Beyond Representation

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Effulgent Image
latex paint, masonite board, mandala,concentric circles, stovepipe enamel, painting surface, painting visual depth, abstract, organic, nature, Regina Five, sun, mottled surface, organic, vegetation, texture, painter's technique, geometric shape, mandala, layering paint, enamel paint, square, circle, surface, texture, scraping paint, visual depth, materially flat image, ridges of paint, concentric lines, concentric circles,
description

In a critical  retrospectiveAn exhibition of work by a senior artist representing all the stages of the artist’s career.  of McKay’s work in 1997, Dr. David Howard described the painter’s  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   as relatively simple. First, a layer of white  latexA rubbery substance used as binder in latex paints, as a cold cure molding compound, and also as the basis of certain adhesives. Although still used, latex has largely been replaced in many applications by silicon compounds and polyurethane plastics. (Artlex.com)  paint was placed on  masoniteA trademark used for a type of fiberboard employed as a surface for painting, but manufactured principally as wallboard for use in insulation, paneling, etc. It is dark brown, with one side that is very smooth, and the other bearing the texture of an impressed wire screen. Gesso is commonly applied to Masonite as a ground. Masonite can be quite permanent. It often occurs in print in lower case, to the dismay of the owner of the rights to this trademark. (Artlex.com)  board. Then, using a scraper, McKay would create a rough geometric  shapeAn element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, colour, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of a solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width. Examples of shapes include: circle, oval, and oblong; polygons such as triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezium, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, undecagon, dodecagon, etc.; and such other kinds of shapes as amorphous, biomorphous, and concretion. (Artlex.com)  with a  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of concentric lines or circles.

start quoteIf I'd known I was this good, I'd have painted more.end quote
-- Arthur Fortescue McKay

“Three dimensional  textureThe quality of surface in a finished artwork; note that this can apply to painting in describing the way that the paint is applied to the canvas or other support; to sculpture in describing the way that the material used is made smooth or rough; or to video in describing the way that the light-based image is either smooth or visibly broken up into pixels.  was kept to a minimum,” Howard continues, “as any ridges of paint would be sanded or tapped down to maintain the two dimensionality of the geometric designs. The latex would be allowed to dry overnight before proceeding to the most important stage of paint application. (In many paintings a layer of another  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  of enamel paint would be applied to create  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  variation),” Howard notes. “The next day McKay would pour a layer of Northstar Stovepipe Enamel paint over the latex and then would scrape the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  again, very hard, from the centre outwards to the edge of the circle, square or rectangle being represented. The scouring of the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  reveals both the  latexA rubbery substance used as binder in latex paints, as a cold cure molding compound, and also as the basis of certain adhesives. Although still used, latex has largely been replaced in many applications by silicon compounds and polyurethane plastics. (Artlex.com)  and residual enamel paint creating a materially flat image with extraordinary visual depth.”  (Howard, 2006)

Effulgent Image is one of McKay’s earlier circle or  mandalaAny of various radial geometric designs symbolic of the universe, traditionally used in Hinduism and Buddhism as an aid to meditation. (Artlex.com)  images, which came to dominate his work. Among the various influences on his development, McKay stated in an interview that fellow Regina Five artist Ron Bloore’s use of the  mandalaAny of various radial geometric designs symbolic of the universe, traditionally used in Hinduism and Buddhism as an aid to meditation. (Artlex.com)  was crucial to his own work. “I went down into the basement and Bloore showed me a circle he had painted and I went upstairs and thought, well, I’m going to try that, and tried it, and there it was …”

In a 1962 survey of the work of The Regina Five, Naomi Jackson Groves described the  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  this way: “Effulgent Image has the mesmeric magnificence of some far-off sun a billion years of age. ‘First feel, think afterwards,’ says McKay, to himself and to viewers of his work. The literal finger exploring the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  of Effulgent Image feels, amazed, the kid-glove smoothness of juicy enamel scraped over  masoniteA trademark used for a type of fiberboard employed as a surface for painting, but manufactured principally as wallboard for use in insulation, paneling, etc. It is dark brown, with one side that is very smooth, and the other bearing the texture of an impressed wire screen. Gesso is commonly applied to Masonite as a ground. Masonite can be quite permanent. It often occurs in print in lower case, to the dismay of the owner of the rights to this trademark. (Artlex.com)  board …” (Groves, 1962)

Another reviewer, Adele Freeman, wrote, “The mandalas can appear  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)  in shape; but because of the mottled  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  which McKay manages, they appear organic, vegetative.”  (Freeman, 1979) (Freeman also noted that McKay himself compared the forms to algae, the lower forms of aquatic vegetation.) 

additional resources Interview with Timothy Long - The Regina Five
Duration: 2:30 min
Size: 11440kb
Things to Think About
  • Does the Effulgent Image remind you of a far-off sun? What does it look like to you?

  • “Effulgent” means “shining forth brightly” or “radiant”. What do you think McKay was trying to say with this painting?

 

Advanced Activity

Art conservationists often have a difficult job in analysing materials and processes used by artists from the 1960s.

To find out more about this problem and what an art conservationist does, check out Modern Paints (Conservation at the Getty) at: http://www.getty.edu/conservation/science/modpaints/index.html.

Advanced Activity

Fractals relate to circular  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  . They represent complex mathematical formulae that can be shown visually.  There are many visual and sound examples of fractals on the Internet.  To find them, go to Google or another search engine, and type in the keyword “fractals”.

Use fractals in science and art as a source of inspiration to create a design.

Online Activity
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Interactive kaleidoscope activity

Go to V&A - Museum of Childhood Kaleidoscope and create your own kaleidoscope.

Studio Activity

In the middle of the 20th century (from roughly the 1940s to the mid 1960s) painters sometimes made artwork by experimenting with materials that were not intended to be used for art.  Art Mckay used stovepipe paint for some of his works.  He also used an old windshield wiper to apply paint in circular shapes on square backgrounds.

Sometimes artists use a variety of methods and tools to experiment with, including house or industrial paints and surfaces other than paper or canvas.  AirbrushA precision spray gun attached by a hose to an electric air compressor (or other means of air pressure), or the use of this device to spray paints, dyes or inks. A great variety of spraying effects can be achieved using an airbrush, typically for very smooth applications or gradation of color. The use of airbrush is strongly associated with commercial art, in which it is often used in illustrations, in photographic retouching, and other types of painting. (Artlex.com)  sprayers were and still are used extensively, but often painters improvise to achieve the right effect . Some objects they might use are spray bottles or droppers, old toothbrushes, sponges, textured cardboard, cloth, plastic bags or sticks.  In the 1960s artists experimented with different ways to apply paint.  They might have dripped or sprayed paint using a variety of spray bottles or droppers. They might have used objects to roll or stamp, drag or scrape paint, as well as using brushes and  paletteA slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose. The term "palette" may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist. (artlex.com)  knives.  Some even went as far as using body parts covered in paint  pressed, rolled or “walked” onto  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  surfaces. Artists working in the latter way were referred to as “action painters”.

To view a photograph of a painter working in this way go to: (example of Jackson Pollock creating an action painting) http://www.artnet.com/artwork/424715839/424667384/hans-namuth-jackson-pollock.html

Collect some tools that you might be able to use to create your own painting. This does not need to be a large painting;  you can experiment on small surfaces just as effectively.  Here are some examples:

  • cardboard
  • stick end of paintbrush
  • plastic bag
  • rolled cloth
  • ball of newspaper
  • bottom of circular lid
  • sole of an old shoe

Try  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  on various surfaces, for example, on newspaper, a plastic sheet, cloth, cardboard, or metal.

Art Mckay used circular “imagery”. This is a common source of patterning in nature.  Below are some examples:

orange seashell tree stump

Use one or more of these images to begin an idea for a design.

References

Freeman, Adele.  ‘Gallery Reviews.’  Toronto Globe and Mail, March 10, 1979.

Groves, Naomi Jackson.  ‘Five Painters from Regina.’  Canadian Art, March-April 1962, p 101.

Howard, Dr. David, Dr. Alex Kelly, Tim Long.  Arthur F. McKay, A Critical Retrospective.  Exhibition catalogue. MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2006.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning