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

Monday, 30 November 2015

Theory - Essay Tutorial Notes from conversation with Dr Mike Belshaw.

Having read the 7th draft of my essay, regarding affect theory and grief and loss in the work of the new European artists, Dr Belshaw recommended a number of interesting avenues for me to explore further.

  • Read the work by Giles Deleauze on Francis Bacon (emphasis on the body) in this work, Bacon draws animals but also Deleauze talks about Bacon and how he "paints as an animal". The interesting point is that he created images which diminish the head of the animal in favour of the body.
  • Look at the things that Delauze recognises in the paintings of Bacon.
  • What we are trying to achieve in an academic essay is to look at how the dissertation provides new information. In other words how does my essay provides new information in how it relates to contemporary art in general.

The Affective Turn…

 This heading is a reminder to specifically make the case for grief through affect much more emphasised.

  • Dr Belshaw commented that from the 1960s onwards there has been a linguistic pull on artists critique, this is as a result of many of those artists having read the works of Wittgenstein
  • Wittgenstein would say that an experience is in effect, memorised or stored in the soul linguistically. 
  • However Deleauze would say that there is a radical alternative to the work of Spinoza. 
  • He calls it a pre-personal experience. These pre-personal experiences are outside the body and they are autonomous from our own internal memories and feelings.
  • See the work of Brian Massumi to backup this claim.

Are artists conscious of affect before they create their own paintings?

  • It is Dr Belshaw's assertion that arguably they are not, otherwise they would be in a way, faking it. This idea of faking affect flies in the face of the whole theory.
  • However I pointed out that by continuing to stay in the mode of creation and to just keep creating and creating, this is often referred to in artistic circles as research through practice. 
  • We are continuing to make stuff and researching through our practice of creating stuff in the search for affect.

Perhaps in this essay, in studying art itself what could back this up?

  • I need to look at a particular painting (perhaps not chosen directly by myself of course) in order to make a case to say that it is successful because of affect. 
  • I'm confident that the work of Gerhardt Richter will provide a number of avenues, and paintings, which are being studied by other validated sources to back up the claims of affect.
  • Dr Belshaw agreed that my choice of using Gerhardt Richter as one of the artists to analyse was potentially a an excellent choice.

Another book suggested by Dr Belshaw was "the subjects of art history" by Wolfgang Kemp and in particular his ideas on "Reception Theory"

Conclusions: - 

There are 2 things to consider and deal with, within the essay regarding affect.

  • A) how does one create affect within a painting?
    •  Perhaps the answer lies here in research through practice?
  • B) how do we recognise affect? 
    • And who are the validated and eminent academics who have done this?

Again the works of Gerhardt Richter are very good source for me to use for this.

Moving on to tying the idea of affect with grief and loss, an area of particularly interesting exploration might be the mental confused state of "being" and "not being".

  • Ultimately this is in other words confusion. 
  • Does that mean that confusion is an affect? 
  • Or perhaps a better way of putting this might be does affect cause confusion?

I need to make explicit statements why grief and loss can be associated with affect!

  • What are the references? 
  • I need to make a case that is extremely strong here.

Still yet to do is to read Brian Massumi's paper regarding autonomy in affect.

A thread that keeps coming up throughout my essay already is the idea of the pre-personal.

  • However I need to emphasise that the pre-personal is at the root of affect because whilst there are subtle inferences to it within the essay, it needs to be more explicitly stated that affect is external and autonomous.
  • For example in Frederick Nietzsche's "will to power" the will in itself is actually external and outside the body. It is not about willpower of an individual and this can seem confusing in itself.

Again re-emphasise grief through affect, this is what I'm trying to prove in this essay. Grief is an affect, prove it!


  • Explore this much further particularly with regards to grief and loss. 
  • Can I make a case that grief is part of the confusion or is confusion a result of grief and loss?
  •  I think the latter, the grief provides confusion?

See also other artists in western contemporary art such as Rachel Whiteread and her example of the Jewish library. Within this image the books on the shelves of the library are actually facing outwards but they are indexical moulds, as a negative object.

  • Therefore it touches on the presence and absence. 
  • This is related to Hiedegger and the present and non-present idea, the broken hammer example…
  • See how I can use this idea of presence and absence in the works of Anselm Kiefer in addition to Gerhardt Richter.
  • Richter's painting called "city life" is all about the idea of blanking something out. Within it is taken a photograph and then painted old over it, a photograph being a city landscape and the paint, well this is used to come found the idea that normally, a stroke of paint is considered as part of something that is representational, whereas in this particular works it can also be used in order to blank something out. 
  • When painting is used to blank something out then other things can be shown…

Whilst I have mentioned Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger briefly in the essay before, I have not yet studied her works. She is of particular interest to at the moment because she also looks at the idea of presence and absence.

Finally after some discussion it was agreed that a small section should be included in the essay on the post-war German culture. This would be interesting and useful as a reference point within the introduction.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Making, An off Campus Workshop by Elina Rantasuo

Over the last couple of days I have been lucky enough to attend a workshop conducted at the Huddersfield art Gallery.

The workshop was a practical and inspirational event that considered new ideas in the creation of artists books. It had particular emphasis on pop-up art books.

Elina Rantasuo is a young artist from Finland, who, having completed her degree at the Glasgow School of Art, now teaches in a professional capacity in Finland and throughout north of Europe. She was able to provide this workshop as a result of the kind donations of funding from the Institute of Contemporary Art.  (ICA), through The Finnish Institute in London.

With regards to your own work, she has some interesting combinations of materials such as photography, together with charcoal sketches, Ink and other media. One example might be a piece of work called "kissed by fire" which was a project she submitted in 2014 to the Gallery Anhava exhibition in Finland.
Kissed By Fire, Rantasuo, E, (2009).

Another example that was shown to us was that of "Dancer", which was submitted to the EEA Beelitz exhibition in 2009, with sound added to it byLauri Ainala, and exhibited in 2012.



An artist's book can be considered as "a movable exhibition". It can be of any format or size and of any media.

It is generally accepted that artist's book development as a separate genre seem to emerge in the late 1960s. There are a multitude of types which have come into existence since the teaching methods of art around that time were so radically changed.

For example, see the work of;

  • Olaf Kangas, which is a box style book that contains tiny little trinkets and notes a little bit like a jewel box.
  • The works of Jenny Rope for example a piece entitled "Wednesday"
  • Kerstin Norvalli, where she used the idea of index cards in a filing card system.
  • The works of Raphael DeCoste, which are a 4 size books in a large format, bound in a traditional Japanese style with leather bindings.
  • The works of Voltori Distori, who created psychedelic silk screen type patterns but instead of putting onto paper, used the silk screens themselves as pieces of art, which were bound together.
  • Daniel Naadend in his book, he made the paper folding through a series of concertina..
  • David A Carter. This was my favourite book, which inspired me to make my own pop-up version of some ideas I have been playing with. In David A Carter's book, called "600 blackspots", an unusual name for a book, but an opening you will realise why it is called that, he has used a variety of methods of pop-ups through very careful paper folding, where the whole page, in fact the whole spread of 2 pages, becomes a three-dimensional object a very contemporary artwork. I love the book for its engineering and ingenious ways in which this artist has made two-dimensional artwork transform into three-dimensions in a wonderfully playful and brilliant way.
  • Finally of most significant influence to the artist that ran this workshop, is the work of Tova a Johnson. She created the Moomins characters which were so famous to popular culture through the 1960s 70s 80s and 90s.  See www.rikart.fi/en

All of these new pop-up books are re-energised genre of artistic works that have emerged from a much older form.


  • At first I thought the workshop might not be for me, as I wasn't quite sure what direction it was taking. Perhaps a short agenda might have been a good idea to have included in the initial overview that Elena gave us. Nevertheless it moved into a steady self generated process of production and creativity.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the time I'd finished on the second day, that by moving into a different form of representation, I had the chance to explore an unusual vehicle to carry forward ideas.
  • Overall this 2 day workshop gave me the chance to experiment and more importantly, to play. Without any boundaries or preconceived notions or ideas of what the outcome might be. I realise just how important this mechanism or process, or indeed lack of it, actually is when it comes to creating work. In an artistic sense the theme is usually the starting point rather than the process in itself.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Theory, Academic Skills Writing, Dr Beth Caldwell

Looking deeper into the essay writing skills needed for academic submissions, 4 types of writing styles were discussed, those being;

  • abbreviated; 
  • reporter/reportage;  
  • technical writing
  • and finally, what can only be described as Archaic, such as the writings of Shakespeare etc.

It was pointed out that in academic essays and in our short or long essays in particular, at degree level one must not use "own" opinions, but instead one should use others' opinions from validated written sources in order to back up your views.

  • Avoid using the 1st person/impersonal style of writing. Do not use the word I and in most cases we.
  • Academics are interested in debate, your style of writing should reflect this therefore.
  • In the long essay, it should be written with the intent that someone from the outside of the field of study, and and uninformed individual, should be able to read and understand the essay presented.

In conclusion,

  •  present the debate, rather than a rhetorical argument. 
  • Almost all paragraphs should have some, at least one reference taken from a valid and authoritative source.
  • Write in the 3rd person
  • avoid stating your own opinions
  • do not jump to conclusions without a reference
  • keep to the point, not waffle
  • use the passive voice
  • refer to the assignment itself i.e. the essay, and not to the author i.e. do not use the word "I"

Do not overstate your point, but instead be aware that someone else may have other information that you don't have. Therefore use hedging language.

Be politically correct to avoid any gender or racial conflict.

Avoid the use of slang jargon or metaphors cliches and contractions. Avoid similes and idioms.

Be transparent and reference correctly so that the research and the information that you gain from it can be tracked and verified. And finally always be accurate with grammar and spelling and punctuation.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Theory - Essay development - Library notes.

Essay Development Notes;

I need to Explore further, the works of Deleuze / Guattari and Brian Massumi  and anthropologist, Michael Taussig (Australian Philosopher, making waves!)

Having reflected on the essay so far,  I found some new sources for review;

(Darwin, (1873) retrieved 2015)
(Ribot, 2012)
(Shouse, 2015)
(Pornpattananangkul & Chiao, Retrieved from Sagepub.com 2015)
(Nietzsche – Humun, All too Human)

Thinking about (Baruch Spinoza, - Look at subsequent interpretations of the 1900s to juxtapose with Nietzsche’s oppositional stance perhaps?)…  – How can this be argued in my essay?


The roots of Affect Theory as recognised or defined in Contemporary Art may be linked to the emergence of expressionism, particularly in the Modernist German Expressionist movement which can be traced in the works of Edvard Munch.  It could be argued that his work, “The Scream”, 1839, was the inspiration for the later 20th century Expressionist Movement within German Contemporary Art of the 1940s onwards.  The horrors of WWII, whilst graphic, had it's beginnings in WW1 anyway.  Who were the artists around in Germany then?

Also, take a peek at Egon Schiele?? German expressionism.

Consider the subjective aesthetic, in relation to Affect.  How can I  demonstrate and evidence my proposition and argue against other concepts or ideas… (?).

I need to find a specific painting by the various New European Painters and individually analyse them…

I looked at some of the drawings by Henry Moore, - [It seems that some of the underground scenes he drew in 1942 on the London underground have a strong resemblance to some of the arched gas chamber style paintings of Kiefer].  I noticed this in the book ~"Drawing Projects", an exploration  of the language of Drawing, by Mick Maslen, Jack Southern. Black Dog Publishing, London. (2013)  *** (Next edition due to be released in 2016)....

Egon Schiele pops up again? - Expressionism and emotional resonance / Affect?,
- [Also a further research required on Michael Taussig],

Taken a look at some of the works of Joseph Bouys – A key influence in the works of Anselm Kiefer for instance…?
What I need to do here is link some of the ideas that Joseph Bouys had, around the Western world appearing to loose some of its ability to feel emotion with the present (which I can demonstrate through the regular imagistic bombardment of our senses through the media and other forms of advertising and general exposure, to the “normalising” of catastrophic events, trauma, violence and sadness, shock, death and grief etc), with my own  explanation of what emotion actually is, and how it relates to affect in an artistic language…   
Baselitz, Richter, Gursky
Affect Theory in a wider selection of Contemporary Western Figurative Art

Luc Tuymens (?) - to be added with critical evaluation of the artist’s work, and challenges to test the assertions of affect theory, 
Re-visit to Bela Tarr (Hungarian, Turin Horse example – Nietzsche, a film first shown at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival in 2011),
Together with possibly William Kentridge (although he is of South African origin, his example may provide some contrast to these German / European artists [mentioned above??] 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

R&D - Being Reflective - Seminar 3 (A Seminar with Dr Alison Rowley).

In our third seminar, with Dr Alison Rowley we explored the ideas around "being reflective"...

We started with three basic questions;

  1. How can we be reflective?
  2. How can we measure our reflections and what we do?
  3. How can we see the results of what we learn through reflection?

1) Reflection, is about putting things in context with the development of our own art and most importantly, to log the results.
We do this through a variety of means;

  • through online blogging for instance, which should be a dialogue with our drawing upon our reflections each day
  • through musing, which is kind of the same by describing, reflecting and reviewing:
  • we are developing research and importantly The Process. This is about setting up experiments at the beginning of the week in our mind, going through with those experiments and executing them, in order to test their validity;
  • by using notes through photographs as well as text to catch this development; and finally by using our sketchbook and physical notebooks.

We should not overlook the importance of having conversations with other people within the studio during the day-to-day working practice. There is nothing wrong, so long as the other people are happy, to make tape recordings of these conversations and then to use the blog perhaps to record the details of them.
And finally with regards to reflection, it's important to reflect on the previous week in order to summarise successes and failures in order to set up the experiments for the next week before carrying them out and executing them to test.

2) how do we measure our work?
This is a very subjective area of reflection.

  • We need to ask ourselves why something is successful. I.e., what is it that we measuring success against? It is the measure against your research in context and historically which shows where your own work sits within the genre of contemporary art. We have to compare our own work with that of others. We can only do this through research and show who may have influenced or inspired us to make what we make. 
  • Pieces of work from other artists must capture our attention in order for us to be influenced by it to make something, however it is often the case that we may not actually recognise a subliminal influence. These subliminal influences are much harder to categorise and write about, but we must be mindful that they exist.
  • We also measure our work through an assessment of our own moods and emotions. But also through all the other components of construction such as selection and choice of materials, the narrative that goes with the work, our original intents and ideas and what is influenced them should all be considered. 
It is these that we measure ourselves against.

3) how do we show what we have learned?

  • This reflection of learning, i.e. by placing a particular painting or image onto our blog sites, should demonstrate how our research and development has had an effect on our learning.
  • However we should always consider the theory that "to love your own work, stops you from making it better".


  • We all have a fear of failure, we are prone to procrastination, rumination and obsessive overthinking. These are the enemy to creativity, especially if you allow them to be your master.
  •  I have quoted Rudyard Kipling and the poem "if" before;  in the 2nd paragraph of his poem he says;
"if you can dream and not make dreams your master;
if you can think, -and not make thoughts your aim;
if you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same;
  .....these are very pertinent words written over 100 years ago,
  • the answer is to just keep going, keep making which leads to more exploration. 
  • Going down dead ends are actually a good thing! 
  • Without doing anything you will never know. Without exploring dead ends you'll not exploring.

R&D - Major Project - looking at Object Oriented Ontology - Graham Harman

Having had a number of conversations with Dr Holmes over the past few weeks, I'm keen on understanding better the ideas of Martin Heidegger and his seminal book of being and Time (1962).

Heidegger's example of the broken hammer can be looked at in two ways; first we have to deal with the hammer in its normal form fully working and able to push nails into a piece of wood. In its normal state hammer is just an object which we can either pick it up and use it, or at a distance whilst it's still in a draw, tool-kit or hung on the wall, we can just think of it as an object. When the hammer is ready to be used to drive a nail, and assuming that we know how to use it, Heidegger calls this object something that is "ready to hand". In the second case, when we're just contemplating the object being a hammer and whilst we're trying to make sense of it as an object or entity or as a tool we are thinking of it intellectually. We know that it is present in the universe but we don't really know it's true being, unless that is we see somebody using it, we simply looking at a piece of metal connected to a shaft of wood. This object Heidegger calls "present at hand".

From my point of view, (and perhaps from anybody else's thoughts), when we are actually using a hammer to drive a nail into the word, the focus of our attention seems to transfer onto the head of the nail itself, and the hammer becomes an extension of our own hand. In a sense the object that is the hammer is no longer in our own conscious perception, because we now thinking so deeply about the task in hand (i.e. the head of the nail being driven into the wood). It's only when something distracts us perhaps in that deep attention is interrupted and we whack our thumb, that things start to break down. Heidegger calls this a state of "breakdown"....
 ... Our immediate reaction quite often, is to throw the hammer, which is reappeared in our own focus of attention, and come out with some expletive! (Ouch!!). This seems to be an instant transition from concentration on the end of the nail back to our perception of the hammer itself.

If we now turn our attention to thinking about something that is "ready to hand" or alternatively "present at hand", Heidegger talks about the ready to hand objects in three different ways. He investigates the ready to hand object as;

  • A, Conspicuousness;
  •  B, Obtrusiveness;
  •  and C, Obstinacy.

Dealing with the last one first so that this can be explained clearly, Heidegger's third example of 'obstinacy' is really about where something else has got in the way of completing whatever the job was at-hand. It might be possible that the interruption is because my workshop is cluttered all up, or perhaps say, the head of the hammer is very loose in its wooden shaft, and I therefore need to soak it in a bucket of water to swell the wood, to stop the head from falling off, - before I can actually use it. This is the concept that Heidegger calls obstinacy.  My task has been interupted because of an outside situation to the task at hand.

But to get to the nitty gritty of his theory, I interpret that second state, "Obtrusiveness" as the example that is so critical to the point that Heidegger explains.  This is that point in time when my hammer is 'missing'. (Or whatever other tool I might choose to use). In other words there is a gap where the object used to be and it is no longer present.

- This second idea of obtrusiveness, or presence of being, is really what I'm interested in my own work in reflection of death and grief, but moreover, in my exploration of something left behind. When something is left behind it is taking a space up somewhere that I know not where. However the space that it once occupied, which is in my mind and is most clearly recalled during the last time that I used the object, or saw or touched or smelt or even tasted the entity, or a combination of all of these things, is what brings me into the connection with Heidegger and my own theory of things left behind.

Finally, for completeness, Heidegger describes how he thinks of an object that is "ready to hand" as 'conspicuousness'. This concept is rather hard to grasp at first because what it actually relates to is our perception of the object disappearing whilst we are actually using it. It is that moment when the hammer becomes an extension of the self and all our focus is put onto the head of the nail.  It's kind of linked with the idea that we've taken something for grated and dont actually think of it as an entity in itself. This thought can be applied to one of our freinds or relatives or any person or sentient being too.  We see something regularly to such an extent we dont concoiusly think of it necessarily as an entity in itself, it is just 'there'.

This is best explained by direct quote from Heidegger's book Of Time and Being (1962) page 102.
"When we concern ourselves with something, the entities which are most closely "ready to hand" may be met as something unuseable, not properly adapted for the use we have decided upon… We discover its un-usability, however, not by looking at it and establishing its properties, but rather by the circumspection of the dealings in which we use it."    (Heidegger  'Time and Being' (1962) page 102.)
In reflection of an extract from a talk by the Swedenborg Society, London, May 2013 which was organised by the architecture exchange as part of a series of works exploring Graham Harman entitled "Is There an Object Oriented Architecture?" The authors Joseph Bedford and Jessica Reynolds of Princeton University discussed the book by Dreyfus, "Being in the World: a Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division 1": Cambridge Massachusetts, MIT Press, (1991).
In that extract, the speaker summed up three ways in which objects be said to withdraw from a conscious awareness:

1) by always transcending or exceeding any attempt we might make to grasp them completely in perception or representation (whether in use or in language). This is a concept that is what Graham Harman talks in terms of an objects "being in itself" and Harman describes this as "the shadow weeks of to rainy and depths" and of which the objects being for us is just one particular partial version.

2) by withdrawing into the background of our awareness when we are concerned with something else,-i.e. something becoming just another component of the "life world" of objects that form the ever present backdrop to our current activity. This is the interesting part that I too am concerned with in relation to things being taken for granted and left behind, and equally the concept of grief and loss.

3) as the tool through which I am experiencing the world "right now" in the fulfilment of a specific task. I.e., the object as an extension of my own body that recedes from my consciousness and awareness when I'm focused instead on the "task in hand" this is specifically the "ready to hand" of Heidegger's tool analysis that remains constantly on the edge of "breakdown", while still continually being monitored through a kind of habitual or background awareness, which is what Merlot Ponty calls bodily intentionality.

This third point of being continually in our minds, but only just, is a sort of half state of existence, which could be likened to a memory of a presence, we are aware of it but we do not think about it. I want to explore this in terms of things left behind, in both intellectual sense and through artistic representation which can only be in a physical sense. The object is there, but it isn't there. The language is too difficult to explain verbally through words.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Popular Philosophers - A humourous '101' guide, courtesy of Monty Python's Flying Circus

I can remember this from the first time around (which is a bit sad)!...  I couldn't resist posting it up here for fun, - having been reading about nothing but these philosophy fellas for the past few weeks...

The Philosophers Song (a.k.a. Bruce's Philosophers Drinking Song).

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table
David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel

There's nothing Nietzche couldn't teach ya 'bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill
Plato, they say, could stick it away
Half a crate of whiskey every day
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle
Hobbes was fond of his dram
And René Descartes was a drunken fart
I drink, therefore I am

Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed....


Thanks and all credit goes to the genius of The Monty Python's Flying Circus...
Graham Chapman, Micheal Edward Palin, John Clease, Terry Gillam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones.
University of Oxford, 1972


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Essay Tutorial. - Dr Mike Belshaw

In my essay "the role of affect theory in emotional grief and loss, as explored in the works of the new European painters" Dr Belshaw reviewed draft version 0.6.

Whilst I received positive feedback for the layout style of writing and general tone of the essay, there is still much to do.

Areas that I need to explore are:

  • What is it about a particular painting, or painter, that causes affect?
  • There are pitfalls to me analysing a particular painting myself as this may be received as subjective. - I need to show how other qualified authorities have written about specific paintings and then I can interpret them accordingly.
  • On page 5, I need to clarify the real contemporary thoughts on what is an affect compared to what is an emotion?
  • With regards to Brian Massumi, I need to explain his definitions of affect a little earlier in the document.
  • Dr Belshaw recommended a warning with regards to using the works of Giles Deleauze, as he is quite "slippery" as much of his philosophical arguments can be interpreted in multiple ways.
  • In the works of Frederick Nietzsche, he writes about cause and effect being reversed in a way. In essence he suggests that to notice the effect is to look for the cause (a reversal). Is this why Deleauze and Massumi have taken Nietzsche's work and built upon that reversal?
  • Try to step away from a claim that a piece of art in particular causes affect to me. Explore other writers of the claims of affect.
  • Try to pitch the document in "how" affect can help us approach and appreciate art from a different viewpoint.
  • Although the writing is good and easy to read the document still needs much more clarity and academic rigour.
  • Dr Belshaw asked me to send him an email reminder in a few days time in order for him to get up to speed with his own research on affect theory.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

One-to-one tutorial with Dr Dale Holmes

In discussing my current state of work, and the series of canvas based relief works based on the broken gnomes, Dr Holmes and I discussed the ideas of playfulness in art and the cultural providence that is associated with playfulness.

I recognise that I need to at some stage, look at other things that we "leave behind", such as for instance, when we move house, or leave the hotel room?

Dr Holmes is interested in construction versus intent. What is it that drives me to construct something and why?
How can affect be incorporated into this?

Perhaps as an alternative point of view it may be worth looking further and researching the genre of "primitive art", especially with regards to anthropological responses, and who or what it is that I am representing?

A further area to look at which during the conversation was mentioned, is Bruno Latour and actor network theory. His quote which was "we have never been modern" is an interesting concept.
This ties in with the work of Graham Harman and for example his book "tool being" where he discusses object orientated ontology. This includes the concept of Actants and contemporary language. All of the above is related to my earlier investigation of Heidegger. Dr Holmes recommended Graham Harman's book "Towards Speculative Realism".

Ian Dodds, Contemporary Illustrator. -

Today we were lucky enough to witness lecture by contemporary illustrator Ian Dodds.

He has provided illustrative artworks for most of the daily newspapers in the UK, including the Guardian, the Independent, the financial Times and the text telegraph. Illustrations for newspapers generally are known as editorials, and usually pay approximately £100-£500 per illustration

Ian explained the importance of what he calls the five P's. These are

His recommendations are to always make work with those five P's in mind.

With regards to self-promotion Ian outlined how critical it was to always create the best possible promotional material for your own work, which should start to be distributed either before or at least at the graduate show. He also recommended that postcards are still the best form of promotional artefact, but if anyone makes enquiries then he recommends to also include the best that you can afford in terms of a 16 page brochure of the types and styles of your work.

Ian also recommended that whilst at University you should always try to be friends with the graphic designers on any course because ultimately they will be the ones who pay your commissions.

Whilst it may seem boring to churn out colourful illustrations, it is always better than just simply copying a photograph into an editorial or for a book cover. Photographs are just plain and hold very little imaginative creativity, unless they are extremely well composed. Therefore whenever you can draw draw draw.

Other sources of income which seem to be paying a little more these days are to start making illustrations for tailored commercial webpages. These can pay quite handsomely as there is a much higher usage of your images.

When it comes to designing book covers, it seems that nowadays everybody is at it, and whilst it may put bread on the table as steady work, be prepared to get your work rejected as it is often competing with a whole raft of others.

Ian recommended the Association of illustrators (of which I am already a member) and he recommended how essential it is to provide a contract feel work. This is an area that I have already investigated and I'm reasonably satisfied with my own website and the AOI contract that I have used as a base for this work. Ian recommended that I looked at the work of Paul Slater who is patron of the Association of illustrators, who actually paints in acrylics, and could be classified as an artist rather than illustrator, but nevertheless is able to command substantial commissions for commercial work.

Finally in reiterated the use of postcards in order to self promote your work, generally use A5 size, but make sure that they are double sided in order to get two chances of hitting a target!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Life Drawing, R&D. Aesthetic Development

I started off today's Life drawing with a set of four very quick 4 minute poses to just loosen up again on the technique of using Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber brown to form a gradated selection of colours.  The essence of these paintings was to find form through tonality.

A later series of longer poses yielded a few paintings that I have not shown here but I have retained in my archives which were quite difficult to make proportionate. The for shortening of Knee to leg was particularly difficult, and all art though I enjoy the challenge, and the resultant image here where the model is resting on her front is not successful because the distended abdomen and thorax whilst in a twisted position look quite contorted and unnatural.

The final painting of the nude reclining was criticised due to my rather obsessive need to fill in the facial features of eyes nose and mouth. My teaching Professor suggested that such detail was superfluous and not required in this kind of work, but whilst I very much understand his position, my own feeling is that it actually enhances the figurative quality of the work.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Research and Development / Major Project, - The broken Gnome...

Further reading of affect, trauma, and contemporary art led me to start to read the book "empathic vision" by Jill Bennett (2005) Standford University press, California.

Within this book I have found a number of very strong reference points in which the subject of trauma in imagistic representation through art, and how such art can create an affect through such signifying images.
One of the quotes she makes which was written in 1911 by Eduard Claparede, the Swiss psychologist, in his questions regarding "la Question de la memoire affective",
"it is impossible to feel emotion as past… One cannot be a spectator of one's own feelings; one feels them, or one does not feel them; one cannot imagine them without stripping them of their affective essence."  1911 by Eduard Claparede.
Whilst the state of and emotion can be remembered the actual feeling within one's body as a result of an image or an object creating an affect, cannot be brought back through a conscious desire to remember on its own.

In trying to apply these notions to my two-dimensional works that in fact are really three-dimensional, in a way I am also tipping my hat to the 1950s 60s and 70s art commentator Clement Greenberg, and his statements regarding two-dimensional nullity of all painting.

My fragments of gnomes have therefore been placed onto canvas in the form of prototype and within these images I will try and create something akin to both fragmentation breakage, memory, loss etc etc and try and test what affect these might have in a future art critique.


  • There is still much to do and whilst these initial prototypes are quite aesthetically pleasing, I'm not sure if they are really having a realistic affect on a viewer.
  • Perhaps I will also try to test these new canvases on a different set of audiences?
  • I need to work towards a new aesthetic using the concept of the gnome throughout the rest of this week. 
  • I need to explore as many ways of representation that I can in order to get my idea sufficiently communicated through a state of affect.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Major Project, - building ideas, standing on the shoulders of giants....

Last week I created some simple paintings which were based on watercolours, and and painted very quickly as representational ideas of the gnome.

The progression of the idea for the disappearing object, as in "Things Left behind", has led me to experiment a little more with the notion of Heidegger and broken tool.

I have also been exploring the idea of mimesis, and the paper entitled "mimesis as a mode of knowing". This academic paper explores how vision and movement in aesthetic practice of Jean Painleve, which was written by Anna Gibbs, of the writing and Society research centre and digital humanities research group, within the School of humanities and communication arts, University of Western Sydney, Australia 2012.

In Gibbs is paper she likens the idea of mimesis, which she terms as corporeal copying and communication involving the sharing of movement and form in which affect ways a significant role. In essence what Gibbs says in her paper is that there are a number of different ways of conceiving affect, which she has written about outside of this paper, which I need to try to find and study. Gibbs argues that effectivity is a major component of the characteristic responsiveness of all animal wife, whether human or nonhuman. She gives examples such as smiling, and how both in humans and I believe in chimpanzees and possibly other apes and primates this visual cue is in itself an affect which can be copied by others nearby as a mimetic response. Other human behaviour can also create this copying of an affect which she calls "mimetic contagion".

My choice of the visual image of good gnome I believe also creates a mimetic contagion in many in order to respond with a smile. My idea of the gnome object and its facial translation into a disappearing memory, or notion of an object that is left behind disappearing as a memory, is an animated trigger which has the desired effect that I'm looking for.

I have therefore created further plaster of Paris moulds of the original gnome, but this time, once they are set I intend to fragment them, in a similar way to the broken statue of the original figure. This breaking up of the gnome is an allusion both symbolically and metaphorically to Heidegger's theory, and the notion of being which he later wrote about in his paper "Art and Space" (1969). Whilst Heidegger talks of art and space his original works have been built upon with further emphasis on the importance of temporality. Art space and temporality is intrinsically linked with my investigations of objects and memory.

I am intending to create some two-dimensional relief images, which are in fact on closer scrutiny, three-dimensional. When the plaster of Paris mouldings are dry, I will set to work on a series which combine the blue of memory with the fragmented objects memory together.

I'm still convinced that I must pursue the notion that Heidegger and his writings have planted, both in terms of art space and time (temporality) discussed above, with the concept of his theory of "being" and Heidegger's broken hammer.

I must create works which trigger appropriate emotional responses through affect, but must not be entirely obvious to the viewer. There is something still quite out of place in the images of gnomes that I want to continue to explore and will do so for the remainder of this term I suspect.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

R&D / Major Project. Round-up from the week

As a kind of summary or conclusion to the previous week, I wanted to start off with a note about the symposium was held last Thursday regarding "thought positions in sculpture and the archive".

This was an excellent conference with a very valuable group of speakers, which helped to search out an understanding of how three-dimensional artefacts (not just sculpture), can be thought about in the new millennium. It also touched upon the archive and contemporary art practice. I recall a lecture by Caroline Christoph Bakargiev back in 2014 at the University, and I understood her position following the duration of documenta 13, which was the opposition to the idea of archive. I was really pleased to see that this has become a feed into the work of Dr Alison Rowley, who is now the director for the Centre for sculptural thinking (CST), established in June 2014 and draws the University of Huddersfield art design and architecture school into a memorandum of understanding in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute and the Hepworth galleries. This has been described as "a rigourous and vibrant research environment".

In a few weeks time, I will be taking part in a bookbinding workshop on Thursday the 25th and Friday, 26 November at the gallery in Huddersfield. On very much looking forward to this.

Whilst I have not been able to attend the "thought bubble" festival in Leeds this year, which is actually a comic art practice festival, I have made a note in my diary for attendance and subsequent years perhaps as there may be some useful ideas to gain from it. As this festival seems to include comic art as its principal subject I wasn't sure if it would be appropriate for my practice at this stage. However from some of the feedback received from other students who have attended, it appears to be a much wider scope than just comic art, as it also includes painting and illustration as a much more open set of genres.

The British Art show is fully underway in Leeds art gallery now, and I am keen to attend the show, particularly over the Christmas holidays as it remains open until 10 January 2016.

There was much discussion this week also about the up-and-coming degree show next year, which will present the full range of works that my year of students, the graduate year, will exhibit.
It was pointed out that the studios have a particular set of "contingencies" with regards to the fact that there is no natural light entering them, so arguably depending on what I need, I need to think about lighting and positioning of my artworks in plenty of time so that this can be arranged through a curatorial team.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Major Project - Thought Positions in Sculpture, Part 2

Following the lecture by Esther Reeve, of Sheffield Hallam University, the next lecture in this series was presented by Dr Juliet McDonald of the University of Huddersfield, which was entitled "Displaying the Head of Victory".

Dr MacDonald outlined her research which is based on the original Leeds city War Memorial. Originally this statue was situated in the Victoria Gardens in Leeds, and was designed by the architect Henry Charles Fehr (1893 to 1961), and was unveiled in 1922. The original statue was probably a sculpture modelled on Nike the God of victory, but also included additional statues on the sides, which were figures that represented Peace and also a 'British' sculpture of St George slaying the dragon.

The history of the figure of victory and where it was subsequently positioned, provided a very interesting and chequered timeline. The relocations of the statue and the monument could be mapped to the Post world War one political and global changes over the next 100 years up to our present time. Eventually, the whole monument and statue, (not including the stone/concrete base that remains at the Headrow in Leeds), was abandoned and dumped. This led Dr MacDonald to highlight one of the inscriptions which was "Invictus Pax", which in Latin means "unvanquished in peace"

The statue represented in Dr MacDonald's mind, an object for "visceral bereavement", and she explained that grief requires an object to focus upon in order to be an affected point of attention.

The final installation presented by Dr Juliet McDonald is indeed the figurehead of the statue of victory within the gallery, and has been entitled "victory in the desert those quotes. This was chosen as a titled because during the 1922 period when the original memorial was unveiled, the British and French governments were engaged deeply in drawing lines and boundaries in Palestine, which included the deserts of Syria and Iraq. In contemporary sense, almost 100 years later, the conflict in those countries of Syria and Iraq continued to dominate much of the political attention of the British and French governments to this day.

The next lecture was provided by Dr Jill Townsley, University of Huddersfield, entitled "Stones"-an archive.

This extensive piece of work resonates with some of the things that Hester Reeves had discussed earlier within this symposium.

"Stones" was created in response to Bernd and Hiller Beckner's works upon conceptualism in a modern construct. For example "Tanks" (1973).

This works was about "change" within the product found in functional utilitarian buildings and industrial architecture of the every day during the 1950s 60s and 70s. It tackled the question of "the portraiture of our industrial fabric" in relation to nature, and natural, together with repetition.

In either cutters works he says "differences are superficial" and talks in terms of singularity, community, difference, archive and place. In Roremer's book (2001) regarding Bernd and Hiller Beckner's work, he says "measurement is a human construct".

In Dr Townsley's presentation of her works, she outlined that the stones were removed from a particular stream located on the Marsden estate, and the stones became an archival construct, as Dr Townsley collected a metricated 100 set of stones. By using "measurement" in various ways as each of the stones are displayed, we now have a relationship with each of them. Dr Townsley labelled this as archive 1.

The nature of the stones then changed by Dr Townsley polishing them, but instead of using their own form of polish, for example by waxing them, or some other transparent polishing technique, Dr Townsley actually used some 25 different types of nail polish, in order to redefine their content. Dr Townsley labelled this as archive 2.

In archive 3, the polished stones are placed into a clear Perspex tank. The stones are then suspended a few centimetres above the floor. In this, their new state, they can no longer be placed in the riverbed. This is an illusion to the stones being severed from their homeland.

In order to illustrate the concept of the above works, Dr Townsley selected a musical passage from the late Ivor Cutler (recorded in 1983) entitled "people run to the edge".

The narrative of lived experience sculpts our own output of thought. "Life writing" and the diegesic model, is modelling from life.

Both philosophers Faucault and Derrida, described that the word "capture" is an interesting term in the way that things are "owned". By displaying items in archives, it could be argued that certain objects are being liberated but again, this is not liberating certain other objects.

The final symposium lecture was provided by Dr Jeanette Martin, an archivist with the Royal College of art working at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.

The lecture was provided on archives and the creative practice and provided three case studies, a) Jackie Irving, b) Neal White, and c) Anton Lessiman. All of whom won scholarships at the Henry Moore Institute.

The question was asked what is an archive?
In definition, this is unique material created by an individual or an organisation in the pursuit of day-to-day life; a collection of historical documents or records that are no longer in daily use.

Example the artist, Jackie Irving provided "forgotten works" 2004. This traces the work of the artist Betty Rae, (1904 to 1965), who was a sculpture who taught at the Royal College of arts and was indeed a pupil of Sir Henry Moore himself.

Irvin produced a series "for all the lives we will never live" (2004) and also a further piece entitled "exhibition of 1957 revisited" (2005), which was taken as a series of nine reimagined photographs which were flipped and turned around to reimagine the original space.

The artist Jacob Eckstein, who provided sculpture for the BMA building (1908), was particularly of interest as the subsequent battles that Eckstein had there, as a result of placing the sculptural scheme on the outside of the BMA building, which caused a massive controversy at the time because of the statues potentially offensive to some nature, and then gain some 20+ years later afterwards a new property owner of the British Medical Association battled again to get rid of them. The whole records collection of these battles does make a great archive.

The next archive that was discussed was that of "Anton Lessiman" (1899 to 1971), which was a biography of this artist. These biography archives were presented by the Henry Moore Institute fellow, Paul Becker. It was only after the archive was exhibited that Paul Becker announced that it was a complete invention by him. Anton lessons fictitious archive was away to examine excepted histories in an original way. It reconfigures our ideas of validation. Only those individuals who are successful are remembered, the other lesser-known creatives are soon forgotten. Here it is suggested that this fictitious artists "Anton Lessiman" is one of those forgotten heroes. Becker stated at the time "sometimes famous people's work sucks up the creativity of others, like a black hole".

the archive as a thought position can be considered as a triangulation between sculpture contemporary practice and the past.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Major Project - Thought Positions in Sculpture

I was lucky enough to be able to attend seminar today which had been curated by Dr Rowan Bailey. The symposium was designed to bring together different responses to the recent exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery entitled "thought positions in sculpture", which displays the work of 10 contemporary artists who have encountered the archive and relate it to their own art practice.

The original planning for this exhibition and symposium commenced in April 2014 at the Royal College of Art engagement entitled "archival interventions in sculpture". Dr Rowan explained the context of both the exhibition and this symposium, which explores

  • What, as resources, can "the archive" offer?
  • What histories in thinking and making can be explored?
  • What are the various practitioners approaches to the archives?

All of these questions will provide a springboard for future thinking. Dr Rowan explained a triangulation informing responses as "an archive as a site of history", "practice led", "thought positions". These three areas provide the points of triangulation informing responses.

The work explores the new web-based archives of
1) National life stories website,-interviews with people in public life.
2) the Tate archives project,-an online collection of sketchbooks and interviews of various leading artists of the 20th century and the start of this millennium.
3) archives of the Henry Moore Institute based at Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds.

A major question to ask ourselves is "what might constitute a thought position in art practice?"
The answer to this is varied but includes our ability to read, to read a piece of art, to take time to understand, to linger, to absorb the wall wider and whole picture, to observe the Gesthalt.

In the words of the philosopher John Dewey "thinking is an art".

Whenever we think about arriving at a position in art, things don't always appear as they seem. Our neural pathways (our 'schemas' as I called it in a previous blog, or blueprints to our automatic cognitive way of thinking), influence our results. The need for us to individually pay attention to the collection of thoughts has been extensively written about by philosophers such as Heidegger and later the works of Jaques Derrida.

A lecture was then presented by Sheila Gaffney, Head of Art at the Leeds College of Art. This was entitled reflections on "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", and opened with the sound recording of the musical composition by Ennio Morreconi, which at the time of release in the 1960s, was in fact released before the film. It presented a brand-new way of creating a cinematic moment which was based on a number of sounds of 'quotidian objects' (i.e. everyday sounds from common things), and raw recorded passages that brought vivid images of the fictional environment.

In thinking about this piece of music, the philosopher Christopher Bollas provides an explanation of "the un-thought note".  He provides a description through psychoanalysis of the 'thought known'. In his book "The Shadow of the Object" he provides a psychic framework for embedded dreaming.

Dr Gaffney discussed the U.K.'s sculptural pedagogy which is built upon a position of "mothering"  to 'pre-form' a psychic frame of reference for making sculpture. She discussed the decorative, didactic, bombastic, mythological approach to the production of sculpture, based on the theatre of lived experience. She believes that much British pedagogy is inherited from the existing archive.

Consider a six-year-old observer of a piece of sculpture. Consider how they can provide an un-biased view of what a sculpture can mean. The signposting, created through a lifetime of lived experience completely changes our own output and feeling of any piece.

The next lecture was provided by Esther Reeve, of Sheffield Hallam University, entitled sculptural substance.

The lecture is based on a part poetic, part academic paper which will be published in the forthcoming weeks and is based on the exhibition "burning to speak" at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.

In "sculptural substance" Esther is trying to relate to the expression of a creative force, not a material substance. The human "creature" (the word itself signifies creative), and our capacity to be carved by our philosophical and ethical beliefs is what is being explored here.
The notion of a substance, beginning with the Aristotelian definition, suggests that the duality of substance and matter to create form is subjective, in that in substance, we do not have control of it.

The social and public interface of art practice and the associated careers, is purely human paradigms.

"There was a tradition" is a piece of art that Esther Reeve takes inspiration from, - the story of Plato (which includes drawers and salt cellars) found in the book Hector. The artist uses sentences from that book which also references the Temple of the Rohner (which was secondary in importance only to the Oracle at Delphi) for example the sentence "Oak speaks truth" and "the speaker is and from what country the tale comes".

We take for granted that we are all living our own unique lives.... "the artist lives-long live the artist!". What this means is that what we set up in life actually has a bearing on our future life.

An example the artist uses again is one taken from Grey's Anatomy, - "a drawing of a larynx" and the possible metaphor of the genera, which is greater of the voice itself, which can be thought of as the 'grain' of voice. This takes its reference from "Now Garbo" and the book "sculpture carving and constructing in space" (1937, page 109). Within it, the author writes "shapes act, shapes influence our psyche, shapes our events and beings. Our perception of shapes is tied up with our perception of existence itself".

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Life Drawing, (R&D) - Continuous Learning

Approximately 3 hours each Tuesday are spent in life drawing classes, run by Prof Swindell. Whilst I have not previously blogged about life drawing during the start of this term, I have so far attended every session to date. I'm amazed to see that other students sometimes do not see the value of life drawing, as the numbers of participants has slowly dwindled from a full class of 12 people, down to just three of us yesterday.

Nevertheless, whilst I may be old-fashioned in my approach to learning what I believe to be crucial as a skill in contemporary art, it seems that there is a genuine benefit to me personally in my drawing development. It was very useful to explore a variation on drawing yesterday, by using alternative media to pencil, graphite or charcoal which have been the traditional mainstay of life drawing.

By using alternative media, in yesterday's case we used very dilute acrylic paint together with drawing ink applied on a horizontal surface of 150 g/m² Fabriano paper. Our drawing boards were placed on the floor, so therefore we had to sit and look up at the model which totally changed our sense of perspective of the body and of for- shortening.

Because we were applying ink with a fairly thick quarter inch hogs hair brush, there was plenty of run-off. Whilst the paper did not bleed the ink as it dried, we were able to use dilute white acrylic paint with a similar sized brush, to create a completely different style of painting. The results of which I was particularly pleased with.

As my blog is a public site I am conscious of the need for some reserve when displaying the output of life drawing classes. Therefore I apologise if the image shown in this blog may offend anyone, however I have chosen a suitably abstract painting of mine in order to demonstrate an example of style I was exploring yesterday.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Research & Development - "The Blue of Distance"

For the last couple of months or so, I have been reading a book by Rebecca Solnit "a Field guide to getting lost" (2005) published by Viking Penguin/Canongate books Ltd. Which was recommended to me by Christian Lloyd. I have found that this is not just a Field guide, but more like a true companion! The way that Solnit writes resonates with the way that I often think. I have already quoted within this blog the concept of Shul, the Tibetan expression which generally means the impression that is left behind, which seems to have multiple meanings through that inference.

However I found it particularly resonant when I learned that Solnit also lived in Lima, the capital of Peru, South America when she was two years old, which must mean that she was there at the same time me and my family were living in that country too... The memories that I have of that place, are now so faded that I find it extremely difficult to picture or imagine the six years of my life which on the face of it must have held very many different events. Nevertheless, I recently found an old Bolivian ladies hat which belonged to my late brother, whilst I was clearing a wardrobe in his house. The object itself instantly brought a whole change in my feelings, so much so that I actually sat down and stared at the object for quite some minutes. It is after all just a hat. But the uniqueness of its shape, the felt outer covering, the brightly coloured woven patterns that had been lovingly positioned onto it, perhaps some 50 years ago, still brought vitality and re-imagining of a very comfortable and safe sense of warmth to me. Whilst I cannot remember much if any of the events leading to us acquiring this hat as a family, the sight of it alone, produced a very intimate affect.

Looking at the Media and Communications (M/C) Journal publication and the paper entitled "feeling, emotion, affect" by Eric shoes (December 2005) in M/C Journal, 8.6 (2005), he writes an interesting article which explains that although feeling and effect are often interchanged, but goes on to say how important it is not to confuse affect with feeling and emotions. He quotes brine assume these definition, which is based on Giles the loose and Felix got our is book 1000 plateaus, and states that affect is not a personal feeling. He says feelings are personal and biographical, whereas emotions are social, and affects our pre-personal. Whilst at first sight this may seem to be rather picky, the study of affect will soon explode any myth that this subject is a simple one.

I'm pleased to see that my own interpretation of emotion has been described as "the projection or display of the feeling". I have already written that my interpretation of emotion is quite easy to grasp because I have used the simple device of splitting the word E-motion to mean, Expressive Motion. These expressive motions, usually displayed facially, but can also include bodily, such as shaking, are a form of communication.

However affect, is "non-conscious experience of intensity; it is a moment of uninformed and unstructured potential". What that means to me is that an affect is triggered through external encounters which arguably, we have no control of. Our emotions are therefore set up by the affect, and depending on our own temperament we are able to consciously vary the degree and intensity of our expressive motions, our emotions.

And finally a feeling is our own internal sensation which is usually measured against our own life experiences or biography. Therefore our feelings are unique because individually our own life events, and the exposure to various situations, whether they be trauma grief, rage, anger etc provoking, will collectively add up within our own schema or blueprint of cognition, and so our response, measured or otherwise, will manifest itself as a feeling.

So I was particularly interested today, to hear about the sister of one of our senior tutors, and a short discussion I had in a corridor, where I learned that this person had a total phobia for garden gnomes. The very thought of the image of a garden gnome brings about a deep-seated feeling within this affected individual. As phobias are invariably generated as a result of childhood trauma related experiences, the scheme for this person in adulthood has been set in such a way that the neural pathways automatically and subconsciously trigger emotional responses to communicate distress. I found this fascinating and whilst I have true compassion and sympathy for the individual, or indeed anyone with phobias, it is clear to me that affect and phobia must be explored through my art in a much deeper psychological as well as physical and philosophical sense.

This short conversation perhaps lasting less than 15 seconds, provided a massive buzz of both recognition and satisfaction within me, and encouraged me significantly to continue on my quest for the gnomic image of "things left behind".

Monday, 9 November 2015

Major Project - Feedback on formative assessment

The planning phase has been initiated with very good use of the mind map, the swot analysis tool, the planning pro forma, a brainstorming sheet, and the development of a bucket list, which is ongoing. These tools were discussed as being very familiar to me, having used them prior to this University study. Whilst they form part of the research and development module, clearly this is linked directly to the major project as well, so their use has been an excellent way for to start using familiar tools. My output from these aids was a written proposal of my own format (attached) together with the University’s recommended planning sheet. I have also created a project Gantt chart with simple tasks, hierarchies and milestones to achieve on certain dates. I'm working well within this structure.

With regard to my practice, my exploration is based on “things left behind”, and how I can use these as a metaphor to express grief loss and affect. This problem / argument has been chosen to mean that I am looking at objects that are not necessarily “found objects”, (as there is a very wide genre and interest in contemporary art within found objects), but instead looks at the notion of the involuntary loss of something that may have been left behind. This is not about discarded objects, because this involves a wilful act of jettison. So I'm looking for something new as a genre to both complement and challenge the popular genre of found objects and recycling.

I have made excellent use of my mind map as a source of recorded thinking, to provide direction to my practice. I also continue to update my mind map as a "living document" which allows me to take detours of direction during my research journey and explore related and / or new areas of interest as they emerge.

Having chosen also to examine a life event, and then related it to my project of "things left behind", I can see a correlation between the loss of an object as a form of grief. The object that is lost is merely a metaphor or vehicle for me to express this idea. It could be the loss of a simple umbrella that has sentimental value, a laptop or mobile phone or wallet, or even a kettle (as per discussion with Christian Lloyd). It is these feelings, - indeed the ‘affect’ that I'm exploring through visual images. In my own case I have linked this metaphor of an object, to my brother’s death in 2014, the object that I lost around the same time was in fact a garden gnome. The reason for the choice of object is that whilst it's quite meaningless in theory and perhaps has only a monetary value of a couple of pounds, the sentimental value of it was quite high.

Through multiple representations of series of garden gnomes in two-dimensions, I'm trying to capture and express the idea of a lost third dimension. Having used various mediums including acrylic on paper, Plaster of Paris suspended in acrylic paint on paper, and latterly watercolour painting with a transparent wash, I am now exploring how I can create a new process of using fragments of a remoulded garden gnome, made from Plaster of Paris, within a two-dimensional painting to induce within the image, a sense of disappearance and fading, just like our memories of objects beginning to disappear and fade away. This is a very slight move away from the two-dimensional into the three-dimensional, but my representation of an imagistic idea will still retain an aspect of a lost dimension, back to two (i.e. a virtually flat surface plane).

I'm also interested in how I can explain my idea from the micro to the macro level, with some humorous twist. I'm exploring this through the traces that we as human beings leave behind, such as fingerprints, footprints, our virtual Internet footprint, and even write down to our own unique signature as DNA. (As per the Genome Project...)

(Tutor Feedback)
My feedback from my tutor was that my research here in my practice, is really very thorough and he also mentioned that this is reflected very well within my blog updates which he found interesting, because it was the combination of my writing and my studio practice work, which together provides very good research. He understood that my work is not just about making the image or making a sculpture, but it is this whole process of research which is an output. His view is that I could well have found an ideal way of how I could be practising as an established artist. This links both with the ideas that I'm having and the contextual and broad contextualisation of that with contemporary thinkers and practitioners, together with how I position myself, amongst all of them. It will be interesting how it will work on the realm of presentation, and how things have been discovered through research, rather than just objects, that I can develop over the next few months.

Overall I was very pleased with the formative assessment and my tutor gave excellent encouragement for me to continue on my journey of research.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Theory - Critical Thinking skills - Reflections

In Stella Cottrell's book, Critical Thinking Skills, (2011), (MacMillan Publishers Limited), I have found an excellent source of information and tuition which can be followed together with examples and self evaluation forms within the book which can be filled in to help develop my critical thinking abilities.

Some of the areas that I have found particularly useful to think about, is that often we are so eager to express our own opinion about a particular matter that we do not listen to other people's points of view or positions on topics. As a result an argument rather than a debate (in their normal everyday senses of these words) and skews. It's vital that I learned to listen more to a point of view and try hard to understand someone else's position in order for me to weigh up and evaluate any evidence that they may have presented. By listening carefully to other people's presentations and positions, it puts you as a listener in a much better position if you have an open mind, which will allow you to start to "read between the lines" of their own argument. It also allows you to start to understand particular techniques that people may use in their attempt to persuade you that their point of view is the correct one; rhetorical persuasion and false logic can manipulate a listener to agree on something even though the listener may have a completely different initial view or indeed no view at all.

It is often difficult to listen to other people's points of view without getting wrapped up with your own emotions, which may be based on individual idiosyncrasies or life events that may have influenced you at the time in the biased way. It is quite common for opinions to be made almost automatically in the heat of an emotional event. Whether we have arrived at the situation through frustration, distress or sadness, or anxiety or even rage and anger, we need to check those emotions at some stage, even if it is days weeks months or years after a particular event in order for our logical response and rational thought to be given the chance to formulate an unbiased position.

In critical thinking situations this self management of our emotional reactions is vital, so that we can form rational and well thought out responses to any points or arguments that are put forward to us. This is true during our everyday transactions with other people, as well as in our attempts to write essays and dissertations for academic review.

By listening properly to all the points of view that you can gain and then by reflecting on each of those positions in a logical and structured approach will allow you to judge whether an argument is valid and justified, or if it is fabricated and whimsical perhaps. Finally by using the Aristotle approach of hypothesis antithesis and synthesis, you are able to synthesise your own opinion and develop your own point of view with careful judgement of the facts that you have been able to obtain, in order for you to formulate your own individual statement or argument.

By going through the right approach and process of critical thinking it puts you into a position where you can present an argument that is clear to the listener is very well structured and logical and is truly persuasive based on well formulated facts that will leave the listener in no doubt that you understand your own position fully, and ultimately will change their own beliefs as a result of the new information that you have imparted to them.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Research and Development, Artist Review of Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Egon Schiele (1890-1918).

The tragic life events of Egon Schiele seem to be a particularly interesting series of tumultuous and traumatic "sculptural" blows to a highly gifted and skilled artist who at the dawn of the 20th century, died at the tender age of 28, and yet perhaps set in motion some of the most important styles of influence to contemporary art through the next century and into this millennium.

His early childhood was initially rocked by the death of his father, a station master in the Austrian town of Tulln, where he lived with his three siblings. Schiele lost his father in early adolescence at age 15, and it appears that this significant bereavement caused him to reflect on his own grief for the remainder of his life, which lasted less than 13 years after the extremely difficult time, when the young Egon had to witness the steady deterioration of his father, due to a worsening of mental stability and insanity (after he contracted syphilis, prior to marrying Egon's mother).

The resultant output of art from Schiele, whilst clearly influenced by his mentor Gustaf Klimt, seems to hold particularly disturbed and some may argue rather twisted movements of brushstrokes or pencil, in almost all of the subjects that Schiele chose for his objects of representation, the most famous of which are Schiele's figurative works.

Whilst he is mainly celebrated for his unique style of capturing an image in a radical gesture of the nude, his other works also reflect, what I believe to be a deep sadness within the mind of young Egon. It seems that he was tortured mentally in many ways;  in his relationship with his mother, with relationships later with his models and possibly lovers, and finally with his wife, Edith Halms, whom he married in June 1915.  After only four days of marriage, Egon Schiele was requested to sign up for Army service.

Image; - Courtesy of the Royal Academy
(* PLEASE DO NOT COPY * - for personal research purposes only).

He had already built up a strong and successful reputation as a flourishing young artist, at the age of 25, and spent the next few years transferring Russian prisoners of war to and from Vienna. He was therefore able to continue to some degree as an artist, and was later posted back to Vienna in what seems quite a comfortable position for a military serviceman.  Indeed so much so that he was actively encouraged by the military leaders of the time, as he was recognised as perhaps one of the most promising young artists throughout the whole of Austria and Europe during the second half of the First World War. As a result he was given permission and asked to take part in a number of exhibitions to politically assist with the relationship being built between Germany Austria and the Scandinavian countries.


All retrieved between 05-07 November 2015.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Major Project / Research through practice

My next area of interest beyond the two-dimensional paintings using Plaster of Paris as a substrate suspended within the acrylic paint itself produced some interesting results last week.

Whilst doodling and creating a water-based image of fading gnomes slowly disappearing through a hazy blue mist of memories I was able to lose myself and thought and come up with a further idea of expression which I will outline below.

I'm keen to explore further how I can represent my idea of "things left behind" and continue to use a simple object as a garden gnome as a metaphor. I have therefore embarked upon making a series of copies of garden gnomes as taken from the original smashed item, which I rebuilt during my summer holidays into an object that was "as good if not better than new".  At the beginning of the week I started this little investigation.

My garden gnome has therefore been covered in a layer of latex. I will repeat an application of latex to provide sufficient layers in order to create a mould. This flexible mould will need additional support and my method of providing the support will be through a casting method known as using "a mother mould".

(One day later...)  This mother mould will be made from Plaster of Paris.

(Two days later....)

The moulding process will require a number of steps where each casting will be required to dry. As the cast will need to be removed from the latex in the mould, a series of locator lugs will need to be incorporated into the first base mould.

Once the base mould was dry, I coated the surface with a mixture of paraffin jelly to stop the next player from sticking to it. I also divided the latex mould from the future fourth quadrant by using a plasticine barrier which was laid laterally on the surface of my garden gnome. Wonderful casting process was complete I was then able again to use a layer of paraffin jelly between the third quadrant and the final quadrant of the mould.

Day 5...
I have then left the combination mould to dry for the remainder of the week / weekend.....

Early stages yet, but I think that this might be a good exercise.  It is quite time consuming, but I have been able to do other things, including my formative assessment preparation this week.
 I have learned some very useful techniques this week about double moulding and casting, although I do have some previous experience of making lead / metal casting using clay moulds in the past.  The use of a flexible latex inner mould and mother mould is new to me, and I'm looking forward to seeing early results!

Theory - Critical analysis - Short lecture / group seminar.

Dr Beth Coldwell provided a short lecture regarding critical thinking, and opened the discussion with the old cliche "if it's too good to be true, it usually is!"

The point of this quotation is to underline the importance that whenever a claim is made, - if we as students are to depend on this, we must search for its validity in academic literature, but we must be aware that even in published papers there are claims that may only be partially true. The key is to find proper supporting validity in order for our opinions to be made when writing our essay. An example was to consider the claim made by the National express newspaper in 2009 which claimed that by drinking 7 cups of coffee each day, or more, would lead us into having hallucinations. This piece of newspaper reporting was based on a very narrow piece of research, with a very dubious range of participants based on demographic of university students. It did not represent wider population. Many people drink more than 7 cups of coffee every day and have no ill effects, and yet a national newspaper was able to publish this?

Critical thinking and reading is not about being negative. It is about considering all the points of an argument academically. In our reading, we are likely to find authors with different views about the subject which is to investigate. It is our job as an essay writer to consider as many if not all the views in order to come up with our own opinions. It is therefore necessary to find the correct references, and then to follow them up and checked them in detail.

  • An essay requires an academic argument.
  • The argument is a journey which is taken in order to explore and find consensus.
  • The argument moves beyond the discussion and also beyond simply describing whatever the topic of interest might be. If an essay becomes a discussion or description about the topic only, it has little weight.
  • An essay needs to have enquiry and critical thought together with proper reasoning and challenging of existing knowledge in order to create new knowledge to any existing body of research. This is what makes a good essay both interesting and successful.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

R&D - Seminar - Research Methods, - Research Through Practice

In this the second seminar by Christian Lloyd and Alison Rowley, the group investigated and openly discussed ideas as to "what constitutes as research".

In contemporary art there is much discussion in the research method known as "research through practice", an item which I wrote about on this blog last year, which were based on ideas from John Dewey, James Elkins, and many other scholarly commentators in both philosophy and art. I will not therefore go into much detail about that within this blog, other than the fact that it is now established within me, that the idea of just continuing to make, leads to new ideas in themselves.

An essential part of research is to understand "what comes first"? The idea leads to questions and observations....

It was suggested by Dr Rowley that during a recent trip to London, she found herself on Baker Street quite near to the London tube lost property office. She happened to be passing this particular building which had a very ornately decorated shop window, which contained a magnificent display of various items of things left behind on the London Tube, which ranged from the ubiquitous umbrella all the way through to more obscure personal items of unique ownership, such as prosthetic limbs, glass eyes and other peculiar objects. I was glad to hear Dr Rowley also mention the affect of lost objects and the lecture by Caroline Christov Bakargiev in 2014.

I also introduced the concept of "the parking lot" to the group. This was an idea that I had explained to one of the students a few with weeks ago, who was rather stressed about finding new ideas and having too much in his head and so I recommended that whilst he recorded these ideas somehow he should also take them out of his head and leave them somewhere in order to go back to them to take another look at some future time.

There seemed to be an interesting and direct resonance with Dr Rowley in my investigation and research on how grief provides an "affect" and my choice to research "things left behind" and lost objects.

Through research through practice the synthesis and output is to be able to communicate the content of the research through the images and objects that I intend to make but it is vitally important that I maintain a clear goal to express what else I am also bringing to the existing body of work, as new and innovative material.

So what is being innovative? Well, it means that I need to be taking this idea and combining it with ideas from elsewhere in order to culturally add to the whole. As mentioned in my blog that I wrote before this seminar, by being aware of the wider picture it is crucial to also focus upon the detail.

Towards the end of the discussion, it was suggested that by looking at other examples of art from a completely different direction can help to formulate your own ideas.

The "ethics form" provided by the University may help to look at my project/from a completely different angle. This ethics form can certainly help to ask questions that I may not have considered previously.

A further idea was to look at materiality in itself.   A good example given to me to look at something in a completely different angle might be the work of Rebecca Homms (???)  and her "Knitted Items" of art, for example the pink tank cover.

[I later found this artist to actually be Marianne Joergensen...]

retrieved from;

(Courtesy of Machine-Raum, Denmark, 2015 (Image for personal research only, - please do not copy).

  • What is it that we need to know about where our own ideas sit within the wider world and in relation to what is going on in the contemporary environment and culture?
  • What are we looking at as individuals which is of interest to us as an idea?
  • Who is currently researching or dealing with this idea in other areas of art or indeed in the world?
  • And finally how do research, and how do they search for resolutions to those ideas?

In reflection of this seminar I feel quite comfortable that I have chosen a suitable problem statement in order to create a body of work, a body of research which I can apply to my artistic practice, and a long term investigation which in theory, could last for many years...

in focusing upon materiality viz.
  •  how and what I make my art out of must have both cultural and exploitative significance.
  • How can I explain loss and grief through materiality?
  • The material itself has properties. Any "accidental" finds during my research through making is obviously quite key to my ability to express my notions and ideas.
  • What do I need to know from my own research?
  • The question I also need to keep asking myself is "how do other practitioners research this similar idea"?

And finally my Research and Development blog must continue to document my journey which I should include with 'the bits left behind' in "The Car Park". I must continue to summarise and contextualise my ideas but also to show my mistakes, together with research that can also be drawn from information obtained through daily living.