Week 1 – 25/09/17

Back into the studios this week, and trying to start working straight away, continuing on from last year. Over the summer I visited Wales and Dublin and visited a few galleries, and I think this reaffirmed that I definitely want to continue painting and exploring viewer/subject boundaries. I also really love the idea of documentation – of the everyday, incidental moments that make up my life. In the IMMA there was a show by Nan Goldin. I love the immediacy of her work and the incidental nature of her photographs, the obsessiveness in her need to document everything and everyone. In the exhibition flyer she discusses her photographic montage work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. “The diary is my form of obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember.”

This prompted lots of ideas about the relationship I have with the imagery I use in my work, what it depicts and whether it is taken as an observation or with a concept in mind. I work pretty exclusively from film and photograph, rarely having someone sit for me, so the origins of these photos is becoming increasingly important. I’m also really interested in the relationship I have with images that are unfamiliar to me/have not been taken by me as a lot of my paintings stem from self taken, deliberate photos rather than incidental ones.

I found a photo on my dad’s hard-drive that I found really interesting, in a folder just marked ‘2001’. It pictures a lot of his friends, some who I recognise, some who I don’t, at a party. The nature of the photograph is confusing – taken from a high angle like its documenting the scene rather than focusing on a person/action. All the people in the room are looking away, unaware of the bright flash, but one person in the foreground looks directly into the lens, about to pop or having just popped 2 party poppers. I don’t really know why but I just find it a really fascinating image, maybe because I feel a bit removed from it personally and I can’t place exactly what is happening. I think in the context of the tableau and the gaze its relevant too, the scene is very real and closed off, but then the direct eye contact sort of invites you in and creates a very direct confrontation with the viewer. I think really I might be reading a bit much into it, but to document this scene in a painting is something that I feel might bring forward other questions in my developing practice.


I chose to go quite large scale, (120 x 140cm) but limiting myself a bit because I haven’t worked in this size before and have no idea how long it will take me to complete. Over the course of this week the painting has taken shape, however I’m not quite sure I’m happy with it in its current stage. I’m trying to find a balance between realism and abstraction, on one hand I want the viewer to feel it is a real scene and that the people are actually distinguishable, but on the other I think on its own the picture is bland because of the dark colours. I think surface is also very important. My choice to paint the scene rather than just have the photograph as a piece on it’s own


Week 2 – 02/10/17

I’ve resumed my painting this week, I’m struggling at the moment to create something that visually ‘works’ and that I’m happy with while also representing the original image and the eeriness I find in it.

This was the stage I was at at the start of the week, I quite liked the contrast between  colours at this point, and the unfinished nature of the ground I think works well with the areas of solid colour. I was struggling quite a lot with the face of the man in the foreground, it becomes really difficult to pick out any sort of structure with the bright flash in the photo.

In my tutorial with Mark last week he mentioned RB Kitaj, and how his works often feature areas that look unfinished, which was quite reassuring because part of the problem I have is in making something substantial but not overworked.

Related image

I then made a mistake in trying to darken the background, which then became way too dark, and very brown – although I was trying to replicate the original image I think it looks very  drab and the characters sort of sink into the wall.


I’m going to try and lighten these areas again – and after a chat with a tutor, I want to maybe restart the main figures face, just because it’s not working with the rest of the work and is a bit caricature-like.  I’m still also a bit unsure as to what this painting is leading to. I definitely like working in this scale, but maybe try to set myself a time limit so I don’t fall into the trap of working too much into it.

In terms of new subject matter, I sort of want to take more photos, but then on the other hand I want to avoid staging images or having models pose, so it’s sort of a case of waiting for the right time and place, or maybe exploring more appropriated media. In my research I’ve been looking at ‘the gaze’ or ‘the look’ in relation to a subject, and have come across a lot about fetishism and scopophilia – its not something I’ve thought about before, but definitely something to consider. I have also been thinking a bit about the absence of a figure – I think there’s also something really fascinating about an empty room, and how even unoccupied you can feel an intruder in a space that is not yours. I don’t know where this  is going as of yet or if it will link in with my current work but I can sort of sense that it might have some relevance.

Week 3 – 09/10/17

This is the progress I’ve made on my painting this week. I think I’ve managed to resolve some of the conflicts that were causing problems. The face of the man in the foreground was really off-putting – I worked it too much and it threw me off, so a tutor suggested that I start again. Now that this is sort of ‘fixed’ I’m finding it a lot easier to focus on the  painting  as a cohesive ‘thing’, looking at colour and composition. I can sort of see an end in sight now, but am a little bit daunted as I’m not dead set on what I’m going to continue with next. The single work has taken up a lot of time, so maybe in the future I’ll try to develop multiple things at the same time to keep things fresh/moving forward.

I’ve thought about trying to restrict myself with rules – I’m quite interested in working from collage. One of the reasons I struggled with the painting was finding the balance between representing the image accurately/realistically and not directly copying. I think a possible way to combat this would be to edit an image beforehand. I like the idea of altering reality a bit too, so taking figures from a real/mundane scenario and placing them somewhere else. Another thing I thought about was limited colour palette – one thing I found difficult working on this painting was trying to pick out colours from the original image and exaggerate, but it proved ineffective at first because the colours became very muddy.  Subject matter itself is also something I’m concerned with – so far most of my photos have been found or incidental but with time as a factor I can’t wait for something to fall into my lap, so might have to consider staging photographs. Before, when I’ve done this, the results haven’t always been that good – but then maybe with my renewed research focus on the tableau this might actually be relevant.

Another element that I need to consider is the research report. I want to attempt  the 10,000 word attempted essay because I feel quite confident with writing but obviously time management will be key. Currently I’m in the research and planning stages, but it all seems to be flowing well – I think setting targets and specific times to work on the report will be  helpful, as I don’t want to be in a position where my practice takes precedence or vice versa.


Week 4 – 16/10/17

After opting to do the 10,000 word research report option, I’m now really trying to focus on research rather than studio practice. I think although it will be more challenging, currently I’m considering a research based career if I decide to stay within the arts , so for me it will probably be better experience in the long run. I find research and writing very satisfying, and am interested to be able to go into more depth within my research report.

At the moment the research is a bit overwhelming. I went into a bit of depth in my proposal and suggested a few good starting points for further research, however the challenge is to find a focus as the basis  for the essay and the questions it asks and answers. I looked a lot last year at Tableau and Fried’s writing on photography and Jeff Wall. More recently I’ve been looking at Lacan – I’m finding it a bit frustrating to extract much information out of the texts – it’s been very time consuming having to read around his works to be able to take much from them. Ultimately, I think it’s thrown me off course slightly, because in thinking about the gaze in relation to psychological ideas rather than to art/images in and of themselves, I’ve sort of created a broader area to research.

My plan for next week is to try and look at my essay plans, and maybe try to write some sort of framework so that my research stays relevant and I’m able to work it into the essay context.

One thing I’ve also been thinking about is the idea of the voyeur – Lacan makes a point about the scopic field in that you can be looked at from all angles, but see from only one. In a sense you are always being looked at by the world. One thing I thought about was the idea that when you walk into a shop/supermarket there is often a tv mounted to the wall playing cctv footage from a camera that’s on a different wall, so while you’re looking up at yourself on the screen, in the image you are looking elsewhere. The same applies to being on a webcam etc – a lot of the time you are looking at your ‘reflection’ on the screen, but because you’re looking not looking into the camera you can never make eye contact with yourself/the person you are talking to. I think this might be a good starting point for a piece of multimedia work, maybe going back and revisiting projection/the use of screens.

Week 5 – 23/10/17

I’ve focused a lot on my research report this week – I’m hoping that in my research I’m starting to form a plan, not just in terms of the dissertation but in terms of my practice in general. A lot of the  ideas I’m coming across in research will definitely inform my future practice – I’m looking forward to finishing the report so that I can go back to creating more practical work and putting my paintings  into the context of the viewer, the gaze and the image.

One thing I have started to work on is small collages. A big part of the issue I was having in my large painting was that I was trying to manipulate the image as I worked – I’m not sure if this is the best way to do things, or if it’s a valid part of the process. In some ways I think it creates a sort of detachment, because the focus is no longer on the image or scenario, but on the process of painting and creating a fictional environment. I’ve had a lot of success using collage in the past – I have the security of working from an image and using the paint to replicate/recreate it, but without the pressure of having to essentially ‘make it up as I  go along.’

This is a little experiment I’ve been working on this week, again it’s a found image of my mum in her 20s. I find this helps me to work a lot better because it allows me to work objectively, but still with some personal connection.


I like being able to control colour, composition etc in a way isn’t final – like a sketch for a painting but with a bit more insight. The red board behind the paper images is what I plan to paint on – I’m not really sure of why its important yet, but the use of bright, unrealistic colours is something that keeps creeping into my work. I like that strangeness that occurs when an image is real, but not entirely true to life/abstracted in some way. Technically, I think it helps me to see the work as painting rather than copy, I don’t feel the  same sort of  pressure to get every detail right because there are areas of flat matt colours that add a new dynamic to the work.

Week 6 – 30/10/17

I’ve found this week quite  productive – I had a tutorial with my new tutor at the end of last week, and It’s given me a lot of confidence that I’m heading in the right direction. My work is very much about the viewer, however hasn’t really been ‘viewed’ by anyone before. He commented on the scale etc – and it was quite reassuring to know that in some way, the work speaks for itself in terms of the gaze and how the viewer interacts with the subjects. He referred me to some really relevant artists, and a painting which I felt reflected my work a lot. This painting in particular – Michael Andrews The Colony Room has the same sort of vibe, a darkly lit but crowded room, represented as less of a happy, exciting environment but more of a sombre sort of scene.

Andrews, Michael, 1928-1995; Colony Room I

The tutorial prompted me to work a little more on the large painting, and then to move it away to make space for more work and more large scale paintings. I think I need to stop being precious about the ideas and concepts behind the work and just go with it – the more paintings I have, the easier it will be for me to draw connections and develop my practice.


It’s been quite frustrating trying to manage time – currently I’m trying to dedicate 3 days a week to my research report, and 2 to my studio practice, however its difficult as some days I feel as though I’m not putting enough into my studio and others, that I’m not writing enough to meet deadlines I’ve set for myself.

Currently I’m trying to write a sort of mini-essay a week on chosen case studies, and then connect them together once I have a bigger picture of what I’m writing. I tend to come up with links, arguments etc as I’m writing, but need to try and plan so that the whole thing ends up being coherent/ I don’t have to  rewrite things excessively.

I also managed to finish/get to  a finishing point with my collage painting. I don’t want to spend too much time on it as I know that I definitely want to go bigger with my work, but am quite happy with the outcome. I’ll probably work into the faces a lot more when I have the time, but I think now is about prioritising making more paintings rather than making very good paintings.

Week 7 – 06/11/17

My focus has been on research this week, I’ve started to think a lot more about writing and the role it plays within fine art – the texts that I read vary so much stylistically and its really satisfying to be able to compile them all into something cohesive with in my own way.

The time spent out of the studio has given me a lot of space to think about what I want to achieve in my work and how I will be able to explore different ways of working – I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way forward is to experiment, with photography, with scale, and ultimately giving myself a lot of freedom so that I am able to truly see what works and what doesn’t. The lack of volume of work in previous years has left my work a bit 2-dimensional – I would come up with a concept and make the work, and that was the finished outcome, there was not a lot of progression in between works.

I went to one of the research seminars on Thursday evening, focusing on the uses of texts within practice and arts education, overall I think it’s helped me to realise that there is no shame in writing that is unfinished/unformed, it is still substantial and sometimes the draft becomes more important than the finished element. I want to try and change my approach to practice and writing and start seeing them as overlapping rather than running parallel to each other.

Also this week, I went to the first editorial board meeting. A team of 5 of us will be directing the production of a publication that will accompany the degree show. We discussed ideas about the publication – so far we haven’t got much direction, but know what we don’t want based on looking at previous publications. We plan to meet again before the next scheduled meeting to discuss contributors and possible approaches – what we want the publication to focus on etc. I’m really enthusiastic about being a part of the process, I think that if I’m going to be thinking about a more research based career in the arts, it will be a  valuable experience.

In the few days that I did get to consider my practice, I’ve begun trying to see my research as a starting point for making. The notion of the tableau is about absorption, and so I’ve managed to source a few photographs based on this. They’re quite candid photos, I can’t remember the circumstances surrounding them but there are a few that stand out that I’d be interested in painting.


This one in particular I like, I think the angle of the shot is really unusual and the scattered objects and long shadows are compositionally very appealing. The scenario itself also has a sort of uncannyness to it, the weird setting of the roof sort of doesn’t sit well. Around the time the photo was taken there was a lot of debate/friction between the group I lived with about the roof and if we should be allowed to sit on it. This photo was obviously a moment in amongst all of that where we all wanted to be up there and put everything to one side, however I still think there is a bit of unease there,  you can see in some of the body language that there’s a bit of tension – its very fixed in its position and you can tell there’s deliberate silence and lack of interaction.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make time soon to paint this, I might start trying to divide days rather than weeks, so I spend mornings on the essay, evenings in the studio, but will have to see what sort of mindset I have in the next few weeks.