Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Only, now it IS working. WTF??!!?
Test didn't work. I'm not sure why it took me hours to figure that out, though.

Monday, November 17, 2003

To see some of the work (much of it in an unfinished state) that will be appearing in Peeled, visit the "Painting and Drawing" thread of Visual Arts Yapathon at (link at right) and start at post #140 or click this link right here.

Peeled, an exhibition of works by the proprietor of the Oily Rags blog, Austin Swinburn, will be appearing in the Flood Gallery from Nov. 24 to Nov. 28. Just in time for Thanksgiving, so almost no-one will actually be able to see it! No fewer than 10 and possibly as many as 20 paintings drawings and sculptures will be on display. An opening reception hosted by the artist will be held in the late afternoon to early evening of Nov. 24, further details to be announced as they become available. However, food and drink will definitely be provided, since otherwise it's certain no-one will show. Come one, come all, tell your friends, tell your enemies.

The Flood Gallery is located on the fourth floor of the UT Art building at the corner of 23rd St. and San Jacinto. Detailed map and driving directions.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Well, comments KINDA work - it looks like the same two comments are listed under every entry. WTF?
Hey, look at me, I successfully added a comment feature, thanks to that great broad Julie.

Thanks, Julie.

Crizist on a crizutch, you'd think that with the modest goals I've set for myself with this thing I'd be able to meet them, wouldn't you? And yet so far I've consistently failed to actually write five days a week in here. Three the first week (to be fair, I started on a Wednesday), three last week, and now just two this week. Oh well, at least I'm no Scott Von Doviak when it comes to updates. Ah, I'm just funnin' ya, Scott!

Anyway, I figure that today I'll inaugurate the "whiny little punk" aspect of bloggerdom here at Oily Rags, because I've just had a fuck of a lousy time lately. I've been picking fights with friends for no especially clear or good reason. I've been sleeping poorly. I've been wasting even more time than usual on petty distractions intended to keep me from exploding into violent rages. Best of all, I actually exploded into a violent rage a couple of days ago. Nice work, asshole!

So, what set me off? What occurrence could be so bad that I punched a cinderblock wall with an unprotected hand, stalked back and forth in an empty hallway for about a half hour trying to burn off adrenal overload, called the university mental health center for an emergency appointment (in the process bellowing furiously and profanely at the top of my lungs to the poor drone who was trying to set my appointment because she couldn't spell my name right), and finally picking up a seven-foot tall easel made of bolted together 2x4s and hurling it to the ground and bare-handedly bending a sheet-metal stool into (temporary) uselessness?

Why, I dropped my bag of supplies and the linseed oil bottle within broke. Yeah, that's right. I bwoke a widdle bottwe. Pretty fucking ridiculous, huh? Well, unsurprisingly, that was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I've been feeling lower and lower for days or maybe weeks or months now. And, at the risk of some of the relevant parties reading this, part of it and maybe even a major part of it is the way I feel alienated from and used by my friends. I know that it sucks to hang around a guy who's constantly broke and can't pay his own way 90% of the time - which is to say, me. And I know it's difficult to include someone who's work schedule makes him inaccessible for early evening activities five nights of the week which is me again. And I know that the fact I don't have a car and therefore must rely on buses or rides from willing acquintances to reach many places (especially at night when buses run rarely or not at all) makes it difficult to include me. What's more, it hasn't escaped my notice that since I'm a bit of a hypersensitive guy who will sometimes unpredictably overreact to percieved and perhaps purely imaginary slights I can't expect to be Mr. Popularity.

(paragraph removed because it's causing trouble, and I don't need any more of that)

Boy, when Oily Rags does self-pitying embarassing personal revelations, we do it RIGHT, huh!??

Monday, November 10, 2003

Well, it looks like I'd have to spend money to actually post images here, so no dice on that front. However, this week I have two critiques coming up, one for each class. We'll be doing crits in sculpture tomorrow and painting on wednesday. So, this would be an opportune time to really bust some ass and finish some problematic areas and knock some people on their ass. That's not exactly what's happening yet.

Beginning with painting, I had a visit from a former drawing prof, Richard Jordan last week. He was looking at my shaped panels and said that he thought they weren't really finished as single units (which they aren't - I'm still painting on all of them) and thought instead that they were parts of a larger whole somehow. The word he kept returning to was "shards," as if the strange angles and outlines of the panels reminded him of broken glass or pottery. Now, as it happens, this is an idea that had occurred to me before. In fact, at the start of the semester I floated the idea of stacking the individual paintings a few inches apart in a box of some kind, making them units of a diorama or seomething of that nature. The reason for this ,of course, is because I'm interested in using the shapes of the panels as a way to activate the viewers awareness of the space around the paintings. I have also considered (as I think I mentioned in a previous entry) hanging the panels in such a way that they would seem to 'float' a few inches or maybe even as much as a foot away from the wall behind them, thus approaching a kind of sculptural effect. These paintings aren't paintings of anything in particular, after all. Purely abstract paintings really can't be that, so they become objects in and of themselves rather than a depiction of something, as representational art is. So anyway, Jordan's recommendation was to try assembling them in a three-dimensional way to push their objecthood that much more.

However, that was about 12 hours of painting ago, and two of them have changed their appearance since then, one of them very dramatically. The painting in question is cut with four branching, sinuous shapes that could almost be considered lines created in negative. The masking of the wood and gesso had each been done in a similar character, although not imitating the cut shapes exactly. My initial thought for this painting was to create something like a lattice of overlapping veins or branches or river systems (this was begun before I'd seen the film Rivers and Tides , by the way, although the shapes Andy Goldsworthy repeats in many of his works have a similar appraearance.) Anyway, after the taping and gessoing and retaping, I put a field of slate-gray (but irregularly mixed) paint on the surface with a palatte knife, resulting in a rough, highly textured, uneven surface with a pretty consistent color value broken up by yellow highlights near the center. On top of this, I began painting branches or veins or what have you encroaching on the center of the palate from the sides. This happened in various colors, one color per layer of branching forms. Each layer had about 3-5 different forms on it. When Jordan saw this painting last week, it had three layers of forms on it, two in different shades of green and one in black. Today, however, I mixed a sort of pinkish brownish orangish color that might conceivably be described as flesh or peach and began applying it at the center instead of the edge. Also, I varied the thickness of the lins a great deal more than I had on previous layers. Bradley Peterson (who teaches this painting class) thought that it began to add an element of space and light to the painting. I'm not sure I approve of that, but I do think it looks a lot better.

Okay, more later.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Well, would you look at this mess? It's only a week and a half into my life as a blogger and I'm already falling behind on my (let's be honest - extremely light) self assigned schedule for blog entries. Well, fuck it, then. On Monday I said I'd continue discussing my paintings with some photographs to show some examples of what I'm drivelling on about. On Wednesday I explained my digicam was acting up and so there had been a delay but I'd be posting tomorrow. Yesterday (the alleged tomorrow in question) I posting nothing. Today, I actually got the digicam to do some work, but now I only have an hour until I need to be at Tai Chi People for my weekly (at best) arse-whoopin' lesson. So, instead of fucking around with the Olympus and the Adobe and the Blogger uploading thingumajigger some more and wasting what little time I have, I'm putting it off until tomorrow and writing about something else instead. And since I'm on my way to Tai Chi People, why not make it about Tai Chi Chuan? Or if you prefer, Taijiquan. Or T'ai chi chu'an. Anyway, the "grand ultimate martial art."

So, I began doing taijiquan (my favorite spelling) shortly before my 31st birthday. I am now about 6 months past my 34th birthday, so I ought to have about 3.5 years experience at it, and getting on towards being kind of formidable. The fact is, though, I only attended classes regularly - almost every day, in fact, for the first year or so of my practice. Since then, I have been compelled by unhelpful class and work schedules (to say nothing of unhelpful financial situations and just plain sloth) to do considerably less than that. At first, I was still doing my daolu (forms) work every day, and conditioning myself to be stronger and more flexible with the qigong I learned in class, but slowly it got shuffled to the side in favor of - well, in favor of nothing very good or helpful. I spent a lot more time asleep, or surfing the web, or drinking and smoking pot, or just fucking off. So, when I decided a few weeks ago that I would return to regular class attendance, albeit on a scaled down schedule, I had gained a lot of weight and lost a lot of flexibility and muscle memory of how to do this stuff right. And sure enough, I find myself making mistakes in tui shou (pushing hands, a form of light sparring concentrating on developing your own stationary stability and forcing your opponent to move when he doesn't wish to) I never would have made before. Sort of the same way that I wouldn't have used so many comma splices and parenthetical expressions before I stopped writing with any frequency.

So, from a certain perspective, this blog, my return to college and my return to Tai Chi People are all parts of the same early-onset midlife crisis. I want to get my health back, my artistic chops back, my writing chops back, and well, basically I want to get to a point where I'm disciplined and reliable and actually genuinely good at something. I've coasted a long time in this life on the fortunate circumstances of my birth, but it's made me so lazy and dependent that I basically have no confidence in myself as is. I'm a poster boy for wasted potential, and it's time to change that.

Work out.




Make some money.

Get a girl.

Do all that, Austin, and you'll start to actually be worth your own high opinion of your potential. Because potential without actual ain't shit. And you ain't got much in the way of actual right now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Well, fuckola. Yesterday I forgot the digicam, and today I remembered the digicam but forgot the wire that connects it to the computer. So, instead of posting pictures of my paintings and gabbing about them, I'm going to just make a short entry here letting you know I haven't utterly forgotten about this blog.

Oh, I guess I can blather a little about the stuff I've been watching on teevee lately, too. Those of you who know me probably also know that about my favorite sshow is Mike Judge's "King of the Hill." Some of you also know that I've been sporadically working on an article about it for The High Hat webzine (click on it to the right - it's totally worth it!) Well, Vulcan Video finally decided to pick up the first season DVD box set for KotH, something I've been hassling them to do since it was released a few months ago. I'd have bought it myself, but the goddamn thing costs like $40 and I only work 19 hours a week at $7 per, so you can see my problem here. Anyway, last night was twoferone night at Vulcan, so I rented a couple of the discs and hauled 'em home. They're fan-fucking-tastic. My favorite bonus feature so far (after only watching part of one of 'em) is the character design sketches showing proper proportions, expressions, and so on - even proper gestures and movements, like Cotton's kneeless rolling gait. I absolutely must own this, and all other subsequent KotH DVD box sets. Because I am a sucker.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Well, I figure it's about time this Blog started earning it's name. Let's read about what Austin's painting!

To begin with, I'm trying to express some semi-Taoist ideas in my paintings these days, an idea that's been percolating in my tiny one-track mind ever since I began taking classes in Taijiquan a few years ago. For those of you totally unfamiliar with the ideas of Taoism, here's my own largely ignorant interpretation of this many-thousands of years old philosophical tradition. Essentially, all existence is the result of the interaction of conflicting forces, and as a result, we perceive the universe in terms of complementary opposites. male/female, hard/soft, up/down, alive/dead, randomness/order, creation/destruction etc. These are summarized by the famous yin-yang symbol, which is more properly called the Taiji, or "grand ultimate" because it contains both sides in equal measure and perfect symmetry.

Now, this is only the most fundamental basis of Taoism, and not Taoism itself (Tao translates to "way" or "path" not "yin and yang" or "philosophy of dualistic complements.") Taoism per se endorses an effortless approach to harmonizing with the grand ultimate in both it's halves, and striking a balance of these forces within oneself to blend in invisibly with the universe and be a part of it as simply and completely as possible. Or that's what I THINK it is, anyway. As I've said elsewhere, I'm just a dumb greasy hick.

So, returning to painting, I've decided that the best way to express this idea or philosophy or whatever the hell it is in art is to work in an abstract expressionist mode. I've chosen abstraction because, it removes the possibility of pretense since the paint doesn't attempt to be anything other than what it is, pigment suspended in medium. No illusion is possible or even attempted, only a simple statement of facts. Calling what I do "expressionist" is perhaps a harder sell, but the way that I handle paint and create compositions and imagery is definitely inspired by (and imitated from) folks like Hoffman, Kline, Mitchell, De Kooning and all those fuckers. So, ab-ex it is.

The twist that I'm putting on it, is I'm working on panels that I shape in advance of painting them. Right now, they're all basic easel sizes - about two feet square, but irregular within those dimensions because I saw the edges (sometimes I saw out the interior as well.) The idea here is to expand on another gimmick that I came up with a couple of years ago, which is masking the canvas - or now, panel - then working the paint on top of the tape and finally removing the tape to expose the bare canvas beneath it. I found that this gave me a reference to emptiness that contrasted -in my opinion, effectively- against the fullness on top of it. And of course, there are other contrasting forces at work here as well. Painting is an additive process, but removing the tape is subtractive, and so is sawing the panel. The paint has the evidence of my hand and can be said to have character - the bare portions do not. And so on. So I was unsatisfied with the canvas showing through because visually it was simply white - it might as well have been paint. This was part of the impetus to switch to painting on plywood panels, because I could then mask the wood itself before priming the surface with acrylic gesso, and then mask it again on top of the gesso and then finally paint on top of all that. Furthermore, wooden panels permit an easy way to shape the surface, ie: the aforementioned sawing. And so that's where I am now, cutting up plywood, taping it, gessoing it, taping it again, then painting it and finally removing all the goddamn tape. I've experimented with other masking techniques, specifically brushing and dripping rubber cement, but it doesn't remove easily - which sometimes results in interesting unintentional marking, but right now I'm attempting to develop more control over my media, so I'm setting that aside for the nonce.

The result of all this preparation is the panel engages the space beyond the edge of the painting in a way that traditional square or rectangular works don't do. I want the viewer to be acutely aware that he or she is looking not only at the painting but also around and sometimes through it as well. To make this as unavoidable to the viewer as I can, I'm not hanging them flat against the wall, but instead placing them in a way that leaves a couple of inches away from the wall.

to be continued, probably with pictures.