Field of Dreams
An ongoing project working towards 365 modules.
An ongoing project working towards 365 modules.
Red manufactured labels.
Above showing the complete six panels.
Below showing a single panel in detail.
The so-called modern art revolution has often been seen as a break with tradition. This is certainly not a view I share. In fact modern artists establish a new and different view of the past. The historical self-perception of artists like Malevich, Mondrian, Kandinsky or Picasso is not defined by any attempt to place themselves outside of history. [To me that view seems preposterous]. Rather, their intention was to develop concealed, buried or forgotten aspects of this history – be it the rigidity of Byzantine Orthodox pictorial thought, Russian Folk Art, or the development of perspective and humanism of the Italian Renaissance. These examples are all useable as a springboard to attain modern artistic awareness.
For me, the aforementioned artists approach to history, particularly art history, was to understand it as a tradition, in which the binding orientations of the past were capable of being renewed over and over again. Important to them was not the timid preservation of bygones [which could be characterised as traditionalism] but rather the ability to tap, under completely different historical circumstances, the power of this legacy – this huge historical resource.
I think that the insights and pictorial ideas of classical modern art [Cezanne, Seurat and Monet, etc up to Corot] also belong to this understanding of tradition.
Artists like Carlo Carra and Georgio Morandi came to reappraise and almost rediscover the work of Piero dells Francesca [although not immediately obvious in their work]. In fact Italian Art of the Early Renaissance e.g. by Giotto, Masaccio and Uccello came to be seen with new eyes in the 1920s.
I feel we can all benefit from this way of understanding today and indeed reference the past continually in my work.
Moving much closer to us in time I would like now to talk about an artist close to my heart, who died recently, Sol Lewitt.
Sol Lewitt’s art was originally considered to be of a rigorous intellectual nature, and I still find it so, but the sensuality and beauty to be found in his work was not acclaimed until the critic Robert Rosenblum helped us to understand LeWitt in relation to Western Art History. Rosenblum wrote: ” The venerable duality in Western Art between universal reason and private aesthetic fantasy seems freshly re-invented within a contemporary context.”
In an essay by Martin Friedman the influence of architecture on Lewitt’s work is highlighted. Friedman states that Lewitt’s “far ranging tastes have long been for elemental shapes that range from Old Kingdom Egyptian mastabas, Indian stupas, and the temples of Angkor Wat, to early Romanesque churches and Brunelleschi’s great dome for the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Illustrations of these wonders and other grand primal structures are pinned to the wall of his studio.”
A brief description of my working practice and methodology.
Being a devotee of non-representational art. I have never considered abstraction to be a deliberate break with the historical art tradition. Indeed, I find the idea that an artist could work outside of this history difficult to understand. Rather abstraction can develop some concealed, buried or forgotten aspects within this tradition.
I feel that the language of geometry is an important tool in finding a unification and empathy across the huge spectrum of art history. This sense of historical unity in turn helps me make work that is, hopefully, firmly planted in the present.
The idea is not to make work that holds up a mirror to the world representing something particular. I want the images I make to be first and foremost what they are [colour physically present as colour, the method of construction readable, any apparent illusory space unlooked for] rather than any allusion to something specific.
For me the beauty of this form of abstraction is its ability to dismiss the specific as unimportant – freeing artists to concern themselves with a more general response to living, a more universal reaction to, and comment on life/humanity.
The process may seem counter-intuitive but by imposing simple geometric and structural parameters a dialectic is set up between the formal and intuitive – it is this that progresses my work.
Some critics get extremely exercised by artists that make art that refers to art, but as far as I’m concerned referring to art is as much about referring to, and contemplating, humanity itself. This installation is therefore a celebration of both.
Although the work could be perceived as looking disparate and fractured at first glance, my intention is that the works similarities and commonality will become apparent on closer scrutiny. The installation may become more than the sum total of its parts.
I put before you a small but by no means exhaustive list of influences and references that came to mind and heart as the work unfolded:
Flight – Illuminated manuscripts – Miniatures – Islamic Art – Heraldry – Constructivism – Jazz – Early Music – Medieval Church Decoration – Energy in tension – Balance/Inbalance – Modernism – Celtic Art – A re-appropriation of misused symbols – Paolo Uccello – Stained Glass – Textiles.
The word is open to several interpretations. Where is that line, if any, that separates a technical process such as the stages necessary to produce an intaglio print from the more intuitive process and decision making involved in deciding, for example, a colour balance when painting or a tonal decision when drawing, when an artist invests in or creates content? Personally, I don’t think such separations are useful, if indeed, possible.
I think the term process is as good a word as any, to label the unfathomable decision making that must occur when pursuing a creative practice.
Many things have an influence upon the way I work. Because time is short I will concentrate on two that I feel are particularly important to me – a relationship with the ancient past and the connection with Modernism.
I have for some years been attracted to non-representational painting – particularly in the form of [for want of a better term] Geometrical Abstraction. It’s –at first glance- simplicity, but potential power continues to fascinate.
Now that Modernism is no longer the major driving force in art I feel we are better placed to celebrate it’s power and beauty and objectively look at it’s links with the past and continue through creative practice to explore it’s many possibilities.
I have never considered Abstraction to be a deliberate break with historical art tradition, rather Abstraction develops many concealed, buried or forgotten aspects within it.
Some of the pivotal experiences for me were my first visits to Florence, Venice, Siena and Milan. I had been struck by the use of simple geometric pattern to enhance the already fabulous internal spaces of cathedrals, palaces and public buildings. “Gilding the already geometrically arrived at lily”:
The black and white horizontal striped stone work of the Duomo in Siena.
The black and white paintwork enhancing the vaulting of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.
The wall painting adorning the Sala degli Scarlioni at the Castello Sforzesco. Milan.
The geometric floor pieces of San Marco in Venice.
The Babtistry in Pisa.
The floor of the Salute in Venice, are just a few examples that spring to mind. In fact, when we look at the bare stonework of cathedrals and churches throughout the UK and Europe
we should remind ourselves that most of it was painted with fabulous decorations. Add to this the sumptuous stained glass through which light filtered into these spaces: the effect would be truly psychadelic.
None of your lily livered subtlety or sophistication here – this is ball breaking, soul taking decoration. A demonstration of power and wealth? An exuberant celebration of the power of God? Or, an affirmation of humanity? Whatever their motives, when I enter these environments I feel connected to the past in a very intimate way. The gulf of centuries all but disappears, connected to the thousands of anonymous artisans and craftspeople that laboured with such single minded tenacity, intellect and intuition – and not forgetting using the simplest of tools. The Italian Renaissance idea of celebrating or re-affirming all that’s good about humanity is certainly something that resonates with me and informs the way I approach making art.
At this point I would like to say that although some of my favourite art works are figurative, narrative paintings – often representing a set of events – metaphoric, allegorical or a particular reflection on reality – that’s not what I do. I don’t want to create things that hold up a mirror to the world or represent something else. I want the images I make to first and foremost be what they are – colour physically present as colour, rather than any obvious allusion to something particular to be experienced as part of what we do. The beauty of this form of abstraction is it’s ability to dismiss the specific as unimportant – freeing artists to concern themselves with a more general response to living. A more universal reaction to, and comment on life. A hymn to the joy of living.
To quote Piet Mondrian in his manifesto of 1917:
“The modern artist feels consciously the abstraction in the experience of beauty, he recognizes that the sense of the beautiful is cosmic, universal.” He goes on to say:
“The new plastic art is therefore an esthetic relationship accurately presented. The artist of today creates it, in painting, as a consequence of any plastic art of the past, and he does this best in painting, because painting is the art that is least tied to contingencies.”
I feel the sentiments he communicates here, although close to a hundred years old now, are equally valid today, and amongst other things certainly helps to drive my creative practice forward.
Taking a look through Towner’s records an image that immediately stood out for me was a work by Patrick Heron [ 1920 – 1999]. Titled “Gouache with Some Lines” March 1962 – I at first thought it was a later work. Just looking at it’s graphic economy and unabashed verve in the use of colour made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It delivers immediately. This image is not a slow burner and makes no apologies for it.
To quickly put this image into context we must remind ourselves of Patrick Heron’s relationship with the “New” American painting that was happening at the time.
Patrick Heron wrote a number of articles in Studio International in the 1960s in which he denies Clement Greenberg’s assertion that Abstract Expressionism was the product of New York alone. He was particularly irritated by Geenberg’s assertion that British Abstract painting was only “landscape painting in disguise”.
In 1956 an exhibition at the Tate Gallery “Modern Art in the United States” showed the art of De Kooning, Motherwell, Pollock, Rothko, Tobey and Tomlin. Patrick Heron responded by saying:
“I was instantly elated by the size, energy, originality, economy and inventive daring of many of the paintings. Their creative emptyness represented a radical discovery; I felt, as did their flatness or spatial shallowness. I was fascinated by their constant denial of illusionistic depth…”.
It seems to me that although Heron was for a time excited by what was happening in America, looking at his work demonstrates that he was no mere second player in the great experiment of Abstraction, but a leading exponent.
And as for me, why does his work resonate?
It was through looking at work by the likes of Patrick Heron when I was younger, that I first understood the emotive power of colour. He serves as a constant reminder that one should never play safe in its use but always take risks. I also love his self assuredness often only found in the last few years of an artist’s creative life. Patrick Heron is a true champion of the vitality and value of painting.
 Ronald Alley. Patrick Heron: The Development of a Painter. Studio International, Vol 174. No 891 July/August 1967, p 20.
Paul Bartholomew is a painter who lives and works in Eastbourne, East Sussex.Through the use of simple geometrical constraints coupled with a deep passion for colour, Paul’s art tries to, on the one hand, celebrate our potential for oneness – our human similarities, and on the other hand reflect upon our propensity towards disharmony and bloodshed. Being an optimist at heart, celebration often seems to get the upper hand.
Working Title “A Celebration of the Aviators”.
View the installation.
The work would consist of twelve aluminium sheets probably 500mm square painted yellow and black with automotive spray paint, then laquered. Another possibility is to have red and black on one side and green and black on the other. Either way, the chevron motif would be painted on both front and back of said sheets. The work is designed to be seen – certainly from both sides, and in the round, depending on how the framework is fabricated.
The sheets would be displayed, either hung from, or bolted to, a simple box section welded framework. The form would vary depending upon where the work would be sited.e.g. work could follow the radius of the Redoubt’s inner or outer wall. The framework would then be fabricated to follow this radius – or perhaps follow the incline of a hill area within the fort. This would need to be discussed in good time depending on the decided siting. The sheets could be hung in such a way as to describe a spiral within an open cylindrical frame. If the sheets were hung, cables, very similar to bi-plane wing bracing, would be used. The framework would not just be a means of hanging the sheets, but would be an integral part of the work. The framework base would be additionally weighted using sand bags – even today, objects that have some poignancy. The finish should render the work weatherproof.
Additional information: For many years R.A.F. training aircraft were painted bright yellow. In the 1980s it was established that black had much better visibility against most sky colours. Red and green would refer to port and starboard navigation lights used on aircraft and ships.
I foresee changes as the work progresses, but feel that the spirit of the proposal will be retained i.e.the relationship between the art work, the sea, fort and sky. It should remain a celebration for the aviators.
This is an interview about Paul’s work with Marianne May [MM] –a Researcher in Art History at Sussex University.
MM: Can you give me some idea of what kind of background you are coming from; what kind of artist you see yourself as?
PB: Although I originally had formal art training, I found it more comfortable being in an environment where real things were made for a purpose. I therefore spent some time in Engineering – then became involved in Education. I’ve always been interested in all forms of artistic endeavour; but I love non-representational painting. For me it communicates in a very powerful way.
MM: In what way?
PB: It seems to me there is continuity there. People have been using pattern and geometric design for hundreds, if not thousands of years – often anonymously. I think it’s a very powerful tradition that perhaps people have lost sight of.
MM: Is it very important to you to keep this tradition alive?
PB: Absolutely. A link with the past and to continue to try to make work in that way in the present and future.
MM: Who have been the influences on your working practice?
PB: I have been very influenced by the work of ancient artisans and craftspeople. They used geometry to decorate the insides of large buildings, such as churches and cathedrals. There is certainly a power there, stuff that moves me.
MM: Are these artists always anonymous?
PB: No, not always. People like Uccello also used geometry and designed floor pieces. He could move from the figurative to the non-representational. He had no problem with this.
MM: And people working today?
PB: Well, Sol Lewitt is a great influence in my work. And people like Donald Judd. Going back to the earlier 20th Century, Mondrian, Malevitch. These people I continue to look at today. I still find them very illuminating.
MM: What is it about Sol Lewitt’s work that makes him a source of ideas for you?
PB: It is his sense of play nowadays. He seems not to be so preoccupied with systems. There now seems to be a sense of humour, of fun. I enjoy his use of colour and his reliance upon very basic geometry, its power and weight, without losing sight of humour. I find it refreshing and very moving.
MM: So humour and play are important in your work?
PB: Play is certainly important to me. I often “doodle” using the basic tools – a pair of compasses, a rule, a setsquare, pencil and some paper – and follow some very simple geometrical constraints. That’s the way the work develops – from the play and trying things out.
MM: In the work you are doing now, are you continuing with these ideas?
PB: Yes. Over the past few years I have been returning to Italy, to Venice and Florence, visiting the cathedrals and palaces. I have been struck by the non-figurative decorations. The floor tiling, the way the architectural vaulting and cornicing have been painted with chevrons, circles and repeating patterns which interlink. I’ve been looking at these geometrical images and have been building a series of graphic pieces. It’s an occasional series – but it’s growing. I will probably continue to produce these black and white graphic works for a while to come, and think they are helping to inform larger work that I’m making, geometric pieces introducing flat blocks of colour.
MM: The title you have given this work in progress, Procession for Our Ancient Forefathers, the black and white series based on your travels in Italy, has a real sense of movement that is transformed into an optical rhythm.
PB: Yes, you can’t help but set up a rhythm if you are repeating a basic pattern. The complexity is arrived at through repetition. You can’t help but set up a resonance that can be read optically. Certainly, if you’re cutting everything back to just black and white then it’s sort of positive/negative, positive/negative – that’s what you’re going to get.
MM: It’s the simplicity that you’re trying to get?
MM: And humour?
PB: I think so, yes. Some of them, especially when you start closing the points of a chevron with a little circle, they almost have a carnival feel to them. A procession. To actually physically repeat those patterns and block them in, it feels like a procession when I’m working on them. And it’s a way of celebrating, of honouring continuity. Nothing has changed. A 13th Century artisan had the same skills and access to basic materials that are available to us today.
MM: So much of your work is as much about history, about perceptions, as about line?
PB: Some of my favourite paintings are narrative paintings. They represent things that have happened, or they tell an allegorical story. But that’s not what I do. I don’t want to create things that hold a mirror up to the world, or represent something else. I want the images I make to be what they are; to be experienced as part of what we do, the way we live.
MM: Thinking about perceptions, can you tell me about your series Flat Spin? Is there continuity with the Procession?
PB: There is some commonality. They are a series of spirals blocked in black and white with a framed square and they step through six different spirals arrived at through a geometric system. They are called Flat Spin because they are a dedication to Major Charles Yeager, the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound back in 1947. He had some very uncomfortable experiences when he’d lose control of the aeroplane and it would go into a flat spin. He would lose all aerodynamic control and the plane would literally spiral through its own central axis, all the way down. Flight is something that has always fascinated me. I wanted to produce non-figurative images that would not necessarily portray the effect of lost control but just through their creation, acknowledge the courage and technical virtuosity of people like Yeager.
MM: They work both as allusion and as pattern.
PB: Yes. They stand alone. Take the title away and they would stand as a series of spirals that are geometrically arrived at.
MM: As well as the black and white series, you are working on larger pieces, canvases, using colour.
PB: There are similarities in that they are built up. Again, in a processional way. They are long horizontal pieces divided by interconnected, truncated triangles that set up a rhythm. Their scale is important and there is the possibility of their being intertwined.
MM: As a series you mean?
PB: Yes. There’s no reason why the images shouldn’t become a sort of module whereby we can endlessly lengthen them. Colour introduces something else completely. For me, it’s a logical progression that will continue.
MM: The idea of the modules gives a very sculptural feel to these paintings.
PB: To a degree, yes. Obviously they are pigment on canvas but I don’t try to hide that. I use colour in a very flat hard-edged way so there’s no confusion there, as to their being paintings. As two-dimensional blocks that could be arranged in different sequences, perhaps site-specific, then yes, very much so. Hopefully, through the use of flat colour in such a hard-edged way, the physicality of paint is not being denied. Paint is a luscious and exciting medium and I wouldn’t ever want to hide that.
Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (February 23, 1878 – May 15, 1935) was a painter and art theoretician, pioneer of geometric abstract art and the originator of the Avant-garde Suprematist movement.
Solomon “Sol” LeWitt was an American artist linked to various movements, including Conceptual art and Minimalism.
LeWitt came to fame in the late 1960s with his wall drawings and “structures” (a term he preferred instead of “sculptures”) but was prolific in a wide range of media including drawing, printmaking, photography, and painting…
Paolo Uccello (born Paolo di Dono, 1397 – December 10, 1475) was an Italian painter who was notable for his pioneering work on visual perspective in art. Giorgio Vasari in his book Lives of the Artists wrote that Uccello was obsessed by his interest in perspective and would stay up all night…
Italian Renaissance architects based their theories and practices on Classical Roman examples. The Renaissance revival of Classical Rome was as important in architecture as it was in literature. A pilgrimage to Rome to study the ancient buildings and ruins, especially the Colosseum and Pantheon, was considered essential to an architect’s training. Classical orders and architectural elements such as columns, pilasters, pediments, entablatures, arches, and domes form the vocabulary of Renaissance buildings…
Installation for the circumnavigation exhibition at the Redoubt Fort, Eastbourne March – May 09.
13 aluminium panels 1m sq, primed and painted with automotive acrylic.
Levy Educational Centre, Springboard Project, Hackney 2007/2008
Acrylic on painted plaster 2080 x 6450mm
Levy Educational Centre, Springboard Project, Hackney 2007/2008
Acrylic on painted plaster 2100 x 5740mm
Leysdown Project, Isle of Sheppey 2007 – Ongoing
Competition won in conjunction with Barker Shorten Architects. consisting of my Interior design part of the submitted proposal.
Through the use of simple geometric forms in graphic work and installations Paul Bartholomew’s latest body of work reflects upon different cultures and faiths, understandings and depictions of time.
Sat 31 July – Thurs 12 August
Mon – Sat 10.30 – 5pm (closed 1.30 – 2.15pm) Sun 12 – 5pm
Star Brewer y, Castle Ditch Lane
Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1YJ