Melanie Blumsom Art Portfolio (Part 2)
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Melanie Blumsom Art Portfolio (Part 2)

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My Art Portfolio (Part 2) A-Level Examination: preparatory work investigating the theme "Discord".

My Art Portfolio (Part 2) A-Level Examination: preparatory work investigating the theme "Discord".

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Melanie Blumsom Art Portfolio (Part 2) Melanie Blumsom Art Portfolio (Part 2) Presentation Transcript

  • Melanie Blumsom's Art Portfolio A-Level Exam “Discord”
  • “Discord” For my A-Level exam the theme set was “Discord'. In order to be organised for my exam I had a number of weeks prior to produce evidence of preparatory work. My first response to the exam question was to understand the definition of the word. Examples of synonyms I found for “discord” included: opposition, conflict, dispute, antagonism and disharmony. My next step was to see how I related to the theme in a personal way and investigate artists who focused on these ideas. The artist who I found connected suitably was Francis Bacon because I could establish a link between his work and the exam topic. My initial starting point was to research how his work was relevant to me in terms of “Discord”. When I viewed Bacon's work I felt a strong reaction that compelled me to learn more about the interpretations of his work. I became very interested in how his work involved paradoxical concepts associated with life and death, the philosophical questioning “To be or not to be”, and how this influenced his art. Bacon's work dealt with dark ideas relating to humanity. From reading I learnt his work “epitomized the angst at the heart of the human condition”, which I felt both very relevant to the theme set and intriguing to pursue. As I deepened my study into Bacon, my central ideas were developed into the conflict between mortality and immortality, what it mean to be human, negative human emotions and the “chaos of the unconsciousness” that can be suggested and represented in Art. Front page of my sketchbook for the exam theme “Discord”
  • Sketchbook page: acrylic paint and pastel studies from primary sources I learnt in my primary research on Bacon that, among other themes, he was concerned with existential questions. This was often revealed through his religious imagery and philosophical subject matter. He had a passionate fixation with contingent existence and a pessimistic attitude towards the actuality of being and life cycle. He referred to humans as “rotten to the core”, and reacted with repulsion to the atrocities committed by people during World War Two. It has been suggested that his work was a metaphor for the corruption of the human spirit, and his feelings were reflected in the intense, expressive and shocking appearance of his images. He drew animalistic comparisons to man and was quoted as viewing people as “human carcasses” This suggested the belief that independent of emotion or intelligence etc. humans simply consist of a frame of flesh and bone, which reduces them to a physical presence. Bacon was preoccupied with death, nature of animals hunting in the wild, slaughterhouses and the transition from man to beast, which became recurrent motifs in his Art. When examining Bacon's work I established his use of meat for the human form, as in death flesh becomes meat. Therefore I began observational studies of meat as a metaphor for death and decay. I analysed raw meat using acrylic paint and pastel to gain understanding of flesh as a foundation for the human frame. I experimented with different mediums to see the different effects that could be achieved. I practiced mixing colour combinations and identified the variety in shades of red, brown, blue and ochre in the meat to use in my colour palette. I decided that pastel alone looked too flat and animated, but acrylic paint with layers of oil pastel incorporated gave a vibrant quality to the image and an interesting visual texture. These initial trials of colour became central to my projects appearance.
  • It was beneficial for me to study Bacon's pieces to gain insight into his method of distorting the subject. It has been suggested his style was influenced by Cubist movements and Expressionism. To absorb Bacons painting technique I began investigating areas of his work in an enlarged format. I chose to concentrate on the focal point of his paintings, analysing specific areas to get an understanding of his brush strokes. I worked on copying Bacon's unstructured way of painting, using large strokes in his confident manner to create a sense of urgency. I found it challenging to create an exact likeness to his image as his painting style seemed to be very spontaneous, I noticed how he used bold, undiluted colour in an energetic way, which was impossible to replicate. I liked Bacon's characteristic way of applying paint very thickly which gave a rich vibrancy to the image, so I tried layering concentrated oil pastel over the acrylic deepen the colours. Furthermore I wanted to study his process of painting, so I alternated in the tools I used to apply the paint as he had, such as my hands, rags of different textured fabric and different sizes, densities and shapes of brushes. I liked experimenting with variety in this way and found it created an interesting visual texture. Acrylic paint interpretation of Bacon's “Three Studies for a Crucifix”
  • Sketchbook page acrylic paint studies from secondary source I learnt that one of Bacon’s most important and unusual techniques was painting in oils directly on an unprimed canvas, also that he that he did not alter his painting or wipe away any mistakes. While studying these enlarged portions of Bacon's key works, I refrained from the use of water for cleaning my brush as I wanted an array of colour build up and felt this aided the spontaneous, accidental effect that made his pieces so original. Bacon wanted to maintain an unconscious element of chance, he called the lucky accidents in his painting “Involuntary Improvisation” that occur when working “on the edge of failure.” I liked this idea very much, and although taking such risks was out of my comfort zone, as I had previously planned the details in my images quite thoroughly, the experimentation made me more intuitive artistically and broadened my creativity. In this study I could perceive the suggestion of skeletal fragments and concealed ambiguity of the shapes, perhaps hinting at a transformation between human and animal, which linked to Bacon's ideas about existence and death. I found his colour choice could be reflective of his emotional state, and thought his frenzied brush strokes combined with the violent colours gave a sense of anger to the picture.
  • Research notes from my sketchbook on Francis Bacon's influences and style: Bacons work can be interpreted as deeply personal from his obsession with death, he was self taught, painted from experience and memories, and only painted what fundamentally interested and concerned him. This was perhaps shown through his “Retrospective of Death” works which coincided with the loss of his lover due to suicide. The injustice of this tragedy gave him a reflective but even more pronounced pessimistic perception of human life. ●"There is an area of the nervous system to which the texture of paint communicates more violently than anything else." -Francis Bacon ●Motion, gesture, animation of the figure and face were all things Bacon attempted to incorporate into his paintings. ●He was inspired by photography, but his technique was not to simulate a camera lens blur capturing movement, but to describe movement by the shape and direction of the brushstrokes. ●Bacon was obsessed particularly with photography images of wild animals, how they hunted and stalked prey. He was fascinated with gruesome images of dangling carcasses, with exposed ribcages, bones and chunks of flesh. ● Sketchbook page: Enlargement and interpretation of "Three studies for a Crucifix" using acrylic paint and oil pastel.
  • The main colour scheme in my portfolio includes variations of red, blue and ochre. This derived from the early meat studies, which being a fundamental influence in Bacon's work. It lead me to a continuation of these tones, applying them onto some observations of a male manikin previously in charcoal and other sketches of the human body, to simulate human flesh. This created a crimson, fleshy vibrancy to otherwise monotone drawings, suggesting disease or injury of the subject. I felt the gruesome colour palette choice reinforced the link to Bacon's rage over human life's injustice and contingency. On the clavicle structure drawing, I repeated the previously experimented technique of covering part of the painted piece with oil pastel for more of an impact. I wanted to introduce an element of the transition between life and death, partly decayed and decomposed The ambiguous suggestion of skeletal shapes combined with the impulsivity of painting style worked well together to convey a indistinct transformation between man and animal. I liked how these steps aided the development of my final piece because it linked my studies and projects theme as a whole, and gave the final composition an obscure and more thought provoking result. I intended my final piece to evoke a reaction in the viewer and wanted there to be evidence of a struggle, therefore conveying an impression of discord. Sketchbook page Acrylic paint and oil pastel
  • I recognised through my investigations and background research that Bacon's inspiration derived from a fascination with the human body. His study of scientific anatomy led to the suggestion of skeletal and muscular fragments within the paint. The ideas which concerned him included: the perpetual fight against ageing, the process of decomposing physical matter and the inevitable cessation of the body, death. Bacon worked from photos of friends and lovers, medical photos of humans, X-rays of animals and carcasses. His experience of anatomy is evident as a recurrent theme regarding movement and the animalistic similarities, bodily structure and general theme of life and death forms. I therefore began to develop some analysis of human anatomy, examining the bones and how they structure the body. I used a number of secondary reference materials for this, including biology textbooks and art guides to accurately drawing the body, as well as primary sourcing an artificial skeleton and human skull. This gave me a good insight into the composition techniques and proportionality. Bacon's in depth knowledge is reflected in his work and it was vital I explored his basis. It was useful as it provided me with records on which I could develop my own creative ideas. I continued the colour palette used earlier to link my artist with my own observations. Sketchbook page oil pastel and acrylic paint
  • Sketchbook page Charcoal studies Acrylic paint It was useful for me to continue my first hand observational studies of bones and other body parts, in order to build my drawing skills and a body of work that may be integrated into my final composition. I used acrylic paint once again not only because as it was Bacon's preferred medium, but I took pleasure in the results it produced for me and found it to be my strongest skill.
  • A focal point of Bacon's in 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion' I found curious was the screaming mouth. From my research I learnt Bacon's work “epitomized the angst at the heart of the human condition”. I could understand this interpretation as when I observed it I could sense an expression of pain and aggression. I got the impression from my research that the scream profoundly inspired Bacon, his use of it perhaps represented his disgust towards man kind's cruelty and also his opposition to the uncontrollable process of death. Although I was aware Bacon disliked comparisons to Surrealism I could see how this could be perceived in the image as it had a fantastical air. I found his use of peculiar imagery quite provoking and felt the scream was a powerful symbol I could use to evoke a sense of “Discord” in my work. Therefore I explored the various screams depicted in Bacon's other works, and famous works such as Edvard Munch, with the desire to incorporate it into my own compositional ideas. Charcoal study: an enlarged portion of Bacon's work.
  • When I investigated Bacon's portraits I noticed their visible distortion, and discovered after research one of his reasons for doing this was to convey “sensations' or “pulsations” of the subject and imitate movement. Bacon was interested in human perception and exploited these distortion techniques to disfigure the subject. He experimented with photography and x-rays to produce fragmentation, and inspire his paintings. In reflecting movement and emotion, and rearranging what we perceived as normal, he sort to challenge the conformity of realistic portraiture in traditional art. I learnt in the “injury” of the subject Bacon was aiming to communicate his mentality and how he regarded them. He also wanted to capture an essence of their character, for example their emotional turmoil or isolation. I concluded that the methods used by Bacon were applicable to me in relation to my theme as I too wanted to portray personal mental/physical conflict in my final piece. I therefore attempted to emulate this in my own way and transform my own self portrait. One experiment involved using a photocopier to capture an image of my face, which highlighted my facial contours defining the structure but created blurring, thus changing the image, contrasting with an ordinary photograph. I used this as a template for painting and felt it emphasised the emotions I was trying to convey and the expression of “Discord”. I also tried an alternative method of wrapping the subject in string and taking rapid, unfocused photographs to see the effects. I found the results turned out quite successfully and communicated a sense of struggle in subject, to reflect a mood of distress and discomfort. Photography experimentation, acrylic and oil pastel studies of Bacon's portraits.
  • My own photography experiment, inspired by Francis Bacon's abstract paintings, in an attempt to distort the subject and communicate feelings of emotional conflict and distress.
  • Exert from my sketchbook describing my intentions for my final piece prior to the exam.
  • My Final Piece: Oil pastel and acrylic paint (12 Hour exam)
  • In conclusion I feel that my main strength was developing my painting skills to the point where I could confidently communicate a tone and accomplish the ideas I imagined. I benefited from working closely with acrylic paint, for which I used Bacons technique of no cleaning water, that caused a spontaneous, abstract impact of random misplaced brushstrokes. I think this method helped create an element of originality in my work. Also I think in hindsight I managed a controlled focus in relation to the objectives I set myself. I allocated enough time for the important steps I needed to achieve towards my exam. I was able to move forward fairly efficiently with my ideas. I feel my assignment was successfully planned as I had a vision of its direction early on, which helped the flow. In my opinion it was unnecessary to produce multiple final composition plans, because when considering time management I believed it would be more valuable to focus on perfecting one idea that I could use with confidence when the exam began. In order to effectively depict the theme “Discord” I drew inspiration from Francis Bacon and the way he expressed related feelings in his paintings. My end arrangement represented all of the research I had done and was heavily inspired by him, in colour, structure and style. I thought my final piece reflected “Discord” quite effectively. I was moved my the emotional context of Bacon's work, and drew from my own personal experience to create an impression of my own state of mind, because I wanted to make my art individual not simply imitation of the artist I admired. Throughout my project I felt a natural progression of ideas and did not feel I encountered many problems that I couldn't work through. I kept in mind when results didn't go as planned of the “lucky accidents' Bacon referred to when painting, which relaxed my rigidity and made me more flexible. It was also important to consider that exact proportional accuracy wasn't as essential because of the abstract distortion manner in which I was working. At times I struggled to capture certain surfaces, but found that if I experimented and varied my medium I was able to explore different effects, and evaluate the most successful one. For example when oil pastel didn't work alone, I combined it with acrylic. I initially lacked any anatomical knowledge of the internal human body but found reading biology textbooks very helpful to improve my understanding. In order to set the foundation for the figure in my composition it was important I knew the basic dimensions and appearance of muscles and skeleton. To improve I feel I could given myself more time to have researched more widely alternative artists, instead of being primarily focused on one. If I could improve one ability it would to have more time to work on a bigger scale, as I feel this would be a challenge but the result would have had more impact on the viewer. Also if time had permitted I would have ideally liked to have made a smaller supporting notebook containing research notes of what I had discovered and how it had effected me to make my thought process more evident. Overall I was satisfied with the volume and quality of my work, and this was recognised in the A grade (100%) I achieved for the project.
  • I achieved 100% in A-Level Art and was awarded an A grade. My Final Piece: oil pastel and acrylic paint Reference letter written by my teachers, from Harlington Upper School where I attended to study my A-Levels in Art & Design, Philosophy & Ethics and English Literature.
  • During my A-Level studies I was recognised as a Gifted and Talented student, and was subsequently awarded the A2 subject prize of the year for Art & Design.