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

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Reflections on the theory lecture of 29th of April 2016, presentations (No. 3) by Dr Graham Lister.

The lecture was opened with the general question "what does the idea of practice/research combination mean to each of us"?

The general view is that combining our studio practice (which is ostensibly visual) together with our research (which is ostensibly the findings that we get from visiting galleries, reading books, having conversations et cetera), as a balanced mix, is what is important.

Graham Sullivan, (2006), -  this author writes extensively in 'Artefacts as evidence within changing context' ;(Working papers in art and design). The author suggests that the making of visual work, of illustrating, of painting and staging performances, is able to be carefully positioned as a research body of work.
From an academic point of view, ultimately what is being searched for is "a new contribution to knowledge" and that is what is key to successful practice as research.

Practice-based, or practice led methodology, which includes experimenting, trying out, testing, and investigating but also combined with thinking and reflecting upon the work, will allude to, and provide a new direction for future ideas. For example if you look at the work by George Shaw e.g. "The time machine", (2010), - which is a painting in a photorealistic style of a public telephone box, Shaw positions his work as what in means to him, and in other works, what they mean for his personal experiences, whilst growing up on the Tile Hill estate in Coventry.

Whilst he does his work for nostalgia, he also does it because, in his own words, "he has to!".   We all have this artistic need within us to make things, to create generally, and as a result, we better understand ourselves, which is an output of our practice.
The French artist and writer Yves Alain-Bois,  (translated by John Shepley) in the article "Painting as a model: review and comment" states that the ideas have to be "legible for others" in order for other people to tap into that. It is a "methodological tool".

Another example might be the piece by Marlene Dumas's "Young Boys" (1993).
Or Peter Doig's "Grande Riviera" (2001).
If you can say why you specifically did something in a particular manner or way for example, by paintings something very faintly, or by using a particular pigment, or by using a particular material or medium, or even using a technique such as photoshop or any other such method, it makes the work much stronger in 'validity'.

In the magazine article "Art that eats its own head" by Barry Schwabsky, in the magazine "The triumph of painting" (2005). It is a worthwhile read to try to get hold of this article and understand how we can use the information in our own forthcoming exhibition.

  • We should think how we might insert our personal thoughts, feelings or experiences into a presentation about research?
  • What key phrases could be used?
  • How could we seek to legitimise what we talk about?


In the second half of the lecture, Dr Lister provided a discussion around Phenomenology.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty has said that the field of phenomenology is to gain an understanding of "the work of experience".

Contemporary philosophers have been looking into the idea of phenomenology since the work initiated by Edmund Husserl, then Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre and finally Maurice Merleau-Ponty before other contemporary Western philosophers have taken the field into a much larger arena.

Initially considered by Husserl, the life "world" encompasses all the objects around us, before we put them into our own memories and then hence translate them into linguistic form when we attempt to describe them.

In the book by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "The Phenomenology of Perception" (1962). This is a key book to read as it explores the whole idea of phenomenology but with particular reference to the artists who started to encounter the combined ideas with artistic practice, such as Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gough.

"It is the body that catches" and further, "comprehends movement" Merleau-Ponty (1962, p142-143)

In the work by Olaf Eliasson, "The Weather Project" (2003) he provided a sensorial experience that was recreated in the turbine Hall of the Tate modern Gallery in London. Within it, he provided an almost real experience of the sun, but equally, we 'knew' that it had to be fabricated. The reason why this was so important as a piece of artwork was because of its affect on us.

The weather affects us. The idea of the mirror on the roof of the turbine Hall in the exhibition space provided a real "feeling" of the atmosphere. The Guardian newspaper stated "people humbled themselves" and also "the ordinary has been rendered extraordinary"

When interviewed the artist Olaf Eliasson stated that "he was inviting us to reflect on our own experiences"

A further book worth reading would be "Thinking Through Art" (2009) by McLeod and Holdridge.

From an artistic sense look at the work by Eleanor Ray "sculpture studio" (2015)....

We need to transmit understandable reality, to be pointing to new things and new experiences. 'Re'-presentation does not provide insight, so it is in the artists need, in fact, it is his job, to reveal something new about the real-life experiences of all of us, particularly as viewers of an exhibition.

In the book "Repeat, Entity, Ground" by Neil, page 64: visual arts practice as critical thinking.

And again in Graham Sullivan's book "Artefacts as evidence within changing contexts" (2006) he states that meaning is made during the investigation of making an object. It is the testing out which also provides the basis for research.


  • Be confident about your practice as a progress.
  • Think carefully about how you talk about your own process.
  • How might you call process, research?
  • What new contribution to knowledge i.e. making?
  • Once you have a sense of the ideas that you wish to pursue, how do you prove that you know so much about it?
  • Think of the sociological texts, the philosophical ideas and influences, and why you have utilised them.
  • Try to insert key quotations and bibliography within your presentation, and therefore, legitimise and validate your own work in context. 
  • Furthermore, ensure that you have a full bibliography at the end of the presentation together with an image index with source details included.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Reflections on the Weekly briefing of 26th of April 2016

1) The curatorial committee has completed its work in designating spaces for each student in each of the studios.  - I need to think carefully over the next few weeks on  how to use this space, firstly, for my assessment, and then later, for the exhibition.  I need to treat these two events quite separately from the point of view of presentation...

2) it was recommended that more use of the Instagram account and also the course Facebook page is used by students in order to publicise their work. I shall load up my Artists statement to the Instagram page.

3) it was recommended that students think carefully about their requirements in order that any plinths or specific shells that need to be made up are done so as soon as possible. The technician, (Ryan Durrant) will assist with the fabrication of these items where possible.  My own requirements will need to be mapped out based on the wooden sub-frame in order to make sure fixings are centred properly.

4) on Wednesday, 4 May we will have a general clear up day in each of the studios.  I need to make sure my work is collected and archived properly.  I also need to take high-quality scans of some of the paintings I completed.

5) it has been decided to use the T1 06 studio is a store for people's work whilst the other studios are being cleared and painted. - Fine, no issues with that!

 A short lecture was then provided by Dr Lister which outlined how we can think about using our own gallery spaces. He used the examples of artists such as Sol LeWitt, and also an example of the layout of the gallery space used at the Goldsmiths degree show of 2015.

Ultimately what we are trying to do is to create a sense of progression. We are looking towards actively forcing the viewer to engage with each of the objects and also to move their eyes amongst the exhibition space and a sort of dialogue and rhythm of changes. The intent is to create collisions of enquiry.

With regard to the example of Quentin Blake (2014) and his exhibition at the house of illustration in London, this was a very different technique that was used in order to help show the whole body of work.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Strong progress and working to plan...

I've been happy with progress over the last few days on production of my final exhibition piece...

High-level Gantt chart of production towards the final exhibition piece (at w/c 25/04/2016).

The wireframe substrate was completed on time (Monday 25th April) and I'm now into the next phase of production, that is, to create a base fill layer of absorbent paper.

 The chosen material for the base fill layer is thick domestic wall 'lining' paper.  However, I think that on reflection of the first application, the specific manufacturer of the roll I obtained, seems to have created a rather un-absorbent version, and perhaps it may be too thick as the malleability of this paper, even when soaked in paste overnight, is rather too rigid.  Therefore, I switched to a 'news-print' thickness of paper once this initial batch had been used up. 

So a much looser paper strip mixture has been utilised and is filling just as well.  The 'newsprint' paper is the same type used on the original maquette, and so this experiment,- to use a thicker style domestic lining paper was 'successful', in as much as it proved the decision to not use it!


Keeping up the strong production routine has been difficult at times as the usual balance of theory (i.e. reading Georges Bataille at the moment, combined with the ongoing studies of Nietzsche and Heidegger, (more on them, coming in this blog very soon!), have meant long days in the workshop and some equally long evenings of study.  But I'm thoroughly enjoying both, so it's a good feeling that I'm having, being one of a kind of meditative contemplation and satisfaction at the same time.  Onwards,ever onwards....

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Slow and steady progress, reflections on the week.

The need to build up the wireframe substrate has taken up a fair amount of time, and a problem which has required some thought, has been that ease of production is hampered by the size of the artefact and the ability to work in the centre of it, whilst at the same time requiring access to the front and the back of the object.

In order to accommodate the joining together of various pieces of wire mesh (chicken wire) the original tool that I crafted for myself from a piece of angled picture quadrant seems to have come to the end of its life. Therefore, I fashioned a new type of wire shuttle, but this time made from a material that would endure more robust handling. The material I chose to use for this was a piece of a pig's rib. Being made of bone, I was concerned that there would be a brittleness to the new device, but my concerns seemed to be unfounded, as I was able to fashion the item using a traditional coping saw and a fine grade metal file. This new tool has proved to be invaluable in assisting me with the method of knot tying and looping of the wire. I have tried to use a traditional 'single clove knot' where possible, in the long runs of joins, and a 'double clove knot' at the beginning and termination ends of the joints.

I was able to have a little bit of fun in terms of the fact that the workshop has a large viewing window to one side of it. Other students and tutors from other courses often look into the workshop therefore and have seen me for a number of weeks, pouring my labours (and perspiration) over the sculpture.
 Many have asked what it is that I am making, and I have given guarded responses... My mischief got the better of me on Tuesday / Wednesday and I donned a surgical look, together with a typical surgical theatre blanket placed tactfully over the object.

"ad perpetuam memoriam"

The stares became even more perplexed as a result!...

A later 1:1 tutorial with Dr Lister proved to be very encouraging.  He recommended the reading of Michel De Certeau's articles, relating to Strategy and Tactics (ass part of my response to the forthcoming presentation), where De Certeau talks of the former being organisational and the later, disruptional...


  • Whilst there has been a number of days spent totally in production in the workshop, I feel that progress has been slow, even though I am still working within the schedule.
  • The artefact is now very much taking shape and the remaining few days of next week will be consumed with simply tidying up any sharp excrescences before placing a layer of thick paper, to act as a key or tooth against the wire chicken mesh.
  • Having since found "The Practice of Everyday Life", (1988), I can re-familiarise myself with his notions. - On page 25, he talks in terms of "La perruque" (That is, 'the wig', a kind of euphemism to mean doing something that is of benefit to you, but not to your employer, whilst at work.  For example, making a phone call to renew your house or car insurance on the company telephone / making an object for yourself, using your companies tools.   In my day as an apprentice, this was known as "making a foreigner"...).  
  • The "tactics" of the everyday that de Certeau is alluding to, are exactly those 'things wee can get away with'.  They are the disruptors against the authorities, (or holders of power) in society.  Whereas, "The strategies [] seek to create places that are in conformity with abstract models." - de Certeau, (1988, p29). And "Strategies are able to produce, tabulate and impose on [these spaces], when those operations take place, whereas tactics can only use, manipulate or divert [these spaces].de Certeau, (1988, p30).


"The Practice of Everyday Life", de Certeau, M. (1988) - 3rd Ed., University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif, London

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Reflections on the theory lecture regarding presentations, (No. 2) by Dr Graham Lister.

In this lecture, Dr Lister asked the questions how and why we use images in presentations.

He went on to discuss three main exemplars.
1) ideas of not what not to do.
2) how to focus on one image.
3) how to use text successfully with images.

The overall objective of artists' presentations is to engage with ideas in order to develop your own language of presentational style. The presentation should showcase your research and provide sufficient interest to the viewers to stimulate further discussion. By engaging with the audience properly, one can see what is interesting, and one can see what is boring them. This is done through careful observance of body language.

  • As part of the forthcoming presentation, provide evidence of your work over the last year. Also, make relevance to your long essay written at the beginning of this calendar year.
  • Show what went wrong in your practice, and how you learned from it.
  • Don't forget at the end of the presentation to provide a reference list, bibliography and an image and diagrams index.


With respect to the use of images, one must always ask the question why are we using a particular image? ...
We discussed this amongst ourselves and the outcomes were as follows;
  • Humans learn from three different types of interaction. Auditory, Visual and Kinaesthetic learning.
  •  A good presentation with a good mix of image and text engages both the right-hand hemisphere of the brain (which is responsible for the visual component of cognition and spatial awareness); and the left-hand hemisphere of the brain (which is concerned with logic and language). 
  • The combination of both left-hand and right-hand stimulus is brought together in the corpus callosum.
  • As a result, a visual, audible and textual presentation, if done correctly, provides interesting stimuli, where all receptors of 'remote' senses are being triggered. 
  • The use of images provides a mechanism that goes beyond the confines of a written language.
  • Images provide a prompt to facilitate recall from past experiences much better than pure textual presentations.
  • An image makes a deeper connection with the viewers attention. For example, feelings and emotions are triggered.

An anecdote was then provided by Dr Lister when he recalled a student who was studying for a doctoral certification provided a presentation about historic castles in Scotland. Whilst this doctoral student was able to articulate the argument that she was putting forward quite well, her continual flicking of slide images of each of the castles of Scotland, going backwards and forwards, but without any text, provided an unbelievably boring presentation for all the viewers. "It was like moving wallpaper". - The speed at which this particular student (who should have known better), flipped through each of the slides, meant that very little of the presentation provided any stimulus in order for the audience to ask further questions, nor any form of interview ensued.
Dr Lister emphasised never to make the same mistake!

Too much visual stimuli are overpowering. Whilst this doctoral student talked about some very deep and interesting quotations, the absence of those textual references were completely lost.

Practical Example of an artistic presentation with one image;

An example of a strong artistic presentation was then given by Dr Lister concerning one painting by Salvador Dali, that being "Christ of St John on the Cross" (1951), courtesy of Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow.
Dali (1957) 'Christ of St John on the Cross',
Courtesy of http://www.dalipaintings.net/christ-of-saint-john-of-the-cross.jsp, Retrieved 24/04/2016
Dr Lister opened the presentation with a reference to the relative context of Dali and his other work of surrealism (which he is more famous for). Dr Lister also provided some interesting snippets of information that an audience are less likely to know too. (For example, he mentioned early in the narrative, that Dali was terrified of ants and grasshoppers, and it is for that reason, that ants often appear in Dali's work.)

Coming back now to this painting under scrutiny, of "Christ of St John on the Cross", there is a hyper-realistic rendering of the painting. Whilst the painting is figuratively accurate, the feeling that it gives is, however, surreal, but the ambience of the painting is calm, and this calmness is provided by [what Dr Lister described as] "the cool morning light" that Dali was able to inculcate.

It can also be noted that in the image of "Christ of St John on the Cross", there is no rendering of nails or blood, where there is a "holding" of the body to the crucifix. This alludes to Dali's own deep religious convictions and also to why the painting was initially created by him. It shows that the crucifix is 'drawing St John towards God', in as much as 'St John (and his invisible belief) is drawing himself towards the Cross'.

The grounding details; that is, the details provided at the base of the painting which includes the landscape the lake and the boat, provides a symbol of spirituality which is within human reach.

Drilling deeper still, into the paintings' construction, the annotation lines on the next slide provided an outline of the Trinity and the nucleus of the painting. The metaphysical links to what Dali is referring to, through these, his pictorial notes, and also accompanying written notes that Dali made at the time, refers to a vision in a dream that he had when he was initially starting to compose this painting.

Dr Lister then gave an explanation of the siting of this important works, within the Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow. It was originally cited at the end of a long corridor with tessellated (black and white) floor tiles. The very entrance and passageway leading to this painting provided part of the experience of its own viewing.

Furthermore, when the painting was originally bought, the price that the dealer was asking for, was alleged at the time, some £12,000, but an interesting and creative deal was cut by the Glasgow Council which allowed for a sale price of (allegedly) just £8200. However, Glasgow Council was very shrewd in making sure that the intellectual property of the painting was also sold with the object itself. This meant that Glasgow Corporation was able to earn royalties from copies of the painting and which it still receives; for example, it is regularly used in the production of T-shirts and mugs as well as all sorts of other merchandise to help support the museum and other causes in Glasgow.
A further point of interest which creates a level of mysticism or myth around the painting is that it was attacked in the 1960s by what was claimed to be a religious individual, who attempted to destroy the painting, by using a sharpened stone. The damage has since been repaired, but it is still visible in the lower right-hand quadrant of the painting. This small act of rebellion by one individual, provided further publicity for the object which increased its aura and hence importance as an object of art, even though the subject matter was at the time highly contrary to many religious sensibilities.


We then discussed how text should be used in successful artistic presentations;
we asked ourselves what springs to mind when we think about test texts during presentations?… How does one make sure that the audience takes away a specific message?
1) text provide easy prompts to both the viewer and the narrator as they are easy to record with notes and captions. Proper texts demonstrate good research and providence.
2) avoid too much text or the "death by PowerPoint" syndrome will be the result. Too much text is boring.
3) Information is only activating the left hemisphere of the brain. Linguistic details can only be delivered properly through text, however, for example,  A legal presentation.
4) text must be brief and to the point, but relative.
5) the choice of words must fit the audience's ability to understand the subject matter.
6) text should always be used for quotations to provide some validity and correct authority, with correct referencing.
7) If one does use quotations, do not leave the quotation on its own after it has been recited, but ensure that a good explanation of why it is important should also be given.

Text; A practical Example:

An example of the good use of text was given in the following sub- presentation; this was about the artist Gavin Turk.
In his work, it is the "perceived" or "actual" value of an object which is what is important to him as a point of enquiry, an artist.
Materiality is also what is being focused upon at the same time.
For example his work "bin-bag" (2004) or his earlier work, such as "cave" (1991).
"Revolting Brick" (2008), with an obvious reference to the work of Marcel Duchamp and his "Fountain" (1916).

An interesting point raised, was that Gavin Turk was unable to get his degree when he submitted the piece "cave" in 1991. This was because the adjudicators and assessors were simply unable to provide an assessment of his work in the absence of it.
Later, the exhibition of "Revolting Brick" was put into turmoil, when the original signed version by Turk was stolen / swapped, and then ransomed, whilst at the same time it was replaced with another brick (of exactly the same type), which simply had written upon it "thank you, have a nice day".
All of this work is a reference to value and status, et cetera. The ongoing  press narrative was extremely useful to Turk as he was able to expand his publicity even further.

When this sub-presentation was deconstructed, the Gavin Turk presentation gave "facts about him", with text, that would keep the viewer engaged.
The text also provided a fallback to assist in an understanding of a subject that is difficult at first to grasp.

It is, therefore, wise to think about the questions around text such as,
1) what is it that we have been trying to find out in our research?
2) Why was this particular subject of interest to us as artists?
3) What were the visual touchstones that we were able to to receive influence from in the creation of work?

And finally a few words on slide design.
 Keep it simple!

  • Avoid the use of word art! It is simply distracting and looks very unpolished. 
  • What is important is the content and work which is what needs to come across.
  • A neat, simple, elegant presentation where the text is all presented on the same scale, together with images that make sense and are relative.


This was a useful lecture and provided a number of reminders to suggest within the presentation; e.g.
  1. that the various steps of production should show that each of them were a form of a test;
  2.  and can succinctly be delivered as "I did this as a question or Test, ... but if it didn't work because of XYZ, then, as a result, I tried something else...
  3.  I then built upon XYZ, because of ABC was a good way forward... And so on. 


A lecture provided by Dr Graham Lister, at the University of Huddersfield, 22/04/2016.

Dali (1957) 'Christ of St John on the Cross',
Courtesy of http://www.dalipaintings.net/christ-of-saint-john-of-the-cross.jsp, Retrieved 24/04/2016

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Reflections on the weekly briefing, Thursday 21st of April 2016.

The planning proposal sheets have been submitted and assessed by the curatorial board for the graduate degree show. Whilst there are some of the students who may not have submitted their proposals in time, I am confident that everyone will be accommodated into the exhibition space.

Dr Graham Lister provided a number of pointers and advice today on some areas that we should always avoid when exhibiting work. For example never to use clip frames for any artwork, or cheap pine style picture frames that are picked up in supermarkets or garden centres! The reason why these should not be used is because they beg the question "why is this piece of art deserving of attention?". And the worst of all would be to exhibit your works in traditional family photo frames; unless specifically it was that particular subject which was under scrutiny. Dr Lister also recommended never to use nails or other vulgar or crude fixings, unless they are to emphasise the nail-ness or crudeness etc...

In essence, the objective is to try to make things, whether they be paintings or sculptures, float off the wall.

A reminder was given that the setting up of the gallery will start on Tuesday, 3 May, (Monday second of May is a bank holiday and the University is closed). As a result of this, the studios will be completely emptied of first and second-year work by 29th of April.

Conclusions whilst my own work is taking a fair bit of time to complete, I am still reasonably confident that the timescales will be met and a sufficiently finished artefact will be produced in plenty of time to allow me to experiment in the way that it is going to be presented.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Production continues, - reflections on research

Continuing the wireframe Continuing production of the wireframe substrate onto which I will later cover with a single layer of paper dipped in wallpaper paste, I have also been thinking about some of the suggestions that I have picked up during this past week.

There has been pressure to look at a quick method of coverage for this art piece by using plaster of Paris, however, I have been deliberating over this for some time in any event. I'm sticking to my original plan to only use paper to provide the outer form, as I believe that any kind of plaster of Paris, or alternative mineral-based plaster product such as Herculite, would render the object far too heavy to easily move. The paper will provide a lightweight and flexible medium. The papier-mâché material itself holds significant materiality in terms of the crosscutting and cross shredded bank statements, which in themselves necessarily hold and reflect an introductory notion of identity.

The fragility of paper is very different to that of plaster. Again my choice of material is reinforced, quite literally, because paper and papier-mâché are much less likely to break or fall apart if roughly handled. I'm comfortable that the choices I have made in the materials will provide a longer term reference point for the subject matter that I'm investigating, namely "The Things We Leave Behind".


Having updated my very loose plan of production, I am still on target to complete the project by the allotted deadline for assessment, but I am conscious that there is little contingency (if any) to make any substantial changes if necessary....

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The 'overcoming' of Metaphysics and Nihilism, Nietzsche and Heidegger.

Building on the ideas that have begun to form (See featured post) from reading the pre-amble of Steven Critchley's book, "Very Little, ... Almost Nothing; Death, Philosophy and Literature", (2004) Routledge Press, London, Critchley talks a great deal about the ideas of nature and his theories of nihilism, being reinterpreted by Heidegger in terms of Heidegger's argument of making a distinction of nihilism from its overcoming. Heidegger proposes that rather than overcoming nihilism, it is perhaps really about delineating it instead.

What this means for me, after many days of reflection whilst creating my own interpretation, at the same time almost meditating whilst building the formations of my artistic artefact using chickenwire, it dawned on me that this twisting and turning and in particular "overcoming" to use Nietzsche's word, of the problem of metaphysics, by Nihilism, (which was Nietzsche's assertion), and then applying Heidegger's notion that in order for nihilism to exist it is necessary for metaphysics to exist, their intrinsic twisting together can be shown thus;
Figure 1. - Metaphysics and Nihilism are intertwined, not one 'overcoming' another
And what is interesting, is Heidegger's notion of "delineating" nihilism can be thought of as a pulling on both ends of the lines of metaphysics and nihilism, which when applied physically to the metaphorical representation, would indeed provide an unravelling of both!
Figure 2. - The idea that Metaphysics is to be "overcome" by Nihilism = Nietzsche's assertion

Figure 3. Metaphysics and Nihilism are dependent on each other/ i.e. intertwined = Heidegger,
(but with a modified "gap" which is explained later)

Fig. 4.  So... Pulling on both ends of the argument... They become separate 'lines' of enquiry 
The deconstructive (and to some extent, this hints of the word of Jaques Derrida), again can be seen from the above example in Figures 3 and 4.
 In more poetic terms, the matrix that is formed by the twisting together of metaphysics and nihilism, into the mesh, provides a wonderful metaphor for the fabric of life, which then could arguably become a useful analogical reference to how Bruno Latour sees it, as described by Graham Harman (e.g. Prince of Networks, Harman, 2010) (See Figure 5).

Fig. 5, The intertwining of multiple layers, to create nodes (arguably, "actants") into
a rudimentary network, (viz. Bruno Latour / Graham Harman)


... This idea of a fabric consisting of a series of twisted connections or nodes (and here it could be stretched to mean 'Actants'), is somewhat different to the traditional ideas that are sometimes used to describe the "interwoven" concepts of 'threads' of existence, in which the weave and the weft are interlaced as layers (see Fig. 6).
Fig. 6 The Weft and the Weave

 In order for that metaphor to be appropriate, it requires an existing metaphysical framework, that is, metaphorically the weft (On the left of Fig. 6.),  that Weaver sets up upon his loom (i.e. the Metaphysical), the vertical 'structure' that necessarily has to exist "a priori" before the events of life can then be weaved (the horizontal component) to create the fabric. (See Fig. 7).  In this analogy, the metaphysical concept of the loom and the weft is the 'World' as created by God, which is 'a priori'

Fig. 7. 'Existance' that we
weave for ourselves

 In a traditional philosophical sense, the analogy suggests we weave our own destiny, that is, 'We' as individuals, are the metaphorical shuttle, and the thread can be seen as an unbroken line of our experiences (That is, our memory also).

Fig. 8 The wire frame 'mesh'

However, if the thread breaks in the shuttle, then the cloth will no longer form (death). However, if the thread breaks after the cloth is already woven, there is very little damage to the structure and integrity of the cloth...

Now, moving on with this allegorical concept, the difference from a woven fabric, to a mesh (Fig. 8), can be shown when the mesh is damaged.... (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. A damaged mesh, but it retains most of it's integrity.
In this final example, if the mesh becomes damaged, it does not necessarily loose it's integrity, although some nodes (actants) may unravel.  In a similar way, if our own neural network (of life experiences) are damaged, then this articulates quite nicely, the idea of a memory fading... As in, The Things We Leave Behind...


"Very Little, ... Almost Nothing; Death, Philosophy and Literature", Stephen Critchley, (1997) and  (Second ed. 2004) Routledge Press, London.
"Prince of Networks; Bruno Latour & Metaphysics", Graham Harman (2009), Re-press, Melbourne, Australia.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Contemporary Art in Theory, A Lecture by Dr Graham Lister, regarding Artist's Presentations, 15th April 2016.

As part of the module for 'Contemporary Art, in Theory', we will need to provide a 20-minute presentation based on approximately 15 minutes of discussion and up to 5 minutes of further questions on either the 3rd, 5th or 9th of May. The presentation must be capable of being reproduced visually, for example, saved as a.pdf file, in order that it can be handed in for assessment on the University system (turn it in). Illustrations and images must be properly captioned following APA referencing methods. These must be relevant and connected to the subject matter that I have been investigating and researching for the past year.
The presentation will be a description of my studio work analysed in terms of the what, how and why my unique decisions have been made. As a rough guide, Dr Lister suggested that 30% of the mark is given for the what and how element and approximately 70% of the marking regime is given for the reflection and enquiry into why particular choices have been made.
  • Therefore, all evidence of my own research will need to be included with comments on the focus of the work I have conducted throughout the year. I need to make comments on the themes I have chosen and upon what my work is based together with contextual investigations.
  • It is essential to reference and discuss other artists that inspire me. It is here that I can explain the importance of Anselm Kiefer and other artists that I have referred to that are both critical and vital to an understanding of my own practice.
  • And finally, a list of images of these other artists together with the references correctly identified must be appended to the end of the presentation.
  • In order to assist with the presentation production, formative feedback tutorials will be given on the 22nd and 29th of April.
A number of examples were given by Dr Lister as examples of how artists can be cited.

1) David Ezra Stein. As an illustrator, he blogs regularly upon his own work (see http://www.davidezra.com/).
He was taught by Pat Cummins at the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, New York. Examples of his work include "Ned and Andy",
"Cowboy Ned and Andy" (2006), by David Ezra Stein.
- a popular children's book, about a cowboy and his horse, and "Pouch" (See http://www.davidezra.com/The-Making-of-Pouch).
"Pouch" (2009) by David Ezra Stein
Stein's work has been described as having spontaneity and levity, and these are the words also used to describe his own influence which for example, include "Where the Wild Things Are" (1963) by Maurice Sendak.

2) Teresa Margolles. Born in 1973, Margolles Is a conceptual Mexican artist who has exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Her work concerns how ideas and concepts are transmitted and communicates and her work reflects "how she thinks". She brings the "unseen" into context within contemporary art, and in particular social experiences.
An example of this would be the work "Limpieza", which was exhibited (with much confusion) at the Venice Biennale (2009), where an empty series of rooms within the gallery (The Mexican Pavillions), seemed to not have any exhibition at all installed.
All that happened, was that at the end of each day, the cleaners would arrive and mop the floor. In fact, these cleaners were actually the parents and relatives of individuals who have either disappeared or been killed as a result of drug violence relating to the poverty and despair of northern regions of Mexico.
"Limpieza"(2009),  Teresa Margolles, Venice Bienalle 

When one understands the title "Limpieza" which actually means 'cleaning' in Spanish, the exhibition takes on a completely different meaning, to that initially perhaps first encountered, that of an empty room.  The water that is used to mop the floors was also mixed with the blood of the victims of drug crime in Mexico. A gory and grotesque reminder of the unseen / hidden violence of Mexico.
The idea of an empty room takes reference from a piece of work by Yves Klein entitled "The Void" (1958).

3) Franz Ackerman. I am given to understand that this may be an artist that Dr Lister particularly
likes, because I've noted that he has cited his work before.
"Mental Map - Evasion V"(1996), Franz Ackerman
In the works "mental map-evasion No.5" (1996), the artist provides some "almost" recognisable images of abstraction which seem to link up in some way in his head or thoughts. Likewise, in Ackerman's works like "mental map-evasion six" (1997);
"Mental Map - Evasion VI"(1997), Franz Ackerman

 he continues to develop his artistic style and visual language. This development of visual language continues through to his later works of this millennium.

In citing the work by Wassily Kandinsky-e.g. "Improvisation number 28" (1912),
"Improvisation 28 (Second Version)" (1912) by Wassily Kandinsky (Courtesy of Guggenheim Gallery, New York)
it is clear that Ackerman's influences are also taken from this early master of the abstraction and the Bauhaus. This influence is also juxtaposition and with that of James Henry Doherty, for example, "Abstraction" (1980).

Later, however, Ackerman further develops...
See http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/ackermann_Zooropa.htm
"Zooropa"(2001) by Franz Ackerman
In the works "Zooropa" (2001), it is clear that Ackerman makes a new and more refined development of his visual language.


1) I need to start this work on my presentation as early as possible!
2) Using other artists to contextualise and reference your own work is essential in order to place your own practice.
3) My own research into contemporary Artists and Philosophers, and in particular Anselm Kiefer and Bracha L. Ettinger will serve me well on this assignment.
4) In thinking about Franz Ackerman's work and addition to the influential work of Wassily Kandinsky, it appears to me that Ackerman could also have been highly influenced by Arshile Gorky?
I researched a little further and found the following Gorky example, the colours and abstractions of Mental Map - Evasion 5" have certain striking similarities too...
"The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944), Arshile Gorky, -  oil on canvas, 731⁄4 × 98" (186 × 249 cm)
Courtesy of the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. The painting represents the peak of Gorky's achievement and his individual style after he had emerged from the influence of Cézanne and Picasso. 

References;  - Images.

"Cowboy Ned and Andy" (2006) by David Ezra Stein, Front Cover, Retrieved on 16/04/2016 from http://payload85.cargocollective.com/1/8/276190/4006412/prt_220x279_1346456387.jpg

"Pouch" (2009) by David Ezra Stein - Front cover, retrieved on 16/04/2016, from http://payload85.cargocollective.com/1/8/276190/4006359/prt_280x221_1349132872.jpg

"Limpieza" (2009) by Teresa Margolles, retrieved on 16/04/20016, from http://www.labor.org.mx/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/6-Limpieza-150x150.jpg

"Mental Map; -Evasion V" by Franz Ackerman, retrieved on 16/04/2016 from http://www.saatchigallery.com/imgs/artists/thumbs/ackermann_franz/20091130093816_FranzAckermannevasionV.jpg

"Mental Map; -Evasion VI" by Franz Ackerman, retrieved on 16/04/2016

"Improvisation 28 (Second Version)" (1912) by Wassily Kandinsky (Courtesy of Guggenheim Gallery, New York), retrieved on 16/04/2016 from http://annex.guggenheim.org/collections/media/902/37.239_ph_web.jpg

"Zooropa"(2001) by Franz Ackerman, retrieved 16/04/2016 from http://www.saatchigallery.com/imgs/artists/thumbs/ackermann_franz/20091130093607_FranzAckermannzooropa.jpg

"The Liver is the Cock's Comb" (1944), Arshile Gorky,
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arshile_Gorky#/media/File:Gorky-The-Liver.jpg 20-04-2016.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Reflections on Georges Battaille & Visions of Excess

The book suggested for reading by Dr Holmes, my tutor a little earlier this last week; Visions of Excess, (Selected Writings, 1927-1939 of Georges Bataille), (1986 Second Print), Edited and Translated by Allan Stoekl,  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, provided an excellent backdrop of essays for me to review regarding the thoughts by this lesser known French philosopher of the 20th Century.

To complement the above book, I also found "Georges Bataille" (1994) by Micheal Richardson, Routledge Press, London, that gives some further insight to try to interpret Bataille.

What is clear from reading the introduction of the second book is that George Bataille had a very difficult childhood. His school in Reims, France was also the learning ground for the poet Paul for and other surrealists such as Roger Gilbert-Lecompte, Rene Daumal and Roger Caillois. It is possible that under this tutelage during the 1900s and its acceleration towards the First World War, Bataille chose to become a Catholic, despite his own parents being nonreligious.
Around 1916, he was called up to serve in the war, but because of ill-health, he was quickly released from the army. Around this period of the war years he later wrote;
"I belong to a turbulent generation, born to literary life in the terminal of surrealism. In the years after the Great War, there was a feeling which was about to overflow. Literature was stifling within its limitations and seemed pregnant with revolution." (Preface to Literature and Evil, by Georges Bataille).
The Great War provided a highly charged and extremely bitter memory for many of the poor young men who had to fight an awful and almost paralysing physical battle, whilst at the same time attempting to cope with the dreadful emotional effects that they must've witnessed, many of whom had not even reached the age of 21. Surrealism, therefore, provided an escape to some degree, and also provided an outlet for many of those artistic individuals trying to make sense of the world, whilst what they had witnessed during the previous years made no sense at all. This is true for those who took the routes of expression through literature, painting, performance and other new forms of art. In Richardson's words "it was impossible not to hate a society and the culture responsible for such carnage" (Richardson, 1994).
In the case of Georges Bataille, it seems that in 1917, he had set his mind on a religious future as a monk or in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. However after only three years, whilst staying in the Isle of Wight he fell in love with a woman, which caused him to question his faith.
He nevertheless pursued a scholastic study of languages, spending much time in Spain, where in 1922 he witnessed the gruesome death of Manuelo Granero, during a bullfight in Madrid, whose head was split open by a bull. This must have been incredibly shocking and potentially left an indelible mark on his psyche.
The turmoil that Bataille must have felt, coupled with his religious sentiments, confusion in the view of the world and life itself in his own mind, it must have been a receptive vessel to the writings of Frederick Wilhelm Nietzsche, and the philosophical dilemma that he also wrestled with.  This was supported by the additional study of Dostoevsky, Kirkegaard and Pascal.
From this context, Bataille went on to write extensively about the philosophical concepts and emerging artistic and cultural intellectual circles that he found himself within.

According to Richardson, Bataille believed that "existence was essentially paradoxical", which is often reflected in his work, and as such makes it difficult at times to fully comprehend. As Bataille was also to a large extent self-taught, the many detailed readings and studies that he made, do not always, at first sight, seem to fit together easily. Richardson (1994). Bataille's main focus of his philosophical thinking lies in that of excess and transgression, juxtaposed with the concepts of "being" which draws upon the notions of Nietzsche, whilst witnessing the Great War (World War I) and later the Second World War, together with the absolute extremes of human behaviour. This was further supported with a deep enquiry into anthropology together with sociology and cultural study.


1) a further study of Georges Bataille is no doubt essential to provide a strong grounding of alternative understanding towards ontology and phenomenology within a social construct of society, as well as the abstraction of these concepts within the individual.
2) our individual perception of the world, within the everyday, (the quotidian), and our social experiences of life, are highly influenced by the specific environment in which we live. I am reminded of an earlier quotation I found from Bogdan and Biklen, that suggests that our reality, and our belief in that reality, is totally informed and created from that social environment in which we live; reality, therefore, is a social construct. (Paraphrased), Bogdan & Biklen (2004).


  • Bogdan, R. C & Biklen, S. K. (2003). Qualitative Research for Education: An introduction to Theories and Methods (4th ed.).  New York:  Pearson Education Group.
  • Richardson, M. (1994), "Georges Bataille".  London: Routledge Press.
  • Stoekl, A. (1986): Visions of Excess, (Selected Writings, 1927-1939 of Georges Bataille), (1986 Second Print), Edited and Translated by Allan Stoekl,   Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A tool... Borrowing an idea from the fishermen.

Managing the fabrication of the wireframe, I have been thinking about how best to connect to layers of the mesh together. After thinking carefully about what it is that I am trying to do, I borrowed the concept of net repair, that I have observed the fishermen of Northumberland carrying out not only on their broken fishing nets, but also on the lobster pots or creels that are used to catch crayfish.

I made this small tool out of a piece of right-angled quarter round moulding, that is often used in picture framing. With simple tools of a handsaw, chisel and drill, I was able to fashion a tool that I think looks similar to those used by the fishermen, and I suspect a similar tool has been in use since ancient times. I thought that this was a very fitting and poetic observation, that my fixing together of the wiremesh is not too dissimilar to the fitting together and re-interpreting of those philosophical ideas from nature and Heidegger that I have been wrestling with as a result of reading Simon Critchley's book, "very little,… Almost nothing: death and philosophy in literature".

This simple tool made a particularly effective method of being able to link and intertwine the wire netting, in a way that makes the whole object look very natural and professionally fabricated.

I am near to completion of creating the body substrate of the piece and my attention is mainly focused at the moment upon creating the undulations and crests to the facial features of the fragment of gnome which can be seen in the following photographs.


  1. I am reasonably pleased with the outcome of the artefact so far. I must be careful not to be distracted by outside interruptions, particularly from students that I have befriended and naturally have an urge to try and help them in their own quest of improving their own works.
  2. Nevertheless, I remain careful not to lose sight of the many difficulties that I myself have overcome, which I will gently help others to see for themselves. It is this finding of solutions that they need to experience as part of their own process of learning, and I must be careful not to provide shortcuts which in any way desensitise other people's learning experiences.
  3. I know within myself, that there are still very many obstacles to overcome within my own work and my renewed sense of focus that I was able to build up during the quiet period of the post-Easter weekend holidays and the last couple of weeks, must continue to be carefully managed.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Working with the concepts of loss, greif, and Heidegger and Nietzsche

In my search for the philosophical interpretations of object oriented ontology and its combination with my enquiry into the things we leave behind....

Particularly with regards to loss, nihilism and as objects and artefacts, an interesting and highly relevant book has been suggested to me by Dr Graham Lister, that being the book by Simon Critchley, entitled "Very Little, ....Almost Nothing;  Death, Philosophy and Literature"; (2004), Routledge Publishing, London (2nd Edition), and Psychology Press, (Warwick Studies in European Philosophy).

I have been reading this book for the past week or so during the Easter break and there is much in the opening chapters that has taken a significant amount of thought in order to comprehend...

As an introductory discussion on the ideas of where we sit as humans, observing finitude from within infinitude, the author provides a discourse on Nihilism as a starting point for the book.

In particular for the past week I have been wrestling with the concepts of Heidegger's interpretation and transformation of Friedrich William Nietzsche's ideas of nihilism. Within the book Simon Critchley discusses Heidegger's understanding that Nietzsche used the words "God is dead". In order to understand how Heidegger himself, understands Nietzsche's concept, Simon Critchley provides a delineation of Heidegger's argument. This is the core of what has been puzzling me throughout the past 7 to 10 days. When in the book and I quote directly here Critchley says:
1) Heidegger understands God metaphysically as the name for the super sensory realm of ideas and ideals, the "true world" of Platonism.
2) Heidegger understands niches to have divested metaphysics of its essential possibility by showing how the super sensory world of metaphysics is a product of the sensory world; the true world has become a fable. Metaphysically understood, the declaration of the death of God is the acknowledgement that the super sensory no longer has any effective power.
What I personally understand from this is that whilst Heidegger has taken the logical step of how there is a link between the super-sensory, which arguably could be called "meta-sensory" [my words], together with metaphysics, both as concepts of effective indices of both independent subjects, - what he's doing is suggesting that our perceptions, i.e. the super-sensory as an overall reference to all human perceptions, is in fact just merely a product of the physical world and the sensory world. Therefore in effect it appears that one cancels out the other in terms of logic??....
 My interpretation therefore is that, Nietzsche, in using the phrase of 'God is Dead' or the acknowledgement of the same, then the super-sensory, that is the concept of all sensations does not have any effective power. This is kind of hard to grasp but in order to do so, Simon Critchley goes on to say;
3) if metaphysics is Platonism and Nietzsche's understands his own thinking as the overturning of Platonism, then Nietzsche's thinking is a counter movement to metaphysics.
[...This is a reinterpretation of my understanding above].
4) However, and this is the core of Heidegger's critique of Nietzsche, this counter movement to metaphysics is held fast to the essence of that which it opposes. According to Heidegger, Nietzsche believes that the overturning (Umkehrung) of Platonism is an overcoming (Uberwindung) of metaphysics. However every overturning of this kind is but a self-deluding entanglement within the logic of that which it opposes, and therefore the Nietzschean Umkehrung, or overturning, is simply a Verkehrung, a reversal. Thus Nietzsche's thoughts remain internal to the very Platonist, meta-metaphysical logic it seeks to oppose.
 Thus Nietzsche's thinking is a metaphysics. Heidegger writes:
"Despite all his overturning and revaluing of metaphysics, Nietzsche remains in the unbroken line of the metaphysical tradition when he calls 'that which is established and made fast' in the will to power for its own preservation, purely and simply Being, or what is 'in being', or truth.
In his determination of the will to power as the Being of all beings, as that in which all entities participate, Nietzsche rejoins the metaphysical tradition, even if his work represents the final phase of that tradition...
Again my own interpretation of this has been visualised as I have been creating my wire frame and under body of my fragment of the gnome object. And it is here that my understanding took an additional leap...

 Whilst I was twisting wire, to an equal thickness of wire together, those twists of each turn, similar to a corkscrew or spiral, (or double helix as you may recall, which I have discussed and thought about previously, that is the double helix of DNA), I likened it to the methodological twisting of the idea between the super-sensory and metaphysical arguments that both Heidegger and Nietzsche put forward....
...and these lines of enquiry, or threads of thought, being twisted together and then at the next juncture potentially untwisted is very similar to the physical representation of how the chicken-wire is formed!

This might seem like a crazy notion but it does serve well to explain the ideas of two world-class philosophers of the 19th and 20th century twisting together their ideas to form a cohesive one, that moves forward into the 21st century and hence the writings of not only Simon Critchley, but also the other contemporary philosophers that I am investigating, such as Graham Harman, Brian Massumi and many others.

It is important to close this point, in that Simon Critchley explains with the final comments that
"for Heidegger, nihilism thought in its essence is a history that runs its course with the history of being, and this history is determinative for world history thought in terms of the planetary domination by technology.  Nihilism is not only a history, it is ['s therefore] a destiny."


  1. There is much work to do here.  The observations by Critchley in the opening chapters of this book provide an excellent source of further contemplation and meditation to my work.  
  2. I clearly need to read so much more and allow time to assimilate the information before my final presentation(s) over the coming weeks.
  3. I cannot "remove my foot from the gas" in terms of production either, as this will be the measure of my interpretations of meaningful engagement with the artefact(s) that I produce.

Friday, 8 April 2016

A week of solid production...

So having created a template for the mask I have now got to the stage where I need to make a wooden frame in order to hold the next layer of chickenwire and mache. The wooden batons are an approximate guide for the wire mesh to be laid upon.

 Therefore my initial plan diagram and schematic whilst appropriate for helping me understand the visual impact of the dimensions, I am able to make reasonable changes without any detriment to the object itself. In fact the increased size is clearly going to become a significant enhancement in the impact of the object, and takes it away from being just a wall hung object to become an object in its own right which I believe depending on the mode of display, and what I mean by that how it will be presented in terms of the fact that it will no longer be wall mounted but probably laid on its side against a wall at say 60° or alternatively 30° to the horizontal, the object becomes an entirely different perception to the viewer. I will need to experiment very carefully and how the object is placed with regards to lighting and the angle of tilt. And therefore thinking at the moment of creating some form of plinth or pedestal for it to be rested upon.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The final push.... Making and production of the Degree Show piece(s)

Having recharged my batteries and taken a break from University over the previous week, I've returned to the studio over the last few days of March to start production of a proposed final piece for the Degree Show which is due in a couple of months time.  The Studios this last week have been wonderfully quiet as officially, the holidays continue for the next two weeks after Good Friday/ Easter Monday, so I intend to use this quiet time to make as much of a head start as I can.... (no pun intended)...

To recap, I have planned the ideas of the fragment of garden gnome and settled on a piece that represents a part of the gnome's face.  I want to create an artifact that holds its own aura and presence, whilst at the same time, provides a focal point for enquiry from viewers that is rich in ideas.

The dimensions settled upon have been adapted again, as last week I was able to set up the first draft of a full size pattern in a vacant studio.

The ability to print a poster using the Windows .pdf driver prooved useful, and I was able to create a plan / schematic made up of A4 sheets of paper, then joined together, to give me an idea of scale.

I again checked the size of the artefact that I will produce. My initial observations were that whilst I had increased the size of the object to a sufficient dimensional for a wall hanging, I felt that it still lacked an essence which when referring to Walter Benjamin and the idea of an art piece creating and holding its own aura, whilst my previous maquette went towards serving some of that purpose I am still of the opinion that size of the finished object is extremely important.

 Not satisfied with the size, I effectively doubled it again to make a much larger template, as can be seen in the foreground, and the interim version on the studio wall in the back ground...

Therefore having assessed this initial pattern in a different environment, I have decided to create a much bigger object in order of magnitude again.