100 Days

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Earlier this year, on May 23rd, Jonathan Gibbs embarked on an ambitious series of small works, a hundred meditative variations, one every day for a hundred days and each one posted regularly on Instagram. He was inspired by the 100 Days Project, an initiative started by Emma Rogan in 2011 to repeat a simple creative task every day for the duration and to record each day’s efforts.

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I was intrigued by these little tablets pinned to the trees, I wanted to walk in these woods and follow the tree tags, the tree glyphs. Their marks seemed reflected in the bark of the trees, they’re way-signs, they’re a river through the woods. Their repetition suggests music and I think of Terry Riley and I’m swept along by the flow of images.

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I asked Jonathan if we might share them on Frames of Reference. He agreed and kindly supplied some words to accompany the images. And I realised this was the second time he’d done the 100 Days Project.

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This monotype series appears similar to the previous 100 Days Scotland 2019.

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However, this year’s 100 Days prints have been made during lockdown and the project has been more concerned with landscape, nature, and a sense of place.

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I have cut many small pieces of rubber/eraser to create the imagery, permanently impressed onto wood panels with archival ink. This is a black pigment, but not really black, and they are multiple combinations with each day having its requisite number of shapes.

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I have made a new stamp every four days, so there are 25 different rectangles over the span of one hundred. In one of the studio photographs these pieces are arranged in a fishing cast box.

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Before printing onto the wood, I carve a cross-like structure into the surface.

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This is a formal pictorial device and no symbolic meaning is intended.

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I have always liked folded maps, blueprints, cards, brochure-formats, letters, scripts, and sheets of paper in which the fold divides and defines the proportion of the whole.

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It is a ritual.

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Actually, I have made many paintings and drawings in which folding or dividing is the prime subject.

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Back to 100 Days 2020, the wood-panel is drilled at the top & string attached.

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The print is placed in a tin and I set off for a run or cycle ride.

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Or perhaps to walk down the hill for an icy immersion in Keith Water.

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En-route at some point, this portable artwork is pinned to a tree for its photograph.

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There has been a ritualistic aspect to this project, a rhythm of days, the season, weather and changes of light. A different tree-bark background has been used to exhibit each picture. This tells a story of where I live, and a few brief journeys further afield. During lockdown, these were necessitated by momentous family events.

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The 2020 image size will be consistent during the passing of 100 days using a miniature, vertical, portrait format.

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The monotype prints are made on sawn pieces of wood from a re-cycled Venetian-blind.

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(With many thanks to Myrtle & Richard Pont of Pathhead, who donated the blind.)

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A sense of proportion is one of the crucial elements of art, I believe.

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Pure abstraction stands by itself, even though it can be reminiscent of things seen. In the 100 Days diary and Venetian-blind monotypes there are stacks; rows; ordered arrangements; grids; geometrical divisions and random scatterings. All of these are merely compositional devices in which the positive is balanced against negative spaces, intervals, and proportions of form. In this process, I am aware of musical analogies between sound and the visual image.

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For both 100 Days 2019 & 20, I wanted to make a century of varied monotype images.

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These have been entirely improvised.

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They follow or contradict the linear structure of the surface.

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It is a simple concept; almost a game, but a serious game.

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All the images have been made on the spur of the moment, by chance and intuition.

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As an artist I have been making purely abstract work since 1971, when I set out as a student of painting.

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Before, during and since that date I have also continued to draw from life – the figure, objects, interiors & landscape.

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Alongside predominately abstract painting, I make drawings, prints, illustrations and various other graphic works using a fertile flow of representational imagery.

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Such modes of making pictures and objects have run in parallel, separately, closely related threads throughout my artistic development.

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During sabbatical research in 2018 at the University of Edinburgh, I used an old diving board to make a woodcut. This was composed long-ways, in a horizontal landscape format.

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(With thanks to Fiona Martynoga of Traquair, who gave me the diving-board.)

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Diving-boards & venetian-blinds are made from timbers suited to their purposes.

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A pitch pine board will endure years of bouncing, thumping, running, jumping, drenching, sun & rain, chlorine, frost & snow etc., (outside pool), and of course diving.

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Slatted blinds are made of Basswood.

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This is a timber to withstand a lifetime of pulling up & down, peeking-through, cigarette-smoke, air-freshener & fly-spray, rattling, central heating/not-central heating, angle adjustments etc. Throughout, the slats remain flat and stable.

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Of course, this fulfils the simple function of keeping the light out; or keeping the light in.

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To conclude, 100 Days 2019 & 2020 are connected on both method and concept.

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Diaries are useful manufactured objects, as are diving-boards and Venetian-blinds.

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I have found it an inspiration to re-use these things for the purposes of art.

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Nevertheless, I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s quote that ‘all art is quite useless’.

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If ever there are final requests when stranded in deepest jungle or desert island, I would ask for Sandro Boticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, if this can be arranged.

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Or even ‘The Hunters in the Snow’ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

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Either masterpiece would add considerably to the quality of my isolated life.

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After all, they are made of canvas and wood.

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However, a fishing rod, penknife and saucepan would be useful, too.

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Jonathan Gibbs / The Rowley Gallery

Frames of reference

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