This week the model was willowy, so different from the solid man last week whose bulk naturally filled an A4 page. The page was mostly space. By the time we reached 20 minute poses my charcoal and conte pencils were blunt and I was trying fine lines with the edge of conte blocks. Mostly I could not wrap my brain round how to draw her. She had a lively curious face, holding a pose while her eyes darted across us. I wish I could have captured that.
I found an advertisement for a Meetup for weekly life drawing. 90 minutes, starting with 2 and extending to 20 minute poses. Taking my lead form Rosie Scribblah, I worked in black, sanguine and white conte crayon on toned paper.
In the 1927 film Metropolis, Maria captivates the workers through libidinous behaviour and leads them in a destructive orgy until, fearing for their families, they turn against her. Bound and burning, unrepentant, she is revealed to be a robot, a doll, a false prophet manipulated by the ruling class. The true Maria defends her honour on the cathedral roof until rescued by the hero.
This corny myth could be used to signify the whole history of the 20th century and from any perspective.
My aim was to deconstruct the lino printmaking process to reflect the destruction of the robot. I experimented with sprinkling the block with a little finely crushed salt but this near completely prevented transfer of ink to the paper. I also worked into the paper with white conte crayon, which works well as a resist with watercolour, but this failed to inhibit printing of the water-based, but much thicker, printing pigment. So I resorted to cutting back into the lino, extensively removing the image, then rebuilding it in gorilla glue. Activated with water, this adhesive froths and expands before drying. I sliced it level with the lino leaving a minutely cratered printing surface. I cut back into this to restore some of the lines. I varied the inking and pressure to get different effects.
The twitter hashtag #WOMENSART brought to my attention the poem Dangerous Coats by Sharon Owens linked to a surveillance photograph of suffragette Olive Beamish from 1914. In this linocut I don’t capture her facial likeness but I have explored textures of the coat with large pockets.
Here are a range of sketches I undertook.
From Wikipedia I learned of the Cat and Mouse Act passed by the Liberal government, legislation designed to thwart the suffragettes on hunger strike in prison.
In her poem Sharon Owens equates “sedition”, at that time, with commonsense, fairness, kindness, equality. Faced with a law-breaking, lying, callous, killing government, we may all need pockets to promote these values.
In this linocut, based on a still from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, the heroine Maria is bringing children to witness the gardens of the rich. Maria is adored by the oppressed workers. The hero, in pursuit of love for Maria, descends into the hell inhabited by the workers and, though love, becomes the mediator between the propertied and the proletariat.
Fritz Lang’s film was criticised at the time for its naivety. Cutting the block, I listened to the audio version of China Mielville’s October, a fast paced narrative of the two revolutions, a decade before the film, that first forced the abdication of Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich Romonav, the “bovine” Emperor of All Russia, and then replaced the provisional government with that of the Bolsheviks. Through this, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, “Lenin”, having returned to Petrograd to acclaim, is now in hiding in Finland while the counter-revolutionary plot by General Kornilov is foiled by the city’s workers and soldiers. Lenin guides the revolution, demanding rule by the soviets (workers’ and soldiers’ committees), an end to economic injustice and purity of purpose. He rails that the Bolsheviks must support a bourgeoise revolution as a pre-condition to a proletarian one, but not collaborate with that bourgeoise government. He tacks and shifts his ground, fine tuning his writings in response to events, ever sensitive to the subtle twists in political mood, seeking the precise historical moment when to act decisively for a workers’ state. But in exile, he receives news late, writes always behind the times and his tardy essays are used selectively by others to justify their contrary actions. I am minded of that other spiritual guide to a revolution that eventually acquired an empire, Paul, on the road and in exile, working on hearsay and old news, writing letters to admonish his first century adherents and converts.
Here are linocut images from the 1927 dystopian classic film Metropolis. The likeness of the heroine Maria is transferred to a doll that is purposed to discredit her.
The first image here is hand printed using a bamboo baren. The black background is under-inked but acquires texture. In the next print shown, I had flooded the cut yet somehow failed to ink up all the background. So many flaws here but I really like the accidental black shapes streaking all down the forehead to chin in the robot. This shares with the last version the accidental zigzag of ink on the outside is the left eye. I will try to plan these kind of effects in future cuts.
Along with many others, I oppose the destruction of infrastructure and targeted killing of civilians in Gaza and want political action towards a free Palestine by the UK. Britain is a nation with influence, and both historical and current responsibility.
One argument, lost in the others, is that the highly visible selective murder of a trapped people is a shop window, watched with great interest by other governments. What one democracy does with impunity, so might others. Not just solidarity should motivate us, but self-interest.
My son’s theme for his final GCSE art exam was “light and dark”. From there one can extrapolate from tone and colour to moral rectitude and corruption, no doubt as the teacher had intended. He used as a source the master of light, JMW Turner: including this depiction of the 1781 massacre on the slave ship Zong that came to light when the owners tried to claim insurance on their cargo. One spiritual and practical outcome of the centuries-long struggles for self-emancipation by enslaved and colonised peoples is that these helped shape labour movements and democracy in the colonising countries (see for example Priyamvada Gopal: Insurgent Empire). We who now call ourselves free have a debt to those who struggled against oppression before us. Art does not pay that debt, but perhaps shapes our thoughts so we act in other ways.
My son took his theme from the 1927 dystopian silent film Metropolis, for its gloriously grainy black and white images. After he has finished and handed his work in, I have started to use this as source for planned lino prints. In Fritz Lang’s film, there is a strange plot twist in which the workers’ spiritual leader is captured and made the template for a robot that leads the downtrodden in revolutionary destruction. Here is the lino ready for cutting, with the initial charcoal sketch and tracing. Drawing, tracing and refining onto the lino reshapes my thoughts.
As an aside, here are the sketches and traces for the prints posted last week.
Here are more dog pictures (drawings done in the time it takes for a spaniel to get bored), drawn in hard charcoal, some coloured in after, using conte crayon over a dampened surface.
There is not much detail on this one (above) – as a guide I am on a path looking at a footbridge over a stream, which is behind the trees.