Incidental Work, Shir Cohen. London

It’s been a hard week. I’ve struggled with warping my new loom, and the power in my studio was out for a few days. Work has also been very stressful, leading to a non-ideal art environment. I did some writing, and I got the loom working, but since this is my last week in SPAR, I wanted to show something a little more private.

A lot of my work I like to call incidental- I cut a bit of fabric, dye and prime it, and then just draw something in oil. This one is a bird swooping in on something. The shirt on which I painted has a very thin fabric, and really looks like a paper drawing if held by just two nails.

Every delivery box that arrives in my studio is salvaged to flat cardboard pieces to be painted. I mentioned that while I like painting the chaos and drama of current political events, I’m also a great believer in softness and respite. I have a lot of criticisms when it comes to artists like Picasso, but I do think he often handled this balance well, and I wanted to draw a sort of 2021 Picasso figure, which is also an icon with a golden background.

I used to paint a lot of landscape, and I’ve been thinking a lot on how to bring it back into my current practice. The few days away from the studio forced me to go back to fiction writing, in which I try to take a lot of time in describing landscape, and especially cultivated nature. I based this work on a scene I’m currently writing, about the view from a fancy gym. I love working wet-on-wet, and pink and green is one of my favorite duochromes for landscape.

A couple of works to finish: a series of fabric scraps the only had enough rooms for bugs and worms. They’re drawn in oil pastel, and painted with oil and gold-toned bronze powder, for a bit of flair.

This drawing is a little older, but I wanted to finish with it. I named it “Conspirators”, both after the comparison of Jews to rats and their association with conspiracy theories, but also because we may be able to deal with one rat, but a group of them can cause actual damage. It’s really about class solidarity.

My musical recommendation for the week is one of my very favorite albums, Songs for the Dawn of Peace by Leon Lishner. Recorded after World War II, it’s a surprisingly wide collection of songs, mostly those of armed resistance, from Jewish partisans to to Italian antifascists to Chinese nationalists and communists. I think it speaks both the shock and attempts of optimism from that age, when Fascism was though to have been defeated, and can be very inspiring today.

What do you think about this?