Diary of a Painting - Jo Hummel

Clinch and Comedy, Emulsion and Acrylic on watercolour paper and ply, 60 x 60 cm, 2019

I’ve chosen two paintings which were made simultaneously, Comedy and Clinch, created August 2019. It would be difficult to discuss a work as a single entity as they are all made in twos, threes or sometimes fours.

Comedy and Clinch were created at the end of an intense 9 month studio period. In this time I’d created work for 3 solo exhibitions as well as taking part in the Turps Painting School correspondence course. They were the final two paintings to make the cut for the exhibition in Sweden. There were some interesting questions cropping up at this point. I have been using positive and negative space in large central areas of the canvas to create commanding pure forms which are governed by the details in the outer margins. I’ve been asking myself ‘Who is the painting performing for?’. I see visual motifs in the work which I find reassuring, calming, soothing, energising, empowering, and I have a notion that the subconscious is guiding the conscious self in some profound, personal, developmental way. I’ve also been using visual routines such as symmetry, stacking and repetition. The recent intense studio period helped me to reach a new visual understanding of space which I’d easily compare to the sensation of standing in a room which you have grown to know intimately. I worked on the two final pieces quickly, over 3 or 4 days. My decision process had sped up. Clinch took longer than comedy and presented many manifestations before it became the finished piece. Because of the repeating deadlines I’d been adhering to a strict work routine, balancing practical and physical tasks with conceptual development. By the time I’d started on Comedy and Clinch I was already looking towards a slower, less militant pace.

My process is separated into two stages, painting and then assembling. I work onto a watercolour paper made by St Cuthbert’s Mill. Using brushes and rollers, I paint or artwork the paper sheets on both sides in household emulsion or mixed acrylic. In this case it was a very dark purple which is a nearly black aubergine when dry. On the reverse I used a chocolate grey colour. Often I’ll force the accidental bleeding and printing which occurs naturally when working the material in this way.

All of my colour understanding comes from what I see around me. The green corrugated iron boat shed next door to my studio is the same green in Comedy, in a certain light the dog’s aubergine nose contrasts with his black coat which you see in Clinch, the orange life aid at the pool was also a trigger. A colour will stir an emotion, then I go find it or mix it. Other colour choice is made in the moment, recycling what’s around and placing and rearranging until I see a relationship which satisfies me. Because I colour the paper front and back, the reverse might withhold the solution so I flip sections on both paintings, working back and forth. In this case with Comedy and Clinch, nothing was lost or discarded, material and understanding being shared between the two pieces. It’s an economical way of working which harks back to when I used found material.
Once dry, the paper has the weight and flex which is similar to a piece of thin leather. I cut into it using sharp tailor scissors. On smaller sections and straight edges I’ll use a knife. I don’t pre-plant he shapes. It’s all decided on the spot, however it’s far from random. I’ll have combinations of shapes and colours readily available, either on view within previous works or lying on the floor. Ifs omething is the wrong colour, but the right shape, I’ll use it as a template. The paper sections are fixed to the ply substrate using PH neutral PVA and UHU for the small pieces. The paintings weret hen weighted under several smooth, heavy kitchen cupboard doors. Any large panels might get an extra bit of heat press using a domestic iron. I allowed 24 hours for the glue to set, before I varnished them using an almost invisible UV protective, matt varnish by Lasquax, and then some satin Windsor and Newton for the final layer.

I listen to soundscapes, ambient, electronic, sometimes acoustic. But I usually favour beats and digital noise. I find it more hypnotic and a useful tool for accessing the right psychological space for making work.

Whilst creating this work I was listening to:
Mount Kimbie
Blackbird Blackbird
Beach House
British Sea Power (https://youtu.be/J9fDQxt9A70 )

I made a choice to remove news from my life whilst working on the exhibitions and Turps course. I decided that in order to reach the quality of concentration I needed I had to select stimuli and distractions carefully. So I stopped buying papers, deleted news apps and unfollowed journalists. I’ve recently enjoyed returning to the chitter chatter of papers and news apps, but it was a healthy and peaceful escape from the political noise and helped me focus on my own tasks.There is a clarity in the two paintings which I think reflects the isolation I was forcing upon myself.

Recent Books:
Everybody Lies, Big Data, New Data… Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine
Constellation of Genuis, 1922 Modernism and all that Jazz by Kevin Jackson
The Class Ceiling by Sam Freidman and Daniel Laurison
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Exhibitions etc
Studio visit, Carol Robertson
London Art Fair
Sara Dare, Sid Motion Gallery
Harder Edge, Saatchi Gallery
Shape Recognition, Eagle Gallery
Carry On, Fold
1000 Years of Collage, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

During the time this work was made and the months leading up I was regularly running at the gym and exercising a friend’s horse. I like both for the early mornings, the physical engagement, and the thrill. I’m no good in the studio unless I’ve thrashed about on a running machine and arrived with a clear head. Also walking the dog is good, anything to balance out the long indoor studiop eriods.

Jo Hummel 


Diary of a painting – Katrin Mäurich

I painted ‘dunkelheit hält alles an sich 2017’ (49x51cm) in January/February 2017 on beautiful 18mm B-grade birch ply. I bought a 1,22 x 2,44 m sheet of this last year [2016], cut it up with my jigsaw, sanded the pieces and priming the surfaces with oils or varnish (though sometimes I leave them raw).
This painting has been primed with linseed oil. It is quite a typical painting for me in that it has been build up or constructed over time in a rather oblique fashion – through successive adding and removing of figures, lines, layers of colour and texture. I used pressed pigments (conté, pastels) and acrylic paints. Colours in this painting (as far as I remember): Ivory and Mars Black, Zync and Titanium Whites, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine, Titan Buff, Raw Sienna, white, brown and black conté (Carrés Esquisse de Conté).
Terry is always very interested in the colours used in the making of paintings and I know that many other painters are too. It is not something I can talk about very well as my approach to colour is entirely intuitive and I do not think about it in an abstract way but rather use it as circumstances suggest. At the beginning of this painting for example I had a rather lovely mixed brown left over from a previous painting and hating waste I used it to tint the birch (which was golden and shimmered in the light – the sanding and oil finish made it into a very seductive, precious object). Then the next thing I did was in response to that brown – I rubbed some of it off again to let the surface ‘breath’ a bit more. That created a vague, smokey atmosphere that was asking for something definite or substantial to contrast with. So I responded with a conté (iron-oxide) line drawing. After some looking and working on other paintings in between, I saw how I could take the next step – there was something interesting going on with two shapes in the centre, a wrapping and surrounding which I liked. Playing around with this took me a few steps further, then it became too rigid and I decided to sand some of the paint back again and do some more looking and turning-away, working on other paintings in the meantime. Often I will find the next step for a painting while I am working on another. In this case it was the Yellow I was using on ‘shanten 2017’ which I was working on nearly concurrently to ‘dunkelheit…’. I could see that the yellow would push this painting on and that worked well – further opportunities opened up in the wake of introducing it which brought me quite close to the finish of the painting. The very final move was to apply a very thick, textured White to the centre. I sat with that for a while and returned to look a couple of times until I was absolutely certain it was finished. Since then, the painting has grown on me more and more. As time passes I can judge my paintings more clearly and appreciate their quality.
I used to give utilitarian titles to my paintings but changed this over the last couple of years or so. They are now more considered and personal. This painting’s title is from a Rilke poem I translated for a close friend during that time:
Oh darkness, whence I came
I love you more than the flame
That so confines the world,
in that it shines
only for some exclusive
beyond that it remains illusive.
Darkness though, holds everything close:
creatures and flames, animals
and me,
How it gathers
humankind and deity
both –
And thus it may be: with great might
Something stirs close to me.
I believe in night.
I believe in that which thus far remains unsaid.
I want to set my pious notions free.
What no one yet dared to desire,Will soon be second nature to me.
During the making of this painting I read and listened to audiobooks of fiction:
’I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou,
‘Abendland’ by Michael Köhlmeier,
‘A Whole Life’ by Robert Seethaler;
and non-fiction: various articles of political analysis (mostly online), Drift into Failure by Sidney Dekke and some other texts on systems thinking, risk management, incident investigation and clinical governance in general (for my job);
I saw: ‘Moonlight’ by Barry Jenkins,
‘Play me Something’ by Timothy Neat and John Berger,
‘Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000’ by Alain Tanner and John Berger;
Gorky’s ‘The Lower Depths’ at the Arcola Theatre;
^^I took a trip to Scotland and walked along the coast from Cromarty to Rosemarkie.
I was mostly listening to BBC Radio 4 and 3 and Spotify:
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Dutch Uncles – Oh Shudder
DIIV – Is the Is Are
SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land
The Clientele – Strange Geometry
Cults – Static
Laura Marling – Short Movie
Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours
Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell
Natalie Prass
Dead Man’s Bones
Julia Holter
Nick Cave
Courtney Barnett
Cass McCombs
Jeff Buckley
Max Richter
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Britten, Berg, Webern, Schubert, Schostakovich, Mozart."

Katrin Mäurich