Week 1 – 26/09/16

I had some problems getting into this first initial project. The brief was about responding to a detail in the studio space and collaborating with others via descriptive text, however for the first couple of days, I haven’t had much opportunity to collaborate entirely, only work from descriptions found  in the  studio or traded with others. I’m happy however, with the work that I made individually from these descriptions – trying to maintain some semblance of drawing through marking a surface, but expanding in terms of scale and materials used.

I tried to work in the ‘style’ of the text – for example, if the text was very vague/nondescript, I tried to  work very loosely and abstractly – maybe because I was aware of the fact that there were infinite number of possibilities for what the detail  actually was, so I had a  broader approach. Sophia’s description, which turned out to be simply a corner where two cracks didn’t meet; prompted a whole variety of work, from folded paper to larger, split up pieces with curved lines and collage.


In contrast to this, descriptions that I felt had a very definite focus – i.e. Lucy’s tape on a Chair and Alex’s structured description of his space – took on quite an objective feel, they became very ‘accurate’. With  Alex’s description, I felt that I tried to mix this up a bit and look at scale. Because his description was of the space immediately around him from his seated position at his desk I sort of  recreated  the scenario in my own space by working into the corner and adding the detail as described. I think this creates an interesting contrast, and I think, given more time I’d probably look into this idea a bit more.

My plan for the remainder of the week is to work on some drawings from observation of the actual objects/details and then try  to form a group for the necessary collaboration in part 2 of the drawing project.

Week 2 – 03/10/16

This week I’ve mostly been working on the drawing project, collaborating with others in the studio to create ‘happenings’ and respond to the space. As a group, we thought about incorporating the work from last week and utilising the descriptions we’d already made. We thought it might be interesting to try and use our bodies (very much a semi-permenant feature of the space we work in) as a means of communicating the stationary details in the studio. We decided that we should all wear black to universalise the work and take away any distinguishing features that might distract from our positions, and eventually concluded that the idea would translate well as photography rather than being exclusively performative. All of us sort of became the objects and details we’d described – in Alex’s case, because his description of his space was quite elaborate, we chose one detail of that description – the aligned screws on the wall.

These are the photos we ultimately produced – I really like them as pieces of work in their own right and visually they create a lot of interest. I particularly like the images of the corner based on Sophia’s description, where our hands do not quite meet. I think that above all else, the hands personify the description and make it seem very human, which is how I personally read her text. Following this photoshoot, I printed out the images and reintroduced them into the space, so that the work had almost moved full circle; from detail, to description, to performance, to photography, and then finally became details of the space again. I deliberately attached them to the spaces where either the performance had gone on, or where the original feature was, however I think that because the studio, at this point, had become very cluttered and messy, the focus was definitely drawn away from the images and they lost some sort of status.

This week I have also been thinking about possible means for research and how I continue with my studio practice. I focused a lot last year on painting’s context and the fact that I find it quite difficult to move past the very traditional connotations of painting. I want to ask myself how, whilst acknowledging panting’s history and implications, I can challenge the stereotype and push it into a new direction and base my work around this idea.

Week 3 – 10/10/16

This week began with the opening skills 6 workshop and also an individual tutorial. The workshop centered on technical skills involving making a casein primer and using matt structure mediums in acrylics. I found the workshop very interesting, I like the fact that traditional, ancient methods can still be utilised today,  which ties in with this idea within my practice of painting being a very conservative and arguably outdated artform in the modern world. I spent the majority of the week experimenting with casein; but none of my attempts to make it in the studio were that successful.

I think another reason I felt inclined to use casein was because it tends to be very transparent and leave a very flexible smooth surface, and I loved the effect of this on plywood. I think my painting practice is starting to move towards working on unconventional surfaces, so I think working onto textured woods and leaving the grain exposed as a starting point is a good idea. In my personal tutorial this week we discussed ways of offsetting traditional  mediums/subject matter in minimal ways to create some sort of  interest, so I’m looking at artist Micheal Borremans as a starting point for my research. Personally I’m quite drawn to portrait painting because I feel  it gives me a very direct way of communicating with a viewer, immediately a human face is recognisable and can produce a reaction.

After the difficulties I had with casein I then mixed up some rabbit skin glue; again, the traditional and relatively cheap nature of the primer meant that I really wanted to use it on some plywood offcuts I managed to find. However, I’m now  limited to use of oil paint, which although is arguably more traditional, means the painting process takes more time and if I want to build up lots of layers, it means I can’t really work quickly and make work in quantities. Overall though, I’m happy with the rabbit skin finish and will probably end up using it again.

Week 4 – 17/10/16

This week’s workshop was focused on using oil paint in different, and in some cases quite challenging ways  – one using monochrome high gloss paint, and by using a very diluted oil solution by mixing the paint with a lot of turps. I found it really hard to work in this way – I don’t really have an affinity with abstract painting and so when working from an image I found it really frustrating that the paint wasn’t doing what I wanted it to. Personally, I don’t really like the results of this experiment, the flatness and sheen of the surface and the black and white colours really don’t appeal to me, and again, because I was unable to produce something that looked like the image I was working from I became really put-off. for this reason I might leave the painting for a while and then possibly come back to  use it as a ground.

The same goes for the other painting I produced in the workshop  – although only in its early stages, I really don’t like the abstractness of the work the techniques produced – I  think perhaps I’m quite intimidated by the idea that because my work does not represent or look like anything,  in my eyes it looses some of its worth and is unable to communicate anything  of significance. I may also end up using this painting as more of a ground – although I think I need to be careful not to complicate the message of my paintings.

Also  this week I’ve been working on portraiture. Initially last week I asked a flatmate to sit for me and attempt to work from life, but it really didn’t go well and I think unless there is a clear and necessary reason for me not to, I might continue  working from photographs – just because I find that before I have even started to paint, there is an image with its own light, composition and arrangement that I can work with – and most importantly, take my time over.

These images are of my failed attempt – I think  part of the reason it went so wrong was because I used acrylic and the water took the primer straight off the board. I’ve now sort of wiped the slate clean and can make a new painting with a potentially interesting ground.

I then started work on this piece, based on a photo of the same person. I’m a lot happier with the results, however there isn’t a lot of interest in the image. Although the ground and the faded effect of the white is quite appealing, I don’t think the piece really says anything about either the subject or the idea of painting in a modern context. As I still have a few more boards of varying sizes to work with, I’m probably going to work on a few more portraits, and try to play with the composition and the structure of the ground to see if I can make something a little more out of the box.


Week 5 – 24/10/16

This week, I’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about the nature and direction of my work – whether I am painting portraits for the right reasons and if I’m actually answering questions I want to answer. The group crit on Monday gave me quite a bit of direction and helped me to process these thoughts. I want my work to question the context of painting, but I hadn’t really processed the ideas behind this. Painting, for me is one of the more difficult parts of fine art practice, not necessarily in a technical way; but because there, for me, is this constant contradiction between painting  as an art object and painting as a decorative ‘thing’ to own. One  of the things I  think that has drawn me to this conclusion is the attitude of my family towards my work and their use of it. Work that I have made in the studio is ultimately a reflection of my practice; it is exhibited in a white space, and becomes a very central communication of my thoughts and ideas – a tool, if you will. Then  the work is bought home where I am forced to store it, and consequently takes on an entirely different use – to fill walls in a domestic environment. To act as a talking point for my mum and dad. In one way, I’m glad that my parents like the work that I make, and that they are proud of it, but in another way I hate it. I hate eating dinner under a painting  of my housemate asleep, and being greeted by the image of a mouldy grapefruit I painted during A-level every time I walk down the stairs. I intensely dislike the fact that for them, this artwork, made to be shown to an audience and has quite a lot of meaning is something that is then  utilised as a sort of trophy – ‘look at what Leah’s made, it’s really good  isn’t it?’

This thought process has led me to start thinking about the importance of context to the  meaning and purpose of an artwork. Is the work still ‘art’ if it is in my lounge rather than in the white cube gallery space? Is the work I’ve written about and discussed with my peers and tutors still the same piece of work when it is hung in a home and becomes the start of a conversation between my mum and her friend about how I’m doing at uni?

I’m still in the very early phases of  exploring this, and haven’t really got an idea in mind for any sort of physical work yet, but I definitely want to look at photographing the situations my work is in at home and compare this to images of the same work in the neutral gallery space it was first exhibited in.

In conjunction with this, I also want to look at the opposite effect – what happens to artwork that was designed to hang in a home when it is put in a gallery space? Does it gain status? As a sort of experiment, I bought a few old prints, photographs and canvases from charity shops. In the charity shop context, they looked like typical, ugly objects purchased to fill a space on a wall/to decorate. Some of them were prints of actual artwork – One of Cezanne’s Dish of Peaches and 2 small prints of details from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, which I think relates quite a lot to the idea of production and reproduction – that printing had allowed me to purchase an image of a painting worth millions for less than £2.

I think these photos really highlight the importance of context – the space almost creates the work, the whiteness and position of the pictures on the wall becomes a part of the viewing experience and gives something to the image. I also found that arrangement of the the pictures gave another dimension – the conversation created by the arrangement and contrast between 2 or more pieces was interesting, and again the photos almost feel like a painting within a painting – the wall adds to  the composition. In the case of this photo I feel like the pictures arranged together could be seen as a piece in their own right.

Week 6 – 31/10/16

This week I felt I struggled a little bit, both in the painting workshop session and in my own practice. The workshop was interesting,  working collaboratively, large scale, with projectors etc, however our group didn’t produce much actual painting because of difficulty setting up the projectors and time restraints on using the project space.

I think that I often find collaborative tasks difficult because painting, for me, is a very personal experience and we were all on different wavelengths about what we wanted  from the piece/the activity  in general; there was no real translation of the ideas onto the paper. Personally, I feel quite a lot of disconnection from these workshops because of their abstract nature, I find learning technical skills  more useful as it is something I can combine into my own practice – so I’m unlikely to continue working on any of the workshop projects for now.

I had a few days sick as well this week, and had trouble finding any sort of flow in my studio work. I had planned to paint portraits – only for a short period of time for experimental purposes, however I underestimated how long it would take to paint such pictures and haven’t really found the motivation to make anything of any value -I haven’t really made anything yet. I had a brief meeting with my tutor about this, and found that I’ve been overthinking a lot of elements in my practice. I’d been trying to combine my ideas about art in a domestic environment and paintings that include imagery and connect with the viewer – but in doing so, had reached a sort of dead end; although conceptually I had a lot of ideas, this was not coming across in my work. The challenge for the next few weeks is to try and make rather than conceptualise, and form ideas about my work during my work, rather than making  work that communicates a certain message or answers a question.

I’ve starting working on this painting based on a photo I took that I found really interesting. I respond quite a lot to images like these, so I think regardless of the direction I decide to take, I’m going to try and start documenting people and scenarios to have readily available reference materials that are interesting in themselves.

Week 7 – 07/11/16

I’ve found this week quite productive – we’ve been doing the initial preparations and having discussions about the upcoming interim exhibition. I was a little bit apprehensive – having not really had many discussions in the studio I wasn’t sure whether the physical amount of work I’ve made was substantial enough to present to a group of curators, however I felt like I got a lot of interest and ideas from the people who will ultimately be displaying my work. I’m starting to find a natural focus around the idea of authenticity and the viewer – something that I feel has followed me right through from the beginning of last year.

I spoke a bit more about work to do with a domestic environment and how domestic display might influence my practice – I think ultimately I want to continue with this, however I got quite a lot of  interest in my portrait paintings as art objects in their own right. I think my studio sort of promoted an idea that I’m being very productive (working with a lot of materials etc) and although in a way I’m not churning stuff out at the moment, I think just doing things for the sake of doing them is helping me to find some flow. I sat down and did a large mind-map of all of the things that interest me currently in my practice, thinking about how and why I make work etc, and found a common recurring theme of the viewer/spectator. In painting particularly, the viewer is perhaps the most important – it  could be said that in conceptual art it is possible to ‘see’ without physical representation, whereas painting relies wholly on the visual. In thinking about this (and also in desperation for subject matter) I started recording my house watching TV during the evenings. I was quite interested in how there is this sort of unspoken dialogue between someone watching something technically inanimate, and then the added layer of someone watching that. I’m sort of imagining the image of the deadpan faces of the people watching TV mirroring the faces of a viewer looking at my work – unconsciously identical in the greediness of the eye – absorbing information without any physical reaction or stimulation. My thought process at the moment is to try and create some sort of video piece, either as a standalone piece/installation, or as something to work from in my painting.

I also found the curation part of the task really interesting. Although the main focus was trying to just get a general feel of the work involved, and how perhaps we might use and separate the space, it was nice to discuss the work of others in a very professional manner and make connections between work and artists. There was something very ‘human’ overall in the work – whether it be about human emotion, perception, sexuality or identity. We’d already managed to start thinking about artists that could have conversations or works we felt would offset each other nicely, and although there is still quite a lot of coordination to do with artists, we’ve thought about commissioning works etc. I’m also quite interested to curate the space – my research at the moment is centering a lot on how space and environment might influence a piece’s reading, so I’m excited to be working not only with the ‘white cube’ gallery space, but also in an environment where discussion is encouraged and the space will be functional.

In addition to this I went to a life drawing session this week – really loved it even though at the moment I’m not sure if I will be continuing with portraiture or moving on to  something else, it was nice to have a bit of  directed drawing time – even as a therapeutic activity. I was happy with what I ended up with sketch  wise, and worked a little bit with basic acrylic painting afterwards