PARALLEL PROJECT: Abstraction sketchbook

Since the summer I’ve been keeping a sketchbook focused on exploring abstraction for the parallel project. This is different to the ‘Diary without words’ which is simply a daily record of emotions and experiences expressed abstractly. The aim of this sketchbook is to experiment with using other senses than seeing.

I began on one of the hottest days of the year. As you can see from the notes, I was exploring what ‘heat’ looked like, calling on memories of Australia, sounds,  colours, textures…

I condensed these thoughts…

The visual happened in response to these ideas and feelings using mixed media , very spontaneous…

As I was involved in exploring this new way of seeing, I happened to catch a remark made by Trevor Cox, talking about acoustics on Radio 4 in the programme ‘The Life Scientific” (19-07-16), “The dominance of seeing has dulled all our other senses.”

This comment resonated with me as I struggled with closing off seeing with the eyes and just feeling the heat, experiencing the occasional cool breeze. Questions like what colour is heat, the colour of bleaching and losing the sharp outlines…

All of this work was very experimental…

I suppose when you begin to explore feelings and experiences you mustn’t be surprised at what comes to the surface of thought. I suddenly found that I was drawing memory…the link between days of extreme heat and Australia. What was happening on the page took a different turn and I began to work with exploring memory, place and time…

The fragments of memory began to take shape and how memory and experience take on a layered appearance…

At this time I was reading ‘Place’ by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar. On page 14, there is a quote from Thomas Hardy in The Woodlanders (1887)…”to belong in a place is to ‘know all about those invisible ones of the days gone by, whose feet had traversed the fields…The spot may have beauty, grandeur, salubrity, convenience; but if it lacks memories it will ultimately pall upon him who settles there without opportunity of intercourse with his kind.’ Place is thus a space in which the process of remembrance continues to activate the past…” This book activated so much thought about the past, memories and a sense of place and also the element of time…

This work began my experiments with line to see how much could be expressed through line…

At this stage it was so interesting to see how ideas flowed from each other. There seemed to be a continuum – one idea flowing from another. As I was thinking about line and its expressive qualities, the news was full of comments and incidents of ‘post truth’ and I began working with line to express some of the ideas which were coming – confusion, secrecy, turmoil, tangle, without beginning or end, haze etc… What did a ‘post truth landscape’ look like?

The turmoil in the media stayed with me during this period and I began to abstract my response to the Trump inauguration. This was an interesting exercise…and I felt to extend my mark making here in the exploration of line. It was all line but using different media, different thickness, different emphasis, different tones…

In this search for a new language and new ways of expression, I found that I was continually coming to an end of a road, continually exhausting the ‘mark’. This was one such time. I felt an urgency to find a new line so I went to another media…using dyed wool pieces, pastel and tissue, even added some acrylic ink…

The landscape seemed to be appearing (have learnt to go with ideas as they appear!) so continued to explore think and thin lines, strong radical lines next to thin wriggly lines…

The imagination took a leap here and that landscape suddenly became a figure…

I loved the contrast here of the lines!

The next piece of work originated in a diary entry for a day in which there was a complete absence of ideas but suddenly the red square appeared!

Another series of ideas came from this! What happens when an idea has gone?  What does it leave behind? The red square had seemed so dominant. full of promise but the next day it disappeared and what was left? This led me into thinking about remains of thoughts and memories, fragments left behind…

The sketchbook so far…

This sketchbook has been an invaluable exercise for me and the work in it has become a resource of ideas. There are so many ideas here to follow up. I’ve learnt the need to respond to whatever comes to thought no matter how remote and also the exciting process of linking ideas and how they flow from each other. I think I’ve been able to capture the essence of ideas as they come and not worry about how anything looks. That development has come from abstracting ideas and thoughts – these are always with you! You don’t have to wait for the right landscape or flower or figure to appear. I’ve been dealing with thought…so exciting! The next step is to work with some of these ideas to create resolved pieces of work.

 

 

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About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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