All images courtesy of Andreia Alves De Oliveira
This is an archive of direction. Or more specifically an archive of the directional marks in the Borough Road collection.
Anybody who has painted knows of the breathless moment when the brush meets the surface.
Cut out, assembled and arranged according to direction, the process of categorising and re-archiving the lines gives a new room for these painterly moments to exist.
Collectivised and cut from any pictorial context but their own presence, the lines still seems to me to be powerful memories of the artists at work; their commitment, decisions and physical presence.
Over the weeks, I have been looking at the works in the collection in their context of an archive. I have found these communal themes or qualities that could be used as categories to arrange them by:
Lines - direction
Marks: lines - dashes - dots
Marks: patches - blotches -dots
Structure - angles - rounds
Surface: texture - thickness - energy or crunchiness
Colour: greys, yellow-pink, red-orange, blues
Motif: bodies, city-scapes, portraits, vases etc...
Narrative: teaching, trauma, time, instruction, intention, choice
Reaction: breathing, movement
From the research: A list of motives, and how often they occur
Contemporary artist Johanna Bolton is currently doing a residency at the Borough Road Gallery art store. You can follow her as she researches and develops a project for the gallery this fall.
Bomberg wrote that ‘the virility of drawing lies in the immediate necessity to make decisions- with it departs the fears and the funk...’
I think this quality is very much evident in the decisive fast impasto lines in the art of the Borough Group.
Bomberg also wrote “I approach drawing solely for structure” - I will try the same but from the other side, as a sculptor looking for the instruction for structure in the drawings.
This week I am buying armature wire and working at drawing out those structural lines into 3-dimensions again.
This week I have been thinking about the history of the painter’s movements when working. Mark making, lines, technique and energy. Like vectors carrying information about the direction from a given point.Read More
Contemporary artist Johanna Bolton is currently doing a residency at the Borough Road Gallery archive and art store. This is her third week exploring the collection and related materials.
This week I look and draw and breath structure.
Collector Sarah Rose described her interest in the act of viewing and how it affects the viewer’s body, and breathing. (It is interesting to note that she worked as a singing teacher).
A poetic connection is drawn between the record of movement encoded in the painting’s structure and the physical reaction it evokes, the viewer’s breathing.
An element or category for this collection is therefore BREATHING.
Contemporary artist Johanna Bolton is currently doing a residency at the Borough Road Gallery archive and art store. This is her second blog exploring the collection and working with the LSBU archives.
Last Friday, archivist Ruth MacLeod showed me the records from the Arts Department of Borough Polytechnic (as London South Bank University was then known) at the time David Bomberg was teaching (1946-53). There was little mentioned about him specifically, but some records that help get a feeling for life in the art department at the time.
As a Polytechnic the department’s focus was on commercial art, creating a freedom from the traditions followed in the Fine Arts departments elsewhere. Bomberg taught a few daytime life drawing classes, but mainly evening classes in life drawing, painting and composition. Records show a large uptake of art evening classes, and one year there was a course tantalizingly named ‘Drawing and painting from memory and knowledge’. There is a line in the student magazine about the people who come in the evening and ‘splash more paint on the walls than on the canvases’, and an entertaining article about the humiliation of being corrected by an unnamed life drawing teacher (there were two life drawing teachers at the time, one of them Bomberg): “...try to remember he is an Aesthete and therefore cannot be expected to know any better.”
But what the visit to the archive really brought home more than anything was how recent this was after WW2, the second war that Bomberg had lived through. His suffering in the trenches of the Great War had affected his practice dramatically, from radical abstractions in the style of Futurism and Vorticism to a more figurative, expressionistic style.
Of course WW2 also had a major impact on the art works of all the artists in the Borough Road group.
The archive did have a large folder with records on Bomberg’s contemporary teacher collegue Mr Thomas Liverton. In a hand written note from 20th October 1945 he writes that he has been discharged from the RAF, and was much looking forward to returning to Borough Polytechnic in November, but felt ‘rather in need of a rest.’ It is strange to think how quietly that generation went through their traumatic experiences.
Traces of Trauma? Works by David Bomberg from before, between and after the two world wars, in the Borough Road collection archive. (There is only one work from before the Great War in the collection).