Preparing an Art Show is a Process

I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks. I know, I know, one should blog all the time. I agree with the principle, but I am working on an art show, “Boadicea in Albion,” and there is only so much room for creativity.

"Boadicea" by Andy Coughlan (2014)

“Boadicea” by Andy Coughlan (2014)

I try to do many things: I write — both plays and journalism, I act, I direct, I publish a monthly arts magazine, and I paint. I admire people who can do all these creative things at once, but I tend to be a person who compartmentalizes. When I am writing, I am writing. And right now I am painting, so that is it — especially with only three weeks until the show opens.

 There is a process to putting on a show. First there is the initial pitch (in this case I was lucky. This show is the prize for winning the Beaumont Art League’s Membership Show in 2013).

 Once the show is confirmed, I like to come up with a theme. I am somewhat of an idiot when it comes to shows. I like to do all new stuff if possible. Sure, I have a bunch of paintings that have never been seen at BAL before, but I always have a new idea and a show is a good way to develop it out.

 My last show, at The Art Studio in 2012, featured abstracts that were predominantly black and white (if you saw them you will know they actually had a lot of color, but at first glance they looked monochrome). There was a heavy Franz Kline influence in the work. How obvious it was I don’t know, but the spirit was there. I always consider my work as black and white drawings anyway.

coughlan1

But like Kline I felt it was time to develop it out and play with color (preferably without dying young like he did). That meant every piece had to be colorful. Color is something I have always used to support the drawings. Now I wanted the colors to be equal with the line work. It requires a lot of thought.

As an aside, the great English comic Tony Hancock was in a movie where he played a second-rate artist. When asked what type of painter he was, he replied, “I am a Shapist — all my colors are in shapes.” A brilliant sentiment, but I digress.

Fortunately, I really enjoy underpainting — having layers of paint cover others — but allowing the underneath colors to bleed through. I also liked playing with texture. I always struggle with over working a piece, so I tried to allow the action of painting to show.

The pieces still begin as they have for the past few years, with life drawings from the figure. Then I get to deconstruct the figure — or figures — and break the lines, twisting them and overlapping from different drawings. The resulting abstracts, I hope, still retain a quality of warmth and spirit, and celebration of the female form.

I think visitors to the show, which opens Sept. 13, will see a cohesive show, but I make no apologies for any slight variations. I tried to let the pieces develop at their own pace. Like all artists, my influences seep in to the work. A bit of Miro, Picasso, Matisse, de Kooning, always Kline, and very much always Renaissance masters and Rubens (much harder to spot, but always a driving force).

For this show, I have two galleries to play with. In the Brown Gallery, all of the pieces represent the strong female spirit. All of the pieces are named for English or historical women. I hope the pieces will not only attract the viewer on their own merit, but also open a dialogue and interest in the women they represent. The way they are hung, and in which grouping, is an important part of the show.

The Scurlock Gallery is a totally different idea. It is certainly the biggest thing I have done. Certainly the boldest, and possibly the most ambitious thing I have attempted.

But that is for the next blog.

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