the moving on of life, adjustment and mourning, inevitability.

looks at bodily function of wounds in death and religion. wounds of Christ, holy grail.

Celebrations of life, carnival and pagan gods, the Green Man and the losing of inhibition for celebrations of life/death.

Sex and enjoyment of as a part of life? its link to death.

History Painting –

The history of history paintings is a series of large pictures that romanticise the events to inform a public that didn’t have modern media devises, on the past. The purpose today is as a result a bit more complex. We are informed in our own little spheres of what we choose to be informed about, and as artists, are we commenting on what we have experienced or that which we access online? doesn’t that dilute it?

I think Steven Ellis – They feed the Lion (2003) oil and alkyd on linen is a genuine reaction to an event. it looks to be written on old boards it looks aged but is his reaction to 9/11 as a person living in the local area. The poem spoke to him and through his picture speaks louder and further.

The gist of this chapter is the change in the purpose of the message from the artist to the observer, artists are free-er to paint what they wish so their comments are personal over state driven, and the history painted is much more modern than Cy Twomby’s fifty days at Illium.

Maybe as artists we are now trained to understand there are two sides to any given view of history and as a result 1 painting is a warped view.

Still Life – 

Art where the painting becomes the thing, the object. looking at the value of the thing painted, the distance from it and as said by Hume, the trance like state whilst painting or creating that helps you ‘be at one’ with the object and art. That creates a distance, no matter how intimate the object, as the artist its impossible for me to think about what I’m painting or what I’m paining (object or art) as anything other than a series of lines and colour whilst creating, it’s almost myopic vision which is why when I come up for air I can either recognise the errors that need fixing (I’ve got Henry the VIII on the easel for a year 3 class at the mo. He’s got a bit of a squint that I didn’t spot till I stepped back, I’ve got to correct that today) or occasionally sit back slightly gobsmacked thinking ‘I made that’.

So is it still relevant to think in terms of still life objects? If we can ascribe any meaning to anything it’s a bit of a weak description.

Installation Painting – 

This is painting that encompasses the whole room, not necessarily the walls, but the space is integral to the work.

This means that the internal form of the room as it is can be in the art or boxed out. Nalini Malani’s piece works well for me, its a construct of 4 see through acrylic tubes, with an image painted on each. these large tubes spin and a light in front of them projects the images painted on them onto the walls as shadows. the effect of the constant movement as the cylinders turn and the low cast lighting shows these doubled rotating images must be quite moving.

Dresden and Leipzig – 

This chapter is about a small group of mostly male artists from a single place in Germany. It explains the complex nature of German art, nature, Hitler, the sociealist worker and the capitalist American ideal that has followed. Bringing these into play in art may be the way Germany is healing itself without papering over its history.

Looking at the paintings of ideal people performing ideal work or play in ideal settings is all a bit unreal, the technique is excellent and the images all a little bit empty. The chapter ends on the use of tension in their space.

Post Feminism – 

Starts with an explanation that the amount of female artists over the authors career has gone up, notes its still a less than equal number. then moves into self portrait as a discussion on who artists are (mostly embarrassed) and then about the art market. a monologue on male produced work.

Can’t really say more about it than that. The art world has been deeply unfair towards women for centuries in both content and as a career choice, I don’t think we help much, we are brought up more subservient and questioning our own abilities in a way men don’t seem to (or at least not outside their own heads).

We have a long way to go I think is the point here.

Painting tomorrow – 

Very prosaic about how painting isn’t dead and how maybe artists are telling the future.

Has to be said, as a book, this has been a good introduction to modern painters I hadn’t really looked at, however I think Art Today was better written.

UPM Assignment 3

Southampton City Art Gallery. 2018. Allegretto Nuzi (c.1315-1373) Coronation of the Virgin. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 6 April 2018].


The last month in Salisbury has been interesting, the city becoming the centre of world media coverage, filled with reporters failing to find locals really all that prepared to talk that much. The helicopters hovered, chunks of the city got closed off and remain so with an increased number of police units driving around and patrolling the streets.

The images from the papers have been filled with fluorescent coated police and hazmat suited figures, getting into town was a no go for a while and now the parking is free, but access from the main carpark still blocked. My lead up material has as a result been culled from the papers and cut up  collage style. However, it took a couple of pages for the story to emerge and it has been a long term…

My three portraits for the assignment are the main people affected by the nerve agent, the Skripals and DS Bailey. I was struck by the idea of a triptych as a religious thing, last time I went to Southampton gallery, there was a large tempura one on display.

Annie Kevans method of display is to paint all her portraits the same size, frame them the same and hang them in a uniform pattern, which is easy enough to do with 3 pictures. Yuko Nasu doesn’t appear to frame the pictures and again they are displayed uniformly as a block, the links between the pictures more noticeable this way, however by looking at the transportable three-fold images, I have my display pre-arranged and the link is automatic between the pieces.

This is a cathedral city, its main purpose as a market town and a centre for the religion that helped govern at its time of creation. That led me to looking at Russian triptychs because if politics can’t link us then maybe faith can. I’m not a church-going individual and the thought an attack in a place as middle England as you can get is pretty terrifying, so common ground whilst supporting those that are affected seems to be important to me.

DSC06933A couple of monotypes per portrait worked over in dip pen, the most accurate pictures picked for the final piece, By working over the dried monoprint with pen and ink, it seems slightly more authentic than painting over glass and getting a direct copy, by sticking with the pastel paper I tried in ex3.3 I have achieved a rougher series of blocks to work with which definitely worked well for Yulia and Nick’s pictures, but not so well for Sergei’s, however finding a good photo to work from was difficult and the picture chosen eventually I feel had too many highlights to the skin. backed in doubled card, with the three pictures stitched together so it can fold and stand independently.


I have picked the 2 outer pictures based on them being turned to the centre and Yulia is front on to her father

This looks better outside

I think the halo contrasts well with the terracotta brick colour, the stones are just us trying to level up a sloping bit of Salisbury and this wall is currently in full morning sunshine. As a picture it would have more impact if I took the photo with it where the bench was, but I’m just not that confrontational, you still can’t get to the area anyway.

It has been good to link an assignment to a moment in time, I think if I was doing it away from the coursework, I’d use oils and make it more decorative, probably painting on wood.



In reviewing this part of the course, I wanted to keep the portraits linked for the assignment work, this meant there had to be a relationship between them. The three people I have chosen are off Love Island (ITV2) and the link is in that both the men are attracted to Megan, who is herself attracted to both Eyal and Alex. This is modern TV at its most car crashiest.

The paradox of all the people on the screen being viewed as desireable makes a mockery of the male gaze discussed in Ways of seeing (John Berger) However, the show does highlight the differences society expects from its women folk, getting ready takes a small artillery of extra items in comparison to the men etc. The head shots I’ve chosen to create also do not show the men doing anything along with the female, so another Berger contradiction.

To create my monoprints, I sketched the three in loose oils 4 times each.


Of these 12 I picked 3 that seemed the best likenesses.


These I placed under glass and used for 2 stage prints, a first looser oil paint as shadows and a second for lines. I did take photos of each process, only as it appears I hadn’t put the memory card into the camera, this is a moot point…

After the printing process, I added colour with more loose oil paint, After looking at the work of Annie Kevans, this was specificly to highlight lips in both sexes, to show sexuality and youth.

This then gave me the opportunity to pick from 9 pictures for the assignment piece.

Arranging in order for a final photo I have them clipped onto the wall of my studio in a non permanent fixing.


This I think helps with the sense that the relationships themselves are also not fixed and can be changed around if the other Megan changes her mind an she wants to look at Alex (to her left).


I can see that the extra work has made this part of the course a bit more relevant, although in my practise I think it is still more of a build up to finished pieces.  the extra prints provided more choice to show from and as an effect, this is a quick way to make a comment about society today.

Lets face facts, if you have to go on TV and be enclosed in a goldfish bowl to find love, you have to wonder at the potential long-term possibilities of any of the relationships.

UPM Part 3 Review

Brooker, S., 2010. Portrait Painting Atelier. 1st ed. USA: Watson Guptill.

In the work you produce now you must demonstrate:

• an understanding of different painting media

Monoprinting, less about a different media, more a different way of using it, the consistancy of the paint has to be fairly specific for it to work

• an ability to choose the most appropriate painting media and ground for the image you’re making

The only way to layer images over in a way I find satisfying is to use acrylic paint rather than oils.

• evidence of visual editorial decision-making

Choosing the image to work from and then subsequent picture to work into is less about visual impact of the colour and the overall feel of the picture, My mind is working through the assignment piece and the impact needs to come from the content over the look.

• experimentation with media and materials

The exercises have been very specific, playing around these is difficult given the contents is also pre-defined. I’m playing with my sketchbook and imagery still and I’ve been looking at the use of oil paints courtesy of a book that isn’t the great masters. This book has allowed me to play with colour to learn more about mixing and the value of underpainting.

• consideration of the context in which you’ve made the work

I think the context for my assignment will be fairly self explanitory given recent events in my home city, as I’ve written, I’ve found the exercises quite tight to play around with.

• a growing understanding of what interests and motivates you as an artist.

However, the exercises have helped me to clarify what look I prefer to aim for, as has the experimentation I’ve been conducting with oil paints.