My main focus of this week was the mid unit review. I think by Monday, I’d sort of worked out where my work is going in terms of the viewer and of focus on the space. In my sketchbook I’d been debating a lot of ideas about home exhibitions or installations, and also utilising photography, partly as work in its own right, and partly as reference material if I’m to continue painting. In the meeting we discussed ways of moving the work forward, and possibly branching out into multiple directions – i.e continuing to paint images of people and expanding my skills and style, whilst also delving a bit more into the conceptual idea of the viewer and the role of the gallery space through other media – mostly digital. Overall I think that despite issues with finding my feet in my practice, I’ve progressed quite a lot this year in terms of my work ethic and attendance. I’m spending a lot more time in the studio and a lot more time independently researching themes relevant to my practice and my research context essay.
On an individual level, this week was about making – not worrying about a painting as a finished outcome, but as a work in progress or developmental. Yesterday evening I rented out a projector and started projecting a film I had edited using the footage onto huge rolls of paper so that the scene was life size. Initially I was working as the film was rolling, only picking out key lines and features with selective colour. I was actually really happy with the result – Although the images were rushed and distorted in places, and the nature of the paint meant that it started to drip and run, I really liked the outcomes.
In the second attempt, I tried to think of the image more as a painting than a drawing and used oranges and reds, picking out the darks and lights of the image in an unrefined way. I was really pleased with how this one turned out as well. I think that the scale, regardless of the painting style etc, makes the images very immersive, and the fact that I was working from a projection directly means the faces are very clear and very human. I think my plan now is to continue working in this way – maybe smaller initially so that I’m not concerned about cost of materials etc, and then once I find a way of experimentation that I like, maybe making another, more substantial piece of work.
We had a few hiccups this week on the curation front – although we were very professional in our discussions, one of the artists faced a little bit of criticism/questioning about use of the female form (particularly because the images he’d used were stock photos and he did not know the models that were performing nude). We’d had talks initially about using less recent works that would avoid having to confront the issue of gender politics/sexuality, or to perhaps justify this use so that the meaning of the work was more clear (purely from a curatorial perspective in the context of the exhibition). However through miscommunication, perhaps on our part, this escalated to the point where the artist was convinced we weren’t going to exhibit his work, and other artists were threatening to withdraw their works in protest! I was quite shocked by the level of reaction, and really confused as to how what I saw to be a very professional situation and discussion had turned into Facebook comments and meetings with tutors. I felt that I was quite non-biased in the situation. I could see that the artist felt that we were using him as a scapegoat and being indirectly sexist – based on the fact that if he’d used a male model or his work had been made by a woman, there may not have been any issue. However I think that one should definitely expect criticism on the course and in the wider ‘art world’. Use of the female body is obviously a very traditional thing in fine art – and as artists we are all very familiar with use of the female form – however, I think that in an age where most women describe themselves as feminists, and are very aware of the male gaze both in day to day life and within art practice, you have to be very clear about the work’s meaning if using imagery that could have sexual connotation. Opinions aside, the situation should not have escalated in the way it did. I think it could have been handled a bit better by the tutors; from what I gather from the artist himself and the rest of the curation group, he’d been challenged previously about use of the female figure, and so our groups anxieties about the work seemed to be the straw that broke the camels back. Although criticism is often difficult to accept in a subject where there is no ‘right’ answer, and I as a fellow painter can totally sympathise with the frustration of having someone disliking something that has taken so long to produce, I think there needs to be moderation on both sides. The artist should have handled his frustration better as to not involve people and create friction, and the tutors and ourselves should have perhaps been less critical and more aware of the artist’s emotions.