Category : Learning Diary

Thoughts on Part 2 – A Contemporary Still-Life

SJSchaffeld, 2016 - sketchbook

‘An intersection between painting and sculpture’

.. the scope of this part of the course. The subject matter, a table, a still-life.

What is a contemporary still-life? From my previous course units I understand still-life somehow between ‘nature morte’ illustrated by Cindy Wright (2010) in her work Nature Morte 2 , and a staged scene that can trigger not only visual senses, but also tactile senses through the proximity of depicted items, e.g. Juan Sanchez CotánQuince, cabbage, melon and cucumber, 1602

After my more performative and gestural exploration of painting as a temporal and spatial bodily experience, with a stronger focus on the process rather than the final result, I am wondering how this could be translated into a contemporary revisited context.

The course material highlights four aspects essential to the approach of working between two and three dimensions:

  • A shift from depiction of pictorial space to the experience and articulation of physical space.
  • An agency of the ready-made.
  • My bodily presence in relation to the production and reception of art work.
  • My consideration of temporal and spatial concerns in relation to painting and sculpture.

These question are definitely taken me out of a mere picture painting approach towards questioning how I relate to a ‘still-life’, to objects and materials in front of me? How can I convey a sense of my presence

The Table

The subject matter. To establish a space where I can set up a kind of table. The table as the foundation of keeping materials and objects similar to a landscape in a spatial relationship. As a landscape, the light, the space, the surface, the colours are important to consider.

Some questions for me to address:

  • What kind of objects to select?
  • How do objects relate to each other (formal, graphic, activity)?
  • What are found and constructed objects?
  • How relevant is the material? How to discern ready-made from self-made?
  • What actions are involved in making preparing the table, relating to the object, relating between them? How do I relate to actions, physically and emotionally?
  • What meaning is involved and how to convey?
  • How to I experience the table, the process, the making, the results?

The featured image (Still life, sketchbook, 2016) is a page from one of my older painting 1 sketchbooks. It seems still relevant today considering my current interest in expanded spatial exploration and ideas of skin and collage. But I do believe that my still-life at the end of this course will look different.

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Painting as expansion into moving images

I posted this video for peer critique on the OCA discuss forum 


  • Music and text: restrictive in viewer’s engagement? An ambiguous area for different responses. It can limit or expand experience.
  • Moving images can expand 2D work as painting, piece in its own right
  • Moving the viewer: How does the viewer relate to work, a still image, moving images. How does the viewer engage with all senses while watching at a work?
  • Context: Necessity to provide context (as post-/conceptual art) or just leave wide space open for personal responses and difference?
  • Sense of sadness and conflict coming through: What is me and what is context?
  • Technical flaws to overcome in case I want to move forward with that approach
  • Overall, it is a new territory for me, and I am not sure wether to move along that path or not. At times I felt distracted from my painting work, felt as not as important? It seems that tangible and tactile stuff are still very much a key aspect in what I am doing in art, and perhaps in my life.
  • I tend to feel happier if viewer do response emotionally (which way ever) and less technically. I like the feedback that moving images can truly expand painting and that it can gives a different experience of viewing 2D art. Something I would like to keep in my mind.
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My Diary – non-visual thinking – ongoing (Part 1)

Instead of conscious reflection and overthinking, my raw thoughts recorded with a voicetracker and transcripted (lightly edited, but raw). Started in a sleepless night,  a non-visual continuation that eventually will inform my painting practice.
Link to my ongoing document (not knowing how this will all evolve)

…this document is a rolling document and will be updated regularly (click here for doc)

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Preparation for Assignment One

  • Preparation for Assignment One
  • Preparation for Assignment One
  • Preparation for Assignment One

Learnings so far

What I noticed from my previous experiments of body movement, gesture, and performative painting (see also Fig. 1-3 Sketchbook pages):

  • I can discern three mains steps: planning – performative painting – result
  • Performative painting consisting mainly of gestural marks, action painting, and body movement
  • Four aspects of interaction: Skin (feeling) – Body (exchange) – Touch (emotion) – Traces (seeing)
  • Liminal experiences of what is painting, what is failure, what is successful result
  • Planning impacts the process, and the result (e.g. Ex 1.3 painting with the elements)
  • Results at times a start of a new beginning, a ground for further elaboration (e.g. Ex 1.1 Skating). at times the tool itself (e.g. plastic sheet in Washboard) can be an artwork in itself
  • Gesture: indexicality of my intervention
  • Chance: external factors can perform, or they can impact what is possible (e.g. material limits)
  • Motion: my physical motion in space, motion in moving images, video recording
  • Sound: the way I playback recording (fast, normal, slow speed)
  • Repetition: cycle of similar movements, a temporal extension
  • Recording: how to make recording as documentation the work or recording the work in itself? The only way to communicate to a public from my current standpoint (what technical skills I need to learn?)
  • Idea of failure: when performative painting becomes absurd (Sisyphean sense) or material is destroyed and comes to an end.

Possible new ways forward

  • Elaborating Washboard repetitive performative painting (sense of dirty-ness)
  • Exploring material support, e.g. transparent paper. Recent talks with fellow students made me aware of possibilities for suspending from a ceiling for presentation, e.g Cat Wand painting (sense of spatial depth and interactive fields)
  • Exploration of skin (thin layers of sheets) e.g. plastic sheet in Washboard (sense of human sensibility)
  • Spatial extension and body movement alongside sensational experience (sense of body limits and kinesphere, possibly of kinesfield in the way Gretchen described it?)
  • Elaboration of natural forces in variety of painting, exploring at deeper level weather conditions (sense of indexicality)
  • Elaboration recording and video edit for compelling demonstration of performative painting 
  • New ideas derived from the experiments and embracing notions of performance, repetition, and possibility of failure:
    – folding paper as skin
    – dog shit as dirty-ness symbol (with option for wider context e.g. dirty protest IRA)


Sketchbook pages:



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Peer feedback

Today, we had a splendid general hangout with students and Clive as tutor to discuss and talk through some projects and topics. I took the opportunity to place my recent gestural and performative work Washboard (Laundry) to the discussion (see the link). I posted the video, the image of the process and the final images of the ground and sheet. 

I was curious to hear how other responded (unfortunately as I posted it quite late and only today, not everyone had teh chance to look at it).

Some responses:

  • hypnotic video, sound reminded of noises in the house
  • reminded of photographic process
  • reminded of IRA ‘dirty’ process (Hunger process between 1972 and 1981 in North Ireland where IRA imprisioned inmates were smearing prison walls with their own excrements in 1978)

I explained what I related it to and could see that personal responses truly depend on situation, environment and experience (or news read).

Interestingly, participants tended to see the video as a necessary element in context with the final images. 


The video I made was more as a reflective tool to review what I did. Although, I found some inspiration in making it (otherwise I wouldn’t have put that time into it), I am still wondering how my performative painting could get to another level. I do feel quite nervous about it, to put myself and not objects up.

I like the accociation with photographic process, as through my shellac and gum solution there is certainly some material chemistry ongoing.

I found the perhaps farer fetched association with the IRA ‘dirty’ process quite intriguing as it leads on another level to sanitary requirement, cleaniness, washing and gestural movements. Gesture as performative protest. In art context one could consider Pollock’s action paintings, Shiraga’s mud performance, or Antoni’s  Loving Care also as gestural performative protest. 

Questions to me: Do I want to go in a kind of painting as protest? Or to use gestural performative painting to raise questions around such topics? Or what would I like to get from painting, besides an experimental interrogation, more insight in myself or more questioning? Would my work tend to be more activity, material, or external requirements related? More to think of…

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Structure of learning blog

Reading through part one of the course material I noticed that the course is split into six parts, the last part kind of unique as it covers the critical review, and each part into project e.g. part one has five projects. Each project consists of exercises, reading point and further research points.

I was wondering how this differs from level HE4 courses (part and exercises plus research points) and how does this inform my the structure of my learning log as well as my studio practice.

The first thing that I truly appreciate is the grouping into projects. To work in projects is what I experienced and appreciated in drawing1 and painting1 in context of the personal project as last assignment of each course. Also, my parallel projects that I worked on during painting 1 (e.g. daily self portraits) as during UVC (collaborative work with SJField and Lottie, my ongoing project ‘Difference and Becoming‘) was informed by a more project related structure and less by a task oriented structure.

In conclusion, my researches and reading do inform my personal project work. And my project work need to be contextualized through research.

I understand that the exercises are the starting point for working on projects.

My blog structure:

  • Coursework: by parts and by projects
  • Assignment: All assignment work incl self evaluation against assessment criteria, but without preparatory reseaches that inform my work
  • Research & Visual Culture: All coursework related researches and reading related to projects, as well as what I call ‘visual culture’ at large that consists of exhibitions, books and films
  • Learning Log – all my reflection on my journey, other researches and reading, and work that will inform my practice
  • Parallel Project and Critical Review as separate category (to be updated)
  • Other aspects: under About and Other


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Preparing my Studio Practice – First reflection

Stefan513593 - Mud Fall - work in progress - (c)SJSchaffeld, 2016

“What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event” – Harold Rosenberg, 1952

What is it all about? Painting as gesture, movement and performance

This is my first level HE 5 course unit, understanding that it will allow me more freedom to explore according what resonates most to me, to make truly a work of myself, and be authentic in visualization my ideas and sensations. Making paintings and gestural works as a key element in part one, I will be mindful in what will happen and to response to the moment rather than follow pre-conceived ideas. The latter that made my during previous level a bit too self-conscious. Thus, I will reflect on how I am doing in my practice-led research. Inspired since some time now by the book of Smith and Dean (2014). I liked especially the article  by Kathleen Vaughan on ‘Mariposa’.

Reading through part one made me aware of the exciting journey of bodily interaction with mark making, paint application, gesture and movement without my gesture. I understand the mix of exercices, reading and research as a starting point, or just as some idea input to set the stage.

Since my drawing 1 unit I was fascinated by the sensual approach with mark making, how my senses to interact and interfere with what I observe, see, and recall from memory.

Other resources that inspired my during the previous course units are on the one hand the article by Michael Croft (2016) where he described his phenomenlogical awareness of drawing at the wall with a corner, a video camera recording him, his bending and stretching informing his spatial mark making  (see my blog post for D1). Another work that inspired my personal project for drawing 1 was the  fantastic collaborative work Harty and Sawdon (2012) on exploring whether one could and if yes how draw the ‘taste of tree’. An iterative and layered approach with photo images, word associations and drawing. Eventually led the author to conclude that they were not that successful in drawing on the taste, as most assoications were based on sight and hearing, at times touch (see my blog post).

Further, I was and still am deeply influenced by the tactility of drawing and painting. With some inspirations from the exhibition ‘Prière de toucher‘ Basel (2016) I felt that visual art is also tactile art, with the human body, the artist body, a key aspect in the work. From that same exhibition the video installation oy Pipilotti Rist inspired me to wright my last assignment essay for UVC

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Course Aims and Outcome

Course aims

The aim of this course is to help you:

  • develop an understanding of processes pertinent to contemporary painting;
  • develop methods of generating, combining and transforming ideas through paint and other media, and recording, selecting and processing visual information;
  • expand the use of a range of media (both traditional and contemporary) and develop an understanding of linkages between various ways of painting and making a painting;
  • develop knowledge of the work of some important artists and movements in painting since 1900 and your ability to apply, relate and embody this knowledge in your work;
  • develop self reflective skills within a research led approach and Identify ways to solve problems and incubate ideas within an expanded painting practice.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you’ll be able to:

  • demonstrate your ability to develop ideas, create, record, analyse and translate visual information and explain key processes of contemporary painting;
  • use a range of processes and media to create an accomplished and competent series of paintings;
  • demonstrate knowledge of significant artists and movements in painting from 1900 to present and apply this knowledge in your work;
  • develop ideas and resolve problems in your practice through reflection on your own learning experience.

Reference: Coursematerial Painting 2 – Studio Practice. p. 8

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Getting ready for my next level

What an excitement is falling over me. Just in the last steps of my last level HE4 course unit Understanding Visual Culture, the moment I got hold of the course sample for the new painting 2 unit ‘Studio Practice’ brought to me by fellow student Catherine, I couldn’t hold back my joy.

Unfortunately, I still need to get feedback from my tutor on my last assignment till I can enroll officially to the next level. Subject to my pass for UVC at assessment next March. Where neither I nor my tutor have any doubts of.


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