Viv Martin: studio work











Flower Power: Phase 5

Mid to end of December 2009: Resolution

Reflection from Phase 4 and exhibition

The exhibition at the end of phase 4 brought feedback that led me to make amendments to each piece of work that I had exhibited – hence adding this unplanned phase 5, which notes my response to the feedback and amendments made.

Looking at the work exhibited in the foyer, all the pieces looked a little flatter and greyer than I had expected – there was a need for something to lighten them up or to bring some movement. It might have been the different focal length there – the initial viewing distance was much greater than in my studio and each work could be seen with a fairly still gaze. In my studio my eyes moved around the works partly because I couldn’t see the whole without moving my eyes.

I felt that the Flower Power print was still a little spare and needed something else.

This was also reflected in the canvas cluster which, although much better than before, still looked a little repetitive and the individual nature of the flowers that contributed to the flower heads that, in turn contributed to the bush was not as evident as I had intended. Some people felt that the nature of the flowers was less clear because the overall image drew most attention. Some suggested that it should be more delicate or, if not, that it should be made clear that it is not intended to be delicate looking.

The paper composite print looked much better cut out and shown as paper with its fragility clear, but it also did not read to people easily as a composite as the strength of the whole image is strong.

The spherical bush was liked by many and it helped to encourage people to view the show as a body of work with interrelationships because it clearly reflected the paper composite.

The plaster relief only worked when there was a strong side light on it – so it either needs showing with that light or making in a way that it catches the light with more than one surface.

The comment was made that the body of work is about more than hydrangea – about layers of interpretation, the individual/group/mass interaction and forming, the seasons and impact of change and decay/degredation – so many layers of interpretation that the work could be more helpful in prompting.

One question stayed strongly in my mind – what do you want the work to stand for? Alongside this, what are the opportunities for art in a changing world? So many issues could be addressed through images like these.

Amendments to the work

Flower Power Cluster (the canvas)
I worked again on some digital images, trying out ways of emphasising the individual flower heads, but decided that this had to be done on the full size work because the differences in scale were too great. So I painted one flower head near the edge in the same bright orange acrylic as the screenprint line drawing in the centre of each head. This immediately changed the way you could look at the piece – your eye focused on the flower and then moved around the piece, noticing other flower shapes. So I picked out a few more flowers, choosing different shaped ones and not in a regular pattern. I made them different tones of the orange with mostly paler ones towards the centre and more on one side than the other of the whole piece. As I did this, I became aware of a sort of winking effect where your eye is drawn from one painted flower to another, together with a dynamic relationship between the individual flowers and their positions in relation to flower heads and the whole cluster. I think this addresses the need to make the elements more distinct and it has made the complex relationships much more evident.

Flower Power (woodcut and screenprint)

Having developed the Flower Power Cluster I realised that this approach had the potential to add the element to the print that I had felt that it still needed. I tried several versions of painting individual flowers to pick up the element in the mass and decided to use only three in different tones of the screenprint line's orange/red.

Flower Power Composite (the large paper piece)
The colour relationship between the red line drawing and the grey/black print on a white ground works well in this piece, but the red is not perceived very clearly until the viewer is quite close. I decided to follow a similar principle to that used with the canvas cluster and make the basic element of the print much more clear. The composite print is built up using only one small block with three flower heads. I made one print of this block in the same strong red as the drawn ink line near the edge of the paper piece towards the bottom left, where a signature might be placed. This has a very striking effect and draws attention to itself but also to the drawn line and the marks of the black/grey print. It also looks a bit like lipstick left from a kiss or a red wax seal. It lifts the whole piece and adds layers of meaning in two ways; the meaning of individual contribution to complex and different entities and the meaning of the history of the making of the piece which can be clearly traced from the element to the whole composite.


Flower Power Bush (the sphere)
I followed exactly the same approach with this piece and made one red print in the lower part that will placed to be visible when the piece is shown close to the paper composite on the wall. This has a similar effect to the flat piece and lifts the work, making the complexity much more obvious.

Flower Power etching
Although I liked the Cyanidea version, there was little response to it in the show. Seeing it in that context, I thought that I had lost much of the fragility and ambiguity of the original proof and that I could try some other ways of working with colour on the plate. I wanted to keep the links with the other pieces and considered using a red intaglio and an ultramarine relief, but thought that this would be too solid and that the colours would mix too much. So I tried viridian green in the centre and ultramarine in the outer part, both as intaglio and wiped separately to keep the colours fairly clean and separate. I wiped gently but took off the plate tone. This printed very well, keeping all the detail but the colour encouraging the eye to move around the piece and giving a sense of much to explore. I printed several more and this might now be an editionable piece. Re-titled to link the image to the project and to the etching process, ‘Flower Power: Lasting Impressions’.


Where to next? These pieces go to an exhibition in the Otter Gallery in Chichester early in 2010. I feel as though each piece has now reached a point of resolution and clearly says what I want it to say. There are also numerous questions left to address, some of which must form the starting point for the next body of work.


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