S2: Abstraction & folk horror

Following on from the work using techniques developed by Joan Eardley, I attended a workshop also focused on abstraction this time around the work of Peter Lanyon. This follow-on took up my renewed enthusiasm for a more expressive use of paint as well as focusing more intently on composition. A few points of learning and connection came out of the three days working with some of Lanyon’s methods as well as Liz Hough’s use of collage and her ‘5-line’ method of abstraction.

Expressive abstraction has the advantage of expressing energy rather than being located more narrowly as representation.

This has potential from a folk horror point of view as it ties in very nicely with an animistic approach to painting and rendering landscape.

The process of painting large and expressionistically is more of a bodily experience – also therefore kinetic in nature.

The approach and the larger scale encourage the identification of large shapes as well as a greater diversity of mark-making.

Offers lots of scope for marrying elements of collage with more controlled mark-making, creating new affordances or threads to follow.

Abstraction is by its selective nature more explicitly subjective. I had not really considered this before (because perhaps of fear that expressive abstraction is a mark of not having good skills and knowledge of painting).

What I found I liked very much about Lanyon’s work ‘Porthleven’ was the portrait format and the verticality of its presentation. In this case, the small chapel at the top of the painting seems extremely precariously balanced, seemingly about to tumble into the voice. The feeling this produces is exactly what I argue folk horror seeks to promote: ie a sense of vertiginousness, or as philosopher Roger Caillois call’s it in his taxonomy of games, ‘Illinx’ (ie vertigo). We can connect this experience to Burke’s concept of romantic sublime (feeling of awe through a sense of our smallness literally, existentially, morally, and spatially), as well as to the experience generated when encountering the vast depths of time and space found in Lovecraft (Nietzsche deserves mention but that more complex and requires more space and time to consider). All these resonances are grist to the folk horror mill and particularly when filtered through an animated, animistic geology/landscape.

Examples of the work working with the principals above produced in this element of the sprint:

verticality, energy, channeling Lanyon’s Porthleven painting (1951), currently hanging in Tate St Ives. These panels are about 1 metre tall.
more experiments in verticality but this one is a bit square – too stable! All images are informed by the environs of St Ives.
pushing the sense of precarity – attempt to make the building move by the double line at the top of the building (vis Cezanne’s ‘shimmer’)

By tanyakrzywinskablog

After working in the computer industry and spending some years conducting research into cinema and digital media, I became convinced that the innovative qualities of videogames as participatory media required closer academic attention. As such I have spent most of my career championing the inclusion of games within the academy, and arguing for games as an art form, a role I continue as a Professor at Falmouth University. Alongside this, and my scholarly work on the Gothic, I also maintain, in various forms, a visual art practice. This blog comes out of enrolling on the MA Fine Art degree programme at Central Sr Martins. It is mainly a record of my reflections on the work that I have undertaken for the degree. After having written about folk horror in games and cinema as an academic, this blog will focus on folk horror as a focus for my art practice.

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