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Archives for November, 2007

Uncertain Harmonies: Kevin Laycock

Group One Blue

I’ve come across another UK artist whose art is informed by intriguing ideas, among them aural-visual synesthesia. Kevin Laycock, who teaches painting at the School of Design of the University of Leeds, is a musician himself, and very interested in the relationship of painting and design to music. To quote from a statement at the Drumcroon Gallery:

Kevin Laycock’s recent paintings explore the structure of ‘Colour Symphony’, an orchestral work created in 1922 by the composer Arthur Bliss. The composer, who was known for creating music with unusual combinations of instrument and voice, had set out to explore the musical associations of colour. In these paintings, Kevin Laycock is returning the musical score to the colour that inspired it, exploring the qualities of colour in music and paint, finding a painted equivalent for the musical structures and sounds.

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innate expression?

Fall Dune


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Support the Arts – Turn Off Your Television


I assume most of you have heard about the WGA (Writers Guild of America) strike. I’m not sure how much attention it gets in other parts of the country (or the world, for that matter), but here in Los Angeles it’s a big story. This is after all an entertainment industry town, and the effects of the strike can be felt in every part of our local economy. My wife is a writer and a WGA member, as are many of our friends.

The strike has come about because of a disagreement between the corporations who own the movie and tv studios and the writers who create their content over how much, if at all, the writers should be compensated for their creative work. The writers contend that they should be getting a slightly larger share from the sale of DVDs of the movies they wrote. From the sale of a $28.95 DVD, the writer of the movie currently gets 4 cents, or as comedian Tim Kazurinsky points out, that ‘s 4 cents out of 2,895 cents. The writers are asking for 8 cents.

But a bigger issue, and possibly the main one, is that the networks and studios want to pay the writers nothing, that’s ZERO $, for tv shows and movies that they (the corporations) post on their web sites. The corporations claim that these streaming videos are “promotional”, and that they shouldn’t have to compensate the writers for posting them. But these “promotional” shows have commercials, just like any regular tv show, and are a huge source of income for the studios. They just want to keep it all for themselves.

As Mark Harris notes in his Entertainment Weekly Online column, “Why the Striking Writers Are Right”:

“The problem with this position is that writers deserve a share of revenue for material they help to create. Not a share only if the revenue is really, really a lot. A share, period. If it turns out that streaming video is a goldmine, then both sides will get a lot of money. If it turns out not to be, they’ll get less. Corporations are fond of reminding their employees that they’re all a ”family” during tough times. But when families sit down to dinner, Dad doesn’t get to say, ”I’m gonna eat until I decide I’m full, and then we’ll see if there’s anything left for the rest of you.” The right of a writer to earn money from work that continues to generate revenue cannot be dependent on how comfy studio and network heads are with the fullness of their own coffers.”

The studios are responding to the strike by showing reruns, and more reality and talk shows. But many of the more popular talk shows themselves will have to be reruns, since people like David Letterman and Jay Leno don’t come up with all those clever lines off the tops of their heads. They are created by a staff of, you guessed it, writers. To their credit, both Leno and Letterman are supporting the writers’ position in this dispute.

For the personal reasons mentioned above, and also on principle, as an artist, I’m siding with the writers as well. It seems obvious to me that the people who profit from the success of a creative product should include the artists who actually created it, not just the executives who made the phone calls and brokered the deals. I don’t watch a whole lot of tv to begin with, but until this strike is over I’m not planning on watching any. I’m going to vote with my remote, and say no to corporate greed. I hope many other people do the same.


Here are a couple of videos about the strike that you might find interesting:
Tim Kazurinsky on WGN
the writers of The Office


Oil on Canvas

Virginalis sancta frequentia

Hinc virginalis sancta frequentia,
Gertrudis, Agnes, Prisca, Cecilia,
Lucia, Petronilla, Tecla,
Agatha, Barbara, Juliana,

Multeque quarum nomina non lego.
aut lecta nunc his addere negligo,
dignas Deo quas fecit esse
integritas anime fidesque.

Tali magistra vel duce praevia
abominantes terrea gaudia,
in carne praeter carnis usum
angelicam tenuere vitam.

He pervagantes prata recentia
pro velle querunt serta decentia,
rosas legentes passionis
lilia vel violas amoris.

Q and A

Over the course of the last year I have made a number of cut wood letters. I have done so in order to gain process experience and to find the right combination of typefaces, dimensions and treatments in search of a decent question and answer linkage.

Watch a presidential debate and see the tangled relationships between the moderator’s questions and the varied kinds of responses. Messy and devious as it may become at times, the question and answer relationship is a fundamental aspect of the intellectual process. As such it calls out for plastic representation.

The final solution will likely be a tangled mass of big block letters. In the meanwhile I’ll settle for an equally tangled mass of this last year’s experiments.

These are three photos of one piece.


I’m still looking for the right colors. Early on I was giving each letter its own hues and patterns. This raised the visual density, but detracted from any clarity of intention. When undecided, I usually fall back to aluminum paint.

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Community and Art: the Gee’s Bend Example


I’ve been following, if not commenting on, the discussions on blogs and their usefulness to a community of artists. And that led me to thinking about communities of artists.

All kinds of communities of artists have existed — ateliers of the Renaissance, –the academies of art — museum schools where students sat on the floor drawing ancient scuptures– the artists who rebelled against the academy in Paris– the Group of Seven took on Emily Carr in the late 1920’s — the New York School whose members drank together at bars, married, divorced, remarried each other– well you get the idea — art camps, colonies, ateliers, workshops, studio spaces, hanging with artists — all comprise community. And now we have the internet, adding another element to the possibility of community.

One of the most fascinating communities of artists is that of the black women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, whose quilted art was exhibited in Houston and then at the Whitney in 2002. [Michael] Kimmelman in the New York Times November 29, 2002 regarded the exhibit as

“..Some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced. Imagine Matisse and Klee (if you think I’m wildly exaggerating, see the show) arising not from rarefied Europe, but from the caramel soil of the rural South in the form of women, descendants of slaves when Gee’s Bend was a plantation. These women, closely bound by family and custom (many Benders bear the slaveowner’s name, Pettway), spent their precious spare time — while not rearing children, chopping wood, hauling water and plowing fields — splicing scraps of old cloth to make robust objects of amazingly refined, eccentric abstract designs. The best of these designs, unusually minimalist and spare, are so eye-poppingly gorgeous that it’s hard to know how to begin to account for them. But then, good art can never be fully accounted for, just described.” (as quoted on the website of Shelly Zegart) more… »

Dialogue with artist Jeffrey Isaac


Jeffrey Isaac, ‘George W. Bush leading the war of terror’, 2007, oil on canvas, 250 x 360 cm.

I have been following Jeffrey Isaac‘s paintings for some time now (about a year actually) and a little while back (in an effort to understand some of his works), I had an e-mail conversation on motivations behind his art, his style of oil painting, his choice of subjects and his views on art. The conversations led to the following dialogue (you may call it an interview), presented here.

Some of this is stoked by a particular interest I have had in hearing social commentary from US artists who live outside the States and Jeffrey is an example of such an artist. Sometimes the commentaries developed are richer due to a melding of cultures and as a result their art tends to reflect inherent local perceptions to global social issues.  more… »