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Guest Clive

Its looks lovely and old..

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Guest Clive

An comment made in another thread got me wondering about the the aesthetics of patina and aging. I'd be interested in your views.. Firstly, why do so many of us find an ancient looking patina so appealing?

 

And leading on from that.. what issues might one consider regarding the legitimacy of techniques that artificially create such a quality. Are there issues other than motivation that create a difference between the genuine.. the honestly created simulation.. the deliberate fake.. and the reproduction?

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An comment made in another thread got me wondering about the the aesthetics of patina and aging. I'd be interested in your views.. Firstly, why do so many of us find an ancient looking patina so appealing?

 

And leading on from that.. what issues might one consider regarding the legitimacy of techniques that artificially create such a quality. Are there issues other than motivation that create a difference between the genuine.. the honestly created simulation.. the deliberate fake.. and the reproduction?

Quite simply, (1) the genuine is often unobtainable, (2) the honestly created simulation is a legitimate emulation of a style, (if not trying to deceive the client or viewer as to authenticity). And, (3) the reproduction is a way to satisfy the desire to obtain the look and feel of an old piece, possibly to fulfill a personal (or client's) fantasy or style or whatever. If the maker has the skill to pull it off then kudos, otherwise it will surely be obvious. Honesty and "forthcomingness" (?) is really the only criteria that counts, as to whether or not to pursue this course of creating a piece, in my humble opinion.

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Clive, I think it depends on the object, as well as the type of material.

 

In most of my work, the addition of some sort of patina is an integral part of the surface finish. This is done to add an element of warmth to the surface, as well as to dring out the three-dimensionality of the piece. To my eye, work appears naked and cold without some sort of applied patina, except work in stone, strangely enough.

 

The legitimacy of adding an artificially applied patina has been accepted for centuries, if not millenia in european sculpture and decorative arts. For example, freshly gilded wood carving of the 18th and 19th century (mirror and picture frames, furniture, etc.) were often antiqued by removing gilding, bole and gesso, right down to the wood to make them appear old and dusty. Most gilders would not let a piece leave their shop until it had been antiqued.

 

Having extensively studied the methods used by fakers, I can say that there is quite a difference between the methods employed by fakers and those who are intending to add to the aesthetic appeal of their work, at least by those who are serious. My years as a conservator of composite artifacts speaking, rather than as a forger btw. The techniques, as well as the materials and time required are quite different to really fake a patina, and it can be done, quite convinceingly by those who are in the know.

 

Phil

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Guest Clive

Just to add this snipet into the mix..

 

"Today, the Parthenon temple that watches over Athens is a pure, white building, dazzlingly bright on sunny days against the deep blue sky. But it wouldn't have looked anything like this in ancient Greek times. Researchers at the British Museum announce today that they have detected tiny traces of blue paint on the building's sculptures - suggesting that the temple's statues and friezes would have been not stark white, but a riot of colour... " http://www.decodingtheheavens.com/blog/pos...-in-colour.aspx

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Yes, most of the interior stone sculpture and decorative work inside the Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals in the UK was also painted and gilded. The paint was removed according to period tastes and assumptions that stone carving should be natural unfinished stone. Interesting that these assumptions were based on the appearance of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture at the time.

 

Phil

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Clive- It's difficult for me to come up with something coherent regarding patina and adding age to a newly created work of art. I have a feeling that your original question is more about ethics than aesthetics/. Why do so many of us choose to add an artifical patina to works you ask? In short, romanticism with the past and insecurity about our own accomplishments. Phil mentions aesthetic needs for applying a patina to carvings, to mellow out the fresh cuts and provide a warmth of appearance. Sometimes the volume of a work is best brought our by darkening recessed areas to increase light and shadow contrasts. I think this is a separate issue from willful 'ageing'. Artwork for centuries has been aged- paintings have been smoked or purposely darkened by varnish; paper has been tinted with 'age', before drawn upon; carved wood has been burnished by leather or stained. These can be considered as aesthetic decisions. But why do we like such appearances? I think it goes beyond aesthetics and points towards some sort of desire to reclaim the past, or to lodge our works more securely within the canon.

 

There's a chair on exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, whose construction and carving was commissioned as a copy of (if I remember right) a C18 original. Visitors for years have been invited to touch it (perhaps even sit in it...) with the purpose of showing the rawness of fresh carving, and the beauty added through use and age. The original is displayed right next to it... their appearances are converging as the years go by.

 

I think there's an aspect to artificial ageing seen in some contemporary carved works (and might be present in metalwork as well, if I knew more about it) where it is used to hide flaws in execution. In my own development with carving, I've found that it is very difficult (or at least time consuming) to rid a piece of all scratches during the polishing process, especially in recessed areas. A thick tinted wash of color, or some judicious going-over with shelf dust can hide these imperfections.

I think it's safe to say that more accomplished carvers present their work clean as a whistle with no hint of artificial age, due to their confidence.

 

I'll add a comment on Mike's contribution that the 'genuine is often unobtainable'. It's clear that many on this forum have gotten into their creative work from an interest and genuine love for historic works. I'll include myself in this group. Possession isn't possible, so the natural next step is "I'll try to create for myself this envied piece". But are we only seeing the surface of the historic piece, and not realizing that there's more to it which has enticed us? From here, we've got to realize that true duplication has nothing to do with appearances, but the spirit within the work. I think anything other than that might be us trying bring a part of what we envy into our own work rather than being 100% honest.

 

 

btw. Freda as Phil's comment mentions... if you're ever back in Durham... Within the cathedral there are minute traces of the original paint scheme on some pillars within the nave.

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Many thanks, Doug; we'd not seen any traces of paint at Durham, but did notice some at Hexham Abbey. Slightly off-topic, but allied, I'm aware that many medieval paintings in churches were whitewashed at the Reformation, like this one discovered during the 19thC at Chaldon Church, Surrey. It also has traces of coloured paint, but most was lost due to the effects of the lime in whitewash, I believe, and there has been no attempt to restore it further. That brings up a point concerning how far restoration is also to be included under Clive's heading:

 

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2470/369360...e4d3d5d.jpg?v=0

 

The general point behind Clive's starter post is also well illustrated, I think, in Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik - an old architectural theme with a new twist, and, I'd argue in this case, successful:

 

http://danny.oz.au/travel/iceland/p/3301-hallgrimskirkja.jpg

 

It seems to me that many of us find the old and familiar comforting (how many of us still remember our first teddy bear, or even keep it into adulthood?), but artists aren't usually about the business of conventional sentimentality in their work unless that is a very conscious aim for a particular purpose. Reproduction? It's fine for the purposes of learning - many Japanese netsuke apprentices worked that way. Reproduction for sentimental reasons? That's OK, too, if the intention isn't to deceive, but I wouldn't necessarily call it art even though the executor may have a fine eye for copying and detail.

 

All of this points up the place of intention in relation to art. For me, intention is the most important issue in dealing with the topic. If patinating, or re-creating other old surfaces/designs is purely in the spirit of inquiry along with the willingness to push the old a little further than historical examples, then it's fine; faking a surface for the purposes of deception obviously is not.

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Guest Clive

Oh excellent.. I like how this discussion is going.. I was a little uncertain just how to open up this particular subject so simply elected to do so by posing some general questions.. and to see where it goes.

 

Its easier now were up and running to add that I'm particularly fascinated by the mechanics of the appeal of a rich patina in a psychological sense.. some good insights given into that given by Freda and Dougie..

 

I think a similar mechanism is at work when we smell the rich scent of freshly baked bread or brewed coffee.. although in those latter examples we know precisely the object of reference.. but what say when we see... post-2059-1258109534.jpg

 

What going on deep in our brains that finds this so beautiful. Is it perhaps some sense of nostalgia to our ancient beginning and circumstances.. does it perhaps take us out of our sense of the here and now.. a trigger releasing a more profound yearning.. ??

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Recalling the past leads to a repository of many psychological effects - comfort and familarity, safety, nostalgia, recollections of the past as perfect compared to the present, i.e. the classical Golden Age, a refusal to deal with the present on its own terms, i.e., denial, etc. Everybody, though, relates to it differently.

 

Take, for instance, a friend of mine, a barrister in criminal law, well known for his flambouyant performances, archaic dress sense and clever and tenacious aggression in court; at home he's a big softy known for collecting toys and who lets his granchildren walk all over him - literally, occasionally. In court, He lives out his sense of the past; some of us keep our sense of it tucked away from public view; some of us don't have it at all, but are drawn to the avant-garde and spanking new. Of course, there are many strands of psychological and character development tied up in all this and what is comfort, for instance, to us, may be anathema to other people.

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I think our resonance with the earthy, tactile and pungent goes beyond a simple nostalgic yearning to "reclaim" the past and is rather an essential human sympathy with the natural world. Most of our current culture is so out of touch with nature that it seems extraordinary to find something that is. Truly a comment on how disconnected we are. Essentially we aren't in nature, we are nature.

 

For example, in making the tsuba I've posted elsewhere I never once had the thought of making it look aged. I was concerned with it conveying a feeling, through the design, finish and patina, which hopefully are all of a piece. The Japanese artists of a century ago and beyond were still in touch with their indigenous roots, and more than technique or skill, that's what I respond to.

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Guest Clive

So what your suggesting is that our sense of taste.. dirty word but for want of another, is influenced by our physiological condition.. if that is so, might having a profound psychological insight into ones character actually affect ones aesthetic sensibilities? In a shallow sense that is obviously so.. but I was thinking on more of a subconious level. Could the attraction of a rich patina be characterised as essentially a sentimental one.

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So what your suggesting is that our sense of taste.. dirty word but for want of another, is influenced by our physiological condition.. if that is so, might having a profound psychological insight into ones character actually affect ones aesthetic sensibilities? In a shallow sense that is obviously so.. but I was thinking on more of a subconious level. Could the attraction of a rich patina be characterised as essentially a sentimental one.

 

Taste, if it's defined as what we respond to, I think goes deeper than sentiment. It's like trying to change how you feel. You can't really do it(at least I can't). What you can do is change your response, to some degree, about what you feel.

 

I think, as much as we try, we can't really separate ourselves from nature. We can only become more neurotic the more we try. The plus side is that we retain this connection on a deep level that always responds to a wild natural thing or something that reflects that.

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Taste, if it's defined as what we respond to, I think goes deeper than sentiment. It's like trying to change how you feel. You can't really do it(at least I can't). What you can do is change your response, to some degree, about what you feel.

 

I think, as much as we try, we can't really separate ourselves from nature. We can only become more neurotic the more we try. The plus side is that we retain this connection on a deep level that always responds to a wild natural thing or something that reflects that.

 

Yes Jim.. I think we getting close to the core of it when we consider it in terms of our relationship with nature. While you correctly suggest that we cannot really separate ourselves from nature, in a way thats precisely what we do when set about creating a piece of art inspired by nature.. say we are deeply moved by a flower.. its profound richness in texture colours forms etc is absorbed subconsciously and then when we come carve the flower we instantly feel a yearning created by the limitation of our technique to even begin to reflect that richness that is the flower in our mind eye.. so I think we naturally seek an alternative to compensate.. nothing wrong with that but it does influence how we resolve technical problems by seeking "what looks right" because there are essentially two distinct types of answers.. those that look right primarily because we like it and those that look right because it works .. of course there a bit of both in each so its really a very subtle difference in emphasis that makes all the difference. I think artists like Natsuo and Klee instinctively understood this because of thier profound observation of nature and by using its processes to inform their methodology.. that's why I think their work just looks different to most.. just more right.. more true.. more connected to the source.

post-2059-1258119415.jpg

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Taste, if it's defined as what we respond to, I think goes deeper than sentiment. It's like trying to change how you feel. You can't really do it(at least I can't). What you can do is change your response, to some degree, about what you feel.

 

Actually, Jim, feelings can be changed; it's just that most people don't know how to do it and it is, of course, hard conscious work to overcome old habits of response. It's the same with tastes. We are trained by others and by ourselves very early, usually unawarely, into feelings, responses and tastes; as adult artists we add to those early foundations. Sometimes, though, there seem to be innate tendencies and the later training echoes an inbuilt characteristic. I've never fully known what's at the core of my love for miniatures, for instance; it's not characteristic of my family, though the need to be in solitude with something meaningful is. It doesn't only happen at the personal level, but at the collective level, too: responses to civilisation, politics, religion, alienation from the natural world, come to mind as examples, which lead onto your next point.

 

I think, as much as we try, we can't really separate ourselves from nature. We can only become more neurotic the more we try. The plus side is that we retain this connection on a deep level that always responds to a wild natural thing or something that reflects that.

 

We retain that maybe unconscious connection to nature because it's at the core of our personal and collective being, just as are belief systems (religion), group needs (politics and civilisation), etc. All these impulses, drives, interests and core qualities will impact artwork, whether we're fully conscious of it, or not. To extend this into one of Clive's points, my own feeling is that the more an artist is conscious of these, the more likely they are to devise a way of reaching these in other people. It's a little like playing a harp; you pluck one string and the rest resonate, whether or not that resonation is audible. That's been proven by a profoundly deaf and world-renowned percussionist in Scotland. She works from the vibration she feels throughout her body, though she can't hear music. Due to her having refined her playing to accord with the vibration she feels she needs to get across to her audience at a particular point in time, her music is varied in tone, pitch and expression - true artistry, in other words. It's a compensation, yes, but an extremely skilled one. Maybe she is more closely connected to her source than hearing musicians are?

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Yes Jim.. I think we getting close to the core of it when we consider it in terms of our relationship with nature. While you correctly suggest that we cannot really separate ourselves from nature, in a way thats precisely what we do when set about creating a piece of art inspired by nature.. say we are deeply moved by a flower.. its profound richness in texture colours forms etc is absorbed subconsciously and then when we come carve the flower we instantly feel a yearning created by the limitation of our technique to even begin to reflect that richness that is the flower in our mind eye.. so I think we naturally seek an alternative to compensate.. nothing wrong with that but it does influence how we resolve technical problems by seeking "what looks right" because there are essentially two distinct types of answers.. those that look right primarily because we like it and those that look right because it works .. of course there a bit of both in each so its really a very subtle difference in emphasis that makes all the difference. I think artists like Natsuo and Klee instinctively understood this because of thier profound observation of nature and by using its processes to inform their methodology.. that's why I think their work just looks different to most.. just more right.. more true.. more connected to the source.

 

Clive, I can't agree that we separate ourselves when aspiring to create a work inspired by nature. Perhaps we fall short in various ways, technically or otherwise, but to me the goal is heart attunement with nature, which involves communion, not separation.

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Isn't it a mixture of both, Jim, initially? We have to separate ourselves to learn the skill. Once the skills become more automatic, we strive to be at one with the source, our natures, because we no longer have to concentrate on the skills? In yearning to re-create a work of nature in art, aren't we valuing nature and wanting to communicate that to others, as well as ourselves?

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Guest Clive
Clive, I can't agree that we separate ourselves when aspiring to create a work inspired by nature. Perhaps we fall short in various ways, technically or otherwise, but to me the goal is heart attunement with nature, which involves communion, not separation.

 

Well perhaps we misunderstand each other.. sure I agree.. we naturally have that as a goal.. an aspiration.. but although we seek that communion, our tecnical limitations immediately create a barrier.. for we seek through artifice to create that which is not made by artiface... the process is an unnatural one.. we simply cannot be nature.. This realisation might helps us then to approach our task in a more realistic way.. If we can't be nature can we at least aspire to work according to the laws that govern how nature creates..

 

In some ways the advancements in photography clearly reflect the basis for this reasoning..

 

This image below shows the richness of nature to such a degree that it trancends the limitations refered to earlier... its patina is its natural richness. (?)

post-2059-1258122113.jpg

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Isn't it a mixture of both, Jim, initially? We have to separate ourselves to learn the skill. Once the skills become more automatic, we strive to be at one with the source, our natures, because we no longer have to concentrate on the skills? In yearning to re-create a work of nature in art, aren't we valuing nature and wanting to communicate that to others, as well as ourselves?

 

Freda, I don't see being awkward and less-skilled in the beginning as being separate, it's just part of the learning process, and to be embraced really. I totally agree with your final statement/question. It's the yearning and feeling that gets communicated, not whether we succeeded in mimicking a fern.

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I don't see being awkward and less-skilled in the beginning as being separate, it's just part of the learning process, and to be embraced really.

 

Interesting, Jim; perhaps some of us, namely myself, don't keep in touch with our natures/nature at that stage but let frustration and insecurity take over - old habits rise up. After all, even a plant has to go through a skill-building stage before it can flower. On second thoughts, maybe you're right; I certainly don't now feel these things in relation to new skills/techniques in textile work, though I do with netsuke. Hmmm... What price total consciousness all of the time, eh? And what price continually going through cycles and all stages of creation?

 

Maybe the answer lies there: that we have a tendency to see different parts of a cycle as separate, instead of as part of the whole. Just musing...

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It's the yearning and feeling that gets communicated, not whether we succeeded in mimicking a fern.

 

Thats my point.. in most work it is precisely that yearning that gets communicated.. not so though with a Natsuo or a Klee.. they pull something else off that is a more intimate dialogue with nature precisely because they recognise their "separateness"..

 

Much of this harks back to that thread I started recently about mimicry.. in a way what I'm learning is that I've been so close to nature through my own desire to communicate with it that I've not understood the language I need to learn to speak about it.

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Well perhaps we misunderstand each other.. sure I agree.. we naturally have that as a goal.. an aspiration.. but although we seek that communion, our tecnical limitations immediately create a barrier.. for we seek through artifice to create that which is not made by artiface... the process is an unnatural one.. we simply cannot be nature.. This realisation might helps us then to approach our task in a more realistic way.. If we can't be nature can we at least aspire to work according to the laws that govern how nature creates..

 

In some ways the advancements in photography clearly reflect the basis for this reasoning..

 

This image below shows the richness of nature to such a degree that it trancends the limitations refered to earlier... its patina is its natural richness. (?)

 

Clive, I cannot agree that "we simply cannot be nature"; I believe we cannot be otherwise.

To me, the goal is not to reproduce or mimic, it is to first absorb and be struck down(in a good way, as in awestruck) by numinous nature and then do your best to infuse your work with that feeling.

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what I'm learning it that I've been too close to nature through my own desire to communicate with it that I've not understood the language I need to learn to speak about it

 

Can you clarify a bit, Clive, what you mean by the language you need to learn to speak? If you mean, literally, spoken language, surely that's a second order requirement? Isn't the first order in visual art an ability to communicate consciously and non-verbally? And as consciousness precedes language development, historically and personally, isn't that one of the sources we need to be aware of?

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Guest Clive
Clive, I cannot agree that "we simply cannot be nature"; I believe we cannot be otherwise.

To me, the goal is not to reproduce or mimic, it is to first absorb and be struck down by numinous nature and then do your best to infuse your work with that feeling.

 

If you don't recognise that our creative acts are fundamentally different in character than the acts that create nature.. persumably argueing that since we are part of nature anything we make is natural then I doubt you'll understand what I'm trying to communicate.

 

Freda.. your question.. the language.. I mean it not in the literal wordy sense.. but in a mark/carve making sense.. and then not so much a different set of words, I'll still have to create those , but in the sentence structure and its grammer which I'd have less control over.. in a sense making the decisions as to how and what goes where not by my own personal inclinations of taste but strictly according to that which the evolving creation demands. I think that ultimately leads on to the highly complex subject of style.

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making the decisions as to how and what goes where not by my own personal inclinations of taste but which the evolving creation demands it

 

Thanks, Clive; that's clear now. I'm curious about how you know what the evolving creation demands. Is that to do with letting the material/overall design dictate the way it's subsequently shaped? If so, how are you sure it's still not a perception of yours?

 

our creative acts are fundamentally different in character than the acts that create nature

 

Are they, Clive? How are we sure that we don't follow nature in its creation? For me, the act of creation has four steps; the concept, the plan, the making, the result. What comes before the concept is our interaction with the world, natural and unnatural. Taking that one step further back, aren't the forces of nature a result of being born out of stardust at a particular place and time in the universe - they're necessary prerequisites for the formation of Earth and the forces of nature in it and on it. And before that came the Big Bang, out of which came the conditions for setting up the universe. And before the Big Bang?

 

I'm aware we could be drifting into metaphysics here and, perhaps, the concept of Intelligent Design, God and creation, creation ex nihilo, etc., but without even going there, it seems to me, Nature by itself is an act of creation that is not random - witness the regularity of seeds in a sunflower head, or the turning of the constellations above us - that somewhere within Nature itself resides its notion of a concept, plan, making and product. In that case, and not even going as far as the argument that nature may be conscious/aware on some level we know nothing about, isn't the human act of creation following that of nature?

 

I'm not being picky here, but am genuinely interested in the topic.

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