Friday, December 18, 2009

Appomattox Panorama

"A Mighty scene, fit cadence of the story of tumultuous years. Encompassed by the cordon of steel that crowned the heights about the Court House, on the slopes of the valley formed by the sources of the Appomattox lay the remnants of the Army of North Virgina- Lees Army! It was hilly broken ground, in effect a vast amphitheater."
Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain

I have found this wonderful quote from Joshua Chamberlain who was witness to Lees surrender at Appomattox Court House, April 1865. I thought it would make an intriguing painting. Here are some sketches. I am working in charcoal, ink, and white house paint on the back of brown paper grocery bags.

This is an period image from Harpers Weekly. Lees army was camped out on the surrounding hills.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Civil War Small Works

Ridgeline, McPherson’s Farm, Gettysburg
Ink Jet Print, Earth, Gouache
5” X 15.5”

This image depicts the ridgeline on McPherson’s Farm looking south. Native soil taken from the area outlines the slight rise in the ground. It was along this rise that the Union forces first met the Confederate forces coming in from the West starting the battle of Gettysburg.

The photographs that I am working with are from my collection that I have taken during visits to Civil War battlefields. I photograph vistas from vantage points that best capture the monumental movements of both nature and armies. The images feature sweeping scenes of vast desolate open spaces that vanish into the distant horizon. The compositional elements are open fields, tree lines, fences and sky. Strong perspective lines draw the eye in, enhancing the feeling of vastness in the scene.
I create a panoramic image by standing in one place and panning the camera to capture the horizontal landscape. The images are stitched together using Photoshop software creating a wide horizontal field of view. I then print on watercolor paper using an ink jet printer.

After the images are mounted on a rigid surface, I work over them with various water-based media & the collected earth pigment. The over-painting process smears & smudges the underlying ink jet print. This creates an interaction between the paint and the print. When painted, the printed blacks & grays morph into soft blues & greens with unexpected halo-like effects around the edges. Colored gouache mixes with the ink, softening the hard edges of the printed image. The paint texture is translucent and allows the underlying forms and structure to show through.
View of Thomas’ Farm, Monocacy MD. Battlefield
Ink Jet Print, Earth, Gouache
5” X 13.5”
View looking West at the Thomas Farm in Monocacy, Maryland. On the fields depicted, the Union army held up a confederate advance long enough to save Washington D.C. Local native soil was used to depict the contour of the land.

In my painting I welcome elements of randomness, chance, and chaos. The media undergoes transformation on the picture surface itself. Paints are applied to the surface in a pure form and then mix and morph on the surface of the painting. For example I work a lot with iron powder which can be made to rust over time resulting in rich unexpected color details and texture. The addition of soil creates flat neutral blocks of earth tones that can obscure the underlying space or enhance the perspective.
Best Farm, Monocacy Battlefield
Ink Jet Print, Earth, Gouache
6.6” X 13”
View looking south to the Monocacy River from the Confederate line. Local earth is used to describe the landscape.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mounted Prints-

In my recent work, I’ve been working with panoramic map illustrations from WW1era.The images depict the vast battlefield with labeled town, roads & rivers of Europe. The views are from a high imaged vantage point. Looking off obliquely at the scene instead of straight down like a conventional map. The images are simultaneously both map & imaginary painted illustration. I start my painted collage process first by printed the image with the Epson 1280. After printing they were mounted on to 3/8 MDF boards. I paint on top of the image using gouache & mixing iron powder with natural glues. The iron powder is built up in layers so that the iron can rust & turn different shades of browns & oranges.Verdun Rust Front
The original illustration eventually becomes obliterated with the over painting. However I am careful to maintain the original since of space & prospective used in the illustration. It becomes a framework for the world that I then work with in.Verdun Belt of rust

Works on Paper-

I have created a body of work that combines images that I print using an Epson 1280 ink jet printer & painting. Most of the imagery depict photographs of battle scarred landscapes & maps from the World War 1 time period. The images feature sweeping scenes of vast desolate open spaces that vanish into the distance, giving the images a prominent horizon line & sky. Working on top of the ink jet printed images with water-based gouache & soil; smear & smudge the black and white ink jet print. Giving the impression of a hand painted postcard. Colors become heightened in un-expecdated & un-photographic ways. The water from the paint releases various colors of the die used in the ink jet printing process. The printed photographic blacks & grays morph into soft blues & greens with a halo like effects around the edges. Colored gouache mixes with the ink softening the hard edge of the printed image. The paint texture is thin and allowed to puddle and blotch. Layering paint with soil & iron powder flattens the photographic depth of the original image. Soil creates flat blocks of natural browns tan hue. Iron powder adds rich color details of different shades of reddish rust colors.

The images that I am working with come from are the battlefield around Verdun France. During 1916-17 the armies of France and Germany tried again and again to break each other. Alistair Horne in What price of Glory sights “Verdun was the First World War in microcosm; an intensification of all its horrors and glories, courage and futility.” The area was mercilessly shelled. Hills changed elevation by several meters; the topsoil was blown away so that nothing will ever grow there again. Large sectors where declared a zone rouge a dangerous “no go” area for human habitation. Much of this area was simply planted over with fast growing pine trees in the 1920’s. It was an effort to both hide and reclaim the vast wasteland of unburied soldiers, toxic soil, & unexploded munitions. A total of nine villages were forever erased. Most importantly it is the final resting ground for close to one million combatants.
I highly recommend the book by Alistair Horne What price of Glory Verdun 1916

This website is a vast resource of period photos and documents culled from original books, magazines & newspapers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Falling Zeppelins

I have created a series of drawings based on images of burning Zeppelins. During World War 1 The Germans used massive Zeppelins to bomb towns and city's in England. The slow moving blimps were filled with an explosive gas, hydrogen, that made them lighter than air. Even though they flew high and at night they became vulnerable to attack. Once they caught on fire, do to ground fire or attack from aircraft, the end came quickly. These spectacular events were witnessed by thousands of people on the ground. A number of remarkable photographs were taken & thus inspired these drawings.
I plan to expand the drawings into making larger paintings on velvet.

The following excerpt is an eyewitness account from the book 'Many Fronts ''The Passing of a Zeppelin' edited by Lewis R. Freeman 1918 and found on the following website.

“Not a sound, not a shadow, heralded the flare of yellow light which suddenly flashed out in the north-eastern heavens and spread latitudinally until the whole body of a Zeppelin—no small object even at twenty miles—stood out in glowing incandescence. Then a great sheet of pink-white flame shot up, and in the ripples . of rosy light which suffused the earth for scores of miles I could read the gilded lettering on my binoculars. This was undoubtedly the explosion of the ignited hydrogen of the main gas-bags, and immediately following it the great frame collapsed in the middle and began falling slowly toward the earth, burning now with a bright yellow flame, above which the curl of black smoke was distinctly visible. A lurid burst of light—doubtless from the exploding petrol tanks —flared up as the flaming mass struck the earth, and half a minute later the night, save for the questing searchlights to east and south, was as black as ever again.

Then perhaps the strangest thing of all occurred. London began to cheer. I should have been prepared for it in Paris, or Rome, or Berlin, or even New York, but that the Briton— who of all men in the world most fears the sound of his own voice lifted in unrestrained jubilation —was really cheering, and in millions, was almost too much. I pinched my arm to be sure that I had not dozed away, and, lost in wonder, forgot for a minute or two the great drama just enacted.”

For further reading I recommend “London 1914-17 The Zeppelin Menace”

Actual photo. I have always been fascinated with these rare photographs.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Small Paintings Under Glass

Starting in the mid 1990's, I developed a process that creates small painted constructions. My goal with these paintings is to incorporate elements of chance & natural organic growth. The results are also about describing the process of their construction.

I construct them out of clip picture frames (5x7" or 8x10"). They come packaged in groups of 3 or more, and are made from a sandwich of glass & Masonite that is held in place with steel spring clips. I then cut tracing vellum, & thin metal to fit inside the frame. I create a drawing on the drafting velum using natural sepia ink or sumi ink. Next I draw with iron powder & sea salt on the metal plate. The drawings are then married together tightly with clamps & dipped into a salt-water bath. This final step causes the vellum to curl & wrinkle allowing the ink drawing to smudge & run into the wrinkles thus creating automatic tracings. After the sandwich is removed from the water and dried, the delicate ink lines remain visible. The water, as in nature, also activates the iron & salt to etch the metal plate in surprising & organic ways. The outcome is exactly what I was seeking. The pictures have a majestic, larger-than-life amorphous quality. They are a graphic realization of form and function, while also obscuring the hand of the creator. I hope you like them.Recently I have started making more of these. This time I am incorporating landscape & historical imagery. I have also expanded my use of materials. I am using chalk, natural pigment's, earth, as well as rust.

"Fleury from the air 1917"
5"x7" 2009 copyright R.Gould
"all that remained of the town of Fleury (once of village of 500 people) was a white smear visible only from the air" from Alistair Horne "The Price of Glory, Verdun 1916"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Post DSR

Reflected sound patterns from a speaker 1995
Part of a series of works that dealt with visualizing, enlarging, sound patterns.

After DSR disbanded I became interested in developing natural or random controls over sound machines. In creating sculptures on my own I was again attracted to elements of chaos. I wanted to replace the human performer. I was able to build large outdoor public sculptures that were self-playing using wind power. A large sail would pull or push a series of pluckers across a piano backboard. A wind turbine would spin guitar picks and play three acoustic guitars. Indoor works used the rough surfaces of rocks to play various prepared string instruments.
Simultaneously I began to develop drawings that described sound patterns. First I created large ink brush drawings. I strive for random and repetitive markings. These were beautiful but were somehow just representations of what my sculptures were doing. What I was looking for was a technique that truly added a random outcome to the mix.

Drum Machines

These drums were triggered from a soilioid that tapped the clear Mylar surface. Contact microphones amplified the large surface & sounded like a lose kick drum. The Mylar surface rippled and though reflections and shadows that danced & vibrated like sound waves.

Sumi Ink Sound Pattern Drawing

Wind Guitars 1993
The turning wind turbine spun three plectrums that strummed the three guitars.

DSR- Don't Look Back

Douglas Durning, Simeon Samaan, Robert Gould Basel Switzerland 1988

DSR was founded in NYC in 1986 and was a collaboration of Douglas Durning, Simeon Samaan, & Robert Gould. It was created as a collective creative outlet for exploring sound, performance, & sculpture. The group together created musical instruments, sound sculptures & self-playing sound machines & art installations. Musical compositions evolved organically from jam sessions that explored the ranges (& limitations) of the sound sculptures. Often performances took place within dramatic environments such as abandoned buildings, old factories, and even a Shinto shrine in Japan. Architecture was an important element. Long piano wire strings were attached & “played” directly incorporating the building structure into our artwork.
DSR disbanded in 1993

Post Proformance Shingo, Japan 1990

Our collective psychology organically grew out of the DIY punk aesthetic. All three of us came from art school so that we felt both empowered & encouraged to seek out new paths of expression. It hardly mattered if we didn’t have proper equipment. The down side of which we came to regret much later in the form of not having quality documentation or recordings. The impulse was to explore sounds and to create exciting, dynamic, challenging realms of performance & spectacle.

Concert Basel Switzerland 1988

My primary focus became removing the human performer & creating self-playing automated instruments. /installation art. To this end I first created mechanical rhythm machines. These objects were made from large metal air ducts that were found at building demolition sites. I found that by placing a slow moving electric motor in the center of the column & attaching a metal weight to it, it would bang around inside thus creating a remarkably steady rhythm. These columns were lit from the inside & cast fantastic moving shadows that wonderfully illustrated the function of the machine. Using a contact mic on the metal duct could further enhance the sound.

Me playing the "Lawnmower" in Yamasake, Japan 1988

DSR had four main areas of musical invention. I have already mentioned mechanical self-playing instruments. Next was percussion. Douglas Durning was primarily involved in this field. Drums, using natural goat, cat, & cow skins, were fashioned out of wood barrels, bamboo, steel hoops, steel pipe, etc. Percussion elements are limitless. For example we somehow inherited a leather chair & we found that it made fantastic sounds by slapping it with various things.

Doug, Japan Concert

Next came Simeon Samaan. Simeon brought with him an in-depth knowledge of ancient & traditional instrument making from around the world. This was further enhanced by his love of world music. With this interest and knowledge we were able to reverse engineer and adapt traditional instruments using contemporary materials & techniques. Perhaps the most innovative was a large bagpipe that was created from a truck inner tube and played with the help of an air compressor. Chanter & drone pipes were made from PVC pipe with reeds made from McDonalds’ fast food straws. The next element was a vast number of string instruments. It became quite easy to attach guitar strings or longer piano strings to various objects and play them using contact mics or transducer pick-ups. We used old stand up piano boards as terrific sources of ready-made instruments.

Simeon Samaan, Basel Switzerland 1988 Playing bagpipes made from truck tires.

In the end I found it difficult to divide up my time between building objects & creating music. Also we found it difficult to get gigs & play our instruments. After 6 years of creating sounds together and tours to Switzerland and Japan we disbanded.

Last year I created a myspace site for the group. Check it out here-

Robert Gould
2009 NYC

First Post- Concept- Welcome to my Blog

Welcome to my blog! I am starting this as an experiment, both for myself & my potential viewers/clients. My hope for this public forum is to create an interactive space in which I can organize my thought process & to document visual tangents. I intend my posts to be a visual diary of thoughts, concepts, web links, and experiments in visual representation. My overarching goal is that I intend this blog to become a creative medium that my artwork can both inhabit, and be a product of. The element of viewer feed back is an important exciting element of this and it will be interesting for me to see what people think- if anything.
I hope this will also become a place that I can sell my artwork. Any artwork that I post on this bog is for sale, so please inquire about any objects that you would like to purchase.

I am an multi-media artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York.