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

Friday, 31 October 2014

From Sketch to Image... and back. - (Contemporary art in context lecture).

As a contemporary artists we need to continuously review other artists, both in our own 'peer realm', generally and historically.  The aim of this module is to encourage a general habit to grow within us to critically assess what we see around us.  Through constant monitoring and recording, we will learn the skills of artistic research in order to keep our practice alive and vibrant.

To have an understanding of the real world, - to have the 'grip' of what is going on about us, and to be able to translate that as a contemporary artists is vital in order for us to be understood, by our viewers, our critics and if we deem to engage, the general public, (not that their opinion is necessarily always sought!).

When we are researching art, we need to pull out 'keynotes' and themes in order to demonstrate knowledge of contemporary art and the artists who create it, - and equally understand how it fits in to our current society.

This lecture is entitled "From sketch to image… And back" ...

We started with the question what is a sketch?
  • It is a test, a practice run or section.
  • It is a note, an aide memoir.
  • It is a method of quickly capturing a vision.  (It is important to differentiate a vision from an image too)...
  • it is a method of observing and interpreting.
  • It is a method to 'work something out' from the mind to the paper.
  • It is an action in order to prepare to create a more detailed image later.
  • Historically, there is a sense that the sketch is a pre-trial.  The role of the sketch as provisional starting point.  This is sometimes known as "Provisionality".
  • The Great Masters often used multiple lines in a sketch in order to gain understanding of correct perspective, portionality and proportion.
The qualities of "sketchiness" can be described in terms of roughness, speed, messiness, ambiguity, erasure, re-drawing, uncertainty, reassessment and 'provisionality'.

For a literary explanation of this;
Michael Newman (2003) Marks, Traces and Gestures of Drawing.  - He states;
 Of all the arts drawing has the potential to reduce to its smallest gap between meaning and non-meaning… Drawing because of its status as becoming (a lot becoming Mark, Mark becoming line, line becoming contour, contour becoming image, image becoming sign.  The direction of this movement always being reversible).  
This posits a continuum of sense, from one sense of sense to another… [Whereas sense is talked in terms of both the senses, such as touch, taste, sight, sound and smell and compared with the clarity of mind that "makes" sense].  This is part of the semiotic theory of drawing too.

Artistic examples include;
Frank Aurbach, 1960 - Portrait of Julia
Frank Auerbach; in his work there is lots of reworking, redrawing, smudging and reprocessing.

Marlene Dumas; in her work.  Everything is fluid and bleeds together. (See http://www.marlenedumas.nl/)

William Kentridge; His method is by redrawing the image, again and again, and again.  He created wonderful cartoon-like animations where the residue of drawing, by leaving traces, created a kind of animation in itself.  See the example Felix in Exile.


E.L.T.Mesens, Masque servant à injurier les esthètes
(Mask to Injure Aesthetes), 1929. 
Courtesy: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 
Image used from Freeze Magazine,  
Published on 14 th October 2013
by Kate Christina Mayne

Since the turn of the 19th to the 20th century and the advent of modernism, artists have often contested the continuum menioned above.  The Belgian artist Edouard Leon Theodore Messens in his work of 1929.  " Masque servant à injurier les esthètes"  ...(Mask to injure Aesthetes).

The nature of drawing is thus contested as a "provisional" for art studies, and no longer holds the importance that which it once had.   Much more emphasis is spent to understand the initial sketches as works in their own right, and not as "provisionalities" for later works.


The book the Vitamin D is an extremely useful reference for drawing practice.  Within it, there are a series of artistic reviews of approximately 500 words about each chosen current contemporary artist.

 - We will use these reviews as examples, in order for us to create our own critique and review of our own chosen current contemporary artist, - as our next exercise which will count towards our dissertation for this term.  The keys to these reviews, are about providing an initial overview of where the artist has perhaps come from both physically, (where born / schooled, living / situated) and in terms of his own influences on his works.

(NOTE; From these reviews, it can be deduced that you should include lots of adjectives and metaphors of explanation, and try to focus upon the context that the artist found himself within, - at the time of his own practice.  The reviews should contain some sentences of biographical evidence and it should state why the artists images or works, cause one (the viewer) to be drawn into them.  In other words, how is the work 'engaging'; is there a recurring motif or regular pattern; is there a regular narrative or a particular narrative that the artist has chosen from history etc.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Duchamp - The Large Glass drawing

I got a bit of time today to look and research into one of the "Grand-Daddies" of 20th Century Contemporary Art, and still quite a key influencer of it at present too.  I think his work is pertinent to investigate in the current 'drawing' project because of his shift from the traditional concepts of drawing.   The 'grand-daddy' I'm talking of here is one Marcel Duchamp...  It's often said that the three most significant influencers of contemporary art in the 20th century, who between them made a huge directional change from the classical artistic goal of representation (as per Immanuel Kant's treatise), were Duchamp, Pablo Piccasso and Henri Matisse.  I would completely concur with  that assertion too...

Marcel Duchamp was born in 1887, on the 28th of July (a birth-date he also shares with another significant attachment to me, that being "La veinteocho de Julio," which happens to be Independence Day in Peru, and it was the date that I also started my own tender independence on laving school, as the first day of my apprenticeship!)... He was born in a small farming village in northern France called Blainville-Crevon. The Duchamps lived in a large house, which complemented the status of Marcel's father, who worked as a council / semi-government official, known as a Notaire. The young Marcel, was the fourth of six children, - but a seventh sibling unfortunately died in infancy.

All the children in the Duchamp household were encouraged to participate in the arts, music and literature. Duchamp’s grandfather, (on his mother's side) was a successful businessman, an engraver, and also a talented artist (I can draw some similarity to my own maternal grandfather, William Davis, whom I think I perhaps get the artistic gene from. I still look towards him as my own role model as an artist, in addition to my own father as a businessman).

It is interesting to note that the four oldest Duchamp children all became artists of some sort. The eldest Gaston, was trained to become a lawyer, but instead became a painter, (perhaps better known under the name of Jacques Villon). The second son Raymond, was destined to become a doctor, but eventually became a sculptor, (known as Raymond Duchamp-Villon). Perhaps the more famous sibling of Marcel's was Suzanne, the younger sister of Gaston, Raymond and Marcel, who painted throughout her life, (she is better known under her married name of Suzanne Crotti after her second marriage).

It seems that Marcel intended to pursue a career as an artist / painter, following his schooling, and he engaged and experimented with the progressive styles of Dada-ism, Cubism and to some degree, (I think), confrontation with the establishment. One of his more famous works that could have landed him in trouble with the "art-elite" in Paris, was the submission of a "Ready-made" (as he called mass produced objects like these), to an art exhibition.  What he sent to exhibit was a urinal, usually found in public toilets, which was up-ended and called "fountain"....
(Some say that this might have represented the classical shape of the Fountain of Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) in the Piazza Navone in Rome; but my inteerpretation is that this may be a convergence of thought afteer Duchamp's submission),

The original Fountain by Marcel Duchamp photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 (Art Gallery) after the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit. Stieglitz used a backdrop of The Warriors by Marsden Hartley to photograph the urinal.

Anyway, back to my research....

The Large Glass Drawing, - Or more correctly, the name given by Duchamp was The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même).  This works is a baffling strange and highly unusual "Drawing", and, as such, is a great example of how drawing can be taken into a completely unexpected dimension or realm....

for a detailed explanation of it, see


References taken from;

Tomkins, Calvin, Duchamp: A Biography. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996.
Postmodernism, A Graphic Guide, 2013, Richard Appignassi & Chris Garratt et al, Icon Books Ltd, London.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Research of Gestalt Theory - a 101 guide

A brief explanation of what is meant by Gesthalt, (a word often used in contemporary art to describe
"the whole" painting or image or art object in terms of sensory perceptions and feelings of it)...

The theoretical principles are the following:
  • Principle of Totality—The conscious experience must be considered globally (by taking into account all the physical and mental aspects of the individual or object simultaneously) because the nature of the mind demands that each component be considered as part of a system of dynamic relationships.
  • Principle of psychophysical isomorphism – A correlation exists between conscious experience and cerebral activity. i.e. what we perceive and think, and what we see (or/and touch, smell, taste, hear).
Based on the principles above the following methodological principles are defined:
  • Phenomenon experimental analysis—In relation to the Totality Principle any psychological research should take phenomena as a starting point and not be solely focused on sensory qualities.
  • Biotic experiment—The school of gestalt established a need to conduct real experiments that sharply contrasted with and opposed classic laboratory experiments.  This is sometimes known as "in-vivo"... (i.e. in a 'real' situation,  from the Latin, literally "In the living body"),  OR in-natura, meaning in nature, in natural environments;  as opposed to in-vitro (i.e. As an experiment in a laboratory environment, with test tubes, sensors, like as in a dead laboratory animal etc... From Latin to mean "In the Glass", or under a microscope).  In Gestalt psychology, this signified experimenting in natural situations, developed in real conditions, in which it would be possible to reproduce, with higher fidelity, what would be habitual for a subject.
(Taken from Lecture notes, - William Ray Woodward, Robert Sonné Cohen – World views and scientific discipline formation: science studies in the German Democratic Republic : papers from a German-American summer institute, 1988 - Reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology#cite_note-8 )

In addition to the lecture last week by Dr Juliet McD, concerning form and ground, I've taken some references in contemporary art from research into Paul Klee, by Deanna Petherbridge, in her book The Primacy of Drawing. 2010, Yale University Press, New Haven & London.  In it (Page 204,  Paul Klee and holistic Gestalt), she quotes Klee as saying.  ...
"The primordial movement, the agent, is a point that sets itself in motion (genesis of form),.  A line comes into being.  The most highly charged line is the most authentic line because it is the most active.  In all these examples, the principles and active line develops freely.  It goes out for a walk, so to speak, aimlessly for the sake of the walk.
Paul Klee went on to say "Gesthalt is in a manner of speaking, form with an undercurrent of living functions.  The function made of functions, so to speak.  The functions are purely spiritual.  And need for expression underlies the… every expression of function must be cogently grounded. There will be a close bond between beginning, middle, and end… There will be room for nothing doubtful, since they fit so rightly."  
Petherbridge goes on to say,
For Klee like Rodchenco, line was the proto-genesis of form, but he developed a more much more sophisticated analysis of linear actions in his "contributions to the theory of pictorial form", the publication of lecture notes, written during his years of teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Drawing on the Environment, Week 5, planning the week ahead

The start of the fifth week of our project and a little pause to consider what I need to achieve over the next two weeks.  I know that throughout this project one of the key things that I need to demonstrate, in addition to providing a series of works in order to show my growing body of knowledge, are examples of works that show the deepening of my skills both conceptual, practical and of a technical nature;  The need to relate it to my understanding of professional contexts, to demonstrate my level of competence and to show that I can synthesise new works from the existing body of knowledge that I have gained so far; but I'm sure that at the end assessment stage I will need to provide some kind of self evaluation too, so I'm keen to document my feelings and thoughts over the next two weeks as much as possible.  This will need to be carefully managed as I also need to spend time in practice / production.

Ultimately, I want to demonstrate my progression in contemporary art and how far I have come on my journey.  This will help to satisfy both this formative project, and together with the next project (that we will start in two weeks time), there will be a further 'summative' assessment of both during the Christmas period.

It is easy to become too focused in one particular area of the work. I need to look again at the brief and demonstrate adherence and conformance to it.  I recall the brief is an exploration and perhaps a redefinition of what drawing is.  This was brought home to my imagination during my visit to the Leeds Gallery a few weeks ago to see the works of Gertrude Goldstein or "Gego" and her drawing examples that she committed to, - it seems, for the whole of her adult life, or at least particularly the life that she spent once she'd emigrated to Argentina.

Throughout the project thus far, I have tried the experiment in different forms of drawing and representation.  I realise that experimentation is all about development of the thesis, and in art, this doesn't need to be a sequential iterative adjustment.  I am free to make convergent and divert choices in my thinking, which means that I'm able to almost wonder across different foundations of drawing and representation whenever I see fit.

I still feel that I want to focus upon the geometric elements of St George's Square up taking on the challenge that has been forming in my mind of trying to map out each of the major paving areas in front of the railway station as encouraged me now to move from mid-scale designs to a much larger piece.

So today I have pasted a very large piece of the brainy drawing paper on the wall of my studio, which in old imperial terms I think is about the size of two elephants.  (You may think that I am joking, but a double elephant is in fact an old measurement of paper).   My intention is to recreate a helicopter view of St George's square, paying particular attention to the geometries and patterns of
the square 30mm tiles used as very subtle ornamental patterns within the square.  I will then try to create the spit map formation of chewing gum that has been discarded by people as they have walked across this area on their individual journeys.  In particular, I am interested in the concentration of chewing gum spirits around the dustbins which are very few and far between.  One can liken these to the original theme that I have not wavered from, which was that of star constellations.  In this sense the dustbins are almost like black holes in the universe, and the chewing gum is almost arranged in its topology similar to the galactic bodies being sucked into black holes by some form of immense gravity.

I recall the a  drawing I saw of the early work of Sol Le-Witt, found in the wonderful book, by Deanna Petherbridge, The Primacy of Drawing, ((2010) 2nd Print (2011), Yale University Press, New Haven & London, page 206 /207).

"Plate 143 Sol Le-Witt, wall drawing number 26, (1969).  Graphite pencil.  Washington, DC National Gallery of Art, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel collection Ailsa Mellon Bruce fund, Patrons' Permanent Fund and gift of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel 1991 reference 241.57".
Deanna Peterbridge states (Part 2, Chapter 7), in respect to comments about the "(Intermittent) Debunking of Affective Correspondences", and the notions within it.  She states;
"In the revival of austere geometries and conceptual programs that characterised the construction and systems artists in the 1960s and 70s, the curve was again suppressed in favour of the grid in reaction to the psychological excesses of Abstract Expressionism.  Just is hard edged lines are unpolluted by gestural excess of soft pencil or brush marks, so text, even when part of the work, is bleached of all affect.   This occurs for example, in the instructions for wall drawings by Sol Le-Witt (1928 to 2007), to be executed by others and accompanied by certificates of authenticity.  For example, the uninflected pencil diagram, that stands in for wall drawing number 26 (1969; plate 143) represents the permitted permutations of directional angles within the grid and is described as follows; A 1 inch grid covering 36 inch².  Within each 1 in.²,  there is a line in one of the four directions. As well as affect all chance effects are suppressed in this neutral geometrical notation, but a minimalist aesthetic governs the wall drawings, once they have been grafted anonymously on to large walls within the validating and aestheticising space of an art gallery.
I realise that in order to recreate this image of St George's square to such a large-scale it is going to be a very detailed and time-consuming task.  I am not fazed by that too much as I realise that I may not be able to finish the work in time for the assessment on 8 November, however, I will be able to select certain areas of the space order to focus upon it and hopefully provide enough of a visual engagement or a viewer to find both aesthetically pleasing, but also just as importantly of to engage with on a level of enquiry, curiosity and interest.

So I better get cracking and make a start!

Monday, 27 October 2014

A productive day in the Studio...

Today is the start of the fifth week of this project, and so I spent much of it within the studio, working on a "clean slate"  to some degree. (No pun intended, sorry!)...

On Friday evening before the weekend, I had pasted a large piece of paper to my studio space wall, after having removed the plethora and myriad of photographs stuck to it, depicting various scenes which I had found interesting around the town of Huddersfield.

It was a good idea.  To go through the action of pasting this large sheet of paper on my wall prior to going home, in the knowledge that it would be waiting for me on my return to the University on Monday morning...  This of course provided me with some anxiety, but also some creative latency of thought of how I could take this project forward during my weekend.  I'm a strong advocate of giving myself a task or moreover, giving my mind a task over a number of days, whilst I may be occupied in doing something completely different.  In essence, if I've been wrestling with a problem for some time, by putting it out of my mind, something seems to happen in my subconscious. When I re-approach the problem after a few days, my mind seems to be able generate a solution to the problem that may have been troubling me for some time previously.

Amongst the many books that I'm currently reading, there is one that particularly stands out for me and for which I have great resonance.  This is a book called "Classical Drawing Atelier, - a contemporary guide to traditional studio practice," by Juliette Aristides.  It was first published in 2006 by Watson Guptill Publications, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

One of the quotes within the book that I particularly found interesting and relevant to the current project, or at least my current thoughts about the project, was something written by Albrecht Dürer in his book The Art of Measurement, written the 18th-century.... ... He says,
  "Sane judgement abhors nothing so much as a picture perpetrated with no technical knowledge, although with plenty of care and diligence.  Now the sole reason why painters of this sort are not aware of their own error is that they have not learned geometry, without which no one can either be or become an absolute artist". (Albrecht Dürer, The Art of Measurement, 1525)
{quick tip, -to get the ümlaut over the letter u, use ALT 129}
(Further research suggests this quote was originally produced in 1523 as part of the fourth book of Dürer’s Manual of Measurement  (Manual Underweysung der messung, Nuremberg, 1523), according to Oklahoma University History of Science, Web Archives, http://ouhos.org/2010/08/18/melding-art-and-science-albrecht-durer-in-the-collections/)
I found this quote particularly poignant with regards to my exploration of 'line' in particular and the formation of parallel epigrams which geometrically need to be accurate in order to get a sense of depth and perspective.

I have also been drawn to complement the thoughts around geometry and art (Dürer) with Fibonacci's rediscovery of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras as he is sometimes credited as the first to discover the Golden Ratio, however, there is some evidence that the Egyptians may have known about it over 1000 years earlier.

With this knowledge of the golden ratio, which is approximately the sum of:
 1+square root of 5, all divided by 2,
... I used this in order to calculate and ascertain the rate of horizontal repetition within the grid of perspective to create the depth of field, that was suitably realistic within my drawing.

In order to strip all the superfluous detail away from a study that I made today,  I merely used the large format paper, to in effect, draw two tiles taken from St George's square, but in such a way to suggest both depth of field, perspective and the correct use of geometry, plus a little light and shadow on a pictorial object that I felt had sufficient Gestalt.  The result is shown above.  I particularly like the "wet" quality look of the combination of Burnt Umber, Cadmium Yellow and a little White on the painting. I mixed the colours to an absolute minimum on the pallet, as most of the actual blending was performed during the transfer from loaded brush to paper.  The effect is almost a wood type quality too, a happy, yet intentional, accident, particularly as I know what I did to achieve this effect and I can reproduce it.  By adding the tiniest bit of Ultramarine Blue, I was able to get the central darkened streak as a kind of staining effect, something that would be seen on a pavement through usual water and oil & muck staining.  I'm quite happy with the result, and the study has been a useful exercise.

Update - Browsing through the Tate Modern collection, I found the artist Carl Andre, and his 1969 Installation "Magnesium Square"....  THe following extract is taken from http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/andre-144-magnesium-square-t01767  on 10th  November 2014.

 144 Magnesium Square 1969 is composed of 144 thin magnesium plates, each measuring 12 by 12 inches, arranged into a square on the gallery floor. It is one of six works composed in an identical arrangement but in different metals by the American sculptor Carl Andre. The first three works in the series, made of aluminium, steel and zinc, were initially shown at the Dwan Gallery, New York, in 1967, while the other three, composed of magnesium, copper and lead, were produced for his 1969 exhibition at the same gallery. The materials used in the series are presented in their raw state, without physical alteration by the artist. Visitors are allowed to walk over this and the other sculptures in this series.
Compared with my flat 3D model of a similar narrative...

Ah well, convergence in thoughts and ideas are always bound to happen.  The similarity to my "Square" concept is quite striking!

James Elkin and types of knowing. Can art be taught?

Contemporary art in context lecture by Spencer Roberts.

Last week we discussed John Dewey's legacy of the early 1900s and his views on art education in the concept of art as an experience.  We also looked at the competition and tension between the ideas of the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College in the USA.

This week we will discuss the practices of teaching 'Art' in universities in the United Kingdom, considering the fragmentations of art practices now into so many disciplines such as Illustration, Fine Art, Sulpture, Graphic Design, Animation, Design, Product / Textile / etc.. which creates interesting tensions for funding and proper processes of tutelage between departmental divisions.

The educational reforms of the 1990s have allowed the shared funding across divisions of art and design.  Therefore the challenge that we face at the moment is how this money should be shared and divided between such departments. Someone who has theorised this issue, which has been developing in the last 15 to 20 years, (and particularly now that Art can be studied beyond Masters to Ph.D. level), is James Elkin.

James Elkin was trained as an Artist, - a practitioner originally and he believes that there is something fundamentally important to make sure that children and young adults are given the opportunity to learn in such a way to gain an artistic mind, but also he fundamentally does not believe that art can be taught - per se.

Elkins has written many papers and published two books on why art can't be taught.  Interestingly, these books shook much of the foundations of academy when they were reeleased, but it seems he has now turned the table on the university tutors, and the re-adjusted their outlook on education, which,  for the last 40 to 50 years. For example, within the current system, a lot of time is spent trying to achieve the criteria of the critique.  This fundamental goal of the Art Student to achieve has remained pretty much unchanged since the 1960s.  However, Elkins believes that there is something in the structure of art indication and validation that needs to be changed.  He believes that you should no longer look at a rational view of the critique, - much of the time it quite simply it does not make sense. He is also keen to understand the classical role of life drawing and its importance of learning the 'capability of drawing' during the 21st-century.

When Elkins view is considered, I agree that it does seem quite clear that the critique given by tutors no longer needs to be rational.   I also agree and understand that it does not need to meet the 'social dynamic' which goes on in a conversation between student and tutor.

The key books Elkins has published are;  Why Art Can't be Taught,    and also Artists with Ph.D.'s ?
 (Focus should be given to these two books that are most significantly important in this area).

Having been a painter and an art historian, Elkins has virtually created a manual for students going through the University process.

For just one example, he has made tape recordings of a number of 'tutor - student critiques' and due to their recording and subsequent replay, he is able to show how so many of these encounters are just completely nonsensical in the modern university environment!

Coming back to the process of learning and the content, Elkins is also interested in the theory of Art in the new "post-post-modern" world.  It is interesting that as a result of the earlier work of the Bauhaus and the Black Mountain College, some of the views of the early 1930s and 40s seem to have come full circle into favour again today.  Ultimately, the goal must be to create a structure and learning environment in order for students to obtain the best education.  It seems that those ideas of freedom of expression, but then juxtaposed with good art discipline founded on the old way of Master Guilds and Ateliers may be a possible way forward.

Elkins idealises the golden age of art, rejecting the contemporary, for the academically combined historical elements to form new work.  He problematises these issues, including the old notions of perfect proportion and the decorum; no distortion; working not too fast and not too slow; with no emphasis on originality; a focus on the ideal form etc.  These ideals come from very old historical methods which included the idea of purity through mathematics and the early approach to art education.  He sees this as merely academic.  He also suggests that all the classical skills that were once taught such as those in Romanticism, are no longer understood.

The post-modernist view, often on the shock value of current art,  means that we are not part of the art hierarchy once associated with  Academia.  However, whilst there is a 'freedom part', the results often challenges the status quo.  Nevertheless, Elkins does believe tutors should consider 'individuality'.  Therefore, as the subjectivity of art and its critique, is all about how an individual views the world and translates it through the process of creating, rather than how he performs the critique, then the marking regime can and must be developed into something quite different than what it is today.  Taking the point further then, ultimately, Elkins argument is "What is there then, for art schools to teach us now?"

Consider the education process in the Bauhaus.  Maybe, the "core tension" of Freedom of expression but with strong boundaries of discipline in the Bauhaus was appropriate.  After all, this discipline, but also sense of freedom, could be useful, but with a bit more emphasis added on the Black Mountain College ethos too, which was to increase an individuals "sensitivity to phenomena", and ultimately in I think what were Joseph Albers words, it teaches people how to see.

Elkins brings up the idea that 'studio-based' teaching is often much about conversations between tutors and students and students and students, which is informal and very wordy.  It describes this activity is not coming to terms with the complexity of art education in itself.  Elkins even suggests that this 'hazy' low-level conversational engagement actually creates very little.  In fact it actually stops students from producing work.  [I might be inclined to agree with this from my own observations too]  Interestingly, Arnold Wiesse in the 1950s also talked about how art education may not have been working even then!

One of Elkin's further visions, talks a lot about pluralism and how artistic material is used today.  He totally advocates the sharing and multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration that goes on in modern universities.  Indeed to explore this further, another keen observer of art education, Marshall McLuhan, in his writing also goes further to say that even the materials themselves have an agenda in today's' world.

In order to try and achieve a successful academic model in art education, by having various research departments such as sculptural research or drawing research or whatever, this will provide the vital up-to-date concepts and information to feed into lectures during a university degree or Masters course.

In a nutshell then, Elkins is basically, very much against the idea of the critique for tutors to provide students in art school, which has been much of the agenda for the last 40 or 50 years.

So the question is what can be taught?  Well, Elkins thinks that with the current model, "mediocre art can be taught only". - He doesn't know how it works, but he feels that the environment is extremely important, as is our relationship with technology and computing as we progress further into this need for education.  He kind of likens this to the idea that claims that cancer is being caused by certain foods, even though there is perhaps little evidence for proof, against some of the claims against those foods.

So what else can be taught?
Well, thankfully there is plenty of scope, such as criticism, theory, philosophy, but also a kind of sophistry of 'visual acuity' and technique.  A role to be gained in this contemporary way of teaching in the university environment.  When we get down to the essence of the problem, it is really about non-verbal learning-expressionism, together with self-control self-knowledge and self-expression.

What Elkins does in the critiques of his own, is that he relates to the rhetoric, but also a kind of psycho drama and he provides instead, various options to be used as tools by the student.  He suggests, for instance, a tactic of keeping quiet when a tutor is asking a student about work.  He recommends that confrontation simply doesn't work.  He recommends the positive mediation is effective.  It suggests that both  tutor and student explore the concept of lightness, for instance, and the difference between lightness from Kitsch.

So in order for the critique the work he suggests a more harmless refinement of things.  Tacit-ness, Freudian psychology and similar approaches is what Elkins sees as an opportunity for the student to get, in other words correct and appropriate validation etc.  

He also wants students to re-engage with what hasn't been talked about in University education recently, such as the idea of life drawing, for instance.

The hidden layers in the real world can be played out in an art studio.  As a result, these encounters change our schemas of artistic freedoms and subjectivity.  It is these freedoms and changes of subjectivity which we may focus on at the next lecture. In the meantime, it is recommended that reading of Elkins books are vital, and apart from the experience and learning they bring, they are also very useful as a humorous manual for all art studies.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Drawing & Mark making Tutorial & Summary of the fourth week

I've been a little lost at times this week, but also (how's this for an oxymoron!) I've had moments of almost epiphany type clarity...

My one to one discussion with my Prof. on Friday was much more constructive and inspiring than the critique I received last week.  While it is extremely valuable for someone to receive a strong challenge to the thread of work that one is trying to achieve, (It's always so vital to "test" a thread or direction of work), unfortunately, my own frame of mood at the time made me 'react' rather than respond.

The reaction (not with my tutor at the time I'm glad to say, and as mentioned already, it was quite correct for her to challenge my direction), was for me to close down a far bit during the last. I was no longer in a place of clarity, but really doubtful about anything I had done on the project. My production suffered a I had lost the momentum and sense of purpose and inspiration.  Not a good place to be in the fourth week.

However, a trip to the galleries of Liverpool helped to re-establish my vigour and re-kindle my enthusiasm.  Whilst I've blogged about the Tate Liverpool back in September (after a day trip my wife and I made one Saturday), I haven't had much chance to return to see the Walker Art Gallery which was really useful.  It is here that the John Moores Gallery is sited within.  The John Moores annual competition and prize provides a great platform for new contemporary works to be exhibited and viewed by anyone.  I think it's probably a closer reflection to what is really happening in the current art scene, and I believe it doesn't perhaps suffer from some of the stuffiness of the Turner prize exhibits which "Joe Public" finds particularly hard to understand at the Tate Modern in London. (Apart from the fact also that it's not directly under the control of Sir Nicholas Serota either, and has it's own body of trustees).

I found the Friday tutorial very useful as Prof. Swindell provided an interesting discussion and lecture on Composition.

Composition in classical art discusses perfect harmony or the yin and yang balance of "things".  Often this includes aspects from Fibonacci and the ancient Greek systems of architecture, introduced by Euclid and Plato and Pythagoras.  We briefly discussed the concept of the golden ratio and how it is often found in classic painting together with the rule of thirds, which is still a useful device in both painting and photography today.

Modernism, however, is based on the grid.  The exploration of balance and imbalance.

Prof Swindell is a strong advocate of making sure that the creation of our pieces of art, is in fact, 'a performance'.  - He thoroughly recommends that the artist stands up to perform his work.  Illustration and painting is active.  Therefore, by sitting down,  this is too passive, and will not produce an active result.

He went on to provide an example based on five pieces of squared paper, which were stuck on part of the studio wall.  The example was to divide up the pages with simple straight lines by using masking tape.  The goal in this exercise was to bring attention of the eye, to create work where the question is asked what pulls people in to the painting?

He also stated "Work the edges", the edges of the piece of art being created are always critical and often forgotten.

Once the straight lines had been created, he started to carve into the edges by using a Stanley knife or scalpel and peeling away parts of the masking tape to expose the paper underneath.  Interestingly within moments, it could be seen that the pieces of art he had made were easily recognisable as a modernist style.

Further advice was "Always create a series of paintings or a series of works"...  There should be a coherence of pieces that interact with one another, a bit like the members of a family.  In other words, these pieces start to work together individually and in combinations.  One can find the stronger pairs or stronger pieces and weaker pieces when juxtaposed between one another.  Generally, this can be considered as a "family of ideas" that are connected to one another.

Later, during my own critique and one-to-one, on the work against the project to date, Prof. Swindell encouraged me to "always be doubtful".  He recommended (much against my own intuition and schemas that have developed over the last 40 years), to say don't have a finished plan, but be contemplative, be poetic.  It is natural that people desire validation when work is being viewed, but in reality it doesn't matter.  Remember the mantra that you can't please all of the people all of the time.

  • Nevertheless, be consistent, make a series of things.
  • Be productive, explore materiality.
  • Create a tactile intelligence.

His final advice was "that it is okay for one to strive towards the fundamental ideas that you originally came up with, but it is also essential to explore all the produced possibilities along the way as your own art is being created".
Interestingly, I realised that within this project,  what I am doing is really about the grid and the exploration of it together with the exploration of circles within that grid. -
 I can consolidate my ideas simply, into these two devices.

... I must keep exploring that notion, I realise it's not important to complete a set final piece, but it is important for me to explore and play, and continue to be contemplative.  A great tutorial and a great critique. - Thanks!

I also found a really good article through browsing some work of a young Scotts-Danish artist, Leah Robb. She has written an inspiring article about contemporary art critique, which I found highly encouraging, and would recommend the read to anyone else looking to find understanding of contemporary art and illustration like myself.  A sample of her book can be found here> ( http://leahrobb.com/test-scribd-pdf/ )

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Grayson Perry - The Vanity of Small Differences - Review

“The Vanity of Small Differences”

displayed at Temple Newsam, Leeds.

Attention seeking, coarse, kitschy aesthetic, childlike, facile, “playing to the gallery”: these are some of the words and phrases that are sometimes levelled to the artist Grayson Perry (Telegraph Newspaper; Various Articles; by Richard Dorment, Alastair Smart, Ed West, October 2014).  
I think this is given very unfairly. Indeed, far from it.  I think Grayson Perry, totally deserves his status as one of the leading contemporary artists in the UK.  It is true that Perry engages directly to explore the absurd. He does parody for instance, the feminine alter-ego character he keeps, of Claire in his rather weird cross-dressing, but nevertheless, attention-getting publicity agent  (I wonder how much he might have been influenced by the works of surrealism and Salvador Dali, whilst he was developing his artistic own oeuvre).  Regardless of his motives though, or his background influences, I genuinely think that his work is original, thought-provoking and an accurate recording of contemporary life.  

My following review helps to position; ‘why’.

I had the opportunity today to go and see some of his most recent tapestry works, “The Vanity of Small Differences” which is a new(ish) departure from his more usual painted pottery, that Perry is already famous for.  These are a series of six images, created on a grand scale as independent wall hangings, and in my opinion, have been cleverly situated at the very formal stately house of Temple Newsam, located just a few miles to the south east of the city of Leeds.  

Temple Newsam was originally recorded as occupied in 1086 or so and the dwelling has had many subsequent changes and influences made upon its architecture, since then.  As an early example, the Knights Templars came to the area, Nuehusum, (perhaps from the German ‘New Houses’ or Husum, a town in Friesland, Northern Gerrmany) around 1155 and influenced much of the foundation of the buildings (together with the area's name, which now includes the word Temple as a designation).  Later, the house was passed under King’s decree to Thomas, Lord Darcy, and thus became a base for nobility, aristocracy, the rich and the elite for many centuries since. The topographical setting of the house, which is formal and stately upon a knoll, is carefully positioned with glorious views of sweeping meadows and mixed woodland and bears all the hallmarks of a landscape crafted by the famous 18th Century landscape architect, (Lancelot) Capability Brown.  These views are still retained, even though to travel to it, one ostensibly has to drive through 20th century housing estates from either site. The importance of this setting will become apparent shortly...

The exhibition and its’ associated setting of Perry’s tapestry works, is in a homage to the 18th Century artist, William Hogarth, and his series "A Rakes Progress" of 1733.  
A Rakes Progress originally started out as a suite of eight paintings (Now in the Sir John Soanes Museum, London), and explores the life of ‘Tom Rakewell’  its lead character, following the death of his father and his resultant inheritance, through Tom’s early life of hedonism and excess, though to his fall into debt, poverty, madness and eventually, the gutter.  (Hogarth later rendered the original paintings as engravings).

Before I had even got into the house at Temple Newsam, I noticed an exhibition advertising board, which had a scene taken from one of Perry tapestries, depicting a man and a lady walking, in a large sweeping open field with an image of a stately home behind them in the distance.  Before even setting eyes on Perry's works,  I’d already figured that this representation had been taken from the famous Gainsborough painting of about 1750, which depicts Mr and Mrs Andrews, of noble and ‘well heald’ aristocracy, in a painting expressing their highly elevated status in society. (I mentioned my notion of Gainsborough to my wife, who happened to also be in the earshot of an exhibition steward, who I’m glad to report, congratulated me on my recognition).  This original and popular Gainsborough painting has since been used in the past few decades to articulate the image of the ‘landed gentry’, the bourgeois, and perhaps the ‘capitalist and controlling’ society of the 18th Century. Clearly, this icon or motif, was also an intended contemporary message by Perry too.

(Due to copyright observance and restrictions, I am unable to reproduce the images of the tapestries here. However they are viewable on the Artfund.org website here).

Perry's first tapestry entitled “The Adoration of the Cage Fighters” immediately struck me with similarity to classical paintings of the Madonna and Child, and even its name suggests a link to the classical paintings of the adoration of Christ.  However, in this tapestry image, Christ has been replaced with a new subject of Perry’s study and that is of the baby Tim.  It is “Tim Rakewell” that acts as Perry's leading figure of the Sunderland boy born into a poor surroundings and poverty, being made good, rich and almost (but not) aristocracy of the modern age.  I notice too, a dog, which is a reference to I think Hogarth’s own dog, Trump, which appears in all the tapestries.

Perry's second image in the series, is called “The Agony in the Car Park”.  This depicts an image which reminded me of Christ on the cross, with perhaps the two Mary's, (Mary Magdalene and Mary the Virgin Mother) at the feet of Christ on the crucifix.  The reference image that I found which is most similar to this is from “Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John, and Mary Magdalene”, by Sir Anthony van Dyck (c. 1628-30).  
This is a very powerful image, often represented in many biblical paintings, and in my opinion is somewhat mixed with the ‘official’ Perry reference which is said to be “The Agony in the Garden” by Giovanni Bellini (circa 1465).  I’m slightly suspicious of the reference, as after my own further investigation I also felt that Perry may have been influenced by an image for the two women from another very similar scene from “Christ on the Cross with Saints Mary, John the Evangelist and Catherine of Siena” by Marco Pino [Italian (Neapolitan), before 1520 - 1587/1588 (Reference source; - Getty Images).

The third and fourth tapestries chronicle the rise of Tim Rakewell through University, his success as a computer geek of the contemporary age, together with the trappings of maturity, and what I would call “The bling of now”...  There are a wealth of little social cues and status messages in all the images that point to modern living, his working class roots, elevation to Middle Class and attempts of the same to get into the Upper Class (but never quite able to ‘make it’ through lack of breeding or pedigree, sometimes called ‘The Nouveau-riche’ as a label of mild derogatory vulgarity and coarse extravagance).

As Tim reaches the lofty status of ‘being rich’, (that so many members of our misguided, celebrity driven culture aspire to), Perry depicts him in the fifth Tapestry as the worried landowner (in the pose of Gainsborough’s Mr & Mrs Andrews already mentioned in my opening comments).  He and his wife show all the wrinkles of the modern ailments of stress, depression and perhaps simple boredom of one another due to their own self-isolation.

The final and sixth tapestry is a depiction of an old and withered dead ‘Tim’, having been hit by (what Perry calls) a “middle class, middle age white man’s” ‘status’ car.  Tim is lying at the side of the road, (or the gutter, viz, Hogarth’s ‘Tom’), his new young and perhaps “trophy” bride looking on stunned, at Tim’s untimely demise. Again, the image is loaded with symbolism (far too many to go into detail here in this short review). One that leaps out poignantly for me is a representation of Tim Rakewell on the cover of “TIME” magazine.  At first glance, it looks like Tim, but with a little scrutiny, I am convinced it is also based on a combination of the faces of Larry Ellison, (who happens to be my Ex-Boss) - The not so well known, nevertheless, probably one of the richest men in the world with a personal wealth in excess of $50 Billion. (He is the founder and boss of the Oracle Corporation (Software company)); together with of course, the more recognisable Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft with an estimated nett-worth in excess of $80 Billion, (another major global Software provider of our time) (References taken from Forbes Magazine, Sept. 2014).  I would be surprised if the combined features of Larry & Bill in the character ‘Tim’ are not completely intentional on the part of Grayson Perry, devised through his detailed research.  In all the tapestries, Perry creates the images in his typical simplified cartoonish style.  It is often this, the unsophisticated contemporary style that gets the “childish” label.  When criticised this way, I think maybe, the critical viewer is missing the point. What Perry is doing is just recreating the easy style of ‘animation like’ images that we have been bombarded and surrounded with since the 1920s with the advent of Mickey Mouse et al.  These are just simple icons to help convey the narrative that Perry wants to convey.  Remember too, Hogarth was also a cartoonist...

One of the traditional roles of an artist has been that of a social commentator or recorder and as such, all art can be considered “contemporary” whenever it is being or has been created.  Grayson Perry performs this particular role precisely with humour and accuracy in an easy way that is easy for the viewer to understand and contemplate.  But he also provides a much deeper commentary, he brilliantly places it with tacit references to the art of the Renaissance and beyond.  By doing so, he appeals to both the public at large, but very much also, the academia and professional critics of the Art world who are sometimes criticised themselves for being out of touch with “the common man”.

I would thoroughly recommend anyone with an interest not only in art in general, but also in contemporary sociology and cultural studies to view Perry's work.  The example cited here is a true reflection of all of that and more.  It provides a genuine insight to living in the 21st-century together with representation of the accoutrements of life.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Bauhaus & Black Mountain Colleges

Notes and interpretation from a lecture by Spencer Roberts.

The 'framework' of the Bauhaus movement.

  • -This framework came from the work of John Dewey in 1920s,
  • - we can Learn a lot about the educational frameworks of contemporary art establishments and teaching schools quite well from these early movements.
  • - Furthermore, this demonstrates the concept of multiplicity discussed in an earlier lecture particularly well and we can look deeper into the consolidated views of the 1800s - 1900s, and how that foundation of practice, particularly post 1850s, turning into the fractured way of the early 20th century.

From Henry Bergson's book, he explains..
        "The concept of Multiplicity can be shown [physically], by spreading your hand and really focussing hard, pushing all your energy into your little finger.  keep pushing the imaginary energy, keep on...".
        By doing this little exercise, you can imagine a feeling of energy [starting] in your little finger, however, overtime all your muscles will get involved throughout your body in the excercise of pushing, pushing pushing.... All these singular feelings concentrated and combining together. This has a 'feeling' in itself, both 'experiential' and 'interrogate-able' tensions, which provides an excellent example of Multiplicity and what it means as a form of analogy.
        For example, look at the film; "This is what democracy books Like" (Made just before 9-11 Attack on the New York Trade Centre).  This is a classic example of Multiplicity.
What the makers of this film were trying to say was that the idea of democracy is really about people disagreeing things. The essence on point of the film is to express a lack of consensus / a lack of unity, which illustrates further the concept of multiplicity.  On otther words, - we can either emphasise the 'unity', or alternatively, we can focus on the 'disorder', within the complexity of multiplicity. In this example it is easy to start unpicking the core components of it.

The idea that we need to accept an account of a "ordinary" experience is to be explored...
But Dewey's argument, - that one has to fashion their own world around them, - "working with intelligence" as he said, with pragmatic ideas rather than rational and historical references.

  • Dewey's "looseness" in how we can experiment in things 'however we want', 
  • are put into practice at the Bauhaus, Germany, 
  • and also the Black Mountain College, USA, 
  • but they are both very different in the way Multiplicity is practised.

Starting with the Bauhaus (which was first to be established as a new school for Modern / (At that time, contemporary art). It deals particularly in building & Architectural experimental methods.

  • The Bauhaus philosophy and teaching practice was hugely influenced by Joseph Albers, but also by Lasso Mahony-Nagy.  It was originally Johan Itten who provided the initial agenda for the school, which was based on "The direct interaction of us in the material world", 
  • In other words, we learn to appreciate and do create art through "A Tactile" experience; - By pulling the materials together to create a perception from the filtered out experiences;
  • This "filtered" approach, together with lots of experimentation, came through significantly at the Bauhaus and argues that 'new experiences' coerce and come from these filtered tactile singularities. 
  • New sensations and singular sensational experiences therefore come as a new "sharpened and refined view of the world."... -This was Itten's legacy.
  • It should be noted at this point, (during the early 1930s, Joseph Albers was at the Bauhaus school and was indeed one of Itten's students.

        Both were very interested in colour theory,
"Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon, -it is at the very heart of painting..." ( said Joseph Albers).

  • Albers is interested in the relativity of colours, and the phenomenon of simultaneous contrast (see the colour experiment field..)
  • Albers "Field of relations" provides various interactions of colour forces. 

 The Bauhaus used to set various experiments which Albers argues was stalest teaching people to see. He had hard time with many of the American Expressionists at the time, and didn't agree with the concepts of emotions and moods etc
Lasso Mohony-Nagy, another key tutor and influencer at the Bauhaus explored the aesthetic and communicative properties of material through which the Bauhaus created a DESIGN philosophy.

        Then the war happened.... -So Albers upped sticks and emigrated to the USA,  to both study and teach at the Black Mountain College;- 

The Black Mountain College;

  • The BMC was originally a humanities school,.. 
  • John Dewey had direct involvement of the college and visited the community several times.
  • They focussed on 'collaborative community' and upon "the process", rather that the outcome or results.
  • there was no grading structure either, what later came out of the school was very different from the Bauhaus.
  • Buckminster Fuller - created his first geodesic designs there. 
  • John Cage also attended and performed his" first happening performance art in 1952.
  • However the Links between institutions continued with the focus on experiential and materialistic techniques.

        BMC was a much more open environment and had a stronger attachment to the culture
of the day.
        - One point to note about that particular era in the BMC was that of Albers and Eva Hess (who attended Yale).  They had an interesting relationship to say the least. - He loved her work, but she found him overbearing and difficult, and yet she learned so much from his attitude towards experimentation, For example, see the n Anti-form exhibition which included her and Richard Serra works.

( See also, Cy Twombly, Stanley Vearndeek and other students of BMC).

Both key institutions that shared about 75% of their thoughts, however they made very different impacts on future art.  The Bauhaus was about learning, sharing and propagating Art disciplines whereas BMC was really a school of art which encouraged it's participants to truly learn about freedom, and freedom of expression.

  It is particularly interesting that both of these schools seemed to have a direct and total connection to the prevailing culture of the counties in which they were situated.  In other words, Bauhaus stood for German cultural desires of discipline, whereas the BMS stood for America's anti-comunist, and anti-faschist liberalism and so ultimately, freedom.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Figure & Ground- Contemporary Art in Context Lecture.

Regarding Figure & Ground  / Continued from Last weeks' lecture.

The act of looking is not a passive process.  A simple reduction by abstraction or by using slitted mask that overlays an image, can produce a very different perception of an object.  I loved the image given to us in our lecture yesterday...

For example, what do you see to your right?

Is this the image of a silhouetted man or woman in a high rise tower, raising her window curtain, looking out on to a world, - as miserable as sin, totally depressed, incarcerated in this concrete tomb some 60 feet above the ground at night, with nothing to live for?

The slitted mask simply obscures, and to some degree abstracts, the viewers perception of reality....

... Or is the image simply that of an innocent of a cup of coffee being poured, (with an overlay mask of course), that makes it look like the symbol of the person being incarcerated?

I loved the example given to us at last weeks' lecture, so I have tried to re-create it here...
It was a good example of this mis-perception of truth, and how our minds can be 'seduced' from the innocent image, into the complete abstract.

The point of this test, "what do you see" - a cup of coffee/tea, ... (in which there was minimal information that we began to make sense of), even though the indications of meaning were already erroneous.  When we see something, we anticipate what it may mean, and then convert that into a perception.

By organising what is 'limited information' into the whole, (the Gestalt (a German word for 'shape or form') as it is called, which derives its name from early 20th-century psychology) we perceive the world and immersed environment around us, and our own existence within it.  [See the work by Richard Gregory 1998, "Eye and Brain", by Oxford University Press; published in Oxford and Tokyo].

Until the early part of the 20th-century, psychologists assumed that the perception of colours and shapes could be analysed purely in terms of component parts.  It was around about this time that a particular group of psychologists who were exploring the concept of Gestalt started to challenge this.  They put forward the comment that
"the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".  
In other words, they drew attention to the relationships of objects and experiences, together with the context of it also.  The concept of 'differentiation' is extremely important within this profile of Gestalt too.
"Imagine the experience of a newborn baby, for instance, it must consider that the child's state as a whole", according to Koffka's book "The Growth of the Mind: an introduction to Child psychology", Koffka, K., 1928, 2nd edition.  London; Kegan Paul, (first edition, 1924).

When referring to images of 'Figure & Ground', in essence, 'Something stands out'.  - For example,

In another example of visual trickery, These lines drawn in parallel appear to have different lengths.

We read these lines based on our intention and our intentionality to perceive.  (See the work provided by Richard Gregory 1998.  In his book the psychology of Seeing).
In reality, each of these three lines are exactly the same length. I know, because I drew one, and then copied it twice to make up the set of three!  Another famous example of this "misperceiving" is seen in "Plato's cave" which is a mythical Greek story about making a mistake when viewing something within the shadows of the cave.

What happens is that your brain, (and studies show that this occurs (in the conflict of the) left brain hemisphere and whilst your right hemisphere is engaged with the image only), the left side, independently comes up with a hypothesis from the image it has received upon each of the retinas from your eyes.  Once your left dominant brain hemisphere has decided upon the hypothesis (which in other words, is just an assumption of course), then that assumption then becomes a real perception, - and then, if that perception is left in situ. un-challenged and unchecked, it then becomes "the fact".  When we describe Art as a process searching for the truth, (or in the case of the famous quote I recall from Pablo Piccaso, that "Art is a lie, which makes us realise the truth"), we can easily relate the whole notions started by Kant, (also searching for his version of "truth"), which has occupied not just Philosophy and the art world, but also psychology, physics and even astrophysics amongst so many other disciplines, ever since.

Other analysts of psychology and human perception (particularly those studying artificial intelligence), state that 'the input data remains the same, while the interpretation can vary significantly'. Bruce,V. & Green, P.R. "Visual Perception: Physiology, Psychology ... & Ecology".

Francisco Varrella, in his book of 1992, Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom and Cognition (published by Stanford University press), in which, he says;   "In short, the world is not something that is given to us, but something we engage with, we move, we eat, we touch etc within it", and therefore our perception is crafted by all of those interactions each day, hour, minute, second and moment we exist.

Figure and ground representation is used extensively in art.  Traditionally, this is been a key feature of it up to the 20th century, but if now, one was to look at the works of Allan McCollum's work "A collection of 30 drawings" he seems determined to turn this notion on its head.
-  Alan McCullum has also created a Tate video called "Over 10,000 individual worlds" which is very much worth watching, -  in which he creates an 'alphabet' of objects and moulded combinations,  in order to create a 'vocabulary' which shows mass production, and how even within a world of mass production, one can create uniqueness in an individual object.
These drawings, based on the original objects that he moulded in a mass production style, have individual identity and McCullen has created them in which, in my opinion, can build likened to a heraldic shields of symmetry.  These devices were used extensively in the past as exactly that, symbols of identity.  The association of a symbol to a family name is pure fabrication of course, but it's strength of identity is wholly born out of our perception and our ability to associate.

I found this lecture on Figure and Ground to be highly encouraging.  I am now thinking of ways to recreate a more stimulating perception, but perhaps something distorted, if not detached from the real.

Thoughts and reflections upon the architecture, St Georges Square.

Whilst I have been focusing on themes of representation I thought it would be useful to step back and think about the resonance of buildings how they are used, for instance, this could be for working in, or living in, and it is the context in which it is used which makes a particular building important.

The Huddersfield Railway Station has once been called "a Stately home that houses trains."

Whilst I have done quite this an extensive bit of historical research into the context, the events, politics, rugby league etc and including the thoughts of the transient space or liminal space, I've spent time watching people, in different ways, such as types of movement, individuality and so on.

Do people choose a nice subject because of its purpose, or because of its aesthetics?

Perhaps others have chosen to study the market or other purposeful buildings within these, you can detect the vibrancy of the groups of people.  The ambience of trade etc. etc.
 But I keep coming back to the concept of the space in front of the station.  Huddersfield railway station was built around 1850 during the height of the Victorian era.   Huddersfield Library and Gallery is marking the age of the 1950s and the Modernist, whereas the Queen Street Market was also made as an architectural statement to but this was during the post modern era.

Perhaps I should refocus on St George's square and upon the idea of plotting the chewing gum.  I need to create a process.  It creates an element of chance, but controlled. Perhaps I could set some rules, that someone else could follow?  However at the moment the concept of using chewing gum to recreate star constellations seems to be very thin.  Maybe I could creates the plot in a different way by marking and charting peoples spit? In other words a Spit Map.  This could be considered a map of something useful.  There is a sense of ephemeral reality in chewing gum.  There is a transitory stage or transient existence in chewing gum, simply because the local Huddersfield Council removes the gum time to time.

Liaden Cook, during our tutorial today suggested I looked at the Cabinet magazine has within it.  This last month was an article about constellations.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Trying to elaborate on the concept of "line"

Today marks the middle of the third week of this project.  Some time ago I created a useful little chart in order to show the activities that I needed to perform it each stage of the project.  I'm now firmly at the place where I need to be thinking very much more about the narrative and the psychology in relation to this space.

 I am continuing to make concept piece which is a parallel eppipigram.  I have designed the piece to look as though it is a paved area in perspective, although in reality it is flat against a two-dimensional plane.

It is interesting that my photography further enhances the effect three-dimensional object.  I also wanted to capture the illusion of water on the flag stones, which I simply achieved by using a modest application of white acrylic paint.

In consideration, I seem to have produced an almost 'foolish' finished work.  I think I am still using the effect of drawing or painting to get a likeness.  I'm still 'transcribing the visual' of the drawn language in trying to conform to my ideas of the 'gestalt' or the whole thing.  I am conscious again, that I need to move away from the relationship of the human space within the classical mass of architecture in St George's square.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Contemporary Art in Context - Dawn Mellor, Artist.

This "Guest Lecture, Contemporary Art in Context" by Dawn Mellor, was an additional bonus lecture as part of the series given from visiting artists and art experts to the University of Hudderfield.

Dawn Mellor originally studied fine art at St Martins in the Field, London, and later, was admitted to the Royal College of Art to complete her BA (Hons) degree.  Dawn then studied and obtained her Masters degree at the RCA.


Dawn's work generally looks at figures from public life.  She has created a series on celebrity and stardom, but instead of focusing on the glory and fame that celebrity produces,  she focuses on the darker side of these characters.
 For example of exhibition of 'The Conspirators' was actually based on figures of the elite in the art world.  

Another exhibition entitled "The Actress" is about Helen Mirren, but instead of looking at the "hopeful aristocratic" side that Helen seems to publicly aspire to, it actually looks at the somewhat degenerative "Soho based" side of her earlier works as an aspiring actress during her early works.

Dawn has had two recent exhibitions of particular note; -   One is at The Gallery Space, Southend, curated by Andrew Hunt.  Basically he wanted Dawn to look at the local area and connect it with style and images to Southend and produce a commission accordingly.  Very cleverly, Dawn thought deeply about this and "wondered what was the dumbest thing to look at" in Southend.  She chose to look at previous artists and actors from the region.  In particular Helen Mirren seemed a good source of material, as she has played in a number of Jean Genet's plays. (The Maids (French: Les Bonnes) is a play by the French dramatist Jean Genet). The early productions in Southend of "Two Maids" included Helen Mirren as the character Solange.  [Solange and Claire are two housemaids who construct elaborate sadomasochistic rituals when their mistress (Madame) is away from the house. The focus of their role-playing is the murder of 'Madame' and they take turns portraying both sides of the power divide. Their deliberate pace and devotion to detail guarantees that they always fail to actualize their fantasies by ceremoniously "killing" Madame. The play was adapted as a film in 1974 staring Glenda Jackson and Susanna York].
Helen Mirren has also played as the Queen and as Rosalind as well as Salange on stage, and various other archetypal female roles too, such as in the Prime Suspect series (for television) where she plays an orthodox role of 'the female detective'.    - Dawn cleverly "redressed"  Helen Mirren's character and re-clothed her up, as the French Maid 'Salange' from her early works during an original stage career début as an actress in Southend.  The fantasy of murder in the play, is also manipulated in Dawn's art work.  In particular, it is interesting that Helen Mirren seems in public to have an appearance and 'air' of a condescending attitude to background and her attitude towards Southend.  This is really brought forward in Dawn's paintings, and levels an identity to show that Helen is not actually from the aristocracy after all, that is at complete odds to perhaps the image portrayed to the public.

Dawn also imagines the role of Hellen Mirren 'murdering the Queen' (Dawn's own words), and has incorporated a punk-ish image of the 1970s and early 80s in another Mirren portait.
Furthermore, within Dawn's work, she also attacks the pseudo-intimacy of Helen Mirren as a child.  This is done by a kind of doodling with Tippex over Helen Mirren's childhood photographs of her, during her school days.  This particular show was called "What happened to Helen."

Dawn was keen to point out that she doesn't dislike Helen in anyway, but just wanted to create her image as an alter ego and which, is completely fictitious.

In the exhibition entitled the Austerians, this was set up during the escalation of newspaper reports of the poor rights of domestic workers in the United Kingdom. Within this exhibition, Dawn wanted to touch upon the issues of the day.  - The show was actually held in Amsterdam and was based on an 'irritated reaction' to the gallarist / curator,  and the actors who were used in order to portray the servants, were used to kind of represent a politicized way of showing the subordination issues that domestic workers actually face.

Dawn recognised the "austerity chic", which seemed to be taking hold as 'fashionable' at that time.  She used some of the artworks to also portray the art world's bourgeois - back-office elite, so that these individuals were portrayed wearing servants clothes in order to create a "pathetic kind of vintage porn" which aimed to ridicule and satirise those types of bureaucratic roles in the art world.  It was put particularly gratifying to satirise people like Andy Walhol and Lichtenstien and also re-image what the other bureaucracy and culture of an exaggerated people out of touch with the real world might look like.

Dawn grew up in an area to the south east of Manchester,  in Glossop during the 1980s. At a around the age of 13 to 16, Dawn developed a particular passion for drawing the character of Michael Jackson.  This was during a time when there were race riots, particularly in the early 80s, and as far as the television critic Mary Whitehouse was concerned, it was the influx of "Nasty" videos, that were to blame for these riots.  At the same time there was also reference to the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police fame, - one James Anderton (of note), and he seemed to the public as his almost 'religious' right to clean up the city to 'remove these mucky videos' (as he once called them).

Race riots and economic deprivation, and the overuse of police control on the disorder, (where lots of social commentary from an out of touch elite was also being generated), was blamed on these "nasty videos", and the "Video Nasties" was the biggest story of the day.  
So, enters Dawn, and her brilliant sketch book of Portraits, completed at a very early age and now turned in to  abook in it's own right....

 -  In essence, by drawing Michael Jackson and other black celebrities (where Dawn only had access to their images at that time, through newspaper and magazine articles); Dawn was trying to represent a view of apartheid and was extremely angry at the fact that apartheid and 'celebritization' was actually making money from the abuse of these black celebrities.

 At this tender age around 13-16, she was trying to make sense of all of this. But now, much later in her life, Dawn is perhaps now realising "it was more about her own ignorance of what was going on at the time" in her own mind, than in the ambiguity of Michael Jackson's innocence - on the one side, and his criminal perversions and displaced sexual repression (as we all found out much later) on the other.   (Dawn also mentioned in the lecture, - "that around then, [she] fancied Diana Ross too at that time", and I thoroughly applaud and support her for being so honest to all us in the lecture hall), but Michael Jackson had a cultural greatness for "black celebrity" at that time which was far greater.

Dawn also mentioned that at that adolescent age [13-16 or so], she had made drawings of other male pin-ups, that she used to make connections with and in order to help her mix with other girls.  (It was interesting to hear Dawn explain that this wonderful use of her drawing skills was sometimes used as a vehicle to "overcome"... (I detect with some really human shyness),  as she put it,  as a result of perhaps ..."her mixed up sexually repressed feelings" of making friends with other girls.

Dawn's process of making portraiture, but then by adding some sort of 'visceral' layer [visceral was a word used by on of our lecturers, - and it is generally used to describe something akin to the outside layer of a bodily organ], which tends to be added after the original portrait and accurate likenesses been obtained, is extremely interesting.  Dawn answered the question directly in that "the added layer of visceral imagery is not an inbuilt or felt hatred, it is something very different, - almost childish" as she put it.
In reflection, I found that Dawn's honesty and courage in her work was incredibly interesting and her comments highly articulate, - I thoroughly enjoyed her lecture with the hope of meeting her again sometime.   - Not only is her work readily very skilful at an artistic level,  but it also has a humour injected into the subject matter (which, while some people may find offensive, I found very skillful, clever and genuine).  My in-depth reflection of this is that I think much of Dawn's work is intended to be used as a parody and as mild humour,  it opens up another angle, new questions and challenges the status quo, - which I particularly liked. - Nobody who has an adult, mature and open mind should be offended at all by any of her works.  She deserves the popularity and continued success for a very long time to come.