Week 11 – 05/12/16

The week started with our curation crit – I was really pleased with how it went, there seemed to be a general feeling on both sides that the activity had been a learning curve and perhaps an impetus for further work. It was a little disappointing that some of the artists didn’t show up, as it would have been nice to hear the opinions of some of the artists who had maybe been less involved or had problems with the process. Overall I think that the issues that we faced with hanging, publicity, and disagreements with artists were ultimately resolved and I’d like to  think that we were helpful and professional throughout. We were all very much involved with the process and so we were all able to contribute during the crit and answer questions about curatorial decisions.

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Our hand screen printed leaflet, folded in an irregular pattern with artist names and statements on the reverse

Aside from this I had quite a busy week – on Tuesday I had a 2/3rd year group crit, which was quite helpful in terms of looking at my practice in a different perspective. Although not many people showed up, it was refreshing to get a totally different group of people’s opinions on my work. When making, it can be really hard  to step back and look at the work as a whole rather than just a string of works. They picked up on the fact that I’m continuously using found objects in my work, which is something I don’t often think about. I think on a subconscious level I use these found materials and leave the works relatively unfinished because It provides added interest to  the work before I even begin. I think as well it reaffirms the painting’s ‘object-ness’ and becomes less of an image and more of a physical thing. I did go through a phase where I was really interested in expanded painting and assessing the limitations of a painted image, and this has flowed in to my work quite a bit. I put myself under a lot of pressure not to be boring or predictable – I want to make work that is quite new/unconventional, and because I often doubt my painting skill, this is how I process this. It was also mentioned that I maybe don’t need  to paint, as I already posses the reference image which essentially says the same thing – but there is something about paint’s materiality and its immediate connotation of ‘art’ that keeps me interested. The process, which requires a lot of time – I think adds value, compared to an image that takes less than a second to capture in a photograph.

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I also had a drawing workshop this week, again, not many people showed up, so I think on a personal level I was bit disappointed, as I was looking forward to working with people from a different year group. It was quite difficult initially to get into I think – I’d booked the topic at the start of the year and so the theme wasn’t hugely relevant to me now, but it was nice almost to step out of my creative practice and do a separate project based  on something completely  different. I collected quite a lot of footage and photographs based on the brief – in the end my main focus was a piece of textured glass that was opaque from a distance, but when I put my lens right against it I was able to see the vague shapes of people and buildigs on the other side.

I really liked the blurred, wetness of these images – although they are really uncertain you get a weird sense of seeing things through the eye of a something organic.

this was my outcome – the piece was collaborative, however I think because there were so few of us at the workshop, it was difficult to merge the works into each other and make the piece inclusive. We communicated verbally, but when it came to the task of drawing, everyone sort of allocated themselves an area and stuck to it. Personally I was really happy with what I produced – what started out trying to represent the texture of the opaque glass gradually became a sort of bugs eye view. Then alongside the cctv camera  drawings I added (trying to blend my  work into that of the person next to me) it could almost be a collection of monitor screens. I think while thinking quite a lot about the conceptualisation behind my practice, this project was a welcome break  really. It was nice to produce something without consequence and spend an isolated period of time doing something continuously and exclusively. I think when I am able to make a work like this, very quickly and in a focused way, I’m so much happier with the result. I’m sort of motivated now to start making again.

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Week 10 -28/11/16

This week was our curation group’s exhibition install. I think it was quite a wake  up call for everyone that communication  is most definitely key when it comes to artists, as we encountered many issues during  both days of installation.

One of the main  challenges was knowing how much/little influence we were allowed to have over an artist’s work, and whether or not the artist should have control in which specific pieces to exhibit out of the work they presented initially. With Siris’ work, as mentioned in my last entry, we ended up relinquishing this control of choice for the sake of argument and because we wanted him to feel comfortable with the work that was exhibited and happy with the presentation of his personal practice. However, upon arriving in the exhibition space, I think the general feeling was that the works were quite unfinished looking, and the printing process had left errors – there were small marks on the surface and the canvas paper had not adhered to the mdf board properly, leaving untidy edges. Siris was aware of the issues and quite happy to exhibit the works without editing them, however again, this is where communication was an issue – mentally I think we’d imagined the works larger and in a universal, quality printed format, but what we were given was sort of unrefined and challenging to integrate into the space. The same went for a few other artists – Naomi’s work, again, we imagined multiple, large format prints, but last minute she’d had to downsize the so that the photos maintained their  quality, meaning that for the sake of filling the space, we had to ask for more work. Another issue was in preparing for works that were not necessarily finished and had to be ‘made’ in-situ. Jo’s work, a piece that was still evolving, required liquid to be poured on the floor and a teacup to be smashed in the project space, something that didn’t sit well with  us as curators or with health and safety! We hadn’t prepared for the work to cause any problems or require permission from the estates team and so in hindsight, it would have been good to know about this and be able to set the space up for that purpose or discuss with Jo beforehand to be able to find a solution/compromise.

Another issue that we found was the actual  logistics/technicalities of the space, and the way that planning was not adequate enough when it came to deciding where the works went. It was really interesting – once we placed all of these works in one space, they actually did converse with each other. In some ways, this conversation was not necessarily appropriate. Initially, we planned to have Shona’s work and Siris’ opposite each other for aesthetic purposes, however once  in the space, it was clear that Shona’s piece would alter the meaning of Siris’ so that it would be further misread. Here you can see in Shona’s work about trust in sexual relationships; the pose is very similar to Siris’, which is about mental illness. Obviously, not a connection we wanted people to make.

Another issue we encountered, purely from a technical perspective, was our lack of knowledge in hanging larger works according to health and safety guidelines. We didn’t really have access to a drill at the time, and so we used nails instead of screws hanging up Both Robyn and Tom’s larger work. Robyn’s went up fine using this method, however Tom’s was not very secure and so we decided to try and come up with an alternate solution on the following  day. By this point, staff from the  3D workshop had told us that we could not attach things to the wall using nails  because the chipboard supports were too thin, and so we had to starrt from scratch with hanging and use mirror plates. I think ultimately this was a lesson in preparation, but also in using initiative for us. Although we had not been asked to talk to the 3D workshop staff prior to the install, we probably should have taken upon ourselves to go down there and talk to them so  that we were prepared to hang these larger pieces safely.

Overall, I think we, perhaps more than any other group, had lots of problems on a personal and technical level, although I think that some of these problems were just due to bad luck on our part. We all communicated with each other and were all as involved as we could be with the project, however this did not stop problems arising. I think that throughout we remained professional and stayed very focused on our ideas – from the start, the name DIALECTICAL, and the notion of all these sometimes similar and sometimes radically different pieces of work conversing and interacting on a visual and intellectual level, has remained clear. Now that the install is finished, It’s quite easy to make connections and enjoy how the works react to each other and to the space. I’ve found the exercise very trying at times, because I think ultimately, a lot of things that we had very little control over were blamed on us and as a group we’ve received some criticism over the way we approached artists. However, I think by challenging the people we were working with to step out of their comfort zone and relinquish control, some amazing work  was produced.

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Week 8 – 14/11/16

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.

The edited film piece

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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.

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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.

http://www.sirishill.co.uk/gallery

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