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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Checking out Warhol

Checking out Warhol blog

This is my blog to document the progress and experience of a student on the De La Warr Pavilion's checking out Warhol course which started this week. I can't promise to record the same level of fanatical detail that Warhol did (see Warhol foundation for his archive) however I will record what we do and some of what we say each week.

A devout catholic who worked in a soup kitchen. Not exactly how I thought I would hear Andy Warhol described, but as it turned out I was in for a few surprises.

Like most people I have been aware of Warhol mostly for the Marilyn prints, the fright wig and the Campbells soup posters. I wanted to know more of this pioneer was he charlatan or genuine genius artist?

The De La Warr Pavilion is running a 10 week course called checking out warhol, making full use of the new artist rooms exhibition, Warhol is here, which was opened last weekend by Tom York, as it's starting point. The show is the biggest outside London and Edinburgh on Warhol. The course students vary hugely in experience and knowledge of Andy Warhol from one who claims to detest his work to another who lived in New York in the 60's and 70's meeting Warhol in his factory. Those of us left in-between are simply keen to learn more about this enigmatic man who transformed the way the world thinks about art.

So sketch books at the ready! Each session starts by looking at the exhibition and from there we will explore practically the ways in which Warhol thought about and created his subject matter. Throughout the session we shared impressions of Warhol and it helped to observe the major themes in the show; death, power, news items, everyday objects and dominant figures such as Mao, riots, film stars. Along with the treatment of his subjects, drawing technique and use of colour.

We looked at repetition of images and explored the meaning and value changes when faced with multiple motifs. For example when we looked at the Marilyn dyptic we noticed how it fades through the natural process of printing. Echoing her life ebbing away. There is subtlety and strength achieving a balance of process and subject matter with Warhol's direct style. We tried our own practise of repetition, drawing an item that was in our bags several times over trying to keep it the same and without expression and in the mini crit at the end we could all see the merits of this discipline for ourselves. Fly on the Warhol - over heard in the studio
Warhol was often less than popular, an extreme character focussed on stardom and lets face it success is often the result of single mindedness disregarding others opinions. He succeeded because he put his energy into his work rather than into his life.

For most of us life in the form of family, friends and lifestyle is more important to us than art.

Then there is Andy Warhol 'the Icon' and icon maker, icons go beyond initial meaning by remaining emotionless and stylised. However, an icon in today's culture can be seen as a cliche, devalued. Warhol forces us to ask questions and raises the possibility of change.

Icon makers kept their personality out of the work I wonder did Warhol? Looking at the Warhol polaroids in many ways they are just like van gogh's self portraits. His screen prints also convey emotion and expression despite the repetitive mechanical nature of their production. The Mao series has a free hand scribble on each one, the shoe and butterfly drawings show an ability to play with colour and line simultaneously controlling lightness and power.

And what is art? Yes that old chestnut...
Art Historically was functional, self expression came much later. Warhol held up a mirror like a prophet of his own time. Perhaps like stand up comedians do now, albeit it in a more seductive and entertaining way.

Money and art have always been linked through the hierarchy of both the church and aristocracy.

All this led some of us to ask the question 'What does beauty mean...?'
the consensus being it was completely subjective but always emotive.

This is only a very small step in discovering more about an artist and a movement, a pivotal change in art history, forgive me if I make claims that are too grand or not yet fully thought through, this is simply a stream of consciousness, mine and that of the course students.

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