Hughs R. (1991). The Shock Of The New, Edition 2?, London: Thames and Hudson Ltd

  • ‘The silence of nature itself, in which the random noises of culture were swallowed up – was one of the dominant facts of medieval life, outside the cloister as well as inside it.’ P.324
  • ‘…might well have exceeded anything we take for “normal” cultural experience today. Now we see the same cathedral through a vast filter that includes our eclectic knowledge of all other cathedrals (visited or seen in photographs), all other styles  of buildings… the desanctification of the building… the secular essence of our culture… the memory of “mediaeval” sideshows at Disney World,’ Pp.324-5
  • ‘the pre-technological eye was obliged to scrutinize – one thing at a time.’
  • How is my painting a reflection of the image intense culture I have grown up in?
  •  ‘The idea of sitting down and painting the environment of signs and replications that made up the surface of the modern city was obviously absurd. But how could art defend itself against a torrent of signs that were more vivid than its own images?’ P.325

Essay: American Scenery–Thomas Cole vs NASA

I was reading this essay for my dissertation, but there were some interesting points made that directly link to my practice.

Squinting at this picture, we see a technological revolution, using a satellite to climb above the mountain, computers to capture the image, and pixels, not paint, to portray the scene. 

But we also see a decline in passion, a withdrawal from the subjective, a tendency to find beauty in the elegance of mathematics, optical resolution, and orbital mechanics…rather than personal experience, or nature.

Is contemplating art like contemplating the scenery?

Like nature, Cole argues, art affects our heart, our intellect, and our spirit.

How? They help us grasp “the past, the present, and the future—so they give the mind a foretaste of its immortality.”

Light Model Photos

To understand how light would hit a space full of brushstrokes I made a model of 3D brushtrokes with the intention of shining a light through a small hole to get something similar to the cone affect of light I want to paint.

I used this wire because it is self supporting, making it great for creating shapes moving upwards that are only supported at the base.

I shaped the wire by keeping in mind the kind of shapes I tend to make on the canvas i.e. long verticle brushstrokes in the middle, squiggly brushstrokes at the top, denser brushstrokes at the bottom.

I then added two mirror brush shaped pieces of paper, gluing them together to either side of the wire to mimic the shape of brushstrokes, and then I painted the brushstrokes with acrylic paint to make them a bit more believable.

I repeated this process a second time, adding the brushstrokes already there to make the sculpture denser:

I knew that for shining a light I could use the structure sculpture and the paper cover I made last term. I cut a hole in the top of this paper cover so that the only place the light could get in was through the top centre hole.

These are the images that this produced!

They look so cool!!! It just shows how light can really affect the atmosphere of a scene. The light at the top of the structure makes the space look holy in my eyes. There is something Godly about the white light shining down. The fact that the brushstrokes are encased in this religious structure frames the light, and created a sense of the holyness being contained within the structure, with the viewer being an observer of this holyness, catching the edges of it.

As for the light play on the brushstrokes, the reason I built this model!, the funnel of light is not as contained and distinct as I would want it to be, but I think I expected that. The funnel of light would had to have had a much stronger light source I think. I can define the funnel of light better when painting.
The gradient of light and dark on the brushstrokes is interesting. Some parts are in shadow and some bits hit the light strongly.
I am surprised by how many brushstrokes near the ground are in shadow.
This line, where some of the brushstroke is in light and some is in shadow is really nice. I want to use this in my painting:

When I was taking these photos I was with (another!) Georgina who also works with 3D brushstrokes. Except her sculptures of 3D brushstrokes are far better then mine because she has been working on her methods for a long while.
We decided together that it would be cool if we put one of her sculptures inside my structure sculpture and shined a light on that. This was the result:

*I have full consent from Georgina to use these photos on my blog*

It looks so cool!! The brushstrokes are so much more believable and otherworldly than mine. The brushstroke mass is a lot denser, so it will be helpful when painting areas of the canvas where the brushstrokes are this dense.
The whole scene looks so strange and weird. But there is also something in it that is familiar?
They shapes of the brushstrokes are not very similar to my painting brushstrokes. Georgina’s are much denser and the direction of them in a lot more horizontal, with shapes wrapping around each other. But nevertheless this was really interesting to do!

This got me thinking about future instillation work. And it has proven that light (and dark) greatly affect the atmosphere of an image/ painting.

I will be referring back to these images lots when I am painting.

Lyrical Abstraction

A term I had not heard of until now. There’s a great definition of it on this website: , where it is defined as:

Lyrical Abstraction is a seemingly self-defining term, and yet for generations its origin and meaning have been debated. The American art collector Larry Aldrich used the term in 1969 to define the nature of various works he had recently collected that he felt signaled a return to personal expression and experimentation following Minimalism. But the French art critic Jean José Marchand used a variation of the term… decades earlier, in 1947, to reference an emerging European trend in painting similar to Abstract Expressionism in the US. Both uses of the term referred to art that was characterized by free, emotive, personal compositions unrelated to objective reality.

I know this has a link to my work.

The website says these ideas can be traced back to the artist Wassily Kandinsky. The website states that there was a group of artists, embodied by Kandinsky, that approached abstract painting differently from the Cubists, Futurists etc. Instead of expressing objects in abstract and sometimes symbolic forms, this group used abstraction without knowing what the meaning of it was. This approach was much more free, with no links to ‘the objective world’. This allowed for paintings such as Kandinsky’s that communicated emotion, imagination, passion, and subjectivity. (‘Kandinsky likened his paintings to musical compositions’).

The Lyrical Abstraction of Kandinsky… was not specifically associated with any religion, but there was something overtly spiritual to it. Other artists associated with styles like De Stijl, Art Concrete and Surrealism were making art that was secular and lent itself to objective, academic interpretation. Kandinsky was seeking something that could never be fully defined or explained. He was expressing his personal connection with the mysteries of the universe in an open way. It was like he invented a kind of spiritual Existentialism.

Lyrical Abstraction became prominent again after WWII because of the existentialism that rose from the war.

Throughout the 1940s and 50s, a great number of abstract art movements emerged that all in one way or another involved subjective personal expression as the foundation for expressing meaning in art. Abstraction Lyrique, Art Informel, Tachisme, Art Brut, Abstract Expressionism, Color Field art… One of the most influential art critics of this time, Harold Rosenberg, understood this when he wrote, “Today, each artist must undertake to invent himself…The meaning of art in our time flows from this function of self-creation.”

This is so interesting to think about because my work deals with the spirituality, holyness, greatness, atmosphere of the woodland and its ties to interior religious buildings. Then my painting is based on the personal, subjective experience of a location i.e. a modern and post WWII way to think about the world and my place in it.

It’s interesting that I am dealing with spaces and ideas connected to those spaces that are old – they tie to the old medieval model I have been reading about, to pre-WWII ideas of a person’s place in the world. And yet my painting is modern in the sense that is individualistic, subjective, and as I saw at the end of last term, verging on the existential!

Artists listed on website that deal with Lyrical Abstraction:

Early 20th c – first embodyment of the (later coined) term:
Wassily Kandinsky, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Fautrier, Paul Klee and Wols

Decades later:
Georges Mathieu, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Pierre Soulages and Joan Mitchell

Late 1960s and 70s ‘revitalized & expanded the relevance of the position’:
Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, Mark Rothko and many more

Contemporary artists:
Margaret Neill, Ellen Priest, Gina Werfel, Melissa Meyer.

What holds all of these artists together in a common bond is the fundamental quest of Lyrical Abstraction: to express something personal, subjective and emotive, and to do it in a poetic, abstract way.

A note from my phone: space in Pip Dickens’ work

I wrote this on my phone last term, but it got lost in my notes. I still think it’s relevant, even more so now I think, so I’m recording it here:

Screenshot of what I was looking at when writing below

The space produces a sense of dense matter. Is that the medium? Or something else?

This is really relevant to what I’m doing at the moment. How will glazing affect the perception of space in my paintings? Will it make it appear dense, light, airy, intense, saturated…?

Drawing the paper mache sculpture

HB – 2B Pencils

Detailed drawing. Transferring dimensions back onto paper.

I then traced this drawing with clean newspaper paper, and cut around it so I had a template for the next drawing.

Black and white thinned acrylic paint

I reduced the detailed painting down to lines.

It’s interesting how this drawing is so different from the original design for the sculpture below. The new drawing is far more organic than the design.

The problem with drawing this sculpture looking straight ‘up’ at it, and not including any shading, is that the shape loses all of its dimensional qualities that are so crucial to these structures. I thought drawing things looking straight up would help me work out the design of the structures better, but it now appears that just drawing the sculptures looking straight up misses half the point, since these sculptures are meant to be drawn from angles and have real dimension I shouldn’t just be drawing the sculptures like this.

Acrylic and a white POSCA pen to outline the structure

I had one more go drawing the sculpture looking straight up. This time I wanted to block in areas that the sculpture would cover of the sky / canopy above. (The painting underneath is also of looking straight up at the sky / canopy) This shows how much of the sky the sculpture covers! In my next design for my next sculpture I need to make sure there is less planes that block out the sculpture.
Also, adding lines as if the legs branched out was useful in imagining the sculpture standing up high. I definitely need to add legs to my next sculpture.


Draw the sculptures from different angles of standing underneath, not just looking directly up – this is why I’m making these sculptures!! – to paint from angles and create dimension in my paintings, so PRACTISE THAT!

Less coverage of the sky and trees above the sculpture with finer coverage and more just lines.

Add legs! – This will mean I can draw the sculptures from angles more easily. And also photograph the sculpture in the woods!

I want to experiment with blocking in white areas in drawings when drawing the structure from different angles. Would it add or subtract from the finished painting? I haven’t done that before so would have to see.