Richard Bolam: Renaissance Pleb

Sketchbook pages, 2005

Although I don’t consider myself to be a figurative or representational artist, I do consider drawing to be a fundamentally important skill. Not necessarily the technical draughtsmanship of it, but the executed discipline of observation. Arguably, artists are trained observers, and if you don’t draw (not can’t draw) then you are not an artist (discuss). In my opinion, all artists should keep a notebook / sketchbook. However, technical mastery of the medium is not the same as the engagement with the practice of observation.

In 1980 I went on a family holiday to Norway, and I was introduced to one of their national treasures, Gustav Vigeland (1869 – 1943). I have never heard him mentioned by anyone since, but in Norway his work is everywhere, including the amazing and monumental Frogner Park in Oslo.

Below is a scan of a couple of pages from a book I bought in Norway, and some background detail of Vigeland’s creative process, specifically related to his statue of the Norwegian poet, Henrik Vergeland.

Spread from “Gustav Vigeland – The Sculptor And His Works”, 1965 Ragna Stang

Although I haven’t done it strictly, I copied Vigeland’s practice of dating all his drawings, and I have found it particularly helpful in retrospect. Even though I never wanted to emulate his medium or style, I found him and his work inspiring. He often depicted his subjects accompanied by “genii”, the spirits of ideas or inspiration.

I discovered art randomly, bit by bit, and have had a very patchy art education. However, I have lived through radically changing times, and various revolutions, such as cheap travel, remainder bookshops and, of course, the internet, have allowed me to be socially and artistically  mobile in a way not experienced by previous generations. Also, the very recent affordability of technology has allowed me to achieve things that were either not possible, or at least not financially feasible, only a few years previously.

When I was a child, I had no access to cameras and no prospect of being able to make movies, now I have several computers and more cameras than I can use. I have the resources to make a digital film in Full HD every day if I wanted to, but the ideas cannot be ordered so easily on Amazon.

My own genii are popular culture, classical art and chaos. I actually work quite randomly, despite the fact that my work often appears to be very ordered. That order is merely an editing of “happy accidents” and is heavily influenced by existing traditions in art.

Below is a video I shot and edited in one day, although it took four attempts over two weeks. It was made possible by cheap technology, dogged observation, sheer will and blind luck.

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