Reflective Journal Week 43, 19 July – 25 July 2020

Day 1

A typical day of Ce Chen, filled with random ideas and senseless thoughts.

Day 2

Sea Wind to St Ives

As I stated in yesterday’s video dev log, I have been trying to assemble previous works in large-scale paintings to describe a complex context via a number of small sections. The first piece was sketched to composite Logon Rock, lichen, waveform sculptures and imagination of a futuristic Eden project. 

I composite most of the salty works before dismounting them for house moving. In an ideal condition, they should be displayed at a gallery whose window faces the sea instead of the suburbanscape of south London. I thought about displaying sculptures in front of paintings that haven’t been produced yet, but during photo-shooting, new inspirations were found. Most of the crafts have reflective surfaces, which I believe would look fine when hanging in natural light. 

In 2008, British artist Roger Hiorns produced a massive installation called Seizure. It was an indoor project, and the artist used copper sulphate solution to crystallised basically every surface of a post-war council flat. “A derelict bedsit is transformed into a world of crystalised wonder” (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/roger-hiorns-7255/roger-hiorns-seizure), as the title of Tate webpage described it. I do enjoy the overwhelmingness when displaying a huge amount of objects. Instead of covering surfaces with watercolour paper and encourage audiences to adjust observational angle themselves, I would like to occupy the initiative.

A side of England, an installation put together by Cornelia Parker in 1999 (https://www.artsy.net/artwork/cornelia-parker-a-side-of-england), displayed a large amount of chalk she retrieved from a cliff of Beachy Head with a spread composition. This arrangement allows each assembly can be examined by the audience really closes. It is like a surrealism painting, an extraction of key information that is presented without any hesitation.

The basic idea is to assemble a curtain of salted watercolour paper. In natural light and sea wind, their shiny surface would remind my audience of the glistening light of waves that reflect the sun shines through a break of the cloudy sky. With the representative colour of the maritime charm of a Cornish summer day, it forms a mimic of natural landscape with the invisible essence of brinish elements, echoes the artist’s reminder of the context of Cornish maritime culture which is often experienced by outsiders in an idealised image.

The layout of the curtain will guide the audience. They will have a comprehensive observation to reflective salty paper before they access paintings, crafts and sculptures. 

Ideally, objects will be displayed on sills in front of a sea-facing window. Colour of sculptures will create a resonance with the water in the distance. It would be perfect if the gallery were in St Ives. It will create a great match with the jade-green ocean of the St Ives bay. 

Dismounting continued after documenting the final display. I unexpectedly ran into an interesting aspect of those salt works. Some of them were incredibly stiff due to the thickness of crystallised water; therefore, I had to put them under running water; then salt dissolved and left me with reusable watercolour paper and acrylic panel. Although it is not fully appropriate, it somehow felt like “dust to dust”. Perhaps these crafts should be dismounted by washing in the sea of Penwith; therefore, a circle of the natural element usage can be completed. This thought will be considered in the future development of related projects. 

The dismounting process reminds me of the Andante of Mozart’s concert No.21 in C major for Piano and Orchestra. It pictures a person, who just finished a joyful journey by walking into the sea until the water submerges the figure and absorb the character into nature again. 

Day 3

My plan is always Plan C

Day 4

In the Warmth of The Sun

Sorry for disappearing! I did not feel so well for the past few days, but luckily the situation was significantly improved.

Before the break, I was flattening the upgraded version of Marazion’s Mirror. After a week’s pressure, the painting is now well-preserved. I will choose a sunny day to apply varnish onto its surface and call it an end. The picture was made to challenge several competitions, featuring marine charmless of English coastline.

Although those salted crafts will not be produced in the remained semester, I consider the concept as an attempt of experimenting approaches of creative works. On the day when the cold wind of a typical English summer got me a headache, I noticed the landscape in the painting ——which was a scene about the ocean and the sky’s colour blend into each other ——gradually turned into an image as if it was also raining when placing against the light condition of a rainy day. I suppose I could utilise this inspiration about arranging light source and display spot to diversify visual outcomes of future development. 

Another outcome during the rest was the completion of a new watercolour painting. I read about Hireth on the website of Royal Cornish Museum. It talked about a very interesting idea in which I noticed a connection to Unit 1’s work. In Unit 1, I wrote about how I treated my work as an archive of time, and how many statements in different perspectives form a panoramic view of a particular context —— more significant the number is, more precise the image can be described. 

I made a painting out of my impression of west Penwith, based on the view from St Michael’s Mountain. I concentrated on how cultural signature and Cornish identity were transformed due to preoccupied perceptions established by art colonies for nearly six months, but I seldom looked back to my experience in Cornwall. The webpage writes about Hireth is “an intangible feeling, a longing for the familiarity and comfort of a place”, and “images that ‘mean’ Cornwall to people”. To me, Cornwall is a place where I separate my consciousness to run away from real life. Its landscape, and especially seascape, in a windy, moist, grey afternoon is particularly selected for meditation. But ordinary, it is such a longing for distance. It’s a motivation that kept me advance; therefore, I can afford a short break on its sandy shore. And upon each visit, no matter how depressed the weather could be, there was always a day melted in solar warmness. 

In the Warmth of the Sun. A great tradition of En Plein Air, by which way the most of famous pieces we have seen that reflect Cornish life were produced; also the name of a book talked about Cornish artists in 70s, Painting the Warmth of the Sun. The painting was an emotional response to my impression of trips to West Penwith. 

Day 5

A reevaluation of the past

I finished editing details of the Marazion’s Mirror today and thought about how am I going to present the work to the Saatchi Gallery. I realised somme previous writings has been developed through months of critical practice. 

In Unit 1, when I talked about the sense of belonging to land, I wrote about Chinese people:

Chinese people have an obsession to land. This is not a desire of occupying  real estates, but a distinction of preserving their private plots that driven by traditional culture. On this scarred land that soaked with blood, her breeds worship soil. With a piece of land, everything can be recovered from. Burned cropland will grow, ruined houses can be rebuilt. 

In this context, the sense of belonging redefined the definition of “home”. It replaces the particular physical space in which families live. This culture background granted me a flexible perspective to reconsider what Cornwall really means to me. 

Most of the landscape paintings of mine were painting the longing for “those good old time”. I often find a sentimental attachment to the past, and I believe this pattern reveals my desire of being positioned in an environment where other individuals have not only accepted me as a persona, but also consider I am a part of the compilation of collective life. However, while longing for the acceptance, it also shows my preference of a comfortable social distance. I wish a fixed distance can be kept between me with all other beings at all time; but when I demand physical interaction, a physical channel can be established immediately. My desire of keeping an autonomous relationship to the surrounding world explained the common absence of human figure in my paintings. Despite figures will not be painted unless it was my fundamental determination at the beginning of the work, the existence of human activities is often implied to enhance my articulation about the desire of finding a sense of belonging. 

This idea cultivated my curiosity about the difference living in Cornwall and being recognised as a Cornish artist. On the one hand, I wish my artistic visualisation of Cornish landscape can be recognised, which may or may not let me being approved as a Cornish artist, for the ultimate goal of this question is to critically argue about the landscape and the identity that being defined by it; on the other hand, my output may identify essential factors that transform the identity of an outsider’s with a complex cultural background in the contemporary context. Do artists still own the liberty of relocating their residency and working interest nowadays? The series explores this question with a specific interest in Cornwall that generated by her breath-taking, mysterious and historic views.

Day 6

I bought three bottles of watercolour varnish on amazon, one of them was broken. I didn’t notice the shard so it cut my hand, quite deep tbh. I chose clean off the blood dropped on the painting and finished polishing it, it cost me a hour and the risk of being educated by the doctor. Well, in my defense, none decent painter shall left his/her painting in trouble..
Luckily, bleeding was stopped by the varnish shortly after it was dried. Although the chemical burn slowly developed from aw it stinks to oh it f***ing hurts. The chemical filled the cut and solidified, burnt off a tiny bit of skin surrounds.
I am now waiting in the ER and feeling guilty of causing trouble for NHS in this particularly stressful time. So sorry for not keep everything up to date again..
Hey that glass-bottled coke in the vending machine looks pretty good!

The Mirror of Marazion, 19 cm * 38.5 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2020.

Layers of varnish applied to the painting, and it was decently finished. Despite the fact that the theoretical background of this painting is similar to the previous version, a few changes have been made. I love when the rainy curtain dissipates in belated good weather, especially a short period before the sun takes over the day, landscapes are still being rendered in the humid air. Few colourful walls reveal in the distance, decorated isolated settlements and lightened up the dreary afternoon. When I saw this image during a short break to West Penwith, I felt connected to all those eyes looked into the mirror on the sandy shore. It was an appreciation to a primitive beauty across thousands of years. The same scene must have happened countless times, it is eternal comparing to fast-faded life, and all troubles came with it. It reminded me of Edward Bannister’s painter. His work often shows the artist’s admiration for Barbizon School and idealised landscapes. The grand reputation earned by his pastoral scenes, fertile fields and lovely roofings successfully touched judges and slapped faces of those racists, proving qualities of excelsior, anti-ossification and kindness. 

https://americanart.si.edu/artist/edward-mitchell-bannister-226
Untitled, 1868
After the Bath, 1891

“Some would argue that I am not in the position to state how Cornish people really feel due to my ethnic origin, which is true. This concern is also an essential reason for choosing Cornwall as the target of the research. Cornish field of art has a tradition of being diverse, and touring artists who could be considered as visitors pillared its development. Many examples of experts in Cornwall also proved the unnecessity of being Cornish when one’s work can be recognised by the market, the academy as well as professionals in the field.”

I think Edward Bannister verified the possibility of mutual understanding beyond race and ethnic in as an example of artist.

Please be advised if the video failed to play, they can be accessed on https://geraintjevans.wixsite.com/mapainting2020/ce-chen-1

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About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.