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.
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.
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.
This monotype series appears similar to the previous 100 Days Scotland 2019.
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.
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.
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.
Before printing onto the wood, I carve a cross-like structure into the surface.
This is a formal pictorial device and no symbolic meaning is intended.
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.
It is a ritual.
Actually, I have made many paintings and drawings in which folding or dividing is the prime subject.
Back to 100 Days 2020, the wood-panel is drilled at the top & string attached.
The print is placed in a tin and I set off for a run or cycle ride.
Or perhaps to walk down the hill for an icy immersion in Keith Water.
En-route at some point, this portable artwork is pinned to a tree for its photograph.
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.
The 2020 image size will be consistent during the passing of 100 days using a miniature, vertical, portrait format.
The monotype prints are made on sawn pieces of wood from a re-cycled Venetian-blind.
(With many thanks to Myrtle & Richard Pont of Pathhead, who donated the blind.)
A sense of proportion is one of the crucial elements of art, I believe.
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.
For both 100 Days 2019 & 20, I wanted to make a century of varied monotype images.
These have been entirely improvised.
They follow or contradict the linear structure of the surface.
It is a simple concept; almost a game, but a serious game.
All the images have been made on the spur of the moment, by chance and intuition.
As an artist I have been making purely abstract work since 1971, when I set out as a student of painting.
Before, during and since that date I have also continued to draw from life – the figure, objects, interiors & landscape.
Alongside predominately abstract painting, I make drawings, prints, illustrations and various other graphic works using a fertile flow of representational imagery.
Such modes of making pictures and objects have run in parallel, separately, closely related threads throughout my artistic development.
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.
(With thanks to Fiona Martynoga of Traquair, who gave me the diving-board.)
Diving-boards & venetian-blinds are made from timbers suited to their purposes.
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.
Slatted blinds are made of Basswood.
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.
Of course, this fulfils the simple function of keeping the light out; or keeping the light in.
To conclude, 100 Days 2019 & 2020 are connected on both method and concept.
Diaries are useful manufactured objects, as are diving-boards and Venetian-blinds.
I have found it an inspiration to re-use these things for the purposes of art.
Nevertheless, I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s quote that ‘all art is quite useless’.
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.
Or even ‘The Hunters in the Snow’ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Either masterpiece would add considerably to the quality of my isolated life.
After all, they are made of canvas and wood.
However, a fishing rod, penknife and saucepan would be useful, too.