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

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Semiotics II - Part 2, Contemporary Art in Context, - Lecture by Juliet MacDonald

Continuing the theme of our study of semiotics, this is the second part of the lecture, which Dr MacDonald commenced last week, into the study of signs and their meaning within contemporary art context.

We discussed the signified and the signifier.
This is the concept vs the material or physical form.

Symbol-for example, letters and text.
ICOM-for example paintings.
Index-footprint within the sand or snow, which means that somebody has been, or has passed by.

The French literary philosopher Roland Barths wrote extensively around the themes of semiotics and semiology.  To him, or language includes pictures, images, art, photography, film, and advertising.  He developed a theory called "myth" which is a second order of semiotics is diagram is as follows.

With his concept of semiotics.  He discusses that we have our own "passions" or contexts of certain things through memory.

 It is how this works at the mythical level, which is what Bath's explored.

For example, the Paris "Match" magazine showed a picture on its front cover of a young black boy giving a salute during the 1950s with a title to the magazine of "Les Nuits De L'Armie" (The nights of the Army(?)"... Or is it "Army nights" or is it something else?)...

Bath's was critical of France's colonisation of the North African continent, in particular in Algiers.  Esau, a very ideological significance of this saluting boy.

To further some of the points of the theory that he proposes a number of examples were provided of first-order and second-order significance.

The Guinness advert of the 1950s, with the quotes there are only two things a man cannot resist a one point of Guinness and another pint of Guinness.

Compare this with a much more recent advert from Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which says "with 90% more!"  This is a link an implied increase, which suggests almost double that 90%, of something happening.  It suggests as a fact, but in reality it is nothing, it is meaningless, it is a myth.

Both the images and words "imply"...

Even the type of font is a non-threatening, rounded, easy to read, almost chubby and soft in the example in the Ben & Jerry's advert.  The typography ties together with brand recognition.

In the Ben & Jerry's ice cream advert the background imagery is idealised, cartoon-ified and simplified.  There is no texture, no reality, it is wholesome.  They promote the ideal wholesome pure American value.  Motherhood and apple pie.  "Ben & Jerry's American brand" In reality, this small company of the time, grew into one of the largest ice cream manufacturers in the United States and is now a global operation.  They were bought out by the Unilever company in August 2000.  Since then, the corporate social responsibility machine has gone on overdrive.  What goes on un-said is actually more important.  What could be argued, is that according to Barth's, is that the mythical themes of the "motherhood and apple pie" are just not true...  In the case of Ben & Jerry's, there's been a number of court cases of unfair practices, citing extreme poverty among some of its subcontracted workers, particularly those in Mexico.  The corporate social responsibility of large corporations is quite often a sham for stockholders to invest eithically, - promotional literature that suggests and promotes "fact" about it's CSR, when in fact the opposite may be true.

Artists working in a contemporary field court this "subversion of the message", whereas advertisers create the messages themselves and this keeps them going in a commercial sense.   - Both parties, artists and advertisers are therefore sometimes to be considered at opposite poles of realities, but in truth, neither sits in any kind of true reality.  This is hard for somebody to get their head round, that is, the essence of the false realities that we live in, - in a contemporary and commercial capitalist world.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Reconsidering strategies, Adaptation, Appropriation, Interpretation

After further thoughts around what I'm trying to achieve for this project.  It was explained to me that the words adaptation, appropriation, and interpretation are devices to help us create strategies to help us understand contemporary art.  The stuff that we make, the more there is means the more that it can be critiqued.  Therefore we have to keep making continuously.  Studio practice is vital in order to make as much stuff as possible.

There are only two weeks after the Easter break before the final year assessment, and exhibition.  These two weeks will comprise of many critiques.

The final year of my study will comprise of seminars, critiques, journal reviews Gallery visits and other informative work.

I must reconsider where I am as an individual within my own learning path, and used the studio practice to demonstrate where I am and what I have learned.  This is the most important things that I can do through my degree.

I understand that critiques will form a major part of the third year.  An "in vivo" (in situation) style is adopted in order to position our own thinking against the culture of contemporary art outside this studio.

The language that we should use for such critiques should be in terms of the piece itself, not the present.  A description is only part of it, analysis is the key to critique.  It's basically asking the question why?  (I am always reminded of Rudyard Kipling's poem regarding his six honest serving men.)

Now is the time for me to rethink how, as an artist, I'm communicating with the work that I practice?.

Why-how-what-which-when-where are all the questions that I must ask all of the work that I choose to create...  This next year is all about the completely immersed engagement, where I need to offer ideas, words, and feedback on my own work as well of as others both positively and from a critical perspective.  It is really clear that I need to offer my best work.

I need holistic references to build, to perform over and over again.  The content and method should be contemporary.

It is worth me looking into the work of Alberto Guillometti and his drawings, which highlights the building of works through process.  In his works, subjects are traditional and it is the portrait that brings out the newness in a piece of work.   From this I can learn that I need to find a repertoire of both line and mark making.  Another suggestion is to look at the work of Leoger, a Flemish artist from Belgium.  Also to look at the work in the Stanley and Burton Gallery of John Bratbury(?).

I need to paint and draw new subjects!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Contemporary art in context, Review of Ellen Gallaher, contemporary black American artist.

Ellen Gallaher is a black American artist who originally comes from the north east of the United States, in New England.  She creates imagary of an alternate black history, by reclaiming and renewing, both politically and historically the vision of the black populations roots from around the world.

Ellen Gallagher, Oh Susanna, 1993, Collection of Joan & Michel Salke © Ellen Gallagher, Courtesy of the artist and Diego Cortez Arte Ltd, New York
(retrieved from 
http://www.hausderkunst.de/en/agenda/detail/ellen-gallagher-axme-b237f2a6c7/ 23-03-2015)
The early work she created was focused upon disembodied eyes and mouths, and more lately she has used hairpieces, which suggest from the old days of the black-and-white minstrel's, which in reality were white people blacked up with make-up paint and lampooning generally the black population.  The hairpieces signify the classic stereotype of the Afro, the 1960s and 70s hairstyle of the black African.  Ellen Gallaher does her work around this absurd play against the 1940 images of an alternative black American beauty, such as in the painting "deluxe" (2005) and other such works that Ellen has made her own art from.  (Image retrieved from Tate Modern; http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gallagher-deluxe-t12301 (Retrieved 23/03/2015).

Ultimately, her references seem to be heading towards "a new kind of world", a utopia and this is also a theme that Gallagher plays with throughout her artistic career.  She engages in the blackness of around body to rethink an idea of something new.  The rather awful imagery of the black-and-white minstrel shows, which tried to undermine black Americans, is therefore turned on its head and repositioned to be ridiculed for what it is.

Ellen Gallagher ‘Bird in Hand’, 2006
© Ellen Gallagher

In the painting "bird in the hand" (2006), this is a picture of rebirth, a re-association through the world, the question may be from where-the sea, perhaps?  With a little further analysis, this is correct.  It is in fact taken from the reference of Herman Melville's book 'Moby Dick'.  Within this picture can be seen reference of the whites sea captain, known as Capt. Ahab who, having had his leg bitten off by the great white whale known as Moby Dick.  Herman Melville set the book off the shore of Cape Cod in the north-east of the United States, just north of Boston and south of Newfoundland.  This is been a very traditional seafaring coastline since its discovery by the white settlers.  Further south east, towards the west african coast, lies the Cape Verde Islands, which were also mentioned and written about in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, were also used as a staging post later by the slave trade.  Ellen Gallaher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, which is in this area, her black father was born on Cape Verde Islands and she is of an Irish mother, which makes Ellen true descendant as an immigrant of this area.

Watery Ecstatic
Watery Ecstatic, Gallaher, E (2005)
Ellen Gallaher's educational history actually started in Marine biology, where she originally focused upon the study of pterapods.  Her father also had an interest in the fishing industry around New England, and so Gallaher's interest has been highly influenced by all things maritime.

An interesting link to Gallaher and Sigmund Frued can be found at the Frued Museum; http://www.freud.org.uk/exhibitions/10539/ichthyosaurus/ (Retrieved 23/03/2015)
and an extract below explains her position;

Ellen Gallagher finds an affinity with Freud’s early fascination for oceanography and his surprisingly accomplished drawing skills. As a student Gallagher spent a semester aboard an oceanographic research vessel. There she began researching the migratory patterns of pteropods, collecting and documenting the specimens under a microscope. “My project was studying pteropods – wing footed snails. I chose this subject after a scientist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute gave me a side talk about pteropods and it appeared to me that they looked just like butterflies, it somehow never occurred to me that they were microscopic. In reality it meant that I was on a sailboat catching these tiny things every three hours during the night and then studying them under a microscope and drawing them.
Since 2001, Gallagher has been making a series of drawings entitled ‘Watery Ecstatic’. Carving directly into the think pulpy watercolour stock, Gallagher creates a floating world, which she relates to the mythical Drexciya, an undersea world made up of those who were lost by suicide, murder, or slow death, along the perilous Middle Passage. For Gallagher, the Middle Passage is resonant as an origin myth – where language and imagery and music were reconfigured and recombined to create a mutable constant.

"Drexciya" is a word which takes its reference to the human lives that were lost and thrown into the sea during "the Middle passage" of the slave trade, and the bodies of those slaves who were unable to make the transition from Africa to America and died in transit.  Drexciya is a mythical world within a world under the ocean, a new utopia, and Aqua topia here if you like.

Watery Ecstatic
Watery Ecstatic, Gallaher, E (2005)
We are very lucky in the United Kingdom in that we can see Ellen Gallaher's work as her usual gallery of choice is the Hauser and Worth Gallery in London.  Much of Gallaher's work is created on a very large scale, and the piece "bird in the hand" (2006), I believe has been made almost life-size as a reference to Capt Ahab.

Watery EcstaticIt has been estimated that a total of 6 million slaves were actually lost in the Middle Passage of the Atlantic.  Gallaher's reflection of the sea world of Drexciya is created in much of her images as a kind of honour to all these poor lost souls at sea.  Within her paintings, and in particular some of her beautiful draughtsmanship in the printed drawings of mystical sea creatures, in the style of painting that was not dissimilar to that which was used in the 1800s by various botanists and biologists who travelled to the new world, there is this underlying reference to Drexciya.  limpets and barnacles on ships are recast in a way that suggests that life has been reborn.

Watery Ecstatic
Ellen Gallaher's work is also referenced the Scrimshaw, which were detailed engravings made by this maritime seamen whaling community.  These engravings were usually made on whale bones and teeth, and Gallaher also refers together with new forms of sea creatures in her designs.  "Watery ecstatic" is a series of works that are based on drawings of aquatic life from the 19th century as mentioned briefly above, which again has this underlying reference to the same time in history of the awful slave trade that was going on above.

Morphia (recto/verso)
detail, 2008-2012 Courtesy the artist
 and Gagosian Gallery © Ellen Gallagher
In another of Gallaher's works "morphia" (2008 to 2012) there is one painting from the series, called recto-verso, which is a reference to another form of change of image, which possibly shows the face of the slave woman, half covered with an undescribable flesh like mask.  One of my peers suggested that it did not look too dissimilar to a recent book written by Sue Monk Kidd called the life of bees?

Overall, the way that Ellen Gallaher presents her art is particularly interesting, especially as she claims to be an animator, rather than an artist.  She is constantly referring to deep ocean, and this new world of Drexciya.  The paintings are a kind of form of abstraction of lifeforms from the deep sea, a recent example being "Osadex" (2011), which is actually named after a new form of deep sea worm, only discovered in 2010 off the coast of Monterey.  Interestingly, this deep sea worm is a consumer of the fallen whale flesh in deep sea ocean floor beds.  Whilst this may be in the Marianna's trench in the Pacific, there are distinct similarities of that trench to the great rift trench that runs down the centre of the Atlantic, another place where whales seem to go to die.  Again, this seems to be a reference to the underworld utopia of Drexciya.

Gallaher also seems to use the device of using an image which is similar to rocks are inkblot, and then turning that into a sea creature or seaweed with additional life forms swimming in between.

In conclusion, the themes seem to be centred upon lost knowledge or unknown knowledge together with rebirth as a metaphor.  She is creating works in order to derive multiple interpretations by the viewer, yet underlying them with the core theme of slavery, the Middle Passage, the bottom of the ocean and the mythical Black Atlantis utopia, known as Drexciya.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

First reflections to the formative assessment for Year 2

After my formative assessment last week, there are a number of areas that I need to look at.  It was suggested that I look at David cell who is particularly interesting for his contemporary, collage and appropriation with montage work.  He asks the question, what place am I in, in contemporary art.

This is the same question that I should ask myself what place am I in in contemporary sense.  Is it the "new" method that I might be using?  Is it the material that I'm interested in?  For example, the work by Anselm Kiefer from Germany, and Germany's reflection of the battle from Marcelo to Nash to Kiefer.

My initial feedback is that I need to make some symbolic pro excess rather than just literal copying of masters.  This should not be just a translation through just the medium, but also to create a newness of the object.

What do contemporary artists get to do?  What do they go to?  It should be the paradigms of representation that I create, and not the pastiche.  Nevertheless, I recognise from the feedback that I must keep pushing the boundaries in order to succeed.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Ryan Gander - Review by Dr Alison Rowley, - Contemporary Art in Context

Today's lecture is a review of the work by Huddersfield universities very own visiting Prof, Ryan Gander.  Dr Rowley is particularly interested in Ryan Gander's work, simply because she struggles to get to grips with him in the first place.  He bridges illustration, graphics, sculpture and fine art.

He doesn't work solo, but within a design studio in Suffolk.
The view he has is that there are no boundaries to art.

Ryan Gander was commissioned to create an imaginary piece of work as the poster and TV commercial for a "pretend" new government department.
In turn Gander, then commissioned a number of other artists and design studios to create this work on his behalf.
Gander's use of the word "Imagineering" is a complete play on words.

In a book entitled "the boy who always looked up," which was published in 2014, whilst it has Ryan Gander's name on the front, the only part he actually created was the text.  All the graphics and illustration work was done by others.  It should be pointed out that Ryan Gander has been in a wheelchair for most of the life.
The book is a tribute to Erno Goldfinger, whom Gander is particularly interested in.  Goldfinger created the Trellick Tower in North Kensington, which is where the book is placed.  This was a piece of architecture of the post modern 1970s, that Goldfinger created with a cultural ideal which was to look up into a new utopia, but in reality it turns out into being a dystopia over time.

Numbers 1 to 3 Willow Road are where Erno Goldfinger's legacy, (built in 1939) still stands.  These are three modernist houses in Kensington that Erno Goldfinger lived in.  There are many works of art now placed there, one of which is an intricate chess set, commissioned by Ryan Gander, but again actually made by somebody else.

Gander was influenced by the Bauhaus and the classic object which is in Willow Road is Garritt Rietveldt's chair.  This is an iconic modernist chair and a symbol often used to represent the Bauhaus movement.

In Gander's work "Rietveldt's kindling"(2008), he uses Rietveldt's chair as a kind of historical and conceptual art piece that engages with the deconstruction of the original.  This is seen even further in another of Gander's work "Rietveldt  Reconstruction-Diego (2006)". - Gander is playing with the modern vs the post modern art in the way that rifts on the original.

Another example like this might be the Bauhaus lamp (another iconic modernist product from the school), vs the "a lamp made for the artist's wife (third attempt)" (2013) by Ryan Gander.

The "New Alphabet" in 2008 is Gander's rethink, which was worked in collaboration with Rasmus Spangeard Troelson, to create a new "formalist" invention which is disrupted by "design".

"Vink Crowl", 1967 was a modernist piece of the era, again Gander takes that peace and changes the whole visual communication of it.

Gander's "Loose Association" of 2001 is a printed document (version 1.1), and is printed in book in a black-and-white book where there are only two in existence.

"Culturefield" is a huge book, that Gander, published in 2014.  In 2010 he created "Porthole to Culturefield".... which was three ribbons stuck into an air extractor fan.

"Felix provides a stage No. 4 (11 sketches for a sheet of paper on which I was about to draw, as it slipped and fell to the floor)."  2006,  - An amazing works, - this is comprised of large crystals of 100 cm diameter spheres which have laser etched facsimiles of the sheets of paper etched into them.

Ryan Gander is an example of the fact that you can now make anything out of anything.

"She spoke in images like some new language-Alchemy box No. 3" (2008).  This is another piece by Ryan Gander, which is a slant on Don Judds work, that is made from a set of one-way mirrors, (so that you can't see into it), but only the personal items within the boxes can see out, in effect.

In "This Consequence" 2005, this comprises of an Adidas sweatshirt in white.  Normally, the invigilators within galleries always wear black.  In this piece, the uniform is white... but, with a splash of blood upon it.  It's turned on its head as some form of consequence occurring.

"The fallout of living" are solid marble representations of a sheet thrown over an object.

"Tell my mother not to worry (11) 2012" is currently installed at the Lisson Gallery, and is all about an everyday occurrence.

Gander spends much of his time in the Saxmundham Studios in Suffolk, and does huge amounts of fundraising for the creation of his own works.

In the 2012 dOCUMENTA exhibition, his works "I need to some meaning I can recognise, (the Invisible Pull)" -  was installed in the Fredericaanum Hall at Kassel, Germany.  The gallery La-Fayette, now owns this piece, which was one of the most expensive pieces of artwork ever made.  It was made by the German aviation company Lufthansa, that sponsored much of the work, - which was simply an open gallary room, with a very slight breeze passing through it, as could be seen fom the net curtains swaining in the windows within the gallary.  -  At first sight, it just appears to be an empty room, but the reality of the exhibition is in fact within the breeze itself, which was very carefully engineered by Lufthansa engineers.

Ryan Gander used the actual words,  "It's like 'idea,  - diarrhoea' that I get in how I am constantly coming up with ideas".
 He often obscures his ideas with a red herring to divert the viewer into something else of interest.

The works "I need something I can recognise (Invisible Pull)" is about the fact that you are surrounded by the work, that you haven't in fact 'noticed'.  It's the space between the two titles.  Our sensory overload.  Within this current culture is a real problem.  All this meaning in the world that we simply don't notice goes by every day.  Just the little tiny things can have a story made about them to create connections, Gander then creates a narrative which then develops into a piece of art.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Reflective Summary for Term 2, - Self Directed Project

Reflective Summary for Formative Assessment.

Adaptation, Interpretation, Appropriation - Strand 1

By Graham Hadfield, U1374687
(blog page; http://grahamhadfield-contemporaryfineart.blogspot.co.uk/)
and web-site at; http://www.graham-hadfield.com

Positioning Statement;
Being at a point midway through the second year of my (Hons) Degree study in Contemporary Fine Art & Illustration, I am continuing to focus on the recursive cycle of improvement in my draughtsmanship.

Whilst ultimately looking to the longer term to put my artistic energies specifically into the visual arts (Including Illustration), and by that I mean, that I have a particular interest in painting, (in any traditional medium), I am also cognisant that this skill relies heavily on one’s fundamental technical ability to draw.  Therefore, for the majority of this term, I have been experimenting with the notions of “drawing” in different forms.

My decision at the beginning of this academic year, which was to gain as much “studio - practical” skills as I could, - through the adoption of learning methods used by the Great Masters, (for example through the Atelier / studio practices of copying great historical works).  This approach (inspired by Aristides, J. (2011)), has proved to be a good and solid, tried and trusted means to develop my skills, and also, to actively apply them in a contemporary environment.   The difficulties however have been, in being able to devote the intensely focussed labour required to study within an Atelier (there isn’t one); and with access to an actual, successful, “living” master artist… - Therefore some compromise has been required. (Source of Inspiration;

The atelier approach has only really been possible during short one hour bursts of Life Drawing, which have been facilitated by Professor Swindell, once per week, on Wednesday afternoons, together with a more flexible guided 1:1 tuition for 3hrs each Friday morning.  Combining this with ongoing personal responsibilities; the theoretical study of Contemporary Art; contextual lecture attendances and other briefings (plus of course, the time taken with my remote daily travelling to and from the University), these have precluded me from the “total immersion” (which traditionally was up to 10 hrs per day of focussed drawing), which I may have been initially seeking in an idealized sense.  - Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, I can see my own steady improvement in my draughtsmanship over the last 18 months, which was a major motivation for me to attend University in the first instance.  

My current areas of Interest;
DSCN0687.JPGThe Studio Practice environment at this University affords me the opportunity to explore my drawing skills on a much grander (and literally), larger level, than what I could possibly accomplish in my home studio.  (Inspired by Sheringham, M. 2006, p193). My drawings have therefore been centred, as discussed above, on copying a small selection of Great Master’s sketches and works (Appropriation), but then representing them in a completely contemporary sense (Adaptation), magnifying them to ‘paint’-drawings, at sizes on an order of magnitude far greater than usual A4 sketchbook sizes.  I have particularly been interested in the material composition of the medium too (Interpretation), having chosen to mix my own blacks through the use of Acrylic paints Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue.  I have purposefully left some of the blending of these two foundation colours “un-mixed” in parts, in order to capture a sense of “speed of deployment” (Interpretation) with the colours, so that the ranges of tones and tonality are represented not only in the traditional greys (as a pencil drawing would be (adaptation)), but also the underlying Blues or Browns that make up the Black pigmentation.   I am pleased with the results of this. (See example of portrait - copy (after Harold Speed, (1905) Plate XVII, Demonstration Drawing made before the students of Goldsmiths School of Art)), then recreated very quickly (Approx 1.5. hours) on a scale of 6’ by 4’ with acrylic “paint-drawing” (Appropriation, Adaptation, Interpretation);

DSCN0702.JPGI have also explored the use of alternative mediums to create variance of the ‘affect’ of my Great Masters copy sketches (Appropriation).  This has lead me to reposition some of my focus on the primary object materiality of the chosen images (adaptation) and hence has allowed me to translate sketched forms back some way into new material representations (Interpretation) of the Great Master’s works.

DSCN0710.JPGAnother example I cite here is the drawing made after the original, by Charles Bargue’s “Etude Pour L’Avis Du Modele” (Circa 1860) which forms part of the “Charles Bargue Drawing Course” published in 1868.  The original is a drawing of a woman, lifting her dress that she has been modelling for the Artist, in order to examine the easel of a drawing of herself...   At the time I re-sketched this (Appropriation), I was also researching some of the work of the contemporary artist John Currin, of whom’s works have equally been influenced by many of the Great Masters, but are also somewhat extreme, in their sexual references.  Therefore as a little ‘nod’ of respect to him, my sketch of Brague’s “Etude Pour L’Avis du Modele”,  places the same model and her exact pose (adaptation), in front of an unmade bed (as an equal nod to Tracey Emin’s work of the same title).   The result is a juxtaposition of model and bed stead that looks completely (in my humble opinion), authentic (Interpretation).

(Sketchbook copy - 11” * 6” approx)

      (Paint-sketch in Acrylic, 60” * 30” approx).

DSCN0734.JPGA further exploration of the size of this work was made by creating a series of prints based on Silverpoint engraving, which yielded these pleasing results;DSCN0731.JPG

In the exploration of the model, my interest started to be influenced by the dress she was wearing at the time of the original drawing, composed sometime around 1860.

Therefore, this dress and it’s folds, pleats and the whole materiality of the textile became an object of interest in itself.
From here, I could only creatively imagine the kind of textiles used at that time would have likely have been fine silks or similar, so based on my contemporary use of Acrylic Burnt Umber and Ultreamarine Blue, for the paint-sketching, I found an acrylic man-made material with a similar visual properties to silk, to create the following object of interest:

Current conclusions;
Progress from the copying of Great Master’s works into a contemporary landscape of Research through Practice, has spawned new works, for example, the Bargues drawing “Etude Pour L’Avis Du Modele” (Circa 1860), above, - re-interpreted as roses, then re-created as lithographic prints and then plaster of paris cast.  This onward re-exploration (appropriation, adaptation and interpretation) through, not only the materiality of the representations, but also the actual materiality of the primary sources has continually fueled mine, and the contemporary “practice as research” methodology to create new works (Sullivan,G. 2010).  I am continuing and will continue to explore and create new work through the use of different mediums, materiality and physical phenomenology.

(Word Count 1071)
(Target, 1000 words, +/- 10%)


Aristides, J., (2011), Lessons in Classical Drawing, New York, Watson Guptill Publications.
Bargue, C & Gerome, J-L, ‘The Drawing Course” (1869 / Reproduced 1926), Paris, Guptill Publishing.
Petherbridge, D, (2011), The Primacy of Drawing, New York, Yale University Press.
Sherringham, M, (2006), Everyday Life, Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Speed, H. ‘The Science of Drawing’ (1913), London, Seeley, Service & Co. (Available via the Project-Gutenburg website), http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14264/14264-h/14264-h.htm - Retrieved 26/01/2015.
Sullivan, G. (2010), Art Practice As Research (Inquiry in Visual Arts). London, Sage Publications Ltd.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Semiotics II - Lecture by Juliet McDonald, Contemporary Art in Context

Semiotics and semiology are often interchangeable terms which both will mean the same thing, that is the study of science-or anything which "stands for" something else (see the work by Chandler, 2002; number 02).

These can take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects.  Contemporary salutations study signs, not in isolation, but as part of the semiotic sign system (such as a medium or genre, together with types).  They study how meanings are made and how reality is represented.  (Chandler, 2002:2)

As artists ourselves, we are the producers and interpreters of signs.

To remind ourselves of what we learned in our previous year, there were two schools of thought from which semiotics came from.  The first was the work by Ferdinand De Saussure (1857 to 1913).  And the second person to study semiotics, which has now become the general name for the study of signs, i.e. semiotics, was Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 to 1914).  He was an American philosopher, whereas Ferdinand, De Saussure was a linguist from Switzerland.

Saussure's concept was:    

Signified (concept).
Signifier (sound pattern)

The concept was dependent upon a shared understanding of the concept itself (the signified) and the pattern of a linguistic sound as a signifier.
Others suggest the signifier is the material or physical form of the sign, for example, the sign "open" as worded in a shop window, where the sign is the signifier, but it is is the shop itself that is the signified.

  • Contexts and associations are also important to when considering semiotics.  This also stated that the relationship between signs-signs that don't make sense on their own, only in relation to other signs, for example, like letters in the sentence.
  • Arbitrary relationships between signifier and signified, for example, "house" in English, but this is "Maison" in the French language.
  • Convention and Association-especially, by the use of advertisers, who particularly use the power of association.  Brand recognition, for instance, is a vital example of this, for example, consider the "orange" trademark brand.

Charles Sanders Peirce, however, suggested that not all signs have an arbitrary relationship between signifier and signified.

  1.  -symbol-  this has no resemblance, the relationship is arbitrary.  By convention.
  2.  -icon-    the symbol represents or resembles the signified.
  3.  -index-   "the pointer"-a direct contact or causal connection between the signifier and the signified.  As an indexical, an example may be, "smoke means fire"… This is a causal sign.
    A relationship could be, for example, the footprint in the snow, which signifies that somebody has been in that place
    Alternatively, a picture of a pointed finger, which means direction.

In photography.  There is a notion of some photographs being indexical.  Roland Barthes wrote extensively about the use of photography in his book mythologies and how it can convey the meaning as indexical.
Consider the advertising by the Coca-Cola brand for Coke Zero.  This also rhymes with hero?  Is this an mystical association?  Within the advert can be seen a black panther?  This is a rather negative connotation to some, but also it suggests wildness.  There is also a figure of a reclining female, is this feminist exploitation with evocative masculine associations?

Monday, 9 March 2015

Review - Sarah Lucas, Contemporary Art in Context. Lecture by Dr Alison Rowley

In this lecture, we will look at the work of Sarah Lucas, following her exhibition held at the Venice Biennali.  This work is entitled Penetralia, and follows on somewhat from the lecture given by Dr Rowley regarding Louise Bourgeois: and her drawings, known as the Insomnia drawings.

Sarah Lucas works in the domain of sculpture, with contemporary views of objects, often taken for granted.  She was educated at Goldsmiths School of Art in London, and as a result follows the edict given by that school which is "truth to materials, rather than following what materials might do."

Proof to materials in sculpture as being very much associated by the work of Henry Moore.  A good source of reference for this theme may be found in the book, written by Herbert Read (the first movement of modernism) "unit one" written in 1924.  In unit one Henry Moore wrote that "every material has its own qualities… Etc.-the idea of drawing and the concept of doodling, is of true drawing."
The Pleasure Principle, Lucas, S. (2000)

Sarah Lucas has used the work by Henry Moore &  as a foundation stone to her own work, an early example from Lucas might be "the pleasure principle" 2000, a piece that is actually based on some of the recordings from the newspaper, magazine, the Sunday Sport.  In this, it is worth comparing it also to Tracey Emmins 1998 sculpture "un-made bed."

In Sarah Lucas's materials, they are very much more "doing a job" that only they can do.  For example, the fluorescent tube which is located between the crotch and the penis of the male in the work.  "The pleasure principle" is a reference to the enlightened link between male and female.

Sarah Lucas is influenced by the early 20th century works of Dada and Surrealism.  Dorothea Tanning's work Hotel and Penetralia seems to be a launching pad for Sarah Lucas and her subsequent ideas.  Lucas is what is known as an urban grunge artist, very much a young British artist (YBA).

Through the gallery exhibition by Sarah Lucas of Penetralia at the Sadie Coles HQ Gallery, in 2008, Installation View, 2008it could be argued that this piece of work coincides with the artist and gallery owners move into a country house, to occupy a beautiful part of Surrey, (once having belonged to the composer Benjamin Britten), and their frustration with the Art elite of London, which is dominated by male and chauvinistic decision making of what British art "should be".

This peculiar 'gentrification' of Sadie Coles and Sarah Lucas into their new rural setting, is an interesting parallel to work created by Paul Nash entitled "the life of the inanimate object", which is a series about found objects and the emergence of British Surrealism, which is unique to the "object personage" concept.  What is meant by this is that each object has a very individual character, like that of the person.  This notion goes back to William Wordsworth's poem "Prelude" and the overall notion of 'animism' and personification.  When Wordsworth wrote that poem, and, he later described that in his own mind, he felt that the mountain, that he had just written about and looked upon, seemed to have actually followed him home and into his house.  Similarly, Paul Nash wrote about the Avebury Sentinel, a prehistoric stone, and mentions it in the sense of an Avebury "personage".

"The fertile image" which was written by Margaret Nash, (after her husband Paul's deaths), provided further, the notion of life in the inanimate object, for example, the tree monsters etc.  This idea of personage contained in an inanimate object, is deep within the British psyche, and recurs in many guises.

Moving back to the work by Sarah Lucas in "Penetralia" and one work in particular, which is Dayo, it ended up forming the poster from the new sculpture exhibition at the Sadie Coles HQ Gallery in 2008, (which can be found on South Audley Street, London).  The 14 sculptures were accompanied by a book by Julian Simmonds (who is also living with Lucas), a black-and-white photographic collection of the Sarah Lucas sculptures, Installation View, 2008produced on a very large scale, which is also hand printed book, with the look and feel not dissimilar to that classic references known as Audubon's Bird Books.  These books reflect the change from Sarah Lucas's traditional urban setting, into the countryside and her new house in Surrey, which she shared with Sadie Coles.

The titles of these 'Penetralia' sculptures; such as Donid, Eros, Wand, Mitre, and King etc, suggests that another territory, which is the Arthurian legends being one additional British Institute.  Compare this work with Penetralia, which is then juxtaposed with the dark mom, a book which is about "magic and maternity in British art" by Tate publishing, St Ives.   This lineage of new Romanticism into Modernism was an attempt to reconnect with the "old" in a traditional sense as "magic" in nature and the resurfacing of those beliefs.  These references could also be placed in context with the 2008 backdrop in British culture at that time, and the financial crash of both the London stock exchange and the British banking system.

You may also wish to consider the work by Derek Jarman and avant-garde photographer and filmmaker who in 1971, almost at the end of the time of the super eight cinema, film, created a piece called "Journey to Avebury,".  In fact, this was the last 16mm film made on that media.

Moving on to other work by Sarah Lucas, a little earlier in 2004, she created a piece called Pigs Elation, a bizarre sculpture, which has upon, that is a play on words of pixelation refers to Derek Jarman's Journey to Avebury.

The Sarah Lucas exhibition of pigs elation has parallels with the later work in 2008 by William Turnbull's, but also references much earlier work of Barbara Hepworth and her sculpture of 1933, with a reference to "the vitality of British modern sculpture."  The reliance of materialism and the stone carvings have a relationship with the emergence of Bakelite and the new plastics, when Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth were beginning to make art during the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1999 Sarah Lucas put her work in context with that of Damien Hirst, into banal use of his materials such as formaldehyde and fish tanks, which have nothing to do with the object of his investigations, which in fact are about dead animals and the concept of life and death.  In the first piece for the love of God, created in 2007 Damien Hirst's skull creation with encrusted diamonds sold for £112 million and highlighted the massive commodification of art which caused Lucas to reject working in London.  As a result, she moved out into the country to her house described above in Surrey, in 2008, before she started the Exhibition Penetralia.

Sarah Lucas also celebrates "hand intent" I work, which has links with both the handmade, and also onanism.  From the point of view of sculpture.  The penis is a self-contained form.  It is not possible to make a corresponding vagina without the penis, but moreover it is not possible to make a vagina without also making the character behind it.

The book entitled with the same name as the exhibition Penetralia, describes a lot of the fabrication process Lucas had to organise to create the bronze pieces.  A plaster cast of the penis requires the Balliol lists, and also the breaking of the cast vagina, which can be seen in such works as "Swan" and "Deyo" made in 2008.

The 'penetralia' means the inner space, the inner sanctum, the deepest recesses of the soul.  Therefore, the penis is the very basic form of the sculptural casting.  It's therefore associated with the life of the material.  One could not get more closer to the idea of giving material life, and animating the object.

In the opinion of the lecturer, Dr Rowley, Sarah Lucas's objects represent some of the most important pieces of contemporary British art, as they expose the continuity of the masculine and male domination of art through the 20th century.  This work in context almost proves Dr Rowley's assertion made at the beginning of this lecture, in that Sarah Lucas's materials are "doing the job that only they can do".

Friday, 6 March 2015

Materiality, - I think the penny dropped! + Review of Pierre Bonnard

An excellent one to one tutorial time with Prof. Swindell today, in which I think, I'm beginning to understand the some of the notions of materiality....  So far through my degree, I've always been thinking in terms of the materiality of the object that I'm trying to represent, the primary source if you like.  What happened today was that a kind of epiphany occurred in my thinking, which thanks to Prof. Swindell's guidance, helped me to realise that the materiality lay in the complex combination of the medium itself, together with the substrate onto which the medium is applied.  Materiality is also concerned with the feelings that a painting (or artwork) can induce, and it is here especially that it is linked with phenomenology, which is about the whole of our senses as human beings. "
According to Stanford Encyclopoedia of Philosophy; 
"Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object."  (16 Nov 2003).  plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/ (Retreived 14/03/2015).
A classic example of an exploration of materiality therefore might be the work of Augsberg perhaps?It was also suggested that I look to the works of Pierre Bonnard, and so the following is a brief review and a personal aide memoir.

His works sit closely to Edouard Vuillard's.  They actually shared a studio area through 1890 and in their earlier friend-ship they formed the 'Nabis' group. (Nabis is a hebrew word, meaning teachers or Prophets).
Pierre Bonnard - Self Portrait, (circa 1889), tempera on canvas, private collection,
Retrieved from 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Bonnard#mediaviewer/File:Bonnard74.JPG on 3/3/2015

Pierre Bonnard’s paintings are sometimes described as emanating luminous qualities. This may have been propagated by his short stay with Gauguin in Pont Aven, in the south of France, early on in his career,  where his study of light and its effects upon colour, could well have been influenced by the brightness of the Sun in that hot, mediterranean environment.  There does appear to be a very colourful use of light and his painterly approach does give some warmth to almost all his works which I find very appealing.   An  excellent reference is to be found by Denise Sutton, Encyclopedia Britannica at  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/73136/Pierre-Bonnard - (retrieved 06/03/2015)
bonnard: nude against the light
Pierre Bonnard, Nude Against the Light,
c. 1908 Oil on canvas.
 Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Bonnard's father originally had designs on his son becoming a Lawyer like himself. Indeed, he complied with his Father's wishes after leaving first school and studied law in Paris.  However, during this time he also developed a love of painting and also enrolled in night school classes to pursue this, as a serious past-time when not studying law.  He developed his artistic capabilities to such extent that he won a competition, which was to design a poster for a brand of France-champagne an this naturally lead him to pursue his artistic calling rather than that of a lawyer.

After meeting a number of his contemporaries at art school, including Edouard Vuillard, they all seemed to share a love of Gauguin, together with the works of Cezanne.  This common interest allowed them to develop a strong bond, which appeared to remain with them, - especially between Bonnard and Vuillard, for the rest of their lives.

"Drawing is feeling, colour, an act of reason" were his own words to describe light and form emerge from the play of colour masses, without the assistance of values or shadows.  It is from statements such as these, that directly links these paintings to Materiality and Phenomenology, as described an cited at the beginning of this blog edition.

Further references to Pierre Bonnard can be found at;
http://www.oil-painting-techniques.com/analysis-pierre-bonnard.html, Retrieved 06/03/2015

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Arts Council & Department of Culture, Media & Sport. Cont. Art in Contect lecture

A series of lectures started with the visiting lecturer Lee Corner, who has many years and much experience in almost all the commercial aspects of contemporary art practice in the United Kingdom today, but also on an international level too.

The idea of these lectures will be to equip students with sufficient information to provide choices for them to enable them to learn and earn a living through creative endeavours.

A quick discussion about the arts Council, together with the structure of the Dept of culture media and sport.  In 1997 there was a significant shift in the way that British art was funded, when it was realised that there is a huge economic benefit to having art accessible to the masses.  It was therefore decided to create the Dept of culture media and sport (DCMS), within the United Kingdom government.  This department is an arms length ability to provide funding, which is centrally located within the government, to be then granted to the British arts Council (in other words, the people who actually decide where funding money is going to be spent upon), which means that independent decisions that are not politically driven can be taken.

Therefore, the DCM S is closer to the government in terms of getting the original funding, but it is the arts Council that divides the money up into its various causes.  This means that there should be access for all funding.  It also allows the arts Council to get its own funding from any other place to for example.

Currently, there is much dispute regarding British arts Council funding and how it fits with the mainstream of education in the United Kingdom.  In educational terms, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects have been seen as the most critical to deliver.  These are sometimes known as the Stem subjects (STEM).  However, it is clear that there is a need to turn this selection of subjects to include the arts, therefore, the Stem subjects will turn into steam subjects, (STEAM), in order to continue the economic benefits provided by arts practice.

Another of the focus areas that the British arts Council encourages is to develop every four years within the UK city of culture.  Next year in 2016.  The city of culture will be Hull.

The arts Council is based in London, but it has five regional areas which includes the North Midlands, the South London, Scotland and Wales, however, Scotland and Wales come under separate council leadership.  Therefore within England.  The three regions of London, North Midlands and South will be discussed here.  Our lecturer Lee Corner sits on the northern area Council.  £1.9 billion worth of public money is spent by the arts Council, and of this amount, £1.1 billion is from the National Lottery.  Money is also taken from taxation in the United Kingdom, where 14p per week per person is paid into the arts Council through direct taxation.  The idea of "creative capital" is our very own British most essential ingredient to our success in the future.

The arts Council has direct influence over so many cultural matters that often it is overlooked, for example in Huddersfield in the nearby village of Onley, there is an arts access program, known as "we do" which brings arts to all people in that area.

The arts Council also provides a structure for one-off project funded exhibitions and projects.  This is together with national portfolio organisations also known as (NPO).

In essence, the arts Council will fund any project when an est artist can share their creativity to put something into the public's domain for the welfare and for the benefit of the public interest.  An example of this might be the work of James Norton, who was sponsored to provide an exhibition at Bolton art gallery in 2014.  In this work, or exhibition James Norton pulled together the work of an artist who went to America 100 years before, and that was Thomas Moran.  By exhibiting brands work James Norton was able to show the impact of time and historical content, which compared a body of work for public exhibition.  In Norton's application for a grant from the arts Council, they immediately saw the public benefit and were prepared to take the risk, "but what happens if" question and assessed all the benefits of how the new artworks could be then developed further.

There are also many trusts and foundations to support the arts, which then provides funding front for themselves again.  Many of these rely on bequeathments and philanthropy, for the love of humanity.

Other sources of income can be taken from corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets from large corporations.

A more recent vehicle to raise money has been through crowdfunding using the Internet, such as www.kickstart.com and also www.patreon.com, the latter of which is particularly aimed at individuals providing short amounts of money in order for them to become patrons of the arts.

Unfortunately, there is a huge level of scrutiny by the government at the moment on general arts funding and it is possible that Kirklees in Huddersfield and the creative Kirklees project may be under threat of losing 100% of its funding this year.  This seems to be such a shortsighted loss, as for example in the new city of culture, in whole, the massive engineering company Siemens relocated to the city as a result of the city winning it city of culture status, the engineering firm being highly influenced through the government's pledge of £1.5 million, which has already been made to refurbish the Ferrensby Gallery in Hull.

In the United States.  Most galleries and funding comes from public subscription, this innocence is a flip back to how things used to happen prior to the welfare state being set up after the Second World War.  In the 1940s.  It appears that the United Kingdom may eventually have to adopt this public subscription method.  If the arts Council is not going to continue.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Where Good ideas come from...

A good source of ideas and the steady flow of creativity go hand-in-hand.  A couple of books that are worth reading, is where good ideas come from, by Stephen Johnson, and the book "the natural history of innovation" from Riverhead books.  An alternative source by using the web and going to the Tate modern (take shots) from 2011 is a documentary on Gerhart Richter by Adrian Searle.

It's always worthwhile to try to develop a cross pollination of ideas, to try new mediums, change the language, and create different forms of expression.   This can sometimes come from being more flexible in how I work,  but at the moment I seem to want to continue to explore the activities of drawing and simple painting alone.

I was shown an interesting video by my year tutor Bob Partridge, which in fact  is a sort of take or parody on the explorer and pioneer  Ansel Adams,, whose photographic work during the late  1890s and the discovery  of the  Yosemite Valley and Grand Canyon's  in the United States.   In Bob Partridge's film.  It provides a story, like a utopia, and as a pioneer himself,  and shows him in a ploughed field, which suggests he is battling against the hot sun  pulling something like a plough, but in fact  what he has done is he created a film on the basis that he made his own  society from a "Tabular Rasa", in the same way that the original western pioneers worked.   In fact, as the camera pulled away from him, it shows Bob  in the harness, but instead of a plough that he is pulling  is he is pulling  a fully constructed camping tent.   This lends itself as an image of the pioneer and compares it against the myth of Sisyphus,  by showing the absurdity of pulling a tent like a plough.

 This exploration into the absurdity of life, of being is a regular theme in post modern art. .  Other examples can be seen at websites such as www.creativebloq.com  www.mutu.com   www.blueblu.org

 "preoccupation" text: "cover it up and build it high.".  This is another exploration into the absurdity of life  and of the everyday  with a view of various drawings  submitted up upon that theme . Another example of my course tutor Bob Partridge and his work  can be seen in the film  "the closure of Tegal Airport", in which Bob provides an Alan Bennett style narration , but touches upon the idea that everywhere you go in life you take something of yourself to it,  your experiences etc  with you,  but also derive experiences and something material almost fr from the experience.