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

Friday, 30 October 2015

Theory, - Feedback on proposal for my dissertation.

There was a little feeling of disappointment when I had my tutorial today, - regarding my proposal for my dissertation, simply because my tutor, perhaps, was a little too honest with me, in that he admitted that he had "no worries" with regards to whatever I submit, and so he hadn't prioritised much time to read my proposal in detail.  - Whilst I should take this as a positive stroke, I was a little deflated for purely selfish reasons...

What I did get though, was some positive feedback, together with suggestions to try and narrow down my scope of research, for example, perhaps to consider changing the title of my dissertation from looking generally at German contemporary artists, changed to just looking at the works of Anselm Kiefer.

With regards to philosophical research my tutor recommended in addition to the existing philosophers of Brian Massumi and Michael Taussig, it might also be worth looking at the works of Clive Bell who has done extensive studies on the subject of aesthetic emotion, and his descriptive accounts of the tension between emotion and affect.

With regards to another good German artist to compare Anselm Kiefer, and the notions of affect theory presented through contemporary paintings, see the works of Gerhard Richter and his own unique type of paintings.

In conclusion, my dissertation would best be centred around a chosen work of art by Anselm Kiefer, and for the narrative within the dissertation to discuss the "test" of it with Affect theory. This would best be conducted by finding a particular feature of a specific painting, and then to test it first within the essay, by finding the peculiarity of the specific image in order to explore it in depth. This seems to be a logical and rational approach that I will pursue.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Research & Development - Luc Tuymans review...

The benifits of good research became apparent again today when a chance encounter caused me to look at some of the works of Luc Tuymans....

Whilst his portraits and figurative paintings have a haunting veil about them, they also explore the every day object too.  Here, one of Tuymans earlier works, 'Pink Sunglasses' 2002, caught my eye... (No pun intended)...

Pink Glasses, by Luc Tuymans
(2001) painting - oil on canvas
37 3/8 in. x 23 1/4 in. (95 cm x 59 cm)

Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of The Buddy Taub Foundation, Jill and Dennis Roach, Directors
© Luc Tuymans Permanent URL
PLEASE DO NOT COPY!.  Image recorded for personal research use only.

And this painting, created in 2001 has a particular resonance with the idea of the everyday, something fading away....  The painting is particularly enigmatic, - why has the identity of the passenger been erased? Is there a memory of someone who has died during an air flight? -

I notice that the passenger is seated in what appears to be the fuselage of an aircraft, the memory of the 9/11 tragedy is likely to be the stimulus for this work perhaps?

Luc Tuymans (Belgian, born 1958)
"Passenger" (2001) , oil on canvas  Size:90.2 x 60 cm. (35.5 x 23.6 in.)
Courtesy of Artnet.com
PLEASE DO NOT COPY!.  Image recorded for personal research use only.
My hunch was right.  - However, it seems that Tuymans turned his back somewhat on the tragic events and instead showed a still life example at the exhibition at Documenta, 2002, where it was expected that he was to present art in response to the 9/11 horror.  Instead, he chose a subject to instil "Sublimation" as he put it. (Ref. Tate Modern, see below).

Luc Tuymans
Still-Life 2002
Owned by James and Jacqui Erskine, Sydney, Australia
© The artist, courtesy Zeno X Gallery and David Zwirner, New York. Photo credit: Felix Tirry.
Courtesy of Tate Modern,
PLEASE DO NOT COPY!.  Image recorded for personal research use only.

His reason for this was to make reference to "the banal" in order (in my opinion) to draw attention to the everyday, the quotidian.   By doing this, he's saying to the viewer,  that 9/11 could happen any day, at any time... we normalise ourselves through images of horror to such an extent that it becomes diluted.

In psychological terms, 'Sublimation' is the given title to how we (in maturity) use a 'defence strategy' or mechanism, to detach ourselves (from a highly charged, stimulative or horrific) event which would in an immature state cause us to follow our automatic instincts, and replace them with a controlled response.  In simple terms, it's the mature ability to 'respond' to an event, rather than 'react'.  The two are quite different.  A response requires reasoned and considered judgement, which in itself, requires an element of detachment from the trigger event; while a reaction is much more immediate, catalytic  or spontaneous and knee-jerked, such as a physical reaction perhaps, as triggered by an adrenalin rush, rather than a delayed adjustment.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Major Project - Searching for that which was lost....

Reading a passage from Rebecca Solnitt's book "A Field Guide to Getting Lost" (2005), I came across an explanation of the word "Shul"... - A Tibetan word that has multiple, but similar meanings.  In essence, it means impression, - that shape left behind when a foot walks across sand or mud; the shape left in a field of grass from a horses resting body, after it has risen and galloped away; but it also means other things too.
In Hebrew, Shul means temple, or tabernacle.  In thinking about this, there seems to be a link to those religious edifices, in that they hold impressions of those left before.  The spirit perhaps? The ghosts of older generations?  The heritage of the two millennia following the almost revolutionary reformation of religion is held within those walls.  The things left behind here, are in fact, all too present.

Conclusions...? - Well how on earth do I visualise this? - Do I need to? -  Or do I look towards an alternative aide memoire, using the other four sensory inputs of touch, smell, sound, or taste perhaps?  No, there are not the same sign posts for these senses, where a transaction takes place in one of these latter four, there is a trace of the SAME thing left behind, a remnant or fragment, fragrance of molecule, echo of the original.  How they are experienced however, is to remain the same.

In the visual interpretation, the original object left behind seems to be trapped in another manifestation, as this "shul" - so eloquently explained by the Tibetan meaning.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Major Project - Research

I came across some works by the New York sculptural artist, Sophie Kahn, this morning, which attracted my full attention.

Much of the technique of faded and cracked sculptures is not a million miles away from what I am imagining too.

Sophie Kahn - http://www.sophiekahn.net/#!portraits/c199t

(I am unable to copy the images of her sculpture here, due to copyright regulations, but feel free to use the link above to her web site to see examples of her works).

The images are very much based in the feminist / sexuality exploration genre, - I am not exploring this, but the technique she is using is of interest to me.

I also took a peek at Vija Celmins (pronounced Veeha Kelmuns), - born 1938, American Latvian artist.
 - Her drawings of everyday objects, particularly her photorealistic graphite drawings of spider's webs, seascapes, and "eraser" - 1967... have a beautifully etherial feeling to them.  The temporality of the subjects she chooses are all very different, but each one has a time related aspect to them that can conjure up the imagination of "things left behind"....

Vija Celmins  "Eraser" 1967
Acrylic on balsa wood
6 5/8 x 20 x 3 1/8 in.
Collection Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
Gift of Avco Financial Services, Newport Beach

Friday, 23 October 2015

Theory, Notes on Essay Writing, #2

Following on from last weeks lecture, my conclusions from this lecture was to always use paintings as examples, but instead of using diagrams within text, it is advised that paintings pictures illustrations etc should all be placed at the end of the essay as A4 Size images.

Just for a recap, the title and the problem statement should contain [the concept or idea], "in", [a body of work], "and", [your own names' practice].

Shape of the Essay

Essays should have a separate title page, nothing fancy but just details of the writer the title of the document and the institution to which it belongs. Furthermore chapters should be referenced properly through the contents page. I should be aiming for approximately 1000 words per chapter but of course this could vary between save 500 to 2 or 3000 words per chapter maximum.

As a rough template for the essay start off with an introduction of approximately 500 words which should outline your argument. This is not about your body of work, it is an argument which focuses on what and why. Within this introduction do not include brief histories or biographies here within it

Content - Chapters 1,2, etc, with individual chapter titles("Look for puzzles in what is going on externally in culture" and then relate that into your own work).

         Choices of quotes;

  • A good quote expresses an idea or significant thought, by somebody who has a professional status.
  • A bad quote offers opinion or anecdote and often given by non-qualified individual with little or no status in an academic sense.
  • A good quote integrates meaning into the paragraph.
  • A bad quote leads nowhere at all, or is placed at the end, which suggests to the reader that there is more information to come, but does not deliver anything.

  • Coming back to the subject of illustrations within the text, by inserting these it can skew the text layout and the picture is likely to be small. 
  • However if the pictures are placed at the end of the essay and the reader can refer back and forth to the diagrams and return to their point within the reading of the passage more easily.
  • Place illustrations at the end of the essay, but reference them after the bibliography within an entirely separate list. 
  • Include what type of illustration it is, and what medium it was originally created with, for example as it painting? Sculpture? Video? Etc.

Equally a conclusion at the end of the essay should be approximately 500 words as well. This is the flip, or opposite of the introduction. Pick out the best bits of your essay and say why each of those are important. Do not end up on `from some of the person, and certainly do not bring in new information into the conclusion this is wrong. A conclusion is exactly that, it is a closing.

Referencing & Bibliographies
The bibliography should have between 20 to 30 items for a 6000 word essay. My research should actually include 40 to 60 references, but obviously some of this read information will be un-used.

  • An index of illustrations should be separate from the bibliography

  • With regards to referencing and the bibliography (for quotes and ideas), you should put in here everything that you have demonstrably used. If you have made a quote but not contained it within "quotation marks" then this is plagiarism!  Your essay will be rejected!

  • Equally, do not put an item into the bibliography that isn't referenced within your essay. 

  • All the sources should be broadly academic and there should be approximately 25 of them, (not including the illustrations in the count).

References should have their titles enough alphabetic order, with the second line indented. The name of the book should be italicised.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Visit to New Contemporaries Exhibition, Nottingham

The New Contemporaries exhibition held in Nottingham this year (2015) was spread across three venues which were actually artists run galleries. The concept of an artists run a gallery is becoming more popular, where a community of say three or more artists get together and rent both studio and gallery space in vacant properties, quite often for what is known as a peppercorn rental, from authorities such as local councils and other property owners, in key parts of the city or town.

The "New Contemporaries" exhibition this year, on the face of it seemed quite small, however when I took into account that it had been spread across three locations, the total number of entries, if held within one gallery space, would actually be quite substantial.

The following works are attributable to and courtesy of the "Backlit Gallery"
Alfred House
Ashley Street
Nottingham NG3 1JG

I found these paintings / illustrations particularly interesting...
 They are both very illustrative, but also somewhat disturbing
in their content, having the smaller format also draws a viewer into them too.

Credit is given to the artists, -  Selected artists for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015 are:

Sïan Astley, Kevin Boyd, Lydia Brockless, U. Kanad Chakrabarti, James William Collins, Andrei Costache, Julia Curtin, Abri de Swardt, Melanie Eckersley, Jamie Fitzpatrick, Justin Fitzpatrick, Hannah Ford, Sophie Giller, Richard Hards, Juntae T.J. Hwang, Jasmine Johnson, Tomomi Koseki, Hilde Krohn Huse, Pandora Lavender, Jin Han Lee, Hugo López Ayuso, Beatrice- Lily Lorigan, Scott Lyman, Hanqing Ma & Mona Yoo, Scott Mason, Oliver McConnie, Mandy Niewöhner, Hamish Pearch, Neal Rock, Conor Rogers, Katie Schwab, Tim Simmons, David Cyrus Smith, Francisco Sousa Lobo, Aaron Wells, Morgan Wills and Andrea Zucchini.

And further works.....

The idea of the wax William of Orange within the entrance of the exhibition was very curious, which engaged me immediately.  The chosen material, - wax, makes the sculpture very fragile.  This, I believe is  a reflection on the fragility of the political situation at the time when King William was thrown from his horse (here made of wood, - both Wood and Wax were the materials of choice at that historic point in time), through his horse stumbling upon a mole hill.  King William later died of his injury, thus the course of time was changed by a mole hill. ("The wee gentleman in the velvet waistcoat" - as the mole has since been referred as)....

Other works in the Backlit Gallery are are also depicted above.  Overall, out of the three sites visited today, I found this one the best laid out and curated.


Moving on to the next gallery at "One Thoresby Street"
1 Thoresby Street

Artworks on display here were much more contemporary, focussing particularly on Materiality.  I felt though, that some lacked imagination to some extent, as without any explanation of titles, some of the works seemed to lack the polish of the previous collection.

However, this painting by was refreshing...

And then finally to the "Primary Gallery" 
33 Seely Road

The most recognisable works below, painted upon a cigarette box, a beer mat and a condom packet, were of views that might have been made from the location of the object substrates themselves, e.g. on a pavement, (view through a gate bottom); a view of a road gutter; and a public house beer garden, were, in my opinion, very well chosen.

 nothing much new here, - I was reminded of the pots created as a massive series by contemporary artist Edmund De-Wall, and thought that there was little originality to these artifacts, other than the beautiful colour.  I will say however, that the kidney shaped vessel on the bottom right had more appeal than the other objects and their overall layout provided the curiosity factor too.

These works, created from what appear  to be old umbrellas, had much more originality about them.  I was quite intrigued by both how the artist made them and assembled the materials so tightly.  Overall these objects had much more success in engaging me as a spectator.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

R&D - The thought of Picasso's Blue period.

Yesterday, unfortunately I had to attend the funeral of the mother of a dear friend of mine, who herself, was a dear friend too. I was reminded of a poem that was given to me when my own mother passed away some 20 years ago, which starts with the line "death is nothing at all… I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you…" A poem by the Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, Henry Scott Holland (1847 -1918).

Whilst death is the extreme form of loss, a death is in a way, the most vivid kind of something left behind. It is our memories of sweet times spent together, which we yearn for, that some "things left behind" we want to acquire back again. This idea of the fading memory, of something that we cannot see clearly, but we know is still there, creates an almost obsessive image in our minds.

The paintings that I want to create need to hold this idea of a fading image and my experiments over the last week are beginning to take a more detached dimensional which is precisely what I want to try and achieve.

This new dimensional, this something left behind, which can't quite be seen but imagined is the essence of what I want to try and represent. I just simply need to keep practising through the use of different mediums and keep building that fourth dimensional which is neither touchable nor exists, but it is there! It is in our imagination, just like the displacement that I was talking and thinking about yesterday.

I was reading about Pablo Picasso recently, and the fact that for much of his early training, Picasso was rather unsuccessful, simply because he was an impersonator many different types of styles, simply looking for his own unique voice. This is very much like almost all artists, that by copying and emulating other more experienced masters of the craft, they themselves learn techniques necessary to carry forward and develop their own unique signature. A classic line that was quoted was that by Isaac Newton which is "if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
(Reference, Gompertz, W, (2015), Think like an Artist, Penguin Books / Random House, London).

Breakthroughs come by building on existing things and making very small adjustments. Sometimes I lose my own way, but I realise the importance is to just keep going and make small adjustments. Quite often the catalyst for bigger changes are a result of an extreme emotional charge. In Picasso's case, it was the traumatic death by suicide of Carlos Casagemas, is old friend and peer that had taught Picasso much about life in his early adult world.

The depression that Picasso was thrown into, actually caused and spawned an independent creative feeling that Picasso had not expressed in his art by copying others before. This new inspiration and surge of productive work was labelled his "blue period". Within it Picasso started to produce an independent and unique representation of the things that he saw around him, by combining ideas that he had been acquiring through the study of all those great masters, and then in his own words "I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else".
(Reference, Gompertz, W, (2015), Think like an Artist, p85-95, Penguin Books / Random House, London).

Monday, 19 October 2015

Research and Development, - Loss and Things left behind

Recently I've been reading a book by Will Gompertz, perhaps better known as BBC TVs news correspondent for art and culture. The book, called "think like an artist" has some excellent advice, not only for aspiring artists but anybody who wants to be more creative and more productive.

I particularly like one of the early paragraphs in the book which discusses the fact that artists never actually fail. What he means by this is that the each time an artist tries new idea or concept or even somebody who just makes a very small adjustment to that concept, and yet feels that for whatever reason it doesn't "work", this should not be regarded as a failure, but as a success in just one more step or iteration towards making something that is good. What I mean by that is that every piece is successful no matter whether it's considered good or bad because it is simply a step along the journey.

This just keeps coming back to my own feeling that art is about a never-ending journey. I've said it before, but just by moving through life, by living we are displacing something around us, like leaving footprints in the sand, sitting on the settee and squashing a caution which leaves an impression of our existence, or just going online on the Internet in search of some trivial fact, will leave a record of us having been there. On those huge Internet servers hidden away in what are called "lights out data centres" (which truly does mean that they don't turn the lights on, but the computers silently run insidiously all the time), there will be a tiny trace, in the form of registered bits and bytes, ones and zeros, literally on and off, which is a record of us having traveled through that virtual space on our journey of existence.

So everything we do, everything we touch, displaces something or leaves a 'transfer'.

This is drawing,

.........therefore being is drawing.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Theory - Reflections from lecture by the academic skills tutors, 16th October.

This lecture discussed the elements of the essay for the theory module.

It discussed at the structure of the dissertation or essay and the recommendation to use chapters and subheadings properly, together with the appropriate referencing methods which should be adopted at the same time as writing the essay itself.

Suggested framework might be

  • an introduction, including the background/facts/history, which should be weighed up with its critical strengths and evaluation
  • a discussion of the theory.
  • Various examples of the theory in practice.


The 2nd half of the lecture was conducted by Dr Mike Belshaw with regards to constructing a viable question on "an idea and its relationship with a body of work or practice" together with the appropriate research methods.

The "question" is the hinge between the concept and the body of work, and must link with your own studio practice. It is correct that one should challenge the concept.

It is recommended that at least 3 but no more than 6 full chapters are made for a 6000 word essay, plus an introduction and also finally a conclusion. That means a total of 8 chapters is an absolute maximum in all.

Various examples were then discussed, such as
1) the concept of kitsch.

  • What is kitsch? It's a kind of cultural artefact, or a way of looking at one.
  • Is kitsch in the eye of the beholder?
  • Can kitsch be critical?
  • How do we recognise the difference between "use" and the mention of kitsch?

Despite kitsch being very much out of fashion, a brilliant example of someone who plays with kitsch directly, is that of the work of Jeff Koons.
Another example might be the portraits work by the ex-US president of the United States George W Bush. -  For example his portrait of Vladimir Putin is a very naive and amateurish style, but because of its precedents and its creation by President Bush, this painting has become quite valuable.

2) Another essay example might be an investigation of "madness".
In art this was first explored by Empedocles the Greek philosopher, and included the 4 elements of earth wind fire and water. Later in art history these became the 4 humours (this was contextually in line with the medical practice at the same time examples of which can be seen in the Thackery Museum of medicine in Leeds).
Later still came the ideas from René Descartes and then Emanuel Kant's reasons and judgements.

3) A further example might be the concept of "nothing".
This for example refers to the index =; the sign points to the effect of something left behind. This is particularly interesting in my own practice. For example footprint or a boot print is left behind by its owner.

  • See the works of Rachel Whiteread  e.g. "Ghost" and her plaster casts of complete houses and rooms, which explore the concept of nothing, and the fact that "nothing" can actually be recorded...
  • In 1911 someone actually stole the painting of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris. There was a subsequent photograph of the absent space, which later became an artwork in itself.
  • Alan McCallum and Louise Lawler, created a piece of work called "fixed interval".
  • Robert Rauschenberg created a piece of work entitled "the eraised De-Kooning Drawing" from 1952.
  • An alternative piece of art in the form of a musical score was created by John Cage entitled 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.… Only recently it has been discovered that the French movement called "Les incoherence" had actually created a funeral march (which was based on a passage of silence) in the late 19th century. It is not known if John Cage actually copied this work but it is possible. I wonder how copyright might be applied to that?

It is also worth looking at the idea of figure and ground in order to show the concept of "nothingness"


  • Always use paintings and images as examples within an essay to show your discussion.
  • Be selective about your work with regards to the individual; it is not about making a biography.
  • Find a really good quote, then explain it in detail, but in context with the subject theme. 
  • Remember to select good quotes that are ideas, not descriptions, but then you as the original author of an essay have the opportunity to provide your own description of that idea in order to put into context with your own practice.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Major Project; Notes from weekly briefing, and later peer feedback 15th October.

A quick discussion and lecture regarding commissions by James Pyeman outlined a number of works including some two-dimensional sculptures by Richard Long which were created for the frieze magazine called "mod works". This was presented as a video.

Another video displayed, which was the work of Nick Uff, which was a music video for the band "Portishead" and was entitled "the Rip", this was a wonderful video based on cartoon style images animated into dreamy transitional moving and flowing worlds.

The concept of taking up residences was also discussed, and it was recommended that we look for artist run spaces such as

  • the Outpost Gallery in Norwich
  • Grizedale arts
  • East Street's arts in Leeds
  • and the waiting arts centre in Cambridge etc.

Many of these residences can be found on the website artscommunities.org

Various other examples were shown such as an example by Gareth Jones who spent 10 weeks in residency at the University of Oxford, St John's College. This was presented in the form of a video entitled "cityscape 9" 2015.

Within this video the points I noted were

  • materiality
  • function
  • form and shapes

A nice quote picked up from the video was "outwardly certain, inwardly doubting".


Following the lecture, I returned to the studio and completed some further work on my garden gnome painting, but this time I decided that I would make the features less obvious. The feedback I received was positive from my peers, but I do want to explore this further over the coming weeks in order to try different objects perhaps and most certainly different materials to play with.


I'm pleased with the results of these little experiments, I think the slightly ambiguous and disappearing objects create a much more interesting painting, and may draw a spectator towards them in a state of curiosity.

Whilst these are still representational paintings, there is a level of abstraction to them that goes beyond simple two-dimensional. By using the plaster of Paris mixed with acrylic to create an impasto type effect, needs to be worked further as I am not happy that these initial sketch/paintings have enough body and form to differentiate themselves from other work, and originality.