Diary of a painting – John Bunker 

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Folded Soldier, 180cm X 180cm, 2016

 

Are You Experienced? One week in the studio while making ‘Folded Soldier’ still unfinished Autumn 2016.

Ipad entry Mon in studio. To carry on unashamedly, with head held high, my mode of writing that is full of overly long sentences and concocted half backed metaphorical flourishes and similes…. Bollocks. (Only a snippet, the rest is too rude and aggressive.)

Fragments of ready died orange canvas splattered with blue Indian ink. Carpet underlay, black paint splattered grey Lino, cut up drawing on yellow paper stained with black coffee. Cardboard Pot noodle delivery crate. skin of PVA puddle red with black striations pulled up from studio floor. It’s a ill looking yellow when isolate it, with white pot noodle writing printed all over it- gives it a nice sick like tinge. Corragated cardboard drawing in watered down black ink fired from washing up liquid bottle from last summer.

11.20am. Phone call tip off about some good stuff in a fly-tipping incident in Hackney Wick. Nothing worth taking but on the way back into Poplar I find a rotten car seat for ‘Scuttle King’ and remnant of Lorry tarp caught up in a tree by Northway. It’s a deep tar smeared olive green. I remember using the same kind of tarp a couple of years back. Mass production messes up time. Unimaginable patterns of time and space reconfigured in repetition and its waste. One piece of work can be enmeshed or dissolved completely into another.

Scuttle King

Scuttle King

iPad entry Tues. Getting prepared to see Tate Mod Rauschenberg show. Here’s a little cut and paste alternative Rauschenberg narrative based on the Brechtian notion of the epic form. This approach questions other dramatic story telling forms that purport to transparency and objectivity yet are full of coercive indoctrination, dubious assumptions, power-play and highly subjective, ahistorical mumbo-jumbo.

Epic Theatre

Narrative

Turns the spectator into an observer

Arouses capacity for action

Forces us to take decisions

Picture of the world

We are made to face something

Argument

Brought to the point of recognition

The spectator stands outside, studies

The human being is the object of the enquiry

We are alterable and able to alter

Eyes on the course

Each scene for itself

Montage

In curves

Jumps

People as a process

Social being determines thought

Twitter feed on Weds 6.30am. Here they are looking serious by the windows of their big new studio (great light!). Here they are photographing acres of paint splattered studio floor. Here they are worrying about their Cadmium Red. Here they are worrying about their second studio in Tuscany after those brutes voted out! #studioporn

iPad entry Weds in studio. Anguish at response to my critique of a painting in the AbEx show at RA. “Heaven forbid that one should stop being “irresponsible”! I say to myself. And my only hope is I will be generously handed more opportunities to give “…art writing a bad name”. Cue Bon Jovi! But someone is playing Jimi in a studio down there in the dark.

Cut to Woodstock 1969. This is the year that Jimi Hendrix makes his scorching and by turns haunting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It rings out wavering, screaming into an American morning (that came, very definitely, ‘after the night before’) thick with the rage and the love and the pain that would set the stage for the end of era in American history and thus world history. The electric guitar captures both the raw power of a young nation coming of age and the angst and vulnerability of a paranoid new culture snatching its moment from history.

Cut to 18th Oct 1973. Mr Scull is making art world history by ‘selling off’ his recently acquired works of the Pop artists. Cue the footage of the fur coat clad Rauschenberg making his appearance at the wedding of art and commerce that he had not been invited to. Bob pushes at Mr Scull. He’s physical and tough, he’s pushing and pushing back at a new art world order- a world that his and only his generation could digest and still survive, an immunity built of years of guzzling up and re-imagining the toxic socially segregated and highly stratified ‘Land of the Free’- all revealed as never before in the explosion of the mass media imagery, readily available world wide…. Of course, Mr Scull told Robert that he had just raised his profile immeasurably, and he was absolutely right. They then embraced and laughed…..

Painting processes past and present. [Tate handbook for teachers] “When acrylic paint first became available to artists in the 1960s it was marketed as the first new painting medium in 500 years and was described as ‘to painting what the electric guitar was to music’.”

But in reality there seemed to be rules of engagement that foregrounded a stringent obsession with medium on or in the canvas weave that became ever more paramount. Staining, dripping and pouring suited this new medium and the vogue for a cooler and more reified abstract art.

Cut to Sunday July 25 1965 at the Newport folk festival. Bob Dylan “….electrified one half of the audience and electrocuted the other.”

Cut to 2016 and Mr Engdahl’s speech, justifying Dylan as receiver of the Noble Prize for Literature. He said “What brings about the great shifts in the world of literature? Often it is when someone seizes upon a simple, overlooked form, discounted as art in the high sense, and makes it mutate.”

Rauschenberg “… makes it mutate.” But what does he make mutate? He makes every day objects mutate, he makes mass media imagery mutate. So what does he make it mutate in to? Whatever it was, it was far more interesting than the arrival of acrylic paint and far more like the real electrification of art…. Solvent, transfers, screen print, crumpled aluminium BUZZ, SPARK, SMILY TEETH, PARACHUTE GODS…

Photography was so important to Rauschenberg right from the beginning, right to the end.

Cut to May 1958. Many second generation AbExers were busy trying to find themselves within a clear new hierarchy. Bob and a few others were determined to lose themselves in the realms of a new visual culture. This realm of the visual was vilified as ‘kitsch’, it had been placed firmly out of bounds by the already ossifying aristocracy of AbEx and art criticism based around the the post painterlys who were rigidly holding court in New York. While Greenberg chuckled that someone had to rewrite how trotskyism turned into art for art’s sake, there were those who were already looking for “other criteria”….

Studio visit Fri 2.30pm. “God, it’s a bloody state in here mate…” Pointing at Tetch “They are really dirty, aren’t they…”
I say “…what about Folded Soldier?” They say “….Nar, not finished yet….” I think to myself, it probably is then.

Tetch

Tetch

And Leo Steinberg was brought in by Hilton Kramer to keep the rabble in their place. Alas, Leo went on to make it a whole lot worse for the righteous (and mostly Rightists) of what would become The New Criterion- those embattled lovers of the ‘great’ in Great Art.

Folded Soldier not finished. Fishing for Picasso’s between 1912-14 in the “inner net”. Nice rotten pink and white cordoning off tape coiled up like a dirty pink ribbon finishes ‘Tetch’. Time for a Pot Noodle, a couple of tins of Stella and I’m all set for I’m a Celeb Get Me Out of Here final. Happy days! #thetragicemptynessofnow

Email Fri night. “Is that Press Release ready? I want to give it to the others before Xmas….”

Annoying phrases for today  “commanding presence” and “simple unifying purpose.” I cant get around them. Folded Soldier will have to wait till Xmas is done.

John Bunker

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One thought on “Diary of a painting – John Bunker 

  1. It would be very interesting to read more from John Bunker. ‘Seeing’ Rauschenberg from a contemporary artist’s perspective adds a dimension to the other responses from curators, historians and professional reviewers.

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