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"Art enables us to find ourselves
and lose ourselves at the same time."

- Thomas Merton

  • 28 Apr 2021 10:49 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    Dictionary definitionSurrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

    Surrealism isn’t just a style - it’s also a literary, philosophical and artistic movement that explored the workings of the mind, championing the irrational, the poetic and the revolutionary.

    Surrealists worked to revolutionise the human experience. They rejected rational life, putting value onto dreams and the unconscious and demonstrating these through their artistic output.

    Many surrealist artists used automatic drawing or writing to unlock ideas in their deep unconscious mind. Consequently, surrealist artwork is often described as strange and uncanny; defying conventional reason. 

    Surrealist artworks range from mythical landscapes, unusual depictions of humans and people, and sculpture. In surreal paintings, artists convey emotion through symbols, colours and simple shapes, and by employing unexpected juxtapositions - such as a bowler hat and an apple, or a man floating above a chess board suspended below a red umbrella! - cryptic and ironic objects or scenes, that wouldn't fit together or occur in the “real” world.

    Surrealist artworks also often place the viewer in an uncomfortable spot, caught between looking through and being watched by an empty eye....

    Surrealism comes from the word ’surrealist’, coined by Guillaume Apollinaire, a French avant-garde poet. The term means ‘beyond reality’. Later Andre Breton, leader of a new group of artists in Paris, defined surrealism as ‘pure psychic automatism’, meaning creation without moral and aesthetic preconceptions. 

    Many argue that surrealism, as an identifiable cultural movement, ended with the death of Breton in 1966. Others believe however that it remains a vital and relevant force today.

    The word ‘surreal’ today usually means ‘strange’ or unusual, whereas ‘surrealist’ more specifically means connection with the surrealist movement. 

    Surrealist Artists include:

    • Joan Miro
    • Dorothea Tanning
    • Frida Kahlo
    • Salvador Dali
    • Pablo Picasso
    • Michael Cheval
    • Rene Magritte
    • Man Ray
    • Max Ernst



  • 21 Mar 2021 12:21 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    Abstract is an art style and an art movement that people often have an interesting relationship with. In a thesaurus, it might say ‘conceptual, intangible or theoretical’.

    To ‘abstract’ means to separate something from another, and when applied to artwork, often means the work is schematised or simplified. This can make an object or subject beyond recognition.

    Abstract works range from gestural paintings, which have no real or obvious inspiration in their final produce, to the use of geometric shapes as seen in the above image. This is often called ‘pure’ abstraction, but can be called ‘concrete’ or ‘non-objective’ art. Since the 1900s, the movement has formed a central space in Modern Art as a whole.

    Kandinsky is often thought of as the pioneer for Abstract art in Europe. His watercolour works may be an obvious example. His work has no formal composition, made up of shape and colours that are free from usual subjects.

    However, another artist whose work is recently gaining more recognition and traction is the artist Hilma af Klint. She was a Swedish painter who created abstracted works four years before Kandinsky’s works.

    Someone you may not relate to the abstract movement is J.M.W. Turner, though many would regard his later landscapes as abstract (image above). This demonstrates the breadth and reach of abstraction in art.

    Abstract artworks often incorporate a great understanding and exploration of colour. Artists such as Kupka, Delaunay and Kandinsky use colour to evoke emotions, communicating ideas to the viewers. For example, Kasimir Malevitch’s ‘Carre noir sur fond blanc’.

    As well as colour, it is often rich with incredible movement, demonstrating emotions.

    Significant Abstract Artists Include:
    Jackson Pollock
    Hilma af Klint
    Joan Miro
    Piet Mondrian
    Mark Rothko
    Morris Louis
    Sonia Delaunay
    Wassily Kandinsky

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  • 21 Mar 2021 11:34 AM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    You don't take a photograph, you make it. – Ansel Adams

    Photography is a dynamic artistic medium. Broadly, it refers to the process of creating a photo as an image produced by light on a light sensitive material(s).

    The history of photography began with the discovery of two critical principles: camera obscura image projection, knowledge of which is thought to date from the 4th century BCE, and the observation that some substances are visibly altered by exposure to light. In the mid-1820s, Nicéphore Niépce was the first person to fix an image that was captured with a camera, but it required an incredibly long exposure time (at least 8 hours) and the results were very rough. Niépce's associate Louis Daguerre however went on to develop the daguerreotype process, the first publicly announced and commercially viable photographic process, requiring only minutes of exposure and clear, defined results.

    Portraiture was the main driver for the early adoption of photography as an art form. Portrait painting was only available to aristocrats and the very wealthy. Photography changed all this, by offering an affordable alternative. Consequently, photography fundamentally changed the face of art. No longer were artists required to present a “photo’ realistic view, as this could now be created in the camera. This lead to a revolution in art genre and the arrival of movements such as cubism and surrealism.

    Sir John Herschel coined the word photograph in 1839, based on Greek ‘phos’ meaning ‘light’ and ‘graphe’ meaning ‘drawing’. Photograph literally means drawing with light. The first photography exhibition took place in 1858 at the (now) Victoria and Albert Museum!

    Unlike some other artistic mediums, photography took time to be accepted as a fine art medium. Today however, many photographic fine artworks are created using a camera. For example, artist David Hockney used his Ipad as a medium for artworks he exhibited as part of his "Bigger Picture" exhibition at the RA in 2012.

    There are two types of fine art photography - digital and non-digital. Most of us will be highly familiar with digital photography, as the majority of us have a phone in our pockets! However, non-digital photography uses two chemical processes to produce the artwork. A light sensitive film or surface is used to capture a negative image, from which a positive image can be made when printing. Photography as a medium, specifically digital photography, led to a surge in printmaking, and specifically giclee printing.

    At Pure, we are delighted to currently be hosting a photography exhibition with ART360 artist Richard Heeps, entitled ‘Speed, Lifestyle & Technicolour’. "Richards' seductive, highly saturated colours and sophisticated pictorial structures demonstrate a true love and empathy for his subject matter - be it cool descriptive interiors, still life or landscape. His distinctive style pushes the limits of lens- based photography without the need for digital manipulation."

    View and buy here

    Annie Leibovitz who started her career with Rolling Stone Magazine and has photographed almost every celebrity imaginable.

    See more here

    Richard Avedon 

     See more here

    Vivian Maier  

     See more here

    Ansel Adams 

     See more here

    Henri Cartier Bresson 

     See more here

    Diane Arbus 

    See more here

    Oliver Chanarin

    See more here

    If this post has whet your appetite, take a look at our Pure ART360 Magazines for fine photographic artwork being created today.

  • 20 Feb 2021 5:38 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    Printmaking as a medium takes many forms, with a long and varied history. One of the oldest printmaking techniques, and art forms, is engraving. Engraving has been found on ancient bones, cave walls and stones. Dating back to 3000 BCE, soft clays were rolled over to leave relief impressions. This principle is the start of the printing press.

    Types of printmaking include relief impressions, rubbings, aquatint, drypoint, intaglio, lithography, mono-print, screen-print, offset lithography, stamping, woodblock, woodcuts, textile printing, etching, digital and more. 

    A print is an image which has been transferred from one surface to another.

    Many artworks which are sold today as 'original prints' or 'limited edition prints' are actually reproductions of artworks that exist as originals in another medium; high quality photocopies, often referred to as Giclée prints, created using inkjet printers. 

    An exception to this is the relatively new genre of 'digital art', which utilises the Giclée method of printing, but is not a reproduction as described above.

    Well known original printmaker Anita Klein explains further:

    “Real artists’ original prints are different from reproductions in that they are original works of art in their own right. There is no original painting or drawing. Instead the image is conceived by the artist as a print from the outset. An original print is an image produced from a surface on which the artist has worked, such as a stone or wood block, a computer screen or a copper plate. This surface is intended by the artist be a stage in the creation process of the artwork. The original work of art in this case is the print itself rather than the block or plate from which it is printed.”

    - Anita Klein PPRE, Hon. RWS

    The two printmaking techniques we are going to focus on in this blog are screen printing and etching.

    Screen printing is a type of stencil printing. The print is made using a fabric screen (usually synthetic or silk) stretched tightly over a frame, and ink passed through it. Areas are blocked out using a stencil, often glue of lacquer and film or paper. Ink is passed through with a rubber blade (squeegee) onto the paper below. Screen printing has grown in popularity due to its use commercially since the 1920s!

    Etching is a very different process. It is a technique that uses chemical reactions to produce lines in a metal plate (traditionally copper, but often zinc today) called a printing plate. These lines hold applied ink and form a printing image. Originally used for decorating metal in the 14th century, it is now popular among artists for original printmaking!

    Popular original print artists include:

    Andy Warhol

    Peter Blake

    Chloe Cheese

    PURE original print makers Include:

    Brenda Hartill

    Will Taylor

    Visit the Pure Shop to view and buy artwork

  • 18 Feb 2021 5:08 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    Clay has often been overlooked in the art world, partly because of the same reasons it is so attractive to artists! The underdog of the art world, clay is often seen as a subversive material, being cheap, natural, inexcusable and familiar to many.

    Clay is an ancient medium, soft and sticky it comes from the earth itself, made up of broken-down pieces of flora, fauna, minerals and soil, compressed by time underfoot and seabed.

    The first uses of pottery were Palaeolithic pottery in approximately 20,000 BC. These were pottery vessels from East Asia and were simple objects likely used for water.

    Glazes are often added to clay works to transform the final piece. An impervious layer or coating for the clay, these come in many types, each lending themselves to different effects and finishes. For example, Ash Glaze is particularly popular in East Asia, produced from plant ash, whereas Salt Glazes have been historically popular in Europe, traditionally made from salt mixtures.

    The use of firing clay by applying high levels of heat that harden the clay structure, as well as the ability and discovery to add glazes to a piece, allows artists freedom from certainty about the final product of their work. Picasso explored this through his ceramics though his work with thrown pots and transforming them in the kiln.

    In a similar way, Joan Miro found excitement in the unpredictability of ceramics in the transformative firing process.

    Clay has been widely used historically and in the contemporary art world, from Grayson Perry, Beatrice Wood, Hans Coper to Antony Gormley!

  • 14 Feb 2021 5:32 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    Charcoal is one of the oldest art mediums. It is an ancient medium produced by heating wood - usually willow or vine twigs- in a tight space with a lack of oxygen to produce the black drawing sticks we know today. It is essentially carbon mixed with mineral ash. Throughout the centuries, the medium has been refined from the original burnt wood to pencils and crayons.

    Cave paintings are art historian’s earliest evidence of charcoal used as an artistic medium. These date back approximately 28,000 years. These pieces of charcoal were likely not made intentionally but were used from firewood created for heat and light.

    Cave paintings in the cave of Niaux in France

    Charcoal as a medium was used widely in the Renaissance period for preparatory drawings, with fixing methods being developed in the 15th century. To make the artwork last they were dipped in baths of gum to preserve the drawings on the paper.

    Renaissance charcoal sketch

    During the 19th century, experiments with scraping, mixing of charcoal and water, and reductive techniques with a rubber began to emerge.

    The 20th century saw charcoal marked as a medium in its own right. Whereas previously it had been used for initial drawings before a larger work, artists like Picasso and Matisse were now using the medium as their final works.

    Charcoal boasts a wide range of expression, often producing gestural marks rich in drama and fluidity. Artists have made it their own. Think of Da Vinci’s ochre ‘Study of a Woman’s Hands’ or Redon’s Spider Charcoals.

    The particles of charcoal that are created when brushing the medium across the surface allow for a diversity of marks and a scale and variety of tones. These are then easily manipulated by a finger or tools.

    The beauty of charcoal lies in the interplay between shadows and light.

    Significant charcoal Artists include:

    Albrecht Durer

    Francesco Salviati

    Keith Vaughn

Vija Celamins

    Georges Braque

    Pure artists who use charcoal include:

    Will Taylor

    Louisa Crispin

    Sophie Douglas

  • 14 Feb 2021 5:02 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    Oil paint as a medium has a fascinating and extensive history.

    As a product, the medium is made using finely ground minerals and botanicals (called pigment) that are suspended in drying oils. The most popular oil is linseed oil as it dries by oxidation, but poppy seed, walnut or safflower may also be used.

    Interestingly, not all pigments dry at the same rate! Ochres and reds dry faster than most black paints, for example!

    The facility of oil paint is astounding. Many artists favour its ability to fuse tones, as well as its ability as an opaque, translucent or transparent medium, being each within its range. For this quality, the oil paint itself can be loosened to a more mobile quality by the artist, adding a painting medium such as turpentine or oils.

    Good oil paints offer extended working time, depth of colour (high concentration of pigment), stability in its suspension and permanence on the painted surface. Oil paint dries slowly allowing the artist the opportunity to continue manipulating it.

    The earliest oil paintings used oil that may have been extracted from poppies or walnuts and were used to decorate ancient caves in Afghanistan, around the 7th Century CE.

    There is evidence of oil paint being used outdoors on surfaces like Shields around 1125, as oil paint was more durable than traditional tempera paints (pigment mixed with egg).

    Many argue that the Dutch artists, including Jan van Eyck, led the way to the prominence of Oil Painting throughout the 15th century.

    [1434] The Arnolfini portrait by Jan van Eyck

    This dominance of medium spread throughout Europe, including to Italy, where Renaissance painters began exploring the use of layers and glazes, still used today - think Bellini, Titian (below) and Rembrandt!

    Oil painting remained quite unchanged until the 19th Century when John Goffe Rand invented the paint tubes we know today. Before this, oil paint was confined to studio works due to the pigments lack of portability. With paint tubes came new ways of working, including 'plein air' (painting outside), a way of working common in the Impressionist movement!

    Famous Oil Painters throughout the centuries include:

    Sir Joshua Reynolds

    Thomas Gainsborough

    John Constable

    Artemisia Gentileschi

    Frida Kahlo

    JMW Turner

    Many of our PURE Artists also favour oils, including:

    Dani Humberstone

    Edith Barton

    Frances Featherstone

    Oil paint was and remains so common because of its great versatility; drying slowly, the medium allows subtle rendering as well as longer working times. Artists are able to manipulate the medium for long periods of time, compared to other paint mediums such as acrylic or watercolour.

  • 6 Feb 2021 7:32 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

    The Stuarts were monarchs of Britain and Ireland from 1603 until the death of Queen Anne in 1714, excepting the interregnum of Oliver Cromwell.

    The reign of Charles I (1625–49) was as exciting artistically as it was disastrous politically. The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens came to England, was knighted, and designed an elaborate ceiling that was installed at the Banqueting House at Whitehall. Another Flemish painter, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, followed Rubens and created an English portrait type that was to serve as the model for two centuries.

    This was the age of the British Baroque, characterised by self-confidence, dynamism and a realistic approach to depiction.

    Sir Christopher Wren presided over the genesis of the British Baroque manner, which differed from the continental models by clarity of design and subtle taste for classicism.

    Following the Great Fire of London, Wren rebuilt fifty-three churches, his most ambitious and famous being St Paul's Cathedral (1675–1711), which bears comparison with the most resplendent domed churches of Italy and France.

    The best known British Baroque painters include Mary Beale , Richard Gibson and Sir Godfrey Kneller.

    Mary Beale (née Cradockbapt. 26 March 1633 – bur. 8 October 1699) was an English portrait painter, and, along with Joan Carlile (c. 1606 – 1679) and Susan Penelope Rosse (c. 1655 – 1700), was part of a small group of female professional artists working in London at the time. Beale was the main bread winner for her family and was also a writer, whose prose Discourse on Friendship of 1666 presents a scholarly, uniquely female take on the subject.

    Richard Gibson (1615-1690), known as "Dwarf Gibson", was a painter of portrait miniatures and a court dwarf.

    Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1st Baronet (born Gottfried Kniller; 8 August 1646 – 19 October 1723), was the leading portrait painter in England during the late 17th and early 18th century, and was the court painter to Charles II and George I. His major works include The Chinese Convert (1687; Royal Collection, London); a series of four portraits of Isaac Newton; a series of ten reigning European monarchs and ten beauties of the court of William III.

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