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

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Book Review - "Rethinking Art" (2008) by Steve Shipps - Part 3

Following on from the first few chapters reviewed over the previous week;  So having now re-established that art 'lately' (to use Steve Shipps phrase), is just as much about the idea as it is about the object, whether that object be a painting or a sculpture or any other visual event, it (that is, the movements which started Modernism), opened the door not only for experimenters; already mentioned, starting with Cézanne, through to the works of Picasso, Mondrian and even more lately the conceptual art that we now see in the Tate modern.

It should be noted that this trend of 'reducing' is not just concerned with art, but is also the key to examination to almost all human philosophical and scientific endeavours. In order to examine something we divide and dissect it into its component parts, and keep stripping away the layers of the metaphorical onion. I mentioned philosophy here, because it seems this particular field of study has been getting closer and more entwined with art throughout the 20th  and has continued into this nascent 21st century.

The outcome of all this stripping down, dividing and dissection and incredibly close scrutiny, provides the roots and reasons for 'Abstraction'. The word itself is enough to understand what abstraction in art actually means; which is, to remove a 'part' of something, and view or think, about it (this removed bit) separately and independently. This trend towards stripping down and looking at only a fraction or fragment of the whole also explains why 'representational art' as we usually think of in things like landscape or figure painting (or sculpture), seems to have taken a backseat towards the latter part of the 20th century, although it could be argued that there is a second Renaissance beginning to emerge, that cherishes and celebrates the work of the original Masters (e.g. See ARC - the Art Renewal Centre, https://www.artrenewal.org/).

So what does this mean when we look out, and to survey art in general in today's culture? Well, to quote some philosophical ideas, and in particular the idea of pluralism and the rhizome. (This needs a little explanation, a rhizome in the traditional sense, is a way of referring to a particular type of vegetation, for example some types of grass, or bramble or strawberries and various other plants...What these organisms do is to spread their roots (usually under the ground, but sometimes also above), outwards in an almost random network from a central point, then establish new plants in time, but the evidence of them only comes to the surface to be observed almost as randomly sprouting shoots.  I also like to think of this, a bit like watching a city from a distance during the New Year celebrations, and seeing fireworks emanating from all sorts of different random places, and bursting into beautiful light throughout the night sky. Whilst a rather poetic description of what rhizome actually means, this can also be applied to the generation of ideas and hence art and art forms.  This is what is happening not only now, but has been happening since Cezanne and his desciples started to challenge the previously structured (and some may justly say, elitist) views of what art is.  The momentum for these new rhizome-ic ideas has just been getting faster and faster.  In a metaphorical way, this falling fireworks are just creating new fires to light up the sky!

Reference; "(Re)-Thinking Art - A Beginners Guide", Ships, S. (2008), Blackwell Publishing, Malden, USA.

Friday, 18 December 2015

(Follow on) - Presentations & Critiques, a short lecture by Dr. Dale Holmes.

In thinking about presentation, one should ask oneself how we "stage" our own work? How do we make an exhibition memorable?

Frederick Keesler in 1942 was one of the 1st to start a new approach to exhibiting art. This was done at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, in New York at an exhibition entitled "the Art of this century", opened in Manhattan, on the top floor of a shopping/department store. This new way of presenting work, "off the wall" where it was suspended from the ceiling and through other mechanisms, provided an intervention and disruption to the normal way of viewing art. Consider this with the writings of Herbert Read and "a new experience to be taken away" the way we encounter pictures was a new field of vision and can be made better by empirical testing; the expanded field of vision.

This gave birth to a new type of installation art. The work of El Lissitski and sculptured relief.


  • See also Goska Macuga and later series (2000) another artist with a new style of presentation. See also Martin Kippenburger and his revisit of the salon, curated by Kevin Wade and Ruth Claxon, Sophie Bonn Elemann "paintings in situ" and paintings on paintings.
  • Consider the work of Raymond Pettibon and drawings?
  • Try going into a room for the first time and seeing objects that you have never imagined. Encourage the sense of wonderment like going into an old sweetie shop!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Book review. "Rethinking Art" (2008) by Steve Shipps, part 2

In chapter 3 of Steve Shipps book "Re-Thinking Art",

... he talks about the work (that was pioneering at its time) of Johann Winkleman who was born in 1719.  During the time that he lived (i.e. mid 18th century), there was a burgeoning middle class, as we approach the time of The Enlightenment and the first stirrings of the Industrial Revolution.

Winkelmann was a historian, and is also today known as 'the father of art history' (according to Steve Shipps).  He developed a fascination for collecting and classifying that all the arts that he could lay his hands on; from the classical and Greek art of (arguably the first true enlightenment during the Greek and Roman 1st centurys); and then all the way through until the (what was current then), 18th century.

In 1768, when Winkelmann died, he had, already by that time, become such an expert and knowledgeable scholar of art, to enable him to be the 'Superintendent of Antiquities' in Rome... Considering he was not an Italien by birth, this in itself was quite an achievement!
What is important here, is that Winkelmann, in his cataloguing and study of all the art that he knew of, is that he was basically laying the foundations for 'a history of ancient art'.  As a result of all of this fabulous knowledge and indexing, he published a book, entitled with the same phrase; 'The History of Ancient Art' which was fully released in 1764.

It took some time before other scholars started to emulate (and think in the same way), that Winkelmann had first thought; with regards to 'making sense of what they understood to be art' and of their "idea" of art, - much of the "idea" of which had in fact, been formed some 300 years or so earlier during the Renaissance.

So what Steve Shipps says in Chapter 3, is that the awareness that 'the idea was just an idea' had begun to be lost in some of the translations, between all of these scholars talking about art; which in in their terms was a "thing" or an object; - something tangible of course.

What Winkelmann actually did was to create a history of art, based on the 'then current knowledge' of what art was available; this leads me to suggest that you only know what you know - you don't know what you don't know!...
 As a result there was a heavy bias on what was Greek and Roman classical arts, - which then followed through the knowledge that Winkelmann, and other historians had been able to gather through the 18th-century only.  Furthermore, this was also (mainly) based on Western art or perhaps arguably just European art, and tended to neglect any of the Third World development from art created by indigenous Indians and so on.

So, what Winkelmann's book did, and in his 'History of Art' was to set a kind of foundation; or perhaps even a yardstick, with which to look, measure and compare art against.  Again, that content was mainly limited to paintings and sculpture of some sort.  In other words, what was curated and what was collected by Winklemann and the established 'Acadamy' for art, were the ideas buried within the historians own minds, of what they thought art actually was. And so this set precedents.

Therefore the original concept that 'art is a sense perception', seems to have got distorted and somewhat lost; as it has been, in Shipps words, "drawn-down" through the ages.

"Rethinking Art" - By Steve Shipps, - Chapter 4

In the next chapter (Chapter 4) Steve Shipps describes the concept of Modernism, and explains how it is often confused because the misunderstanding of the words. Modern as a word with a small 'm', in simple terms just means up-to-date, or lately. However even that can be confusing because everything that is new at any moment in time can be considered as being modern. For instance when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, at the specific time when it was painted, it represented the 'then modern' idea of what heaven might look like. So at that time it was modern with a small 'm'.

Unfortunately at the end of the 19th century, it really started to get confusing, because artists in particular as well as architects, having lived through the periods of enlightenment and the industrial revolution, started to push the envelope with respect to what they created. New forms of both art and architecture were being produced in tandem with a very quickly adapting culture, where the masses or the proletariat or just the general people were able to say and do whatever they wanted to do with much more freedom. The control of those people was becoming much more relaxed. Ideas as to how societies should be established and government were changing radically. In fact everything was changing at an extremely fast pace, much faster than it had ever been witnessed before. Eventually all these tensions over spilled and in some ways fuelled the arguments which broke into World War I and some 20 or so years later into World War II.

Because of all this newness, and when particularly applied to and considered with respect to art and architecture, the idea of Modernism, with a capital M, virtually became a political drive. Indeed there was in fact a Modernist manifesto, as much a political manifesto as a cultural one.

Therefore this name stuck for a particular period of time. Modernism and Modernist paintings created initially by Paul Cézanne, and those whom I like to refer to as his disciples such as Monet and Renoir, and then later, by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, particularly caught the eye of the general public, together with Henri Matisse, Vasily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp and many others, really actually relate to a period of time from around the 1880s through to perhaps the 1940s. Most of the art that was being created during this period, which did not conform true to traditional or classical representations of what the general public thought of as being art, were therefore classified as Modern, or Modernist. So the term modern or Modernist with a capital M, is really a classification of art, (and also architecture, but arguably there is even more confusion here, because the start and finish dates of the Modernist period for architecture are rather longer and extend from around 1850 right the way through to the 1970s, and even these boundaries of dates can be disputed).

This general loosening up of control of the people, of the proletariat et cetera, was not just confined to the sociopolitical arena. It was sort of happening everywhere, a general push for freedom from the master and slave relationship, for example the abolition of slavery, the establishment of workers rights; and eventually and much later votes for women and their own freedom from the masculine control that had existed for hundreds if not thousands of years. This loss of control generally also applied to the control of arts, and as described previously, the loss of control from the Academy. The most prominent example of this, in the art world, was the establishment of the Impressionists, and in particular the submission by Claude Monet in 1872, of a very new style of painting to the annual Academy exhibitions in Paris, which was rejected outright. So very courageously, Monet decided to hold is own exhibition together with his friends and other disciples of Paul Cézanne in complete disobedience to the Academy.

During all of this time of course, one of the most radical changes to visual arts had also been introduced. That being the advent of the invention of photography, which gave the ability for anybody, not just a trained artist who may have spent years developing and improving his craftsmanship, to simply look at an image or scene and capture it.

So the idea that art was based on something that a human would copy, or imitate in some way, often known as mimesis, started to lose ground simply because a camera, which is a type of machine, was able to copy something instantly and with the result that was perhaps better and more accurate than anything a human could do with a pencil or a paintbrush. This naturally led to the question opening up again as to 'what' art was. Why do we create art? What is it for? What is art? And so on…

A simple visualisation, the expression of an idea, a mimesis of an event and so on, wasn't simply enough to satisfy all these new enquiring minds, who perhaps some 200 years ago had never had any access to art other than that which may have been painted in a religious setting, or for the exclusive review of the elite and extremely wealthy. In this new cultural environment therefore, the spectator or viewer of art pieces took it upon themselves to start to think much more deeply and critically about what was being presented to them.

So coming back to the work of Claude Monet, it was clear that he was creating something that was so special, that it was beyond simple copying or mimesis. It was better than photography, because instead of just capturing an image, his and his companions artistic style seemed to be capturing and representing so much more! They seem to capture a kind of mood. How therefore, could art historians, such as those that studied the doctrine of Johann Winkelmann, classify such artworks? Impressionist paintings broke all the rules about mimesis and copying. Those artists, the Impressionists, are now considered as being pre-modern, as well as Modernist. Unknowingly, perhaps they were exploring some of the foundations of the true meanings of art, that being of sense perception.

This led on to a natural challenge by other artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 20th century to create something even more "modern", and their own thinking about three-dimensional representation on a two-dimensional plane… The emergence of Cubism. And so the gates of creativity were opened. New artists started to challenge all previous held concepts of art and what it was, and that even goes on to this very day.


It might be worth pointing out at this point, that it seems to be built into the human psyche that we have to quantify everything. We have to measure it somehow, to put it in a pigeon hole, to categorise it, to compare it with something that has gone before, to validate it against something else that may have been created by somebody we believe to be very accomplished, and so on. This in a way as a defining characteristic of what makes us human.

But if I may be so bold, all of this making, doing, categorising, quantifying, measuring, et cetera et cetera, if you were to strip away all the hyperbole from all those academics and without question, highly intelligent and articulate human beings, ultimately, Art and "being an artist" is an occupation. It occupies us. It is a past time. We pass our time on this planet through art, by either making it or looking at it, measuring it, criticising it, thinking about it. ...It's a pastime. How we choose to pass our time now that we have all this freedom, this drive to create something new, something unique, (the seeds of which were sown some 200 years ago or so, during the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution), could in itself the the described as the bedrock of what art, and particularly contemporary art actually is today.

Reference; "(Re)-Thinking Art - A Beginners Guide", Ships, S. (2008), Blackwell Publishing, Malden, USA.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Critique groups and presentations during 2016. - A short lecture by Proff Steve Swindells.

Each week students will be selected to Exhibit 2 to 3 pieces of work in room T1/06, together with a 200 word statement.

The statement is a document which will conceptualise the work. It does not have to be factual as it can also be fictional and should be aimed at being presented towards a layperson; it should be able to be read out to a public group, and as a result, the critique group will provide a peer-to-peer feedback through a specific assessment sheet.

The major project work we have been undertaking is essentially a line of enquiry. The ever louche and of that line of enquiry reflects the development of our practice and should show how it is critically linked to what we actually do on a day-to-day level. It is therefore vital to make sure that the work is tightly linked to our major enquiries.

For example see the work of Jim Jarmusch… "Nothing is original steel from anywhere that resonates with inspiration…

Jean-Luc Godard art… "It's not where you take it from, it's where you take it too!"

When thinking about a body of work and creating one, we should focus upon this as a kind of family. The family needs to be connected for it to work.

Prof Steve Swindells provided a presentation and overview of how his work has developed since graduating in 1988, through his time spent in Kyoto Japan, and also in California, USA. Since 1998 he has collaborated with Steve Dutton, as Dutton and Swindells. The collaboration of language and text in art in their work has also included animals in art. The idea of installations with animals in the space is taken forward in reflection of the work "1000 Plateaus" by Giles Deleauze and Felix Guattauri, and the idea of becoming animal, and animal consciousness to the approach of art. Much of the work involves in version and reversal of text and images; a doubling and repetition, and in a way to create some sort of "magic" as an idea of the hidden or inexplicable thing.

Art may convey a message, but it is also necessary to leave things open. Interpretation of art is always up to the viewer. As I have mentioned before art equals aesthetic equals sense perception.


  • During the forthcoming critiques I must be very careful about what I show. I need to be ruthless with myself to define my work, and bearing in mind that about 90% generally, of artists work is rejected by themselves, the action or practice within the studio is essential in order to provide a studio environment which is an engine for ideas. It must keep producing and keep going no matter what.
  • Thinking about the recent visit by the visiting artist Will Yakulic, this constant pushing for new ideas does seem to be pushing me towards more research that might twist the ideas of Jeff Koons. How can I make an idea that is "mine?"

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Book Review - On Rethinking Art Steve Shipps, Part 1

This book is a great introduction into how art has changed through the ages from the work of skilled crafts-men of the pre-renaissance, the Renaissance where art was created usually within guilds as artisans, the post renaissance,  - into Artists, who create Art, then into Aestheticians and up to the modern day ...

The book starts off with an introduction "what's the big idea?", Which is kind of a fireside discussion or friendly chat about how art has emerged within the Western culture, and the discussion about how there is so much confusion on what the description of art might be. He goes on to talk about the distinction between art and fine art, and if indeed, there is actually any distinction at all? But the essence of this first chapter that I picked up was that the word art, has its roots in Greek, like so many things have its roots in the Western world. The word art is derived from the Greek word meaning technology!… In 1986 the critic Arthur C done to wrote the book "the end of art" within The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art, published in New York, by Columbia University press. Within that book he suggested that the idea of art was now at an end. However we now some 30 years on, and it seems to be growing even quicker!

Art as an idea, is all about our own ideas of being human. The word art, is incredibly peculiar for one thing, and the author goes into a very logical and detailed explanation of the interpretation of how the word can be used for the various and mum to multiple manifestations. It's clear to see that art to somebody, is not art to somebody else! The author also discusses some of the fundamental philosophical ideas that perhaps starts with Aristotle (although not directly quoted) and the Cartesian theory of head and body. He talks about self-consciousness and our own awareness in relation to our own individual experiences, as we emerged and evolved as human beings. This links really nicely with some of the research I have been doing around the subject of emotions, affect theory and so on, and in particular our reactions to events coupled with our ability to articulate them. By this I mean our language. So this self-consciousness and language, combined together to try and make sense of the world that we live in seems to be at the root of what art is all about.

In chapters 2&3, Steve Shipps discusses the history of art, not only in visual images, but just as importantly what the word art, has actually meant as we have progressed from viewing artistic images that were almost certainly and exclusively originally within the domain of religion, through to the Renaissance, then a few hundred years later the rise of the industrial revolution, and the access that was made available for all sorts of art to be viewed not justify the middle-class but everybody into the modern day.

The word Art, just actually means to create... Aesthetic, - comes from the Greek word Aesthesis, meaning sense-perception.

An epiphany again for me, whilst reading this book!

So art, is something in a contemporary sense, that gives a viewer sense-perception.... It induces a sense perception; in other words it plays with your perception, ergo, it plays with your mind!!!!

This soooo explains the conflict of contemporary art with the public, when they say "they don't get it"... Well, arguably, by saing exactly that, they are getting "it"!   - The "it" of course, is the sense-perception.  They might not like "it", but they are certainly getting "it"....

Doh, its taken me soooo long to get it too!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Theory thoughts, the final tutorial....

My final theory conversation today with Mike... before having to hand in my essay on my return to Uni on the 18th January .... 2016!

I can't believe where the time haas gone!

I still haven't really got straight answers for the questions I poserd via email on

1. Is an ABSTRACT required at the start of the essay?
2. Are titles preferred to be numbered or un-numbered?
a. What position alignment, Align Left, or Centred?
3. ** IS A Bibliography of “Books read” also required / advantageous???
4. What detail is required together with the figures? (i.e. Artist, (Date),
      a. works name?
      b. Medium?
      c. Gallery? etc?
5. What is the preferred punctuation / use of single ‘quotes’ and double “quotes”…
     a. As it seems the APA is American punctuation too, so parenthesis and full-stops (periods.) are placed inside instead of outside etc…
     b. What is correct use of colons and semi-colons, and where would I use either?
6. Should Diagrams and figures also be included inside the References section, or should they be separate, (as a separate Appendix reference and also as a separate Table as shown at end of document)?
       a. How should the section and table be titled?
7. Are headers and footers acceptable?

So on top of this, Mike then recommended I need to remove Kiefer!.... But he's central to my theme!!! Not too chuffed hearing that.

I can rewrite it I suppose, but that last one knocked me out a bit...


Well, in the absence of getting direct answers to the above I think my only option is to go to the APA referencing site outside of the #university oand follow the actual real live American Psychology Association rules....  http://www.apastyle.org/  seems to be the official site....

As I'm doing an Introduction on 1 page, it doesn't seem smart to do an Abstract, as it would be just about the same thing... With regards to answers to my other questions, I'm sure I can find them in the referencing stuff and the previous lectures.  If not, I will just make educated guesses....

At the end of the tutorial, I felt rather deflated.... Particularly after Mike recommended that I completely re-write my essay.  So after just about finishing it, it seems I might as well start again....

Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained....  I shall put it to one side over the christmas festivities and re-start it in the new year with renewed zeal and vigour.  I will re-write it, remove the emphasis on Kiefer, but increase some on Richter.

All my research has been useful so I can weave a good response to include a fair amount of this.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Introduction to Dr Graham Lister, Senior Lecturer. (Glasgow School of Art).

This introductory lecture was provided to the group following the appointment of Dr Graham Lister, to the academic tutors of the University of Huddersfield, School of art design and architecture.

Dr Lister described his practice as "the interlinking of theory and practice", as it makes so much more sense in the pursuit of academic exploration to latch onto a theory in order to work that theory and your own practice. The idea as practice as research, and research through practice are an intertwined dialogue which is often used in contemporary art thinking. A key influencer to Dr Lister in theoretical philosophy is the work of Michel de Cherteau, and particularly the book "the practice of every day", translated and edited into English. Another key influence is the work of Tim Ingold, and his book "a brief history of lines". These two books are key sources of both ideas and influence with ideas and theories of space, and how it makes a difference to our everyday lives.

Tim Ingold, through his own research practice, is about tracing lines in space in order to connect points together. The work is developing a series of connected elements. And in his own words "telling the story of the journey as I draw, I make a narrative…"

In the case of Michel de Cherteau, he starts his book with "their story begins on ground level, with footsteps…"

Dr Lister's interest is in making, tracing a line. In fact his doctorate was called "Making / tracing a line". For this project Dr Lister was awarded funding and chose to make a tracing of the line of the route 66, from Michigan to Santa Monica in the United States. He created various in situ oil sketches of the scenes that he came across on his daily journey, documenting his experience at the same time.
Back in the studio in Glasgow, he then travelled the same route, the same line, but this time by using the Google Street view application online, during 2012.

Whilst he documented the progression, this wasn't about the lines or the views that he came across, but actually about the lines that crossed. The intersections of the spaces of junctions were of interest to him. These are kind of non--place. These are in a sense the liminal. They are like airports or Travelodge Hotel rooms! They are purely functional, but essential to act out in order for us to complete our own individual everyday lives.
What happens when we visualise these places?

An example of another artist exploring this might be Trevor Young; baggage claim (2007) of a very unusual "24-hour ATM", (2009).

Dr Lister has investigated the city of Glasgow as spaces of "non-places". For this work he was commissioned by the Glasgow City Council to demonstrate interconnections and intersection points within the city. The lines of thread interconnect each of these non-places, and an exhibition was presented within the city as a result of this work.

We "flit" between intersecting points in the virtual ground level, for example Facebook. Another book example might be Manuel Castell's "The Rise of the Network Society".
Or another book by Nicholas Borriade "The Alter-modern".

Dr Lister discussed that the word essay (something that were all deeply involved with at the moment), is actually a word taken from the French meaning "to try"

An artistic practice is a "machine for thinking"it is once been said.

Some of the key influences artistically that Dr Lister has is the work of Franz Ackerman.
For example "Evasion VIII, (1997).
Evasion XIII - Tropical 5 Star, © Franz Ackermann, Photo: Jens Ziehe

Or perhaps "Spate Ankunft" (2014) by Franz Ackerman.
Franz Ackermann, „Späte Ankunft“, 2014, © Franz Ackermann, Photo: Jens Ziehe
He calls these works "mental maps" and it connects various fragments of his thinking.

Copyright - Simon Ling (2013).  Please do not copy any of the above images.
For Research purposes only!
And also Simon Ling, -  Unitled, (2013) - Fragments.

Summary & conclusions;

  • It occurred to me that Dr Lister's work was very much about the influence of hypertext, invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, which is the enabler of virtual linking. I wondered if he had looked at the idea of "swarm theory" and some of the work of John Gage who was the inventor of the Java language and I recall some very interesting seminars that I was lucky to witness, even though they were virtual broadcasts from San Francisco, during my time at Sun Microsystems.
  • How can a theory influence practice? 
  • How can these theories form a basis for practice?
  • Make a dialogue between theory and practice which is evident in your own work?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Major Project; Thoughts on Hiedegger and the role of obstinance

In the pursuit of my understanding for the works of Martin Heidegger, and after many discussions with my principal tutor Dr Dale Holmes, he kindly lent me a book that has been very influential on his own practice and way of thinking, that being the book "Prince of Networks, Bruno Latour and Metaphysics", by Graham Harman (2009), an open access book published under 're-press', Melbourne, Australia.

Bruno Latour is widely regarded as a key influence on the field of metaphysics. Born in Beaune, France in 1947, his Jesuit upbringing and interest in the works of Wilhelm Frederick Nietzsche created a solid foundation for his further study at that academic level in anthropology and sociology.

 In essence, what Latour realised, was;
"Nothing can be reduced to anything else, nothing can be deduced from anything else, everything may be allied to everything else". (Quoted from 'The Pasteurisation of France', Latour, B., translated by Alan Sheridan and John Law, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, (1988).

In a philosophical sense what this means is that every object in existence, whether it be a human or non-human object, stands alone by itself and can be considered to have its own 'force' to reckon with. In other words again, every object has an influence. These influences can be conscious or subconscious. The interaction of those 'forces' (as Latour likes to call them), is what makes the world that we live in, together with our perception of everything within it.  And that extends to the Galaxy & the Universe as we know it, by extension...

 How we choose to study those forces, (or influences) and then philosophise about them, and necessarily, the objects which emit those influences, is very much what I am interested in, in creating my series of gnomes. As I have said before, the object, is arbitrary. It is how it influences our thinking that is at the root of my enquiry.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Seminar, - Visiting Artist, Will Yakulic

Earlier on in the day we were lucky enough to hear a lecture by Will which discussed his progress as an artist from humble beginnings in New York, through San Francisco, then London and onto Sheffield where he now currently resides.

The first question given to will was, "can being part of a particular community and later comment upon the black community at the time, or is this something retrospective?"
Will… "In, the ideas are generated within a community, but usually, how those ideas manifest themselves into art comes later. In my case, in New York, most of the artists that were based there have now moved out of New York City and live in Philadelphia, as a result, the community has now dispersed, and so ideas don't flow the same way.

Being in Sheffield is influencing the work that I am doing there, for example, I'm getting really interested in psychogeography. The original ideas of psychogeography came from Paris, in the way that Paris was built after the original revolution, and the observation that the way,'s appears to come out of the centre of the city along particular pathways, that the main highways into and out of the city centre. In French, this is known as "Derive", with an accent on the "e".

Now we are looking for things around the "non-capitalist" ways that "desire" migrates out of the central point geographically, which could be something as simple as a bus stop, and then traces of commerce or in this case things that one desires, seem to be built upon particular pathways all centring on the humble bus stop.

Will then went on to discuss some of the psychology topics that he researched such as "Brokers area" and also "Broadman's area 44". These are specific parts of the brain that when inspected through a magnetic resonance scanning machine (M-RS), these specific parts of the brain light up whenever you are creating stuff.
Interestingly, when somebody is working with their hands, this is part of the process of thinking. Both the Brokers area and Broadman's area 44, are very much hard at work and highly activated, particularly when you are experimenting with new materials and with touch.

Question two. "How do you write, and creating art at the same time?
Will.... well to carry on with the previous conversation, a lot of artists seem to think with their hands, and although some people say that that's not possible, science has proven that it is. The tactility is necessary.

Writing also, though, helps to create physical work. Donald Judd, & Smithson, are now art critics, but originally they are in fact artists. Therefore, they know about how work is created. These two individuals are really important in order to read about how they themselves read about other artists and how they work.

Everyday occurrences can feed into a body of work. It may actually be 10 years later before you can start thinking of a body of work which may relate to that everyday occurrence that occurred much earlier. It was, as an example, years afterwards that I started to create ceramics, after my ceramics course.

Question three. "How do you measure success"?
Will… "It's the stuff that makes money!"

"But that feeling, that initial elation, doesn't last very long. A lot of work that does well in the market is actually very close to what the mass public actually wants. Therefore in order to keep living, you have to make money, so some of what I do is a very much attached and influenced from what is in the marketplace. However, don't be afraid of failing. There are so many things that fail as part of the process of exploration, and you should always re-examine them as these are not failures. They are experiments. It's what comes out from them that is important. The willingness to fail is more important than the willingness to succeed!
For example the writer Beckett, he'd used to describe his writing about "failing better"!

Question four. "What is the most enjoyable part of working?"

"Creating something new, and not having any idea what it is that you're going to make. I hate being a robot, but sometimes it's really necessary to just keep on making. Push and push and push yourself something comes back, which I think was quoted by Jasper Johns or perhaps Rauschenberg.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Guest lecture, A discussion by Will Yakulic

The lecture was opened by Will Yakulic, whom is a Canadian artist, now living and practising in Sheffield West Yorkshire.

"In theory, theory is the same as practice,… In practice it isn't"

This is a quote by the famous baseball player, Yogi Berra, one of Wills favourite quotations. He chose to use this quotation because it's always a good introduction when talking to students from artistic practices, to suggest that these two items, are far from simple to explain and understand.

Artistic practice is as much about making mistakes, in fact more about making failures, and the actual finished work. You have to make lots and lots of successful failures in order to learn something to make one good piece. For example if one was to look at the work of Fleming, he discovered penicillin by accident. This was not an invention at all, but something that occurred completely unexpectedly, and yet changed the course of antibiotics and how we deal with medical infection for the next 100 years. Likewise, Alexander Graham Bell, when he "invented the light bulb" actually said he had 1000 successful failures, before he was able to create the bulb that worked.

Will was born in New York. His mother was a concert pianist. She hated practising particular pieces of music before a concert, however she had a method of just sitting at the piano and playing the scales until she got totally bored, to the extent that she eventually started to play the true peace that she should have been practising in the first place! All this was done while Will played underneath the piano with wooden blocks, a Tory that is much less frequently seen these days than it was during the 1970s. Because his mother spent so much time at the piano, Will also spent hours each day playing with these wooden blocks.

His relatives were also artistic, in the sense that they were poets and artists etc, therefore he was totally immersed into a background of art right from the beginning. He explained that many of the people that he came across as a child during the 1960s and 70s were kind of Bohemian, loose and free.

These early experiences helped to shape Will into the "underground" art scene. These were amazing times, because many of his relatives were already collaborating on artistic pieces with people such as Andy Warhol and Philip Guston. These artists all based in New York, were all part of the same community. However this idea of the artistic community in the Big Apple seems to have all gone wrong when big money started to get into art during the late 1990s.

Once Will had finished his normal schooling, it was obvious that he was destined to become an artist. He enrolled into the Joseph Albers colour course, and took a number of traditional academic yet practical ways of learning oil painting.

Will worked for many years without recognition; his earliest work that was considered successful was actually a sculpture, a bronze of a tin can together with a can opener. This was successful because both these items go together, there is another element of "interiority" and a connection between the two. The combination can be seen as a tribute to Jasper Johns and Marcel Duchamp.

Going back to his opening statement the quotation by Yogi Berra, there is not a theory that can be prescriptive in art, no one size fits all!

Once Will was on the journey towards success, he decided to move to San Francisco, because whilst he recognised that he wanted to be city-based, New York was too expensive to live in the centre of it as many artists were moving away, further south to Pennsylvania and outlying districts from the city, which then meant that travel time and costs were equally just as high. So San Francisco, considering that it was cheap at the time, during the early 1990s and before the dot-com business had started to go crazy, off he moved.

Whilst living in San Francisco, he focused mainly on drawing as the costs for studios even there was very high. By the time it got into the late 1990s, he was trying to figure out what being an artist actually was. He wanted to be part of a community but struggled to find it. He made his work at the time by creating book covers, difficult work because the majority of book covers that are created are usually rejected. But because he had such low costs, he could still eat. He also spent some time editing unusual magazine editions, now generally known as the zines. One example of this was "PAC mastery: observations and critical discourse".

The sort of work that he was creating were basic pictures of collages and everyday bits and pieces, things like cinema tickets, salt and pepper packets, and badly rendered drawings.

Once however one of the salt packet drawing study created, looked a little bit like a cube, similar to the game of "Tetris". These sugar cube type monument being built in a kind of naive three-dimensional space seem to ring a chord with Will.

These collages became an object to draw on to paint. Ideas of drawings started to coalesce. There was some elements of minimalism, post-modernism, architecture and so on, but also referential to digital and the locally booming dot-com market. Being in the centre of San Francisco, the epicentre of the explosion of the dot-com boom, creating digital style paintings was the stroke of luck that he had been looking for.

His first, in 2003, successful exhibition, displaying these paintings of what appear to be stacked cubes in all various different sizes and shapes, which came from that innocuous little packet of salt so many years earlier really struck a chord. In 2004 he had a small Japanese saki drink set made with his designs printed on the side. This led to a group show which was to be based in London, although by the time Will travelled there to set his exhibition up, in fact it was a back corner space in a bookshop owned by his now friend, Chris Johanson. Because he made friends so quickly, and decided to stay in London, the community that Will had been searching for started to emerge around him. Will considered that this was his first real break, the saki set was taking off, and he spent so much time creating these because what he noticed, in fact what he realised was that the price that he put on these sets was a price that he himself could afford. As a result everything sold out in the shop that he had created. This really got him noticed!

Will went on to talk about the writer, "Borges to" who once said "rather than write a novel, writer fictitious review of it - you don't have to do the whole thing then"!

In Will's world, everyday occurrences are always recorded wherever he can make notes, conversations, happenings and all other events that seem to be something different he tries to note down.

Another example the idea that things just seem to coalesce and developed over many many years, as some of the more recent work that Will has been doing. This is the case when he started to think about background images created by typewriter fonts. The details started to develop over many years and he created a series of works, the first one being "space surveillance variations in 2004" this was an interesting excursion into science fiction type themes under the heading of letterpress / found text / for example "notes from the chemical outpost" 2005, volumes 1 and two.

All this typewriter style work led to another series, and during his lecture will mentioned the writer and art critic, Bill Burkson who once said "looks can kill".

After all this success, will decided to take some time to work on his own study so he did some rescheduling into psychology. He describes all of this work in as "a window into the life of the mind" and he cited a piece of work which is close to my own heart, and that is Elgar's Enigma variations. Elgar chose to write the works based on a theme made from some of the traits of his close friends within the community that he worked at the time of composing this wonderful masterpiece.

And then finally, will summed up his journey in art. So then the turn to ceramics, and a series entitled "Enigma variations" based on the themes and characteristics of a number of Will's own friends. All of these ceramic items are handmade, but they are of a digital style based on those successful sugar cube type Tetris things that he created in the late 90s and early naughties.

I was particularly interested and will mentioned some of the things that make of creative. He talked about "Broadmans area 44", and the new scientific view that creativity actually comes from a specific area in the brain, which suggests that artistic creativity could be genetic, just like opposable thumbs!
For example, see Qualia, the subjective experience.


  • Find a community to work in, it's really important to fit in with 'like' people.
  • You will make thousands of failures, but cherish them and embrace them, because just one time you will make a really successful piece.
  • Sell your work for an affordable price.
  • Take risks that are calculated, but not foolhardy. Will moved away from his home location, and appears to never have looked back!
  • The most successful ideas sometimes come from the least expected places.
  • Take a look at Broadmans area 44, and the 'Brokers area' of the brain, for some research.
  • Take creative ideas from other people, make a genuine and apparent twist in them, and apply it to your own practice.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Research and development. Is grief a state of confusion?

It is interesting that whilst I have been researching how affect through paintings and other artistic works can manifest itself in the form of grief, my investigation of Anselm Kiefer and his works have led me on to the artistic properties of one of his peers, and possibly one of his mentors. I am talking about Gerhardt Richter. In his paintings it seems that Richter is trying to set up in people's minds a situation of confusion. This confusion when analysed in more critical ways can suggest that what he is exploring is a sense of loss.

Gerhard Richter, 2007

For example Gerhardt Richter's painting "city life" 2007, is actually made from a photograph of one of the larger cities, I'm not sure which one, perhaps it either New York, or Munich or Hamburg. In reality it is not important which city, but the point of what he has done to the photograph depicting this cityscape is to literally run strokes of paint from left to right across the image in order to blank the photograph out. There are certain areas where the picture can still be seen through, but the majority of it is in fact a masked.

The idea that this stroke of paint is considered as representational, it can also be used to blank something out. When a stroke of paint is used to blank out something, other manifestations and ideas can be articulated.

I've also noticed that a similar theme seems to be arising in the works of Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger, and she creates similar paintings that I want to explore further.

  • A stroke of paint does not have to be representational
  • a stroke of paint can blank something out
  • to blank something out is a metaphor for blanking a memory out
  • presence and absence?
  • Heidegger's theory of present and non-present.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Production of the twisted relic.... The Art Walk,- University Gallery Exhibition

As a new venture in the University, my peers and I  have been busily putting together a new exhibition for the Christmas run-up, and a fitting closure to the first semester of our final year of work.

The gallery is based within a number of access corridors within the University, all of which have been preparared to display examples of student's art, which each individual has been exploring thier own creative and contemporary artistic  themes over the last 3-4 months.  The exhibits are therefore from a wide genre and equally wide theoretical stand point.

My own works, submitted as a sculptural form, support my research into the Hiedeggarian notions of present-to-hand and ready-to-hand objects tied with present / non-present (object oriented) ontology.