Consignment: paintings, prints, film

glenn ibbitson consignment

“Consignment is an ongoing multi-media project comprising paintings, prints and film. The work developed from an initial theme of escapology into a meditation on the contemporary social environment. The composition of the figure physically enclosed within the confines of the frame, was chosen for its universality; it suggests simultaneously both cell and refuge or hiding place. It is employed here as a visual metaphor for the individual as the object of:
1 political oppression; the suspension of human liberties and the enforced submission of the individual.
2 human trafficking. The high risk strategies employed in acts of global transmigration, either voluntary or coerced, place people in situations of extreme endurance; conditions into which they are willing to place themselves and/or others, in the vain hope of improving their economic circumstances.

The paintings and prints are all square in format, with dimensions ranging from 10cm to 92cm, and have all been painted and designed to hang any way up.
The short film: “Consignment”, accompanies the exhibition and has a running time of about 5 minutes.

Glenn Ibbitson  June 2009

glenn ibbitson consignment e-poster

Interview with Glenn Ibbitson
By Diane Walkey   July 2009

DW. When and where did you conceive the idea for ‘Consignment’ and what came first, the film or the paintings?

GI. Like many art projects, “Consignment” resulted from an interweaving of several threads. It developed directly from my work on a series entitled “Smoke and Mirrors”. This consisted of paintings of circus performers and sideshow acts; mermaids, knife-throwers, conjoined twins, magicians and their assistants.

Conjoined-Twins
Conjoined Twins
Acrylic and oil on canvas
107x91cm.   2003

Horus-smoke&mirrors
Horus; the Illusionist
acrylic and oil on canvas
122x91cm.  2004

The next artiste in the series was to be an escapologist; a conscious nod to Houdini. The figure was to be physically confined by the close proximity of the edges of a square canvas.
I made a box with an interior dimension of  91 x 91 x 91 cm. and illuminated by spotlight from  the side. Overhead, I clamped a stills camera. I modelled for a series of photographs shot by fellow artist, Carole King. The results could have made the box a haven of security or protection. However, by making the dimensions of the crate tight and the lighting grazed and contrasting, the photographs suggested scenes of sensory deprivation or enforced solitary confinement; a holding cell prior to deportation.
They also suggested to me a scenario of human trafficking, either voluntary or coerced.
My exploratory movements within the box suggested that the actual, constricted movements between poses should be recorded. Video could emphasise the sheer discomfort of the experience, which a single still might not convey. The set-up was duplicated and a camcorder replaced the stills camera.
The results were edited using repeat cross-dissolves, fades and clip reversals to create a loop.
A second editing session combined this footage with film of slow moving traffic approaching a toll crossing.

There is one prototype for this compositional set-up from my student days. At a time when I felt particularly isolated, I painted a series based on Francis Bacon’s “Caged Baboon”, a haunting image of alienation. It culminated in “Red Cube”, a crouched, contemplative and vaguely troubled figure in a darkened room on a square canvas. Although I worked from a life model, it was the most autobiographical work I painted at college.

Red-Cube--1980
The Red Cube
Oil on canvas
91x91cm.   1981

DW. In practice, as a painter, how do photographs and moving images figure in your work, and as a painter, what attracts you to the medium of film?

GI. For years, I harboured reservations about the value of the photograph to the artists practice. I was immersed in liferoom discipline with its central ethos of working directly from the model. However, as I aimed for some content beyond the merely observational, photography could contribute elements of immediacy and spontaneity to my painting. I am confident enough in my technique to steer my work away from the stylisation of photorealism; I know how a form curves away around a contour and out of view; how to see colour in shadows and half-lights –precisely those aspects of the human form which a photograph struggles to capture.

Although I am first and foremost a painter, the ease with which video footage can now be edited on a laptop makes film as a creative medium much more appealing to me. The visual dynamics of movement can be more comprehensively investigated with a camcorder, which can be used as a sketchbook in another form. Indeed, I feel more comfortable working from moving images than from still photographs.

DW. You mentioned an empathy with Bacon’s work.  Do you consider Bacon’s use of diverse reference material, including the photographic, to have influenced the way that you now approach painting? Could the practice of drawing from life become redundant?

GI. What I admire most about Bacon is his ability to convey dissolution and pessimism through the use of paint. This is what will remain when the legends surrounding his art practice have evaporated. Significantly, the myth that he never made preparatory drawings prior to painting, dissolved shortly after his death, when a substantial cache of his sketches was revealed.
Working direct from the model was supposed to have been largely redundant from 1870’s, yet the practice is being constantly re-evaluated; indeed, it is currently the subject of an [albeit media-restricted] experiment on Channel Four television. Move over, “Big Brother”…

life study for Levitating Lady glenn ibbitson
Life study for the Levitating Lady
Charcoal pencil on paper
80x59cm.   2002
I don’t see a time when first hand experience of particularly the human form can be fully replaced by the photographic gaze whose filtration process limits the artist’s sensation. Work derived exclusively from photographic sources becomes as much about this filter as the object being captured through its medium. This is fine, as long as that artist/photographer is fully aware of this.

DW. ‘Consignment’ deals with issues that go beyond the artistic.  Is your concern directly political and how do you feel about the emotional debate that this work provokes?

GI. Nothing dates quite so badly as overtly political painting. The moment passes, the target moves on and the artwork is rendered redundant. Polemical, didactic art by definition reveals its content immediately, leaving nothing to revisit. The “Smoke and Mirrors” project had had a socio-political content which alluded to both governmental sleight of hand, and social and biological engineering. But this was subtext; if people associated the deceits and hubris of “Horus the Magician” with a Cheyney or a Blair, they wouldn’t be too far from the mark, but the paintings could be viewed and appreciated without this connection being made.
Even in the far West of Wales, one remains acutely aware of political corruption, state-sanctioned interrogation techniques, the waging of war contrary to international law, the pursuit of security and defence policies which make us less, rather than more secure. Habeas Corpus could be suspended at any time. The price of liberty and democracy remains eternal vigilance. Visual art is an instrument in this vigil. I have never been the subject of sensory deprivation techniques. I don’t have first hand experience of what it is like to be smuggled across a border. Any literal interpretation of such imagery would seem too contrived. My aim is always to produce a visual metaphor. In this series, a white male figure stands as a synecdoche for men, women and children of all races trafficked across frontiers to satisfy economic and sexual appetites in more developed countries. The film “Consignment”, doesn’t locate its human commodity in a particular container or identify the vehicle used for the trafficking. The figure ghosts through this footage; somewhere, in one of those vehicles, an economic migrant is in transit…everything remains implicit, opaque.
DW. In ‘Consignment’, as in ‘Red Cube’, individual identity is obscured.  Your figure is anonymous. Do you regard ‘Consignment’ as in any way an autobiographical work, as you did the earlier piece?

GI. No, the fact that I am the subject in the crate is pure contingency: I didn’t have a model to work with. I would have been more than happy to direct a performance artist  during the photographic  and film sessions.
A sense of anonymity is integral to the ambience of this project; lighting was arranged to cast shadows which would obscure evidence of individuality.
An already anonymous figure is further demoted to the level of mere human commodity through the use of a wholly dispassionate titling system. Each ‘unit’ [ or artwork] belongs to a particular ‘batch’ [or set of paintings], identified by shared dimensions, and made ready for shipping on a particular date [the completion date of that set]. The whole total  of ‘units’ produced becomes the “Consignment” .

DW. ‘Consignment’ constitutes a large body of work, film, paintings and prints.  What affect has this work had on your view of yourself as a contemporary visual artist?  Do you anticipate a return to the subject or has the production of this work affected your approach to further projects?

GI. “Consignment” now constitutes over 60 separate works. Its development has involved separate uses of paint, print and film. It is likely that I will adopt this multi-media approach to future projects and perhaps experiment with a more physical integration of these media.
Like its forerunner, “Smoke & Mirrors”, I regard this project as ongoing: there are always going to be gaps in a sequence, which can be filled with a return to the motif. The element suggesting further development is the film making. I have an extensive bank of footage, which I would like to re-edit, using only the figure’s movements. By pushing the audience’s attention span beyond the unspoken five-minute limit, which most gallery visitors give video, the distress and threat implicit in the scenario could be further emphasised. Perhaps they should view the film from within the confines of a crate of their own?

July 2009

Diane Walkey is a painter, photographer and illustrator living and working on the West Wales coast.  She has an MA in Art & Design Education and a BA in Industrial Design. She is a tutor for the Open College of the Arts painting and photography courses. Her work can be seen at

http://www.dianewalkey.com.

A full colour illustrated catalogue in CD form will be available from September 19th 2009. This will be limited to an edition of 500 signed by the artist. The cover is a screenprint also limited to an edition of 500; printed, numbered and signed by the artist.

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Collage: a double-take

glenn ibbitson fashion shoot

“Fashion Shoot” 33x22cm

glenn ibbitson blue nude

“Blue Nude” 84x56cm

PAPER COLLAGE :

I Initially adopted collage to sidestep a period of artists block; using high quality, full colour, glossy magazine print as source material. Used primarily as a mosaic technique, the paper selected was chosen only for its colour and tone. The paper-punch collages represent extreme examples. This tight control over the medium relaxed once aspects of the actual printed imagery were absorbed into the compositions. Increasingly, the success of a work hinges on one fragment of torn paper, which provides that special intersection of textural or colour juxtaposition, not evident when originally embedded in the printed page. It cannot be manufactured; it is discovered, and usually only by accident. Its incorporation represents the point at which the composition assumes a life of its own and deviates positively from the original plan. Surfaces are constantly adjusted through a series of overlayerings, and areas of particular detail are more painstakingly constructed with smaller paper fragments. A unique characteristic of this form of collage is the variation in focus which one is able to achieve by combining the printed image edges with the physical tears of the paper fragment itself, producing ambiguities of form and space.

January 2008

glenn ibbitson studio floor
“Across the Studio Floor”  84x56cm

glenn ibbitson sequencer

“Sequencer” 35x45cm
glenn ibbitson Icarus

“Plunge: the fall of Icarus” collage and applied origami   80x50cm

“It is the juxtaposition of contradictory means through which the collage is built which interests me.”
Using the high quality, glossy print of lifestyle magazines, a piece of sky from a fashion-shoot backdrop may become the pearly shadow across a leg; a fragment of pleated drape is transformed into a section of regency balustrade.
The fragmented construction is utilised to infer a narrative content; elusive and somewhat disquieting. The human figure stalks these works, but as a presence only half grasped, on the move: emerging from, or retreating back into interior shadow.

Contemporary collage? Look on the internet. Collage is mired in an easily wrought international style of surreal juxtapositions with little modulation and less thought. The medium’s most apparent feature is also its greatest weakness. There is little or no integration of its individual elements. Composition and theme are dictated by the component fragments -not by the artist. The medium seems to have barely graduated beyond the level of a mid-teens level art class execise. The results suggest piles of magazines, apair of scissors and a pot of paste on a classroom deskby a window looking onto a bedrizzled Friday afternoon playground. Roll on the weekend…
Collage could be so much more than this Just because the materials are ready to hand, the artwork need not be so crass. Lets face it, the medium of oil painting is simply coloured mud and basic chemistry. Yet in the hands of gifted painters, it has been utilised to to map and navigate the vastness of human experience.
Is paper so resistant a material that only the very few can master the obvious discrepancies of scale and colour printing discordance between fragments?
Is collage regarded as a secondary discipline because of a perception that it is not a colourfast material? If cared for and protected in the same way as watercolour, a collage should have a comparable life-span.
I came across these collages by Glenn Ibbitson recently. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at; mixed-media paintings or digitally manipulated photographs? they imparted that slightly unnerving feeling one experiences upon entering a populated space, where the first few seconds are spent rather anxiously scanning the room for a familiar face. In those few moments, surveying a wide field of variable focus, certain textures and shapes assume an unwarranted significance because they may offer familiarity. Gradually, elements ease into focus and begin to make sense in their allocated space. Precisely how these images worked on me.
Christa Aachen: review October 2008
http://4minswest.blogspot.com

glenn ibbitson stripes

“Interior with stripes” relief collage 40x40cm [irregular format]

more work at:

http://www.glennfineart.com

Kim Frohsin: a case for review

kim frohsin the rose

It was while researching collage references online that I discovered the work of Kim Frohsin, a painter based in San Francisco. Her pieces stood out from the general morass of montaged mediocrity. They each looked as if they had been considered and thought through to a satisfying conclusion. I sought out more references to her art and was delighted to find that she was a figure painter of considerable talent. However, as I read about her, a theme emerged which seemed at variance to the images I was uncovering. The art of Richard Diebenkorn was a persistent reference point, with which Frohsin’s paintings were being unfavourably compared.
Stephen Jay Gould in one of his reflections on natural history, reproduced in his collection of essays; “Bully for Brontosaurus”, examines the case of the “Creeping Fox Terrier”. The breed was [mistakenly, as it turned out,] used in an early nineteenth century paper as a size comparison for an extinct lineage of small horse. This comparison became standard in subsequent natural history textbooks, passing from generation to generation, because subsequent writers simply accepted this statement as fact and failed to question its veracity. I feel the same thing is happening with the connection between Frohsin and Diebenkorn; critics are re-treading the writings of their peers and not looking afresh at the work they are reviewing. Why? Because it’s so much easier for them to write this way; word-smithing without the encumbrance of examining the art at first hand.
The connection between Frohsin and Diebenkorn is straightforward. She moved to California in 1979. By living in San Francisco at this time, she was exposed to the art of the Bay Area Figurative Group; Diebenkorn, Park, Oliveira, and Bischoff. Frohsin’s work was influenced only in so much as a student is influenced by any tutor in any academic activity. In the early 1990’s, Frohsin’s work began to be exhibited alongside Diebenkorn’s work and other Bay Area painters.
LOOK AT THE ARTWORK
Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract paintings are marvellous; his figure painting less so. His move to figuration in the late 1950’s was overvalued at the time simply because there just wasn’t enough good representational art to balance the proliferation of abstract art in all its myriad forms. Any art with a figure as its focus was bound to be welcomed as relief by a niche audience who secretly craved the recognisable; some narrative in painting, no matter how tenuous. [This also explains the allure of the waxen figures of Philip Pearlstein].

LOOK AT THE ARTWORK

diebenkorndrawpting
In fact, the paintings are pretty weak. Unsupported by concentrated, direct observation, they lack that small yet significant bit of detailed painting which might have anchored the drifting approximations and created the visual tension such paintings require. The major signifiers of human expression with which the audience can engage are largely absent: hands have no more expressive form than unoccupied gloves in a frost, and faces are not those of living, breathing models, but of curious modernist hybrids pre-packaged by Matisse and Picasso. In his hands, pigment is forced, rather than co-opted, to perform the task of depicting convincing, plastic form. It proves an unwilling slave.
girl_with_flowered_background_by_richard_diebenkornx2
Diebenkorn’s real talent, abstract organisation, shines through in “Figure on a Porch” 1959. Here the figure is formalised, absorbed into a composition which is organised on a grid, intersected by diagonals. The spaces between are infilled with variegated areas of sumptuous paint, applied with great dexterity. It is built on the same strong formal principles as the impressive Ocean Park series.
corcoran_0308_22
The figure gradually becomes a vestigial organ in Dibenkorn’s painting; in Frohsin’s, it is the beating heart of her practice.
Why does such an invidious comparison continue to be made? Her last obviously influenced paintings date from the 1990’s.What is significant about her painting is how these stylistic foundations have been built upon, de-constructed and modified with time and the accumulation of independent experience. Frohsin shook off any direct Bay influence years ago. It could take her only so far; a more concentrated relationship with the model was required to propel her towards where she wanted to go. Observational skills needed practice; her drawing skills had to be extended; pushed beyond what she already had at her disposal. What Frohsin is producing now, Diebenkorn couldn’t approach, because what are now her core skills in draughtsmanship, far exceed anything he ever had to call upon in his repertoire.

LOOK AT THE ARTWORK
kimfrohsin venez

kim frohsin

It is at once rigorous and disciplined, yet playful and carried along with an obvious passion for colour. Her vision is translated through confident line and bravura paint application. A desire to grasp illusionistic form is held in tension by an acknowledgement of basic two-dimensional organisation. Refined tertiary hues carefully balance brash areas of super-saturated colour.
I began this ramble by recalling Kim Frohsin’s paintings. I conclude with a note to art critics. It is your duty to analyse work with rigour and clarity; unclouded by the prejudices and accepted opinions of your predecessors. If you are unable to do this, the apparatus is now freely available for a public interested in visual art to bypass your views altogether, and to enter into direct dialogue with the artists themselves through their websites and associated blogs. These provide an opportunity to engage with the practicioner, [perhaps even to arrange a studio visit] before that artist’s ideas are warped or skewed by even the most well meaning and erudite of interlocutors.
LOOK AT THE ARTWORK…..

Glenn Ibbitson February 2009
http://glennfineart.com

Kim Frohsin
http://www.kimfrohsin.com
Stephen Jay Gould  “Bully for Brontosaurus: further reflections in natural history” 1990