The Soft Ap­proach by A.J.Ed­wards

Artist Profile - - CONTENTS - For more de­tails on Caran D’Ache and other draw­ing ma­te­ri­als see Kad­mium. www.kad­mium.com.au

ES­SAY

a.J. Ed­wards

For many vis­ual artists there are par­tic­u­lar medi­ums, ma­te­ri­als and ap­proaches to work­ing are fa­mil­iar with and em­ploy reg­u­larly. Whether it’s dif­fer­ent types of paint-like oils, wa­ter­colours, acrylics or draw­ing ma­te­ri­als such as inks, char­coal, pen­cils or gouache, artists can get very com­fort­able with a medium and stick with it. One in­ter­est­ing medium that’s of­ten un­der­rated are oil pas­tels, oil bars or oil crayons – some are sol­u­ble and come close to the qual­i­ties of paint (de­pen­dant on whether they are used with tur­pen­tine or are wa­ter­sol­u­ble brands). Oil bars and oil pas­tels are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an in­ter­est­ing medium of choice in con­tem­po­rary works. There has been a long his­tory of great artists that have in­cor­po­rated this into their work­ing meth­ods – in­clud­ing Pi­casso, Gi­a­cometti, Auerbach and Leon Kos­soff. The medium it­self has a dif­fi­cult re­sis­tance to its sup­ports when used dry, but used ef­fec­tively this medium has the abil­ity to cross over some­where be­tween paint and the draw­ing medium which ex­plains why its qual­i­ties are hard to de­fine in char­ac­ter. It is an in­quis­i­tive and ex­per­i­men­tal ma­te­rial. We thought it would be use­ful and in­ter­est­ing in a sense to look at some con­tem­po­rary prac­tices that mod­ern day artists use to tackle this medium with a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. De­gas was known for his won­der­ful use of pas­tel and wax based medi­ums, one of the first to im­ple­ment a mod­ern ap­proach. The tra­di­tional pas­tel is some­thing we all know and are used to but used in the wrong hands it can have a light or ‘twee’ feel to it. De­gas would of­ten work over a heated plate or warm plate to get a ‘melt’ into the medium – which slurs the pig­ment into a pain­terly ef­fect. Con­tem­po­rary works have a sim­i­lar ef­fect by us­ing sol­vents or sol­u­ble medi­ums that em­u­lates a sim­i­lar sur­face qual­ity. By also in­cor­po­rat­ing a range of dif­fer­ent medi­ums such as ink or char­coal in con­junc­tion with the pas­tel there is an abil­ity to reach a more con­tem­po­rary vis­ual with more bite to the en­su­ing image. No­table greats such as Pi­casso and Gi­a­cometti em­ployed this mixed me­dia ap­proach to stun­ning ef­fects. Gi­a­cometti was a lead­ing light with

his pas­tel and draw­ing com­bi­na­tions. His use of the over­worked and re­duced style- wip­ing back and churn­ing over the sur­face, cre­at­ing dark fore­bod­ing messy works that re­ally drew the viewer in. These weren’t just works on pa­per but ma­jor works in their own right.

Closer to home, Aus­tralian artist Euan Ma­cleod adopts a sim­i­lar method on paint­ing trips out­doors or when trav­el­ling. He has evolved a par­tic­u­larly ef­fi­cient way of work­ing min­i­mally, scrap­ing the image back and wip­ing medium away as he works. Peter Booth uses the pas­tel in an orig­i­nally raw and rough-hewn way. His ap­proach for works on pa­per are sur­pris­ingly ag­gres­sive and di­rect, the bold lin­ear mark mak­ing although scrappy, are later honed down to al­low for the image to main­tain a more ges­tu­ral and pain­terly ef­fect.

Leon Kos­soff the Lon­don-based ex­pres­sive artist has a wild stroke mak­ing ap­proach and ges­tu­ral aban­don in his art, which has be­come renowned. Some of his stud­ies and works on pa­per are done with a com­bi­na­tion of char­coal, oil pas­tel and wax pen­cil. One of the big­gest brands in Europe are Caran D’Ache from Switzer­land who im­port into Aus­tralia . They gen­er­ally term all their ranges of pas­tels, wax pen­cils and draw­ing ma­te­ri­als un­der the ‘Colour­bar’ moniker.

Used ef­fec­tively this medium has the abil­ity to cross over some­where be­tween paint and the draw­ing medium.

The medium al­lows for rein­ven­tion and dis­plays a con­tem­po­rary di­rect­ness.

Even though there are end­less ar­rays of com­bi­na­tions to usilise, artists choose the sim­plest way for­ward. Danie Mel­lor for ex­am­ple uses just the one colour a Prus­sian blue neo pas­tel and buys them in the hun­dreds and then has his own par­tic­u­lar method to con­struct his im­ages, which in­cludes scratch­ing out, and us­ing neg­a­tive spa­ces to his own ad­van­tage.

Another Aus­tralian prac­ti­tioner Johnny Romeo utilises these ma­te­ri­als reg­u­larly in his work “I use oil sticks as draw­ing im­ple­ments on my can­vases. I use them much the same way one would use a pen­cil or an oil pas­tel but with far more fre­netic pres­sure. I like the creamy tex­ture and the ex­pres­sive, ges­tu­ral lines cre­ated. I also find them richly pig­mented. They al­low me the free­dom to ex­press with the type of spon­tane­ity my work re­quires. I peel back the skin with a cot­ton rag and the solid stick al­lows me much more flu­id­ity, sen­si­tiv­ity and ro­bust­ness.”

The medium al­lows for rein­ven­tion and dis­plays a con­tem­po­rary di­rect­ness. There are so many com­bi­na­tions and op­tions avail­able that make the ‘Colour­bar’ op­tion an in­ter­est­ing choice for con­tem­po­rary prac­tice.

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05 01 Johnny Romeo, Num­ber Two Hands, 2013, acrylic and oil on can­vas, 150 x 150cm 02 Danie Mel­lor, A man of high de­gree, 2011, pas­tel, pen­cil, glit­ter, Swarovski crys­tal and wash on Saun­ders Water­ford pa­per, 89 x 59cm 03 Leon Kos­soff, From Veronese: Al­le­gory of Love, IV (‘Happy

Union’), mixed me­dia on pa­per, 57.2 x 56cm 04 Pi­casso us­ing Colour­bars in his stu­dio 05 Peter Booth, Draw­ing, 1984, coloured pas­tels, 66.4 x 104.4cm Courtesy the artists, the Univer­sity of Queens­land Gallery and the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria

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