This week has been about having a bit of a break from my practice again in preparation for the start of the new unit. I think having been quite stressed over hand-in my creativity hasn’t necessarily been flowing and so I’ve come home to London again.
Thinking about reflection, I think I’m very happy with the body of work I’ve managed to produce, however am unsure as to how it will be marked/if my grade will reflect the amount of effort I’ve put in over the course of the year. I’m hoping that it will give me some inkling as to whether the way I’ve been working so far has been ‘right’necessarily, and whether I need to change the way I document. I want to start working more in the sketchbook and make use of sketches etc to describe and explain my ideas in fewer words.
However, outside of this reflection, I am keen to start writing more creatively, and possibly including it in my practice. Writing is something I’ve always done, more for pleasure than anything else, and I’m thinking maybe this enthusiasm will give me a bit of a boost continuing on from my current work. It is a very immediate form of communication, which I like, especially when I can take hours to finish one painting that essentially ends up being one image. The trouble is integrating this more imaginative form of analysis and personal documentation into my very visual practice, is it possible to combine the two? This is something I need to continue thinking about going into next term.
I received feedback Monday, I’m quite happy with my result however I would have liked to have done a bit better. I struggled to really understand the written feedback I’d been given. In response to the learning outcomes, I couldn’t really grasp where I’d gone wrong and couldn’t really tell what I could have improved on because it was about specific works being successful/unsuccessful rather than relating to the marking criteria.
Having gone to the session with my tutor I was a bit more comfortable with it. Essentially it was about making more works and further exploring themes around them – developing them one step more than they already were. I think the focus now will be researching less, and as suggested before, learn through making and through the process rather than a perception of an outcome. After the feedback I sort of wanted to scrap one of my works in progress entirely, it was pointed out that it’s quite flat and doesn’t have the same sense of movement of some of my other projection paintings – this was down to the fact I painted a ground from reference rather than from a moving image and so I was careful when painting the figures. I’ve decided to work on it quite freehand for now, and then continue painting with a projection on top of this.
I’m also thinking about exhibiting some of my works/playing around with projection over image and projection over life. I’ve bought myself a small digital projector which I want to use to project images of my work/moving image back into the space of the initial recordings, and play around with what happens when I distort/layer things. I’m also thinking of inviting other people I live with to collaborate. I think as a space, our house is really interesting because as well as being a domestic environment, it’s also a space of creation and discussion, and so it might be nice to hold some sort of exhibition-esque event there to display all of the work that has been made in the space in conjunction with items that are always in the house.
Currently I’m working on the cross course collaboration with Games Art & Design, making a film based on an image/artefact. I really enjoyed going beyond the scope of our course. Although all courses at the university are creative, to me fine art seems less grounded, and because its open to interpretation its often difficult to communicate/collaborate with people outside of the course. As a group we decided to take quite a humorous stance on the project based on our image of an angora rabbit. After looking a the Castle Museum’s taxidermy collection we started to think about the idea of excess, texture of fur itself and its ability to obscure something/someone. Initially we were sort of stuck as to how to translate this into film, and so we chose to leave the conceptualisation until after we looked at possible materials etc. Although this was sort of a reverse way of doing it, it allowed us to be quite spontaneous and we gradually built on ideas rather than coming up with a concept and sticking to it.
These are images taken at the Castle as inspiration
We ended up coming up with the concept of obscuring and excess, using a toy wind-up rabbit and covering it with ‘fur’ until it became unable to function, and ultimately becomes an unidentifiable mass on the floor. I think our finished film was quite funny, which is something we wanted from the beginning, however it was quite challenging to work in a group situation and it could have been more successful. To be honest I think because of the nature of the project, there was a general lack of enthusiasm/involvement, and it was difficult to come up with much of a concept before we reached the stage of having to make the film. I think given more time, we would have been able to make something more substantial, however it was difficult to arrange meetings over the course of the week because of the interchange, and we didn’t really have a plan to follow. I felt that I was having to direct the group a little bit, and even then it was difficult because there wasn’t a lot of feedback on suggestions, so it became a challenge to come up with something cohesive. I think again, given more time we would have more success because we could have worked through it a bit and taken more time to discuss and really get involved with the project.
I also did a few interchange projects this week. I took part in a 3 hour life-painting session Wednesday evening. It was really helpful to learn how to manipulate the paint in such a short space of time. it’s something I think I’d like to do again in relation to my current practice, my trouble at the moment is trying to work quite quickly to create the idea of motion and creating a realistic connection between viewer and subject. I was really happy with my outcome – I was using oils and so it was exciting to go back to this medium after using acrylics for quite a while. I’ve booked another couple of sessions in, as I talked about before I think they are useful just as practice painting the figure and to get me painting.
This Monday our group presented our finished film for the cross collaboration project. I was happy generally with the feedback – lots of people suggested that the video might say something about the angora fur industry because of the apparent brutality we treated the rabbit with and the fact the fur was quite objectified. Watching other people’s films, I think we definitely could have been more involved with the project and again, make something more substantial if we’d have had more time, because of people’s commitments we could only utilise 2 of the days in the week. Maybe this comes down to us though and our use of time.
Also this week I took part in another life drawing session, again using paint but this time with acrylic. I really liked the way this painting turned out. I was focusing more on tone than colour really but I think this works really well. The study was from a 30 minute pose, so I think now having done this I might look at painting some portraits from life rather than 2d images to try and make the subjects in my works a bit more lifelike and animated.
I also spent a bit of time this week playing around with my video footage and my projector. I made two 4 minute videos from the original footage, where the vocalisations of people in the film and the television itself can be heard. In the second video I layered up multiple clips and distorted the audio so that it becomes pretty much unintelligible, but you can still pick out phrases and melodies. As a piece on its own, I think these edits are sort of successful, however I don’t think they’re that sustained and don’t have too much thought behind them other than their visual quality and the possibility of displaying them alongside my paintings. I think in the future I want to develop them more so that they communicate something on their own. I think as videos there is a danger that they become quite trivial or become more about the domestic/student setting than the viewer/subject relationship.
The original edit can be seen here, and the distorted version here. I named one of the videos ‘we are the watchers’; which is a play on the phrase from the show Game Of Thrones: “We are the watchers on the wall.” I think it’s quite effective at outlining the themes in the video while also relating to appropriated media, although again I don’t want the films to seem too much about an aesthetic or focus too much on my life as a student.
I managed to briefly set up my projector in one of the project spaces and experimented projecting the footage onto the walls, into corners and over the top of one of my original paintings. I got some quite nice footage doing this although it was quite difficult to capture both the painting and video because of the light levels. I think although projecting onto my paintings has been kind of an end goal for me, I wasn’t 100% happy with how it looked. It was quite confusing and the static image wasn’t that effective under the image. I might start thinking about projecting next to my paintings and how practically this would work.
Towards the end I also played about with placing myself in front of the projection to add to the idea of layering and the blurred boundaries between the world behind and in front of the screen. I think this is quite interesting however as a video it was maybe a little bit irrelevant/confusing. The edit can be seen here, although I’m not 100% happy yet and plan on maybe editing the film in a different style.
Monday to Thursday I was on a study visit to Madrid. It was a really lovely experience, and although we visited quite a few galleries, I think I was influenced as much by the city’s architecture and the culture there. The first day, I visited the Museo del Prado. I particularly liked looking at the later works of Francisco Goya, images that I found to be a lot more disturbing in real life than in images I’d seen online etc. They had a really shocking presence; it reminded me of a lecture I’d had earlier in the year about The Sublime, and how the definition of the sublime relates to a physical, bodily reaction rather than a mental one. I think repulsion, and definitely fear as a reaction is very physical, perhaps more powerful to the viewer than adoration/appreciation of beauty.
I also saw Velázquez’ Las Meninas while at the Prado. It was perhaps a bit underwhelming, to see something that I’ve been researching around in the flesh; I think I thought I’d be moved a bit, or feel more involved than I did. It definitely helped to understand the perspective, and the way in which the viewer becomes a part of the scene.
We also saw a few independent galleries whilst exploring the city. In particular I really liked the work of artist Ester Partegás being shown in a gallery called Nogueras Blanchard. The work was essentially resin that had been poured onto tarpaulin sheets that you might find in a market, trying to show the structure of the material. The resin was hung on scaffolding, making them look like windows. There was definitely a sense of embracing the industrial and the found object, something that I haven’t really thought about in a while. When I started painting onto glass last year I wanted the viewer to be able to react through multiple angles, whether that be in front of, behind or from the side, and the initial idea was to hang them so that a person could become a part of the work by being in another viewer’s line of sight. I feel that these works – The Passerby by Ester Partegás – do this really effectively. It’s something I might start thinking about in my work again if I come across any large sheets of plastic or discarded windows again.
I’ve been focusing a lot this week on organising my worker submission and also on researching and drafting my 1000-word research report proposal. I think I’ve decided that I want to write about Fried’s analysis of the Tableau in modern works, thinking about how a very dated concept is relevant to my practice in particular. I think on a personal level its better for me to look at a very specific topic like this because it allows me to go into a lot of detail – I think my last essay remained quite vague because I chose a very broad topic to write about.
Also this week was a collaborative exhibition at Firstsite in Colchester. I was excited to exhibit my work in a space outside of university, and was planning on taking my 2 large projection paintings as well as my projector to play around with composition in a large space. However because of a communication issue my work was not transported to the site, and I had to start on a new piece in-situ. Initially I was very frustrated because I’d planned to move the works around in the space and have some sort of finalised outcome, but then realised that it was a good opportunity to work in the space and to have the work as semi-performative.
The space itself really helped me out a lot – there were 3 different coloured lights which changed throughout the day and made the projection appear differently on the wall. One problem I did encounter was keeping the light low enough to work on my piece, but also bright enough for others to have their work in the same room without it looking washed out – a nice compromise was having the coloured lights change and blinds be opened and closed as needed. It was quite organic, although I think it would have been good to have at some point come together as a group to discuss not only people’s individual placements of work but the exhibition as a whole. It did feel quite disjointed, and because there was consistently work going on in the rooms, the public were perhaps discouraged from entering the space. It would have been worthwhile not only putting up signs but having some individuals actually approach and encourage the gallery’s visitors, as it was a shame not having anyone actually see my work than people from the university. It sort of counteracted the idea of the work travelling off-site, I think.
As a group we did have some discussions early on about the name of the exhibition (there was a lot of debate!), however we didn’t really sit down and discuss the exhibition as a collaborative exercise. For this reason it felt as though everyone was out for themselves really, it was more about individual works in the space rather than us as a group of collaborators. Perhaps part of the problem was that there wasn’t a lot of direction from staff and I don’t think any of us knew what was going to happen on the day and if it would be more staff-led or independent. I think in future group exhibitions I’ll try to be a bit more vocal, and voice concerns like this before the activity.
This week I’ve been focusing on organising documentation for submission and completing my 1000 word research report proposal. I feel that this unit, although hasn’t been extremely productive in terms of physical work I’ve made individually, has directed my focus and made me more aware of the possibilities and challenges that come with collaborating.
In terms of my own studio practice, through researching and writing my proposal I’ve discovered points of interest that will allow my practice to develop beyond experimentation. Fried’s idea of the tableau has been particularly interesting – looking at how figures in a scene can interact with a viewer. There are different types of interaction, what Fried describes as absorption, where the artist creates a closed off scene where the subjects are not aware of the viewer. This creates an image that is more real, more true to life, and because of that the viewer feels as though they can relate and is engaged with the scene. In the late 1800s impression/realism bought a new dimension to this, where the artist deliberately faced subjects outward – essentially breaking the invisible wall between people in the painting and the person looking at them. Although at the time this was seen as pretty sacrilegious and painters like Manet were criticised for it, in my work I think it’s relevant to address the audience; I’m torn between thinking about candidness/possible connotations of voyeurism or having the subjects be quite confrontational. I’d like to address this more directly, making the viewer aware of the screen between them and the painting. While some of my work has sort of touched on it before, having done a bit of research I’m exited to explore the ideas more extensively.
One thing that has become obvious to me is the importance of scale in such works in creating a direct relationship between subject and viewer. I’m excited to work large scale on maybe some figurative painting next year when I’ve got a bit more studio space to work with. I think opportunities to exhibit will also be greater – bigger works make having a solo show in quite a large space possible.