(Current Studies, by blog description (2015-16)) - Click on each label to see corresponding posts!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas Week, - A few drawings to be 'keeping the eye in'...

Well another year nearly over....  Had a quiet Christmas week with the family,  (I'm grateful for what little family I still have  after my brother passed away in July).  Spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day reflecting on the last year, both personally and creatively.

I managed to get a fantastic christmas present this year, take a look below!!!


Errr, humph... No, it wasn't Nicole Kidman unfortunately this time,

 but my new 2H pencil! - Beautiful! (Nicole, - that is).

.... And she's performing magnificently!... (The pencil, not Nicole....).

Ah well, back to earth...  Also did a still life based on a basket of fruit that was on the table in our wee holiday cottage, so I couldn't resist as it was raining outside...


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Another term completed, exactly half way through my journey!

Time to pause and stop the production for the Christmas break in theory, however I know that I've still got the itch to scratch for the next four weeks whilst not at the University!  So, perhaps the best thing for me to do right now is to reflect on the first term of my second year.

We started off the year with a project that I thoroughly enjoyed, especially as my previous study of the Huddersfield Railway station, back in December the previous year, came in handy! I was able to devote almost 12 weeks thinking about the station and St Georges square in particular in a different way than my first encounter.  Whilst the first four weeks or so were spent looking and recording other landmarks and sites (and sights!) of Huddersfield.

The work that I'd done during the Summer recess, which was almost totally focussed on improving my drawing skills, had paid off (despite the fact that I stopped for about a month or so near the end of the vacation to deal with my dear late brother's untimely death.  It affected my sense of purpose, but in time, the act of sketching and drawing has restored much of this).


So, the outcome of this first project, which was labelled as a "Drawing Project", fitted nicely with the preparation over the previous year.  The specific outcome too, was a complete departure from the sort of ideas (and way of thinking) that I would have projected a few years ago - before I had decided to return to full time further education.  I would have likely gone for an "easy" context, just as I had with the representation of the station facade some 10 months earlier.

My final piece for Year 2 Project 1, is such an abstraction from the original scene, it takes some effort to connect the images together, but once the viewer does, I hope (and I find this is an emerging signature in my work), that it brings an affectionate smile to the faces of the spectator.  This is the affect that I find I'm now striving for, in all my final pieces.  I want to court a particular type of light, yet quirky humour, not too dissimilar to that of Grayson Perry, but perhaps not so eccentric.

Constellations of Draco;
"This is a reference to St Georges Square, Huddersfield.  St George, being the patron saint of England destroyed the common foe of the people, (as described in myths throughout the western world), - represented as The Dragon (Latin, Draco).
One of tToday's 'common foes of the people' comes in a different form when standing on St Georges Square. That is, what you find under-foot as small approx 2cm black discs, in abundance, which is discarded chewing gum.  The observation of black dots on a light background, laid out in a rectilinear grid reminded me of the way that astronomers map stars, indeed, one being the star constellation of "Draco" itself, found in the northern skies. The highest star of the Draco constellation, Thuban (α Draconis) was the northern pole star from 3942 BC, when it moved farther north than Theta Boötis, until 1793 BC. The Egyptian Pyramids were designed to have one side facing north, with an entrance passage designed so that Thuban would be visible at night. (Staal, Julius D.W. (1988). Pages 239 & 240, The New Patterns in the Sky. McDonald and Woodward Publishing, Ohio, US).I find this little fact amusing too, as Hudderfield can be likened to a northern pole, a rising star, when St Georges Square was originally built by the Victorians...  Anyway, the mapping of the northern stars, to guide the weary traveller and in effect, warn the weary travellers going to or from Hudderfield Rail Station, of the common foe, (in this case, treading on a sticky piece of chewing gum).
I love to continually make these little connections in my art.  I am drawing verbally, through ideologies and through detailed research, as well as the physical act of drawing, here with one of the simplest agents of art, through pencil and paper."

So on to the next Project, No.2.  which again, I felt that was wonderful serendipity!  Maybe it's because I'm so engaged in what I have been doing that I'm not aware that I may be doing the right thing anyway!...  My interest in all things artistic had lead me to visit some of the works of one of my favourite contemporary artists, that being Grayson Perry, and his Tapestries at Temple Newsam House just outside Leeds.  I went there with my wife some two or three weeks before the announcement of Project 2, which would be initiated by the study of those same works I had looked at earlier!...  I suppose this may simply be convergent thinking but I was delighted that I could engage in a study that I was so interested in anyway.

My own sub-intentions from the start of this second project (whilst not necessarily forming the project brief), was for me to start to study, and in some ways emulate the learning methods of the older fine art academies or ateliers of Europe, where students progressed through studies and copies the Old Masters' works (in a way similar, perhaps to the time prior to the 1960s and 70's Coldstream reports (by William Coldstream et al, which I've since learned, formed a major turning point on the way 'art' was taught in the United Kingdom).  I feel that because my love of the classics and post Renaissance art needs to be satisfied, then this must form part of my learning experience.  By following this connection, I hope to keep the vigour and zeal of my enthusiasm for all art, fresh, and open minded by all means, but with a grounded foundation of technical skill to be built upon.

I started with those thoughts of copying the great masters, and in particular, I considered Johannes Vermeer, 1632 - 1675) as a suitable candidate.  One of his most famous paintings, Girl with a Pearl Earring, (1665) struck me as a very "high class" painting.  The deconstruction of it, by contemporising it with a symbol of present day culture, was to replace the earing with a "spacer" style earing; - a very fashionable adornment of today's youth.  Coupling that with a title that hints at the current vogue of exaggeration (sometimes referred to 'larging' or 'bigging' something up), i called the piece "Girl with the Mother of Pearl Earing"... A mildly humorous yet obvious play on the fact that such spacer earrings could be made from Mother of Pearl, but also a contemporary reference to suggest the model has the "biggest of all" pearl earrings, in a rather common and hence lower class taxonomy.

In an ironic twist therefore, my deconstruction of the culturally high class and tasteful painting has become a 'lower' class symbolism of contemporary culture, and hints at a image of 'bad' taste, if viewed by an upper class viewer.   This was my first pass output from the brief.

I also explored other Vermeer paintings through sketches.  One of which shown here is a sketch of Girl with a Letter by an Open Window, (1657).

Working on, again with the Great Masters in mind coupled with my desire to copy their classical styles, I looked at another favourite artist of the High Class of the renaissance, that being the portrait painter of Henry the 8th no less; Hans Holbein (The younger), (c1497-1543).  One of the most famous paintings to represent Class, Culture and Taste is the portrait "Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve, The Ambassadors", (1533).  I looked at ways of contemporising this painting, through the transposition of the original subjects with some of today's 'cultural' ambassadors.  After some research and consideration of popularity, I decided to use the current celebrity icons of Angelina Jolie and David Beckham, both also being official "cultural ambassadors" to the United Nations.

Initially I explored a new location, based on the Holbein painting, thinking about where one would likely find such celebrities.  I made a few sketches of the duo in front of a Land Roveer at a Polo meeting, but then I decided to use Holbeins original backing curtains, with the trappings and symbolism of contemporary life on a coffee table, rather than the two tier shelves that Holbein had.
 (there is also a satirical hint that whilst De Dinteville and De Selve were highly educated in science, music and the arts, the two new celebrities "lack something on the top shelf", hence its omission).

Once engaged in this concept piece, I realised that I had been staring all the time at an almost timeless allegory of Class, Culture and Taste, that being the actual curtains depicted in each of the Great Master's paintings, but also which still hold the same symbolic power today.  So this is where my focus will be over the final few weeks of the project as a final piece...


Friday, 19 December 2014

Reflections from 1-1 Tutorial, Prof. Steve Swindells

Today I had another excellent one-to-one tutorial session with Prof Steve Swindells.

After he had reviewed some of the work I had produced over the last week or so, he recommended that I begin to focus upon combinations of tonality, combinations of tone, not line and gradation.



Tone is not a colour thing, it is about variation and the lightness of touch.  Consider the work of the great masters as I am currently, in effect they painted the stalls of their subjects before putting further layers of paint to show skin tonality.  By doing so they created the scaffolding upon which to paint.  Prof Swindells explained that much of this technique has now been lost in art education, and whilst his generation were perhaps the last to be taught some of these techniques, art education and the Coldstream report of the 1960s written by William Coldstream has completely altered how art is now taught in universities.

The recommendation for me is to keep the line and the tonality fluid.  Be in doubt about what I'm drawing or painting constantly, a constant fluidity of drawing and more particularly "drawing" the paint auto, is where the finess actually lies.

Research through practice, is not just about reading or just the visual research but I may be conducting.  It is also about getting evidence around me and then re-studying through reproducing and representing this evidence.  Work harder to drill down constantly is more ideas flow through this reproduction and representation of the three-dimensional objects.

Tonality must be practised, not by creating outlines and then filling them in, but by actually recreating the three-dimensionality of the object through tone itself.

Whilst the line is important, and it will appear in certain places to create divisions and borders of objects, it is the tonality, just like the Cézanne's problem, of how to represent an object in three dimensionality that we are trying to explore.

It is for this reason that in my studio space I need to surround myself with full 3-D objects as well as photographs and other visual stimulus.  This is vital in any artists studio in order to gain a proper and deep and thorough understanding of the skeleton of the object you are trying to depict.  It is as much about creating those layers on top of the scaffolding that build up the three-dimensional's, where each layer is doubted as it is applied.

[Having thought a little further about this, I mind was drawn to a natural occurrence that I had witnessed a few days earlier, where the frost on my conservatory roof and formed into beautiful patterns, which can only be described in terms of tonality, as there is not the opportunity for light and shade nor colour, other than the background colour of the blue sky to be recorded.  I wondered if this was a perfect example of the natural tonality?]



This doubt, the uncertainty, the anxiety that the continuous drive of making and creating as you go along is what actually creates tacit knowledge, known as "tactile epistemology".  This is true research through practice.

The whole action of researching by creating is what through research through practice is all about.  It was pointed out that whilst I may be creating paintings or drawings, what I'm not doing at the moment is drilling down enough into the scaffolding; the raison d'être of the object and its relationship with all the other things it shares in space.

I realise so much now that I need to create much more three-dimensional tonal sketches.  In my current project, I can continue to study curtains as my vehicle narrative on taste class and culture by all means, but I also need to further study the tonality of them.  To define the texture through tonality and the relationship of what is underneath a textile or the cloth is what I am trying to capture.  I am looking to try to understand what is the skeleton or the scaffolding which lies in three-dimensional space underneath those same curtains but I am trying to represent.  The question I must keep asking myself is what holds each fold each line and more importantly each shadow or tonality in space?



An example I'm thinking of might be the drawing of a football?  I will look to make a sketch of a sketch of a sketch, in that tonality is different from shade and shadow.





Thursday, 18 December 2014

Rod Dickenson, - Guest lecture, "Performance Machines" - & exploring "a volunteer's dilemma"

(These notes were taken on Wednesday, 17 December 2014), from;  "Artists Talk: Rod Dickinson "Performance Machines".  The lecture was billed to;
 "explore of the legacy of post war information systems that attempt to create a systemic unity of man and machine connected together through a process of fluid and continuous feedback. The presentation will focus particularly on how performance, dramaturgy, language and repetition can be used to interrogate and split apart this pervasive ontology".  
(Rod Dickinson is an artist and lecturer in Media, Culture and Practice at University of West England in Bristol. His artworks have explored the way in which our behaviour interacts with media feedback systems and social contexts. Using detailed research into moments of the past and present, he has made a series of meticulously re-enacted events and performances that explore the link between these mechanisms and our behaviour. )  (Recent exhibitions and performances include Newseum, Washington DC (2014); The Hayward Gallery, London (2012): The Showroom , London (2011), DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague (2011); Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2010) among many others.
The lecture started with a discussion of the notion of "a volunteer's dilemma" based on work by John von Noyman (who was connected to the Manhattan project, together with the work of mathematician John Nash).

In a volunteer's dilemma,
"somebody has to take on a chore that benefits everyone else.  It doesn't matter who does it, but everyone is in trouble if no one does it".-Poundstone (1992) page 201.
Initially developed by the Rand Corporation, to try to predict volunteer ship or action etc, (this notion follows the Pareto rule in a way), where approximately 20% of the population will volunteer to to agree to do something, but at least 80% will not.  Latterly this is been used in game theory, in that the optimum outcome is that no one volunteers.

The point of this lecture and debate is to highlight that in our current culture, these theories govern pretty much everything that we do.  We encounter these systems when ever our transactions occur online or on the Internet.  This led the artist to re-conduct the Stanley Milgram experiment which was reenacted in 2002.  This comprised of 10 actors within a stage set, set up a little bit like a laboratory, who were conducting a "memory test", but a memory test with difference.

This artist reenacted the whole Milgram experiment to a live audience for FOUR tedious hours, using the original American transcript of the analysis.  The artist allegedly got permission from the copyright lawyer in order to proceed with this, because the original material is in fact now owned by Yale university and Stanley Milgram's widow.

The artist quoted that 66% of people would increase the shock of threshold which would be sufficient to "execute" the memory candidate.  The point of this exhibition was that in effect, this experiment had been mediated twice before.  The audience already knew that they were actors who were part of the exhibition, even so, the audience empathises with the subject who is also an actor.  The teacher who was administering the shock treatment is also an actor as is the learner (the actor who is being given an electric shock for each failed memory test).

This whole exhibition was designed to place the subject in order to create a visceral (emotional) reaction within the audience.  The artist wanted to highlight the fact that this behaviour is everywhere in our digital age.

The next example given by this artist, (exhibited in "the Showroom Gallery" in London) was a performance, where he placed to "lecturers" upon two lecterns or daeus together, and these two speakers discussed "crisis or catastrophes" and rhetoric from world emergencies, but this is then delivered in a recyclable way.  Material was taken from world figures and their speeches broadcast through news media, and then replayed effectively as a short poem.  However, the teleprompters are also visible to the audience, and the reference of the script is also given to the audience.

Berthold Brecht in his writing, describes the relationships of audience and the actors "being in the flow" of the performance.  However, by putting the reference in the performance to the audience, Brecht talks about the audience being "above" the performance.

The outcome of this overall performance seems to me to be just a collection of soundbites, with generic forms, austerity, wars etc, but here through a series of complete generalities.  It suggests that most of these speeches were in fact a kind of meaningless diatribe.  The news media are aligned to create crisis and catastrophe.  With such analysis as the artist has done here, they become totally predictable.

I think perhaps some of this lecture either went over my head, or I struggled to comprehend its usefulness because I have in the past, done some study on Stanley Milgram's work, (which was originally designed to help understand human obedience, with respect to the Nuerenburg trials following World War II).  The sensitivity of the artist was therefore put in question in my consideration.  I seem to recall that the original Milgram experiments helped to place some of the work by the psychologist Erik Erikson and his student Eric Byrnes who then developed the psychology stream of transactional analysis.  Transactional Analysis, I believe, is really what this artist is trying to demonstrate, but perhaps his research has been slightly deviated in order to create an artistic spectacle.  Whilst this is perfectly acceptable, I think it detracts from the very important work that the psychologists of Yale and Birtley universities through the late 1950s and 1960s actually achieved.  Much of their work, has been the foundation for more modern psychological studies, including cognitive behavioural therapy, Nuro-linguistic programming and psychoanalystic schema therapy.

If the artist were to explore Transactional Analysis to a deeper understanding, I think he may find a better route to his stated intentions of exploring; "a systemic unity of man and machine connected together through a process of fluid and continuous feedback". ...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Reflections on the weekly briefing,prior to assessment.

Today we got some pointers on the areas of assessment that will be conducted after the Christmas break during the second week of January, some time after Friday, 16 January.  We need to create a 1000 word synopsis of the work that we have conducted during this last term by that date.  I'm reasonably comfortable in creating that document but I'm conscious that I need to demonstrate a number of things as follows:

One, to see that I have moved out of my comfort zone and that I am pushing out to new materials and concepts:

To, working beyond the narrative in the literal sense, to look at the semiotics and symbology, together with the materiality of objects.

Three, to show examples of discourse, what is being made, but also how we're reading, blogging and understanding, and their relationships between them with respect to our practice in contemporary art and illustration.

Four, and increasing expectant or expectation of the overlap of contemporary art together with, and illustration, and our own ability to argue that.

Number five, conceptual and critical understanding of historical and contemporary practice related to the fields of fine art and illustration.

6, creative methodology which is evidenced in mind the developmental work, processes, and outcomes.

7 critical and analytical discourse is required rather than a chronological explanation.

I need to formulate a personal and original visual language that I can be identified with.

I need to consider carefully how do I make my own judgements upon my own work?  How do I engage with existing practices and historical methods?  How do I demonstrate an argument to show that I have analysed my work?

I see that this week is a good week to take stock of where I am now with respect to this project and the summative assessment.

A good book to read or write the "the net delusion by Morozof.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Notes from tutorial on Class, Culture & Taste, By James Pyeman.

The following notes were made in the context of a lecture which described Artist James Pyman's reflections and his early life and up-bringing in Eastbourne.  During this time the photographer Tony Ray Jones described Eastbourne as "a mug of the seaside".

The notions of class are formed very early in our lives and it seems that Tony Ray Jones's photographs, which were produced with Class and Culture as a thematic focus, seem quite different from the recollections that James makes of his own childhood...  There are often a number of urban myths which can be propogated positively or negatively.  For example in Southcliff Tower, apparently the famous "James Bond" actor, Roger Moore lived in the penthouse at that address, however, this in fact was pure rumour and supposition.

As we grow up we are often influenced by these urban myths and untruths.

The environment in which we grow up in, has a massive effect on our outlook on life, as adults.  James (and to some degree myself) were brought up in an era that would remember television series like "Pogel's Wood" created in 1965 by Smallfilms Ltd, together with the comic books like Pippin etc.  We were influenced by films like Eduardo Palozzi's 1947 film "I was a rich man's plaything" and the public at large were also influenced on their understanding of contemporary art by films such as "The Rebel" with Jonathan Hancock.  This is a great example of the clash between high class and low class appreciation of art.

Around this time also in the 1960s, musical bands were emerging such as "The Who", they were significantly influenced by Gustaf Metzer and his destructionist art works, such as the example where he painted acid onto canvas in order to burn through the canvas as "a destructive statement".  At the time this led to highly conflicting and charged issues regarding taste and class.

Considered too the work of Richard Hamilton and "Swingeing London 67" (1967) which helped to establish low and high class culture mixing together.

The next decade which was the 1970s was the decade that some people suggest that taste forgot.

There were television programs such as "The Likely Lads" which addressed culture and conflicts of understanding, where aspiring middle-class and conventional working class are thrust together.

But nothing was really changing in how people had been influenced either.  Art, which by now was significantly excercised through Television and films had a massive effect since it's inception at the start of the century, television just being a kind of extension to film from the 1950s...

However, a landmark film called "the Exorcist" created a great stir in cultural society in 1973, where there were emerging "supernatural attempts of escapism" and the daily tabloid newspaper The Sun, suggested that a psychological "war" upon the public was actually in full progress during the Northern Ireland troubles.  - It was suggested that the United Kingdom and in this case British army had a "Black Operations group" which consisted of a British army personnel who were actually engaged to look at witchcraft as a way for the MP Wallis and the Information Policy Unit of the British Government to create fear amongst the Irish, and suggested that British military intelligence used this fear in order to manipulate the devout mostly Catholic public in Ireland.

Popular culture and the imagery connected to it through Television during the early 1970s had a strong surrealist sort of view.  In 1976 this very much changed however, as the whole outlook of culture of "the old guard" at this time were confronted with the new pop group known as "the sex pistols" who appeared on the  BBC Today programme.  This had an immediate impact on the culture of the time with a massive shift from high art to the punk and collage etc.  A band known as "the Slits" were a woman only group formed in 1977, a period of particular turmoil.  (See the video of "the Slits" and the aggressive style of disconnected confusion, the rather anarchic, fight against conventional culture through the song "typical girls" and The Slit's attempt to rebel against the old guard stereotypes, based on "how boys and girls should be", in an idealised fashion.

"Zyclone B" and the Throbbing Gristle band, provided the birth of the 'industrial' punk culture and irony in 1979, exemplified in "cosy fan tutti" and Genesis (Neal Megson).  Another example would be the Sleaford Mods video "Tiswas" which is a montage of the previous 50 years.


Monday, 15 December 2014

Contemporary art practice in context lecture by Spencer Roberts Caroline Christoph Bakkargiev, continued.

This lecture continues with the discussion of that Carolyn Christoph Bacardi of and her positioning in the actor network theory.  In last week's lecture we discussed that in truth there still seems to be a process philosophy going on, despite the new metaphors of contemporary Art critique.

In a way, this question of does she position herself in actor network theory, or is it just process philosophy going on, doesn't really matter.-If anything it just reinforces the process philosophy way of thinking through the whole history of intellectual thinking in itself.

We are simply testing allegiances between advanced forms of science and ancient forms of knowledge.  In actor network theory we are going beyond the state of mind of the human beings; we need to understand that human knowledge is only a small part of the full spectrum of interacting knowledges as a whole.

We are made up of billions of small things (the elements if you like) that each have their own intrinsic intelligence.  We are therefore "meta-stable" consistencies.  This is in fact a Giles Deleuze idea of the dissolution of substances.

In the exhibition documenta 13 it was a set of experiments of human fields of study, researching how perception is transferred and transformed into knowledge.

It was Martin Heidegger who talked about how, when we do repetitive "tool" based activity, but we seem to transfer our minds into a lost state of self.-It is thus this getting lost in our work, that starts the dissolution of the self and the disconnection to time and the world around us.  This is the essence of what is "research through practice".  The process becomes self referential-to explore colour with colour-representation with representation; in other words use the think that you are exploring as a means of exploring what you are interested in; by doing so the state of mind goes into the thing that you are exploring.

"There is no difference between nature and culture-anything that is in the world is coming from somewhere else"… Caroline Christoph Bakkargiev, 2014.

We are all multiplicity is that viable elements, those elements all coming together into a vibrant and wondrous world.  Consider the work by Jane Bennett "vibrant matter" (2010) this work shifts the human experience away from things into the things themselves.

Consider also "the million-dollar blocks".  This is an example of art having an influence of research through practice in a practical way.  It was noticed that the populations of many of the American prison systems and institutions seem to mainly come from a small set of tower blocks located in United States cities and furthermore in particular, in certain areas.  By redesigning and reconfiguring sets of ecological resources within those areas, together with graphic design and remodelling, through appropriate process flows and intensities… By focusing on those things themselves, and not the dialogue put forward by politicians or individuals or "correction", as has been the traditional method to deal with such situations (that were not working anyway) genuine improvement and a reduction in repeat offending by that same prison population was evidenced by the results.

If we take a step outside our discussion and remember that "contemporary art" was actually a movement of the 20th-century, which was based on an 18th century autonomy of art and the phenomenology of "the here and now", contemporary art truly emerged after World War II.

The formation of contemporary art, with its separate societies of makers, producers and thinkers has had a significant impact on how we think about contemporary art as a whole.  The exploration of a "pass time" which leads to the need of the non-useful activity (the autonomy of art), is at the heart of this enquiry.  "All art is quite useless" was a statement made by Oscar Wilde in his book Dorian Gray (1891), seems to encapsulate the investigation by Caroline Christoph Bakkargiev some 120 years later.

Henry Bergson talks of "white light", being the image of singularity, of one etc.  However, when analysed, white light is in fact the combination of all the colours of light; there is in fact a multiplicity of light.

As a practitioner, we can focus our own thoughts on research into colour with colour.  By thinking in this way, it is no different to the thoughts of social interactivity is as pockets of thought; in the same notion as radicalism; civil and rest; and the same notion of each, all through a starting of rhizomic birth of multiplicity.

Caroline Christoph Bakkargiev criticises art as a pointless activity to just create an aesthetic pleasure.  But art can be used to bridge facilitation of rethinking, or all intellectual institutions, physics, science, philosophy, art et cetera can all be brought together into one unified virtuality.

Indeed, in the age of the "digital virtual world" art has become a symbol of stability, (which is disembodied in the virtual).  The sense of the "here and now" dominated modern and contemporary art for the next 60 years after World War II.

Caroline Christoph Bakkargiev is against multidisciplinary art, as she says that by bringing together two or three separate experts, their output remains separate; it results in either bad science or bad art, in either case bad work.

To summarise, the art world has changed significantly over the last 20 to 30 years.  There is very much more a material attitude of affectation of objects.  Equally there is a numbing down of culture as we become disembodied through our own need for information.  This can be exemplified through the notion of cognitive labourers.  These are the software and systems designers of our modern age versus the artists and designers, who are in effect "advanced cognitive labourers".  Ultimately what this leads to is in fact the same process philosophy conducted by the Greeks in 450 BC, the difference now is that we have used different metaphors to describe the same thing.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

“Taste is the only morality. Tell me what you like and I'll tell you what you are.” ― John Ruskin

Recent work in my contextual studies,  on the writings of John Ruskin, have lead me to find http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30755/30755-h/30755-h.htm  - I've recorded it here as it's an excellent source of reference material.... The quote I've used for the title of this blog, which continues our theme of Class Culture and Taste, seemed to be a most fitting quote from Ruskin.

After spending a dazed couple of hours "in the zone" of creating the drapes or curtains at the rear of the Holbein deconstruction of his painting the Ambassadors, I realised some time last week that the real target that I want to make the Narratives of Taste Culture and Class of is actually the materiality of the materials used in society to identify and define the class positions of the wearers / or owners.

This notion came to me through the repeated drawing and painting of the classical patterns of the drapery...


At first, I drew the pattern outlines by freehand, although taking my queues from the original Holbein drapes.  It is highly likely that Holbein may not have actually painted these patterns or drapes, as it was common practise for apprentice artists to carry out the background work on such larger paintings.  The main representations of the two figures however would be reserved for the Master Artist (e.g. Holbein) to compete, and thus be eligible for the commission as a whole.

I soon got bog-eyed trying to slavishly copy these beautiful, though complex and intricate patterns, so I resorted to another old technique used by the Great Masters, slightly adapted to bring it in line with modern speed of execution... By this I mean the technique the masters used for transferring the outlines of Frescoes, that is, ostensibly by tracing a design through to the plasterwork by using pins to puncture the design and create indentations on the plaster behind.  A draughtsman would then complete the tracing from the pin positions upon the wall, ready for the application of pigments / paints to fill in the fresco.  However, in my case, I dispensed with the intermediate pin step and re-draw of the plan, by simply using a graphite block on the rear of my scale copy and tracing over it with a blunt pencil to make a carbon transfer.  I was then able to paint in the variety of green and brown shades and hues in the resultant pattern boundaries...



Monday, 8 December 2014

Contempory Art practice in Context - dOCUMENTA 2013, - Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

The followingg notes were taken from a lecture by Spencer Roberts entitled "Thinking in practice", an idea from 'thinkinginpractice.com'.

Carolyn Christoph Bakargiev was the curator of the international dOCUMENTA exhibition in 2013, in Kassel, Germany. This lecture will discuss the curatorial approach to contemporary fine art which generally, has been focused upon through the forum of dOCUMENTA, a once every five-year exhibition, and which is, in essence, a place for testing new ideas and artworks in contemporary circles.

Carolyn originally made quite a splash in her introduction as a curator some time ago, and by the time she came to curate the dOCUMENTA 13 exhibition she had already been recognised as the new voice in contemporary art.

However, in many peoples views, when her position is analysed, there is very little difference regarding the commentary that she is making to the process philosophy and the classical Greek approach from some 650 to 400 BC.  Bakargiev is very much focused on multiple disciplines and the "new"-ness of contemporary art, but, most of the tropes coming out of the work is still pretty much the same as it always has been.

Nevertheless, at these symposiums the positions that people take, whilst on the face of it may seem quite radical and new, in truth, are really quite orthodox.  There continues to be heated debate, much discussion and lots of arguments at these venues, simply because artists have to make their case even though it has mostly been said and all heard before.

If we turn to some of the work that was displayed at dOCUMENTA 13, we can see the same old patterns emerging of "process philosophy".

Consider firstly, the work of Geoffrey Farmer and his installation piece entitled "Leaves of Grass".
 This art piece was constructed on a massive scale, and has views from the multiplicity of perspectives.  On approach to it, one can see a massive, three dimensional photo-collage of complex views of culture, formed into threaded and intricate multiplicity, and pluralism abounds.  The concept that the curator is in step with the "materialism as a virus" is the theme of this work.

Another piece of art by Pierre Huyghes, entitled "Bee headed woman", explores the dematerialised sense of the self through a sculpture of a naked woman whose head has been completely covered with a swarm of bees.  At first this looks quite radical, however in reality, Heracletus (c535-475B.C.), in 500 BC, (the Greek philosopher), would have been quite happy with the piece and would not have disagreed with its position as a philosophical totem.

The next piece of work that Carolyn Christoph Bakargiev placed within the exhibition was work by Song Dong entitled the "doing nothing garden" which basically consists of a mound of earth in the middle of a park garden which is making the statement of an unnatural creative act.  Over time this mound becomes covered with grass flowers and weeds.  Here, Song Dong was trying to allude that over time, nature will simply take over and 'do its thing' on any monument or man-made structure.

It is at this point that contemporary art pushes the boundaries even further with the work of Ryan Gander and his piece of work called "I need some meaning I can memorise".  At first sight this work appears to be an empty room with just a breeze of wind flowing through it, that gently moves the net curtains around the window frames.  Nobody can see any exhibition item in tthe room.  It is just an empty room.  In fact, it was actually the breeze that Ryan Gander was trying to exhibit.  In other words he was engaging with the ethereal or the background.  It is a study in perceptual and virtual existence that continues throughout our daily lives, which we probably take for granted.  This art piece is intended to highlight the materiality of our current culture, which has found its antithesis here, in Ryan Gander's work.

With regards to publications, the Documenta exhibition is presented in various ways through the usual art critique magazines.  Carolyn Christoph Bakargiev, as part of her role as curator, wants to engage with all of these publications.  (Remember that publicity, however received, either good or bad, is in fact 'good publicity'.  It is 'publicity' and will remain so.)  Interestingly, most reviews, if not all, were positioned as a kind of process philosophy view.  Bakargiev wants to fold together the materialistic culture that we live in and the natural elements of nature that surrounds us at the same time.  The Friedricianum was the central building of the documenta exhibition and it was this that housed Ryan Gander's works.

The frieze magazine, one of the most influential magazines, does indeed provide a process philosophy type of view of the work.
The New York Times, also talks in terms of human centric cultural analysis.  A cultural response with a human materialistic touch.  It goes on to discuss that Bakargiev has put together exhibitions containing a project by a quantum physicist together with work from a geneticist and also an anger management workshop were all put on to display.
The Guardian newspaper also discussed repetition and endless return and they seemed to miss the point somewhat because it is in fact the repetition of difference but was being displayed.

Basically, Bakargiev is suggesting that multidisciplinary art practice just does not work.  She argues in interviews that it is "coherence" that is what is important.  However this is a contradictory position and I am beginning to think that she simply takes a stand of abject contrarianism, and to what the press may be saying.

For example she goes on to try to discuss a sort of 'new ageism' and then struggles that her vocabulary patterns when trying to explain her ideas, which are that curator or practice must be creative, but as a creator, one get into a state of mind, as a result of her constant engagement with so many disciplines.  The mind therefore becomes preoccupied with collaboration and attempts to make it coherent, so the whole state of mind becomes a coherence in itself.  She says therefore, that both scientific and craft centric approaches must be the result.(?) I've no idea how this conclusion comes from the argument, but then again, I'm not a curator....

From this it can be concluded that she is interested in the full "actor network theory", in other words a knowledge of all knowledges, that are not just human, but also animal and objects, as in the agent being capable of being anything, with some inherent material knowledge.  Through this she talks of the alliance between the most advanced thinking, but also the state where which it is conjoined with the most primitive form of knowledge.  She is also saying that human knowledge is in fact very limited and ignores the accumulative knowledge of the whole of nature, or indeed the whole universe, this comes through in her discussion about the fact that we are mere atoms and particles of matter all jostling amongst ourselves to form humankind and for that matter any other kind.

Carolyn Christoph Bakargiev situates herself as someone who is in the feminist thinking camp, with influence from ethology and the works of Henry Bateson.  She makes the claim that we are "meta-stable" consistencies, stating however, that she has never been a keen reader of Giles Deleuze, and yet she also talks in terms of the rhizome, multiplicity and many ideas that seem to be from the book 20,000 plateaus by Giles Deleuze (!)...

This seems to be contrary and it's a contradiction again, because she also talks of how Henry Bateson had very much influenced her but not Deleuze.  However, in fact it was also Henry Bateson who Giles Deleuze counted upon as one of his biggest influences too.  So from this one can deduce that she is positioning herself as being a very feminist, and some may say capricious, towards any similarities of the philosophy propagated by the French philosopher Giles Deleuze!

One area that I do agree with, is the use of her claim that 'we as a culture and society are never in an age when "we have all worked [everything] all out"'.  Bukargiev is genuinely interested in how culture and society, - and the individuals within it, perceive the world around us.  She agrees with researching through practice, such as the importance of understanding: colours by using colours.  She also discusses the concept that "art is a way of using up time".  This in itself, gives it a functional role.  It is interesting that if art is a way of using up time, how it has also become a financial overlay with society, and for society to use it as a type of currency.


So, here is an Attempted Transcript of her thoughts about the curation of dOCUMENTA 13, as played on Thinking-in-practice.com;

It is an attempt to be in an old fashioned way, say coherent... although I am in praise of the incoherence and uncertainty and the condition of the 'may-be', ...it's somehow more meaningful because you are testing your ideas as you go along in practice.  So the documenta was a state of mind I suppose you could say it is a bit new age'y' like you're in a state of mind which is a state of mind of for example term experimenting with forms of alliance for example between knowledges of science and early knowledges of people who were living today lived in the past outside of most aspects of modernity.  One state of mind was the alliance between the most advanced knowledge and the most primitive knowledge a state of mind embraced creativity or it trying to consider it from a broader perspective of not only human so in an act of some sort of it will call it a kind of almost spiritual perspective on what's compassion might mean and what being together of thinking together might mean so it wasn't coming from a feeling of the same place of some sort of hubris, I know it all and I know how the plants thinks and I know how the dogs think. -  It was more a state of mind of humbleness where one understands that the human knowledges are only a very small part of the knowledges of the knowledge that is constantly shared and co-evolved through interactions as the feminist and physicist Karen Berard, who was an important influence on my thinking, has pointed out in her book meeting the universe half way.  So some people thought she is into the way dogs think and multi-species evolution because she is Donna Haraway's friend and also was on my committee.  -of its much broader than that in the question of dogs it's a question of understanding there is at we ourselves are made up of billions and trillions of small elements which each have their own intelligence weather its a cell or even smaller subatomic part of particles and in a way it exists as a provisional even though we doesn't quite exist it exists as a provisional equilibrium of a letter servants of equal things are very fragile equilibrium that has a multiplicity of itself which is constantly it acting together with all the other makers of the world and the inanimate so of course one could say there is a democratised only in the Deluzian background which is much older than, oh, say that Gregory Bateson would be a bigger influence on me than any of the recent things, so that would be the state of mind.   So of course there are Art Works that are made for humans by humans and that concerned with questions that are primarily of interest to humans but it's an overall state of mind.  Documenta is the kind of humbleness of the human involvement in the whole thing which is why I put the inside outside and the outside inside, which is why there are houses in the park on the outside and then while Ryan Ganders' wind in the whole ground floor which is a kind of invisible material why matter matters wind blowing through the whole which is very much about the inversion and questioning of the demarcation thing which is human made and which is not human made so it's not that I sent celebrated nature in a romantic way that there is no difference between nature and culture because culture is also natural that because the painting is made from subatomic particles which go through reactions in space and so that is not exactly an artificial human made thing it is only partially human made at thing and vice versa and everything in the world is coming from something else.  I'm in a period which has now been going on since last October and August of trying to figure out what document to 13 actually was in trying to answer that question, so I'm not completely able to answer it, I mean Ireland but at the time I thought and I may be thinking but not sure if I think it any more in the same way that I was motivated by thinking that human fields of study and knowledge are historically determined and do not last forever and I used to be against this but we don't have them any more we have chemists things come and then things and also you know and a novel appears that the certain moment in literature and it doesn't appear before and it won't appear on the future etc so I thought that will I have this thought long ago art history is based on a very modern idea of art which is an idea of autonomy and idea where the artist is researching how perception is articulated into knowledge or transferred into knowledge through the subject matter itself being the means through which that investigation occurs so it kind of has a kind of self-referential artifact, For example you would restore colour with colour and representation with representation and gestural with gesture etc and the kind of rectal philosophy made through using the materials through the experimenting as a means by which to experiment that thing which kind of makes it practical philosophy because your language is not for instance verbal at like a philosophers is there but it's a thing as a kind of rights where a philosopher talks about the jug is holding vessel and so on and so forth whereas our tests explore this by making a jug and what is the definition of art which was questioned by the early 20th-century avant-garde's which wanted to break the distinction of reality and producers because at the beginning of industrialisation at the same time they were society of thinkers and reflectors and a secure and they also needed to have a non-useful activity to the useful activity is the non-useful activity hence the idea of automata which basically continues to add that I think I thought so does over and field demarcating field cold art may be over and so doesn't make sense once other common things between physicists and artists rather than artists an artist so maybe in the future there will be no Tate Modern or Pompidou Centre or in the way that they are now. I'm not saying that there wouldn't exist as buildings with collections and so on but there may be a time of those collections are reorganised completely and everybody who lives in a certain style of period everybody thinks everything is for ever because that's the way we are was the best because it would last forever and today we can't imagine anything different what we have today is the best but actually these multiple symptoms feels of knowledge change all the time and in the early 20th century for example when our bodies were separated from bodies of other animals,  light when that zoology whatever Museum of anthropology of ethnology whatever the birth of the consolidation of the field of ethnographic studies and anthropology and that the time it was revolutionary.... 
At this point I gave up...

As can be seen from the above example, this curator is talking so fast that she is unable to coherently make much sense at all.  Some say art for art sake, well, here is an example of talking for talking sake.  I question the usefulness of such. Psychiatrists call this "word-salad"... Look it up.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Summary of the 3rd week, Narratives Taste, Class Culture.

The tutorial by Prof. Steve Swindells yesterday, helped me to reconsider contemporary art in its concepts, from a new vantage point.

Jim Jarmusch was quoted as saying "nothing is original, steal from anywhere".  Some examples of Prof Swindells work was shown during his second year overseas placement whilst he worked in a studio in California.  At the time Steve tended to use a six-foot by six-foot square canvas because he is 6 feet tall and had a six-foot arm span.  So he therefore felt that he had a connection with the work through his own physiology.

References were made to the concept of Japanese Buddhists the Zen Garden is being the perfect space, with perfect sense of relationship, and the concept of the 15 stones representing 15 forces in nature, whereas the next stone can only become visible through the correct Zen Buddhist meditation.  I read a little further about Zen Gardens;
"The most famous of all zen gardens in Kyoto is Ryōan-ji, built in the late 15th century where for the first time the zen garden became purely abstract. The garden is a rectangle of 340 square meters.[9] Placed within it are fifteen stones of different sizes, carefully composed in five groups; one group of five stones, two groups of three, and two groups of two stones.
Ryōan-ji (late 15th century) in Kyoto, Japan, Ref; Wikipedia.com
The stones are surrounded by white gravel, which is carefully raked each day by the monks. The only vegetation in the garden is some moss around the stones. The garden is meant to be viewed from a seated position on the veranda of the 
hōjō, the residence of the abbot of the monastery." -Nitschke, G. (2007), Le Jardin Japonais, pg. 90.  (Taschen,  25th Anniversary). (ISBN: 9783822830444)

  The reason why this piece of Japanese art was selected is to help in describing the illusion of "being in the zone".

Other work that was mentioned was the work of Fishley and Vice, who have been big influences on Prof Swindell with memorable works like the vegetable sculpture and more commercially the Volkswagen adverts of moving objects in the form of Heath Robinson contraptions.

Prof Swindell's pop-up chicken hutches were also discussed, in which he introduced "unruly animals" into the studio.

Later work inspired by Patty Hearst case of the 1970s, in which she was taken hostage by a terrorist group, whilst kidnapped she actually defected to the terrorist cause, and wrote a famous text entitled "death to the fascists".  This inspired the work of Prof Swindell in Amsterdam where he used the statements made by Patty Hearst by using parcel tape to create lettering but venues to a modelling knife to cut out the tape from parts of the lettering to make a unusual and difficult to read abstraction of Patty Hearst's plea.

The concept of "Nolens Vollens"; - Latin for to refuse and to volunteer has also been a cornerstone in some of his more recent works, which introduces Adobe Flash animation and drawing to include concepts of the modernist.  The 'high colour' and grid concepts perhaps mirroring the work of Dutch painter Piette Mondrian are significant to these animations.

He has also experimented with psychodynamic interpretation or dialogue, through the use of random streams of words, backed with different primary secondary and tertiary colours in order to create word or sentence association in a random space.

The reason why all these different mediums were shown to us was to encourage us to use much more varied mediums, from computer graphic applications through to chicken hutches and Zen gardens!

He is also particularly interested in the phenomenon of industrialisation of modernism before post-modernism and how this progressed to the German Holocaust and therefore to the equal industrialisation of the 'atrocities' committed during the Second World War, such as the gas chambers, holding pens and logistics associated with the industrialisation of mass murder.




In reflection to my work, I realise through these examples but I need to build up more reference material as part of my research process to create new and original pieces for my studio practice.  I mentioned the concept that I had been formulating of using the old Masters and the contemporisation of them, in reference to Thomas Gainsborough's painting Mr & Mrs Andrews.

Prof Swindell recommended that I look at the works of David Hockney (b1937) and suggested he also used Gainsborough's painting Mr and Mrs Andrews as a reference source of his painting entitled "Mr and Mrs Clark".  I think this may be wrong though, as I may have misinterpreted the conversation. 


Copyright David HOCKNEY, 1970-1971. Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy. (Ref; Tate Modern, T-01269).
 In fact, according to The Tate Modern (Tate.org.uk) on their site for this Hockney painting (artworks/hockney-mr-and-mrs-clark-and-percy-t01269/text-summary), it suggests that the Hockney painting has similarities of reference to 'The Arnolfini Marriage', 1434 (National Gallery, London) by Flemish renaissance painter Jan van Eyck (approximately 1395-1441), which may have  provided some influence for the inspiration for Hockney's Mr & Mrs Clark & Percy.  (Tate, Catherine Kinley/Elizabeth Manchester, 1992 and 1995/March 2003).  The text article goes on to say that Hockney has also incorporated an engraving / etching of his "Rakes Progress" series 1961-63 (Tate P07029-44), on the left of the painting.

What a coincidence!...  [Appropriation]... However I am now already thinking that my own series of paintings may take a new course, as a result of the review of Hogarth's series of engravings entitled "Marriage à la mode" earlier in the week...  Clearly, my persuit of a series from Hogarth may havee been a good idea!

As a result I am now exploring in particular, the use of cloth, and its relationship with class culture and taste, and through a series of 6 to 8 paintings based on Hogarth's  "Marriage à la mode", I am looking towards creating a narrative of the same.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Contemporary Art in Context - Image & Desire; Lecture by Juliet MacDonald

The principal lecturer today used subject matter from a book that I read last year, John Berger's "Ways of Seeing", (1972, Published by Penguin, London  New York), which was originally derived from a television series from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).  In this series of short films taken in the cultural context of the early 1970s, (after a very rapid period of change in our culture in the Western civilisation, during the 1960s; - which saw events such as the assassination of the President of the United States (John F. Kennedy), through to placing a man on the moon), together with the new found liberalisation of the common man.

John Berger positions himself in these films as a Marxist critique.  During that particular time (1970s), the investment in art was almost always made in classical oil paintings.  Berger saw that galleries and become "upmarket capitalist banking" stores.   Many artists at the time were also reacting to this situation and wanted to create value in alternative forms of art and materials.

In episode four of the series of films "Ways of Seeing" Berger explored the concept of what was called "publicity", which is now known more generally as "advertising".  In this discussion, he talks of "glamour" and the continual urge of society to aspire towards 'becoming glamorous'.  The celebrity culture and glamour is therefore very closely linked some 40+ years later.

In a contemporary sense, by looking at the "Hello World" news channel, which is an ongoing commentary of celebrity news, - if one perhaps chooses to look at the symbolism and semiotics associated to current celebrity culture, it is still very easy read those unwritten messages of social interaction, class, status, culture and taste.  A recent example may be to look at the actress Emma Watson and how she is currently portrayed within the news clips on this channel.  She is almost always dressed in white, the accompanying narrative discussion is about the recent linkage with another actor on a romantic scale.  All the traditional signs of purity, virginal, and 'marriage ready' symbology seems to have been selected.  Whether this is done unwittingly by the news director, or as some serious and well educated choice of selection, is not known.  Nevertheless, the affect of the news clips, subliminally creates a message in all the viewer, which manipulates our beliefs and feelings towards an event happening of a romantic and up-market / high class nature.

An alternative example perhaps, may be a recent advert by Dolce Gusto, a coffee machine manufacturer.  In their short one and a half minute advert, there are a multitude of symbolic references to suggest sophistication and upper status - middle-class association with the product.  The opening sequence is made upon an African mask, (the subject matter at one time associated with Picasso's original reference source material for Cubism); next to this mask is a 'cubist' style artistically created square ornament.  Then, a replica model of the ancient and classical Greek Aphrodite's statue, starts to speak with a high society accent and confident voice.  The next frame however is taken from an unsophisticated modernist or even post-modernist 'Kitsch' style scupture of a 'half-bust' mouth, with a very broad northern accent, suggesting that she does not understand the context of the conversation.  When all these images and symbolism is are combined, together with a reference of "Pop art" mentioned in the narrative, and then just juxtaposes it all with the coffee machine product. This then, together with the final image of a very clean cut twenty-somethings couple, drinking coffee, it is purely intended to create an 'affectation' in the viewer that "You to can be just like us", ...successful, elegant, sophisticated, fashionable and other positive affirmational references to lead the viewer to think "if you to buy the same coffee machine that they are using you will be all those things, just like us".

Coming back to John Berger, he goes on to describe how traditional oil paintings were originally a representation, almost always associated with the elite, and were a reflection what the world that existed at the time around them "in realism".

However during this century, whilst photography has been used to represent the real, it is also much used in publicity and advertising to give the common man a 'picture' of the "the dream".  This is an intended 'imaginary future', a Utopia of sorts, conjured up by advertising specialists.  It is "like a skin without biography", one commentator once wrote.  Advertising is all positioned to suggest that you the viewer will be at the centre of this dream if you buy the product.

The alternative 'dream' then, is also that of escapism, sometimes described in the terms of "distances without horizons".   A good example of this would be a reflection of the advertisement, with taglines such as "Aramis is an Attitude".  It is interesting that other producers also looking to sell their products to a 'higher class' consumer, uses very similar taglines, for example the watchmaker Patek Philippe uses the quote "Elegance is an Attitude".

Berger puts forward a strong argument and critique about advertising, capitalism, and the notion of have's and have-nots of society.

Barbara Kruger was also a productive artist who also did similar critiques on the same theme.  Whilst this work was done in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the contrast of rich & poor, and chasing the dream, is still all around us.  For the poor Third World countries, versus the rich Western cultures that conjure up an image of 'reality' and "the dream" has not, in any means, changed sincee Berger's observations of 40+ years earlier.  If anything, the gap is still widening...

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Class, Culture, Taste. Reflections on Kitsch and High Art / Clement Greenberg

In reflection of the lecture given by Spencer Roberts on affect theory, I need to spend some time researching the works of Clement Greenberg, and try to apply it in my current study of the narratives of class culture and taste.

The interplay between subject and form is something to be explored, to switch the kitsch with the high art basis of some of my current old Masters paintings.  The object can be taken out of context in order to make the kitsch become the form. The question is how can an object be taken out of context such a way I can paint kitsch?

I think the answer to this is for me to put less into my paintings.

  I will continue to use the original old Masters paintings, but then I need to decode it further, then take abstract that the that can be connected to contemporary life.  For example, a plastic bag?  A shread of garment, a small cutting piece of curtain drapery?

Having thought about this concept of abstraction, and relating it to the works of the old Masters, such as Verrmeer, Rembrandt or Holbein, etc.,  I've decided to think about returning to the starting point of our analysis, and the work of Grayson Perry.

However instead of using a Rakes Progress as a series of reference I am thinking of William Hogarth's "Marriage à la Mode", which is a rich description of the upper-class during the 18th-century, and links nicely with Perry's original work that started this piece of activity off.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Reflections on the weekly Briefing... Art Studio Practice

At this stage of our education, the notion of "Study Groups" should now become a part of our "steering" towards our degree studies.  Which I appreciate is in fact part of our adult responsibility towards the approach of education.
During the next phase of our education, future steering will be much more limited, allowing us more freedom to create works of art from our own research and preferences.

A recent publication of a book called "Art School" by James Elkins is well worth purchasing.  He talks about Practice with the "c" and Practise with an "s" - and the difference between the two.  This shall be essential reading on future art courses I think...

I realise that my own potential can only be determined through the commitment to the work that I make.  Im also conscious that the assessment criteria for this degree is laid out as a kind of grid.  It uses very specific language, such as there must be sufficient research and also a body of work together with a level of commitment, personal self-discovery, as well as the finished and partially finished objects in order for the assessment to be correctly made.  This is not just about the breadth of research or the breadth of the object of art, but also has a great emphasis and equal emphasis on the depth of understanding of the work and the depth of engagement that the viewer may have of the work.  Therefore I agree that participation within the studio is vital.  This participation is all about mixing with other students who are undergoing the same transformations as I.  I will recommit myself to spending as much time as I can within the studio, but without detriment to my own personal life and relationships.  I know that as an individual I can sometimes become overcommitted to the point of almost being obsessive and I must guard myself but to peak too soon to apply myself to the exclusion of everything else that may be going on around me.

I think I need to revisit how I can illustrate by patterns of achievement, I imagination, I technical and research abilities, together with the progress that I am making, through these blogs.  I also realise I must show a relationship through the analysis and reflection in order to create a "storm" of artistic possibilities.  The thread of developmental ideas must be articulated through critical and contextual language, and is situated in this critical field.  I must push the boundaries through a deeper understanding of research and at the same time, engagement and commitment to it.  Through the journey so far I am beginning to realise that the tutors are not interested in just one piece of work, as an outcome to a terms study.  I desire to obtain a first degree us to be balanced, in that a first, is only obtained through a uniqueness based upon achievement in what I actually make.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Contemporary Art in Context, - Affect Theory. Principle lecture by Spencer Roberts.

The idea of affect is discussed a great deal in both art and design critique.  Here, we explore the emergence of the concept and its' present day usage.

Emotion, behaviour and power to move somebody is bandied about as a platitude in many different ways.-However there is a bunch of different meanings, depending upon who the thinker or critique of the work actually is.

The notion of affect can be illustrated quite well by a video created by two brothers but describe how the use of table full of mousetraps can be set off like a critical reaction or chain reaction.  (See the you Tube video of mouse trap reaction by slow Mo Guys).

This mouse trap chain reaction seems to be a useful mechanism to demonstrate the kind of things that occur as a change reaction of affectation.  This is partly to do with the expectations or tensions being set up before the actual event, then the event which appears to be cataclysmic, and then the subjectivity of time associated and with regards to it stretching and compressing.  In filming the sequence and the exposure of its temporality causes your own frame of mind to appear to slow down in time or speed up depending on the reaction.

An alternative example may be given by the work of John Malarkey.  He created the two hour film composed of 15 minute into Segments of the Bourne Ultimatum with sections of Bella Tarr's 'Satantango'.  By combining very fast-moving action with extremely slow repetitive motions interlaced with each other, creates the deep or reconfiguration of our own viewing thresholds.  From this Malarkey suggests the rich, to temporal actuality of films can be changed.

Affect theory can be studied-"the affect theory reader" by Melissa Gregg and Gregory J Seggworth is a good book to start with, and another "Parables of the Virtual" by Brian Massami goes into detail about movement, affect and sensation.

Baruch Spinoza, (1632 - 1677) the Dutch Philosopher, in his book entitled "The ethics" (1677) said "I shall consider human actions and the desires in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, planes and solids."

Spinoza was the first philosopher to fold everything up into a "one must" and then write about it in the very cold dry and curiously detached way.  Spinoza was writing during a period of very religious doctrine and culture, but this time was also at the start of the materialistic contemplation.  He wrote of "Deus Sive Natura" (God or nature), as such Spinoza was talking into a framing of one single conception of God and all nature as being as one entity.  The omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscience is often quoted as a singular entity in religion.

Spinoza also applies this to the body and the mind as an embodiment of the same substance.  Because Spinoza was writing specifically about the oneness of God and nature he was branded an atheist and heuristic and as such he was excommunicated from the Jewish faith as a result (Amsterdam 1656) which resulted in the Jewish word "cherem" (which means to be cursed, or ostracised, - 'a kind of ban, shunning, ostracism, expulsion, or excommunication) against him, effectively excluding him from Jewish society at age 23. His books were also later put on the Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books'. (Wikipedia.com, 2014).

During this time in Spinoza's life, everybody was at odds with him.  The theology theorists treating him like a heretic, but also the scientists of the day,  see him as a religious crank.

Nevertheless, over time, his theories and writings led to the idea of 'affect'.

There are two common uses of the word affect.

  1. In psychology, it is aligned to an expression as a synonym for passion, sentiment, mood, feeling or emotion.  
  2. The alternative use of the word affect is used in art.  In this case the notion is that we intertwine philosophy with psychology and focus on the 'transmission' through the media or channels etc.  


Therefore in art there has emerged in the sense to further traditions of the use of the word;
 the first one being affect as the embodiment of force that influences the mind , but then also
secondly, the notion taken from Spinoza, that thought is a route into the relationship of affect of body and cognition (thought in itself).

Affect, is 'a real worldly event that changes our cognition' (for example pleasure or pain); it is the way to think 'about' the object, in other words, it [the object] shifts our judgement.

Going back to those great thinkers in Greek philosophy, Aristotle and Plato, and then later Descatres Spinoza and many others later, have spoken and written in philosophical terms about affect.  Aristotle discusses pleasure and pain, our "condition" is affected and thus judgement shifts on the basis of an affect.

Descartes; - he suggests that affects (passions and emotions) are the "perceptions, feelings or emotions of the soul which relate specifically to it (the soul) and which are caused, maintained and fortified by some movement of the (animal) spirit.

But the greatest theorist seems to be Spinoza, who achived so much in seting the way for later 18th century enlightenment to come.

Much of both modern day media theory and advertising is derived from this tradition, which focuses upon imitation (mimesis).

In a further sense, this can also be split on to to further headings, that of tragedy and that of music.  Both of these, around those the human spirit.  Tragedy imitates actions which excite pity and fear, whereas music changes our cognitive feelings and moods stop

The criticisms of this notion, points out that there must be "an object" in order for the focus to be made upon it.  The music critique and composer Eduard Hanslick (1825 -1904) argues the point that there must be an object of attention.  However, he struggles in the explanation of "music" as one has to ask, where is the object in that?

In another commentary Clement Greenberg discusses avant-garde and Kitsch.  He states that Kitsch has little object of sources for affect to take place, whereas in avant-garde, such as Picasso's works of Cubism, the viewer is displaced from the familiar, and therefore transmits a new kind of feeling.  He compares the artist Reppin (the Kitsch) with Picasso.  The easy to view picture painting takes little effort from the viewer to interpret.  However the avant-garde Cubism is much less straightforward in how the affect can emerge.

The dispute over affect and post-modernity was theorised by Frederick Jamieson (the warning of affect in post-modernity).  Or example in Edvard Monks painting "The Scream", compared to Andy Warhol's "Diamond Dust Shoes" is considered in the same way that affectation (in humans) has waned since the advent of Edvard Monks "Scream" in which the image is an exemplary demonstration of the way that affect works in modernist images.

Brian Massuni, rejects Jamieson and suggests that in post-modernity, it is belief that has waned, but not affect.  Massuni thinks that if anything, we have a surface of affect.  The problem is that there is no cultural, or theory, or indeed a vocabulary that is specific to affect.  He goes on to suggest that the combining of the works of Bergson and Deleuze and Spinoza, to argue that "affect is a suspension of affect reaction circuits and linear temporality in a "sink" which may be called Passion".

This circuit, the centre of "in determination, and time" are as intertwined as a swirling vortex.  In affect theory, we get this blurred vision of what all the elements of the subject actually are.  These are completely mashed together.

So in summary, affect in its contemporary parlance and notion, when applied to an art object, is an extremely complex outcome from all our senses working together, initially from the starting point of sight, but equally as important are sound and hearing, smell, flavours and taste, and of course touch.  Each of our five senses can independently operate from the others.  Contemporary art often attempts to be linked these senses from the familiar.  Our experience, or perhaps our expectation of an experience, is therefore shifted and as a result, an unsettling response comes through.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Reflections on the past week... Project 2, Narratives of Class, Taste & Culture

I've spent a fair amount of time this week in the mode of both research and collecting.  The critical engagement is of course observation, and whilst our 'views' of class, culture & taste are often biased from where our own vantage point may be.  The 'starting point' has always been fundamental in the eventual location of class.  This is more simply explained as 'you tend to end up in the class that you are born into'...

Documenting the visual images of symbolism in class, culture & taste ( I shall abbreviate this to CCT), is highly engaging in itself. To scrutinise the way people, things, every-day objects are related to each other, but in particular, the status of the objects or 'things', whatever they may be, can link directly to the types of people, the class of people, who are within that particular environment, or are using the 'things' or objects.  At first, this sounds like gobbledegook, but when one applies a little thought, you can make that leap into another mode of observation.  This is the start of the narrative. It's like people watching on a grand scale, - something I think, most of us like to do,  but then doing the same with things and objects, so maybe I should call it, "thing-watching", or is it just plan old "observation" that I'm accidently trying to re-invent?

So take a random object... I'm looking out of the window at a bus... Who would be the types of people on the bus? what sort of person would be driving the bus? Where is it likely to be going at each terminus?  All of these enquiries can be assumed and equally, so can the answers to those questions.  They may be verisimilitudes, and assumptions can be wrong, but generally, the images of the mind, the imagination, is likely to be correct.  We have a cultural language, a vocabulary that can be drawn. It's more likely that the bus would have working class people using it. It's likely that the driver was born into the working class. The terminus points, particularly in town or city centres, tend to serve the greatest users of public road transport, so again can be safely assumed as being in a working class areas.   What an object then, is born into, the environment for which it's intended usage is going to be, gives an object or thing a kind of class position.  This is quite an abstract thought that has been going through my mind much of the last few months, much of the time.  I'm more aware of this underlying language, the symbolism and hence vocabulary of what's around me.

One can start to begin narratives through even the slightest snapshot of a view.  My reflection of Peter Doig's painting, "Grasshopper", (1990) Oil on canvas, illustrates this point, too, that a simple snap, like a click of a camera shutter, in any direction, at any time, can start a narrative.

Applying this imagination based on a narrative starting point through an imagistic, (perhaps in my own preferred 'painterly' way), - in other words through appropriate composition, is such a magical part of art's attractiveness, and particularly, the attraction of Contemporary Art that I feel is beginning to be understood by a much wider audience of viewers across all classes;  This is interesting as Art that was created say 200 years ago was generally only viewed by the privileged elite.  So, in this reflection, I'm making the case that art is at last becoming a class-free "thing" for which I'd set the boundaries up for in the beginning of this blog article.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Drawing with Projection

Another great morning of drawing with Prof. Swindell.  Today opened up a whole new dimension that I have considered to be a bit like cheating, however, when I found our that Vermeer and Rembrandt used similar techniques, something akin to the camera obscura, then if they can do it, then so can I...!

I'm talking about projection of outlines to get correct proportionality of subjects here.  With our latest technology, we can do this quite easily and effectively, making projection just another tool to add to the arsenal.  This technique has been particularly useful for my current project, which I've used to combine the Holbein "Ambassadors" painting with contemporary Ambassadors, Angelina Jolie and David Beckham...

We also talked further about the elegance of line, and I've found a little more pertinent research worth repeating here...

Achieving Line Variation and Line Sensitivity 

There are no specific "formulas" for achieving line quality and sensitivity.
The kind of line employed by the artist is a decision based on the artist's personal response to the form being drawn, and that response is undoubtedly influenced by a multitude of factors.
Lines vary tremendously in character, and each type of line has its own expressive potential.

Drawing Essentials by Deborah Rockman - pp. 52,53

What is meant by "Sensitive" Line?

Sensitive: having the power of sensation; ready and delicate in response to outside influences; able to register minute changes or differences; degree of responsiveness to stimuli; having power of feeling; of such a nature as to be easily affected.
Sensitive line is sensitive in its description of and response to both inner and outer contours or edges of an object.
Sensitive line is able to register minute changes or differences found along contours or edges.
Sensitive line is responsive to both subtle and not-so-subtle activity found along contours or edges.
Sensitive line has the power to convey a strong sense of volume, mass, form, weight, dimensionality, and space and can also convey a strong sense of feeling.
Sensitive line, in addition to its responsiveness to the information being described or interpreted, it is also sensitive in its own right, independent of subject matter.
Whether it addresses a particular form or exists independently, it can display various qualities including textured or smooth, dark or light, continuous or broken, curvilinear or rectilinear, heavy or delicate, thick or thin, and so on.
But ultimately sensitive contour line can be described as having three main qualities - weight, value, and texture.
Sensitive line is capable of describing a form with simultaneous regard for shadow and light, for position in space (foreground, middle ground, and background), and for perceived physical weight and the effect of gravity on a form.
The shifting quality of weight, value, and texture in line work invites various interpretations regarding light source, spatial position, and weight or grounding of objects.
The quality of line is determined by the artist's response to the medium being used, the surface on which the medium is being applied, and the subject matter with which the artist is concerned.

Gesture and Sensitive Line:

The use of gesture line allows the artist to capture a subject's movement, form, and character. There is a sense of power, excitement, and life within a form found just below its surface.
A gesture drawing, regardless of subject, portrays that essential form, position in space, and/ or movement of the subject absent of surface detail.
Gesture drawings yield critical underlying information in a nondetailed sense...

A Guide to Drawing by Daniel M. Mendelowitz, David L. Faber, Duane A. Wakeham - pp. 76,77