Drawing or painting?

Spent the afternoon in a not too cold studio (it has basic radiators thankfully) as starting to come out of over two weeks of severe chest infection. After looking at the neo-primitives below I thought I’d try black acrylic paint straight to canvas and compare it with other methods. Pencil and chalk,  paint this was because I forgot to take some Sharpie pens to the studio. So I could theoretically call this an experimental artefact led methodology although I can only gain ‘qualitative data’. I have posted on facebook so be interesting to see what reaction I get.

I was vaguely thnking of the kind of memory painting Arshile Gorky did (most of his major works refer however subliminally back to his Armenian childhood) but after I’d finished the last piece I realised that today’s news about Hurricane Sandy and the associated imagery had leaked into my sub-conscious. I therefore named the drawing ‘Sandy’.

The smaller image in the gallery of two ‘badges’ is from 1987 and were a couple of examples of laminated drawings that I sold in aid of Greenpeace at my show that year in Hornsey Library. Proving that nothing changes and I was doing Burgerman before he was knee high 🙂

Looking closer other influences which I can see in the drawings include Leger, Mariscal, and Miro all major influences on my late eighties work so it feels like I have somehow carried on from a point then of semi-abstraction before I went more figurative and lost some of my spontaneity. I picked up a book from my library at studio called ‘Arshille Gorky: The Breakthrough Years. Which I will examine along with my present reading. I was heavily influenced by a book I subsequently lost by Harry Rand called Arshile Gorky: the implications of symbols ( I have now found it as paperback on amazon although out of print). The Gorky fascination is not so much in his application of paint but far more the way he created ‘memory symbols’ analogous to Miro. These repetitive symbols came from his childhood. I repeat similar motifs from my past almost like an alphabet and maybe analysing where this came from would be productive. In fact at one point I did try to make a pictorial alphabet of simple symbols. I will try and find the examples I drew. We then stray into both semiotic and literary territory. I will leave the deeper examination of this to the research pages.



Abstract Comics?

I have started looking in more depth at the idea of ‘abstract comics’. There is an anthology assembled by Andrei Molotiu called ‘Abstract Comics’. He also has a very interesting blog at : http://abstractcomics.blogspot.co.uk/

This anthology includes work by Mark Staff Brandl.

It made me look again at the ‘Suit of Nettles’ work I produced for the Connect Course and exhibited at Lincoln. Although ostensibly a series of illustrations for a suite of songs the interesting thing was that as a non-linear series of unrelated images they could be hung together in any order.This leads in a strange way to some experimental work I have been doing in the studio with ‘abstract narratives’. This is why I was so interested in the series of drawings displayed on Guston’s studio wall…almost in a comic strip fashion.(see post below). I have played with a comic approach before as can be seen in these paintings (all sold or destroyed) from 2005. It is not a big stretch from these works to the paintings from September 2011 when I first had a painting studio again. http://www.shaunbelcher.com/canvas/?p=28

Pre M.A.: Practice based research?

Ok so here I am back in the studio at the beginning of the second year of my M.A. by registered project and after a summer of drawing related ‘research’ I am standing in front of a very old work on paper (c.1988) and two new canvases done over the summer in the time not spent researching Frayling’s Categories (which wasn’t much). So what do the canvases have to do with research if anything?

I am struggling already to codify or analyse the works from any kind of methodological perspective. The ideas ’embedded’ in the paintings are intuitive, visceral (acrylic paint applied to canvas) and come from a half-formed naive idea of ‘comic’ forms from looking at various comic and graphic novels and studing Philip Guston’s work in some depth especially his drawings. I did read the book ‘Night Studio’ by Musa Meyer which I remember was quite a harrowing account of how his depressions and rages affected his family ( Musa is his daughter). It did however convince in describing the sheer effort that went into his work.

I suppose if I mined back into other works on him I would find material relating to his genesis of the comic forms that replaced his earlier ‘abstract expressionist’ period. I also own the book ‘Sweeper up after artists’ by Irving Sandler which I was half way through and which is very telling in its depiction of the fraught nature of post Abstract Expressionist careerism in New York in the early 1960’s. But is this research…it is art historical research for sure but unless it impacts on my physical creation of an object could it be said to describe anything but ‘contextual knowledge’. To impact on the creation of an art object surely it has to be more profound than that?

I am just asking questions here as at the start of a difficult journey. Turning ‘intuitions,  feelings and observations’ into theoretical research is a hard task. I am not convinced as I start this ‘Studio Diary’ that it at all possible but I may learn something else in the process.

I am standing looking at the works. Day One. I photograph them so as to show the similarity in pieces created nearly twenty years apart and in very different locations and circumstances. Maybe that affects how I create images. Maybe the context is more important than I thought.

I am also awed by the quotation from Dickens that I discover Guston had on his wall, which he held to, about complete devotion to the cause. I have never liked ‘sunday painting’ but never had the means to devote my life to painting and this the reason I have stopped painting for long periods. I found an interesting article online by chance detailing Guston in the studio by Dore Ashton.


This appears to be completely available online at:


Now here’s some art history to get my teeth into.

Quite a start…..but is it research?

Painting Practice examined by Graphic Research

Before I started on the Nottingham Trent University M.A. by registered project I already had three fairly well-defined practices or is it PRAXIS. I had painted in oil for ten years and drawn regularly, I had written poetry which published as ‘Last Farmer’ (Salt Publishing 2010) and I had spent ten years or more writing songs and performing as my alter-ego Trailer Star,  By the Lincoln Collection show of 2008 this morphed into a strange amalgamation of songwriting and painting in the Suit of Nettles project.

However none of this work was ‘research-orientated’ I just did it in a foolish Picasso/Miro-esque way you know like people had done for thousands of years before Research Exercises were even invented. BUT….as my M.A. was funded by my venerable institution and was supposedly part of ‘continuing professional development’ I set to on the chosen path for me of ‘MULTIMEDIA’ by registered project.This made sense to my peers and bosses and sort of made sense to me that was until they closed down ‘Multimedia’ department and informed me that the reason for that was the word ‘multimedia’ did not mean anything. This came as a bit of a surprise as we had done well to survive the mis-management from above and indeed our employability was nearly 80%. Indeed it had more to do with managerial self-promotion than common-sense but this was not apparent at the time. Whatever, it will be over soon (2014) but the M.A. carries on. I am now in a process of rationalising how my M.A. proceeds and alongside it I have created a separate ‘research’ praxis which uses cartoons to examine in detail the whole justification and deployment of postgraduate study in the arts. I now call this ‘GRAPHIC RESEARCH ‘ and a blog details all the work I am doing in this field.


Meanwhile the first year of M.A. ‘TRACK’ blog details all the work I did during my first year of ‘development’, all of it in the area of MULTIMEDIA AND ‘new media’.


I also started to paint again (at a low level) and this detailed in my second year M.A. painting related blog ‘Blank Canvas’.


So as it stands I have three simultaneous reflective journals done during the past two years..I wonder if any or all count for my M.A? In my opinion the cartoon research alone should qualify for a degree let alone the rest. I am going to stretch my examiners and supervisors patience to the test now by suggesting that I revert to PAINTING as the sole focus of the final year and use it to test theories of what research is and what practice is against each other. As the whole dichotomy of practice V research is what I questioning then physically separating the two and attempting both separately looks like a valid way of testing my ideas. This makes sense to me and in conversation with James Elkins I think makes sense to him. We are both examining the apparent contradictions in postgraduate fine art delivery, he from a theoretical ‘research on research’ angle, and myself from a physical practice versus research theory angle.

Simples Meerkats. If you are confused by all of this just try reading Pessoa whilst standing on your head…..