Saturday, 8 August 2015

Under the influence.

When I was seventeen I saw a copy of Alessandra Comini's Book on Gustav Klimt.  It was the first time he had come to my attention and that magical effect that I was talking about the week before last took hold of me again, where you are swept along by an artists work and just can't get enough.

I think most people aren't all that interested in art, so they experience the same effect through popular music, and the following of a particular band or singer but it is essentially the same thing.  You become a super fan.  A young artist might follow bands as well, but a really interesting artist will grab their attention in a very special way.

Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918)  photographed by Josef Anton Trĉka.  Wikipedia commons.

Klimt was one of the artists I copied, and learned huge amounts from the study of his work.  He's usually known for his 'gold paintings' but I was as aware of his drawings and poster designs as the paintings.  I particularly liked the Comini book because it was an economically produced colour book - that actually had gold effect printing so that the images of the paintings could really be appreciated, which I suppose for 1977, was pretty adventurous for a publisher.  It seems to have been a success because Klimt's present popularity seems to stem from this books publication.

Comini compared Klimt's Pallas Athena (left) favourably with a similar painting by a contemporary Franz Stuck (1863 - 1928).  Klimt's is great and more inventive, but I still Like Stuck's.  Both Images - Wikipedia commons.

For about five years I drew and painted Klimt inspired work until I finally got him out of my system.  It's quite possible that I paint less well now, I won't dispute it and I still think he's great but an influence like that is like having artistic measles.  Its effect is quite obvious.

I mentioned in that last blog how strong the influence of H. R. Giger (1940 - 2014) has been on young artists after 1979, and the introduction of his work to a wider audience through his production designs for the film 'Alien'.  Again I caught the bug, but this time I had a stronger immunity.  Still, it didn't stop me buying the book on the production of the film, a second book 'Giger's Alien' and his book of posters and other designs, 'Necronimicon'.

H. R. Giger.  Biomechanical Landscape (Detail).  One of my favourite works by this artist, and I think one of his most successful.  Here's someone's generic photograph of it.  It's not from a poster site!  Click on it to see Giger's own website.

  But the influence on my own work didn't last anywhere near as long.  I'm not suggesting he's not a worthy artist, but his work is so dark and dank, after a prolonged exposure to it you feel like you're sitting in someones rubbish filled cellar watching water run down the walls.  Having said that, Giger's work can certainly shake you up when you see it for the first time, and make you realise new possibilities.

I suppose that being aware of the strength of influence that some artist may have on your art is essential, but is also challenging because to improve and grow you have to be aware of and be exposed to different approaches and styles.

On the face of it I think they are two strangely different artists to have developed a liking for in the space of a few years, Klimt with his ethereal lovelies and ornate decoration, and Giger with his brutal industrialised images of biomechanical hell.  But then - that's the teenage years for you.  All those hormones make you jittery.  So that's what I was under the influence of all along.



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